Colleen Brummer is the owner, CEO and head trainer of ENERGY Essential Fitness, a small business in the Cayman Islands. She is also a wife, friend, cancer survivor, and a lover of life. She somehow manages to juggle it all – and still manages to get in an episode of Glee from time to time.
Colleen Brummer is busy. On any given day, she is zipping up and down Cricket Square, grabbing a quick skim latte and fruit before her first meeting of the day. She’s stopping to check in with her trainers at ENERGY Essential Fitness and she’s speaking into her cell phone in that signature cheerleaders voice, which brings to mind body pyramids and pompoms. But don’t be fooled. This former cheerleader is made of steel.
Promptly at 8am, she sits down to coffee ready to begin her day. Colleen is a woman of details. Her studio, her home, her relationships will all later come to show that this is a woman who likes her t’s crossed and her i’s dotted. She is always prompt.
She’s striking in that West Coast, effortless way. Beautiful skin that has seen the outdoors. Long, thick wavy blonde hair pulled into a ponytail. She exudes health – strong, fit and outfitted in her usual office attire – lululemon yoga pants and brightly-coloured zipped up jacket. Her face is bare and her smile is contagious. At 43, this fresh-faced fitness mogul is doing something right.
Despite the California girl looks, there is a steely will that gives Colleen a slightly harder edge. It’s almost imperceptible but it is evident that it has guided Colleen through tough times, the pain of breast cancer, the hardships of a new business, and the challenges presented mentally as she works to maintain a healthy work/life balance at the same time that she is expanding her fitness empire.
Research suggests there may be a correlation between age and success, but for this entrepreneur, age is just a number and plays no significant role if you don’t allow it. “These days, we are inundated with ways to become more physically, mentally and emotionally younger – so it becomes a matter of sorting through the nonsense and finding what works for you. For me it is all about the basics – regular exercise, healthy eating, sleep, drinking lots of water, and first and foremost, always remembering your inner child and staying young at heart as well as in body to be successful,” says Colleen.
Reflecting on how ENERGY has evolved over the years, Colleen says, “Every day is a busy day at ENERGY. When I first started the business in 2003, I had about eight clients and taught five classes a week – almost 10 years later, we run over 30 classes a week and I have about 35 client hours a week and another trainer working full time – times have changed… and for the better.
Less than a year after ENERGY opened, Hurricane Ivan hit Cayman.
“Amazingly though, the studio was OK, and less than three weeks after Ivan, when power was back, I was back at work. It just goes to show you, people need to exercise.”
Despite having fared well through Ivan, there were other factors that made operating a business challenging, notably the global economic crisis that has taken its toll on most establishments including those operating in the fitness arena.
“Operating as a small business owner in the current economic climate has been both stressful and motivational,” Colleen says. “Working in an ever-expanding market of growth, competition for business and economic uncertainty has pushed me to development a greater range of options for our clients, while staying steadfast to the mission statement of the company. It hasn’t been easy but the challenge has been a good one.”
ENERGY is also making its debut onto the digital scene. The effort to use social media for business is a growing phenomenon and ENERGY is on board.
“ENERGY’s foray into social media marketing is starting this year and I couldn’t be more excited about it,” says Colleen. “It’s funny, I have lived in Cayman for almost 15 years now and I still feel like word of mouth has been a driving factor getting the company to where it is today – and Facebook, Twitter – it’s basically online word of mouth. I can’t wait to start this instantaneous interaction with my clients and be able to share movements and ideas with them in real time.”
Running an enterprise like ENERGY would seem to take a lot of energy and vitality to make it all work and be successful. But for this fitness guru, it is her belief that we can have it all that keeps her motivated.
“I truly believe we can have it all – successful career, husband, family, close friends – but it’s not easy and it takes constant communication and compromise in all of these partnerships,” she says. “Hectic lives and crazy work schedules make it hard for us to find downtime. More often than not people live their lives always on the go.
“It is incredibly difficult to find time to do it all, and there never seems to be enough hours in the day. More often than not, I am working a 12-hour day, and that doesn’t allow for a lot of down time – but my weekends are sacred. Saturday nights and Sundays are my times for husband, friends and pets, and of course, relaxation time.”
It is a general finding amongst the most successful people that friends and family play a large supportive role in their achievements. For Colleen, family and friends always come first.
“Careers may change and come and go, but family is there always. The most amazing thing about my job is that the close-knit fitness community we have created at ENERGY allows me to spend my days helping friends as well.”
Making time can often be difficult but Colleen explains that “women should start as early as possible with healthy habits. After the age of 30, both women (and men) lose about ½ to 1 pound of muscle every year. When we start to lose this muscle, our metabolism begins to slow down and as a result leads to more fat storage and weight gain.”
But Colleen said there was some good news.
“You can actually reverse this process by incorporating even the most basic resistance training elements in your regular exercise regime.”
When thinking of our health, cancer is hard to ignore as it is a huge factor for many people around the world, and even closer to home there exists a high risk rate in the Caribbean, it is also something Colleen can speak to personally.
“Being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005 was both a shock and at the same time, somewhat expected,” she says. “My mother had breast cancer at the age of 36 as well – she then passed away at 45 with a reoccurrence – so I guess I kind of always knew it might happen. But I had taken all the necessary precautions – no smoking, daily exercise, proper nutrition – my entire life to that point. However, I soon realised, as I went through radiation and chemotherapy, that the foundation of health and fitness that was in place, although it didn’t prevent me from getting cancer, was a huge factor in how successfully I was able to make my way through those difficult treatments and to be in remission now for seven years,” she says.
Her advice on matters like this is simple: support and sensitivity.
“It is always difficult to know what to say – and each individual going through cancer treatments may need or want different things as they make their way through the process. I know for me, I hated it when people said ‘don’t worry’ – of course I’m going to worry, I have cancer. Every time I go for a mammogram/checkup there will be worry – worry that the cancer has come back. What I really appreciated was the little things – a hug, a good laugh with a friend, some retail therapy – just trying to be as normal as possible. When you are going through cancer treatments, you miss normal. So my advice to anyone wanting to know how to help a friend is to just let them know you are there, for when they need you – whenever, wherever.”
This amazing health and fitness champion has other loves as well, including travelling and exploring the world around her.
In testament to this side of her she explains, “My husband and I love to travel, so at least twice a year we will plan on visiting a new place and having that alone time – even though it is difficult to stop answering e-mails. So far my favourite place has been Italy. My husband and I went there for my post-cancer trip – my reward for getting through chemo. The history, scenery, people, language, art, and music – I’m in love with Italy. But Italy still holds a special place in my heart as it represented something even bigger– me being back to normal and going on vacation.
“I will never forget the morning I went for a run, listening to Andre Boccilli on my iPod and running down a country lane with views of vineyards on one side and olive groves on the other and the sun on my face– it was an amazing moment.”