In recognition of Women’s History Month, we are celebrating our women instructors. Get to know Wellbeats instructor Barb Knutson, a fitness instructor, trainer, and yoga teacher who is passionate about movement, family, and living a well-balanced life.
Being active has been a cornerstone in the life of Wellbeats instructor Barb Knutson as long as she can remember.
Growing up in the country, she was always hiking in the woods, riding her bike, and playing with the neighborhood kids. As soon as she was eligible to participate in organized sports, she joined the cheerleading squad and competed in track and field.
Nowadays, when she’s not sharing her love of Tai Chi with Wellbeats members, Barb remains active by taking long walks, doing strength workouts, and practicing yoga in addition to a full slate of fitness instruction.
Outside the fitness studio, Barb’s three beloved dogs bring her endless joy, and she loves gardening as a grounding stress-reliever. She values health, fitness, and movement because she wants to live a long life, soaking up all the time she can get with her husband, her three daughters, and her grandchildren.
Barb approaches her fitness instruction with an emphasis on helping everyone feel a sense of accomplishment. She views herself as an educator first, setting the objective to help everybody feel supported no matter where they’re at on their individual fitness journey.
Even though Barb has been active and health-minded her entire life, her fitness journey hasn’t been without adversity.
“One of my greatest accomplishments in sports was when, as a freshman in high school, I almost made it to state in the long jump,” Barb said. “It was my final jump. It was my best jump, but I blew out my knee. That was very disappointing for me, but of course, it never stopped me. I continued to push on. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that I had knee surgery.”
Barb went on to enjoy years of running and even completed a half marathon despite having been a sprinter during her track & field days. Eventually indoor cycling and walking became her alternatives to running when her knee continued to deteriorate.
“I’ve actually had five different surgeries on my knee, and my last and final surgery was a total knee replacement,” Barb explained. “So often, people think with a total knee replacement, they can’t do anything anymore. I have not allowed it to stop me. I continue to remain active. I just make some adjustments. I can’t get full flexion out of my knee, but I still lift weights. I still walk. I can’t run anymore, but I get on a bike. I’ve never allowed it to stop me.”
Barb’s injury and subsequent surgeries and recoveries have not slowed her down. In fact, her experience has helped shape her style as a fitness instructor and positively impacts everyone who takes her classes.
“If someone tells me they have an injury, I’m always very sensitive to safety first, but then I encourage them to build up the strength of the muscles, so they can continue to be active even with their injury,” Barb said. “We just make adjustments, and they’re able to do it. That’s the one thing that you’ll always see in my videos. I give lots of alternatives so that people can still feel successful.”
Barb has been doing yoga, Pilates, and Tai Chi since the early 2000s. In 2004, she became certified to teach a form of Tai Chi that she thinks of as New Tai Chi—a more modern style. It’s a combination of yoga, Tai Chi, and Pilates with meditation, usually choreographed to music.
“There are so many forms of Tai Chi, and that’s what I love about it and what pulled me to do it more,” Barb said. “The beauty of Tai Chi is that the slower pace with multiple repetitions helps bring you to a state of calm. You can really relieve the anxiety and stress and be present within your body.”
When she first got involved with Wellbeats, Barb quickly realized Tai Chi was a unique gift she could share with Wellbeats members.
“Tai Chi was the first program that I brought to Wellbeats,” Barb said. “It’s a love and passion of mine. As I see the Wellbeats members loving it, I want to continue bringing them more of what they love.”
Barb’s Tai Chi classes are rated at 4.8 out of 5 stars by over 3,000 ratings from Wellbeats members. Said one experienced Tai Chi participant, “[The] instructor has a beautiful, soft presence and voice. A nice gentle introduction to Tai Chi for those who have never tried it.”
Along with providing encouragement through injury recovery and sharing her gift of Tai Chi with Wellbeats members, Barb’s approach to fitness instruction is driven by her desire to connect with everyone who joins her for a workout.
“People learn differently,” Barb said. “Some are more auditory, some are kinesthetic, and some are visual, so as an instructor you have to make sure that you meet the needs of the people in front of you by offering all those alternatives. Yet you also need to meet the needs of their ability.”
Barb recalls her own introduction to group fitness in her gentle approach to meet everyone where they’re at on their fitness journey.
“The minute I was out of high school, I was always going to a gym,” Barb said. “I would always get on a treadmill and run, run, run, run, run. I was totally intimidated by the group fitness studio because I saw a lot of people in there doing a lot of work, and I just wasn’t sure if it was right for me.”
Eventually, Barb was encouraged to try group fitness classes. She started in the back row but made her way to the front row as her confidence grew. When she crossed over into fitness instruction, she found it to be rewarding work—beneficial for both herself and the participants.
“When I stepped into teaching group fitness, it was never about me,” Barb said. “It was always about the people in front of me.
“Whenever I enter the studio at Wellbeats or at a gym, my primary objective is that I want everyone to feel supported. I want to help everybody on their journey, no matter where they are at. Whether they’re young, old, experienced, or brand new to fitness, I want everyone to feel like they were successful. Even if they aren’t able to take the advanced option, they can still feel accomplished. It’s taking small steps to get where they want to be on their journey.”
Given her lifelong tendency to gravitate toward movement and fitness, Barb undoubtedly enjoys being active. However, the deepest reason she values health and fitness stems from love for her family—including three grandchildren with a fourth on the way.
Thinking about the benefits of fitness and movement takes Barb back to her ‘why.’
“I want to live a long life so that I can be around for my grandchildren and be able to run and play with them,” Barb said. “The benefits of fitness and movement are so important to living a long life. I always say we don’t have to run a marathon, but we do have to move. Whether that be for 15 minutes or for an hour, any type of movement is so beneficial.”
Barb’s passion for fitness shines through her sessions and will leave you with a sense of accomplishment after every class. Interested in trying Tai Chi with Barb? Wellbeats members are encouraged to take one of Barb’s classes now.
Based in St. Louis Park, MN, Wellbeats is a leading provider of on-demand virtual fitness, nutrition, and mindfulness classes for use in workplaces of all sizes, health plans, on college or university campuses, multi-family housing, the U.S. military, and fitness and health clubs. Wellbeats makes fitness accessible, affordable, and approachable for everyone. More than 1,000 classes and 30+ programs are available to help members stay on track and meet their goals. To learn more, visit www.wellbeats.com or check out a sampling of the company’s fitness classes during a Facebook Live class, and follow Wellbeats on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.