What began as Karissa Johnson’s plan to connect with other moms in an effort to find time to work out has since transformed into a business built upon the mantra of “inspiring and transforming women through a healthy lifestyle of fitness, fun and friendship.”
Over the last decade, Johnson’s Moms on the Run Forest Lake fitness group has expanded to become a nationwide effort.
“We started with 26 moms in Forest Lake who were just meeting when we could in an effort to find time for fitness after having kids,” Johnson said. “We are now kicking off year 10, and we have grown to include 46 individual clubs with a total 2,000 women in six states.”
Johnson graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in kinesiology (exercise science). She began her career in corporate fitness, but soon realized that she wanted something part time so she could be home for her kids when she decided it was time to become a mom. Johnson started her own personal training business so that she could make her own hours. Over the course of the next four years, she and husband had three children. Johnson loved being a mom and enjoyed the freedom her work as a personal trainer provided. However, she struggled to find the personal time to work out.
“I reached out to other moms I knew, and it turned out they had some of the same struggles,” Johnson said. “So I decided that we should start a group and meet to work out. Soon, I started realizing that I had a passion for coaching and encouraging other women. That is how Moms on the Run was born.”
After the first year of unofficial organization, Moms on the Run doubled in size from 26 to 52 women and Johnson found that some were driving over an hour just to come to Forest Lake to train.
“In the third year that we were active, I kind of went a little crazy with wanting as many women as possible to have options without having to travel so far,” Johnson said. “I opened seven more locations throughout the Twin Cities that year and 12 more the following year.”
Johnson’s Moms on the Run groups started gaining a significant online following and calls started coming in with requests for more locations.
“It was getting to be too much for me to handle in managing so many locations and finding coaches and making sure everything was running smoothly,” she said. “At that point, I contacted a lawyer and began to process of turning Moms on the Run into a franchise business.”
Now, each of the 46 Moms on the Run locations are independently owned and operated, with Johnson serving as franchiser.
Although Moms on the Run offers training for all fitness levels, the main objective is to help women learn to run for the first time. The training begins with walking and then slowly builds over the course of 18 weeks in an effort to see all members be able to complete a 5K. Moms on the Run hosts a 5K run and walk in Lake Elmo every year (this year on Aug. 27) for all of the Twin Cities locations to come together and celebrate course completion.
“I credit a lot of our success to our great coaching staff, many of whom started as group members,” Johnson said. “The way they are able to transform these women over the 18 weeks is incredible. Some begin the program barely able to run at all ,and in the end they are completing the 5K.”
Women need not be mothers to join the group. Sessions begin April 24 and run for 18 weeks at a cost of between $199 and $259 depending on commitment level. Interested runners can sign up at momsontherun.com.
“The future is bright for Moms on the Run,” Johnson said. “I have no plans to slow down. We are looking to expand into Canada and recently we have received calls from the Carolinas, Georgia, Iowa and California. I am grateful for this awesome opportunity to help so many women.”