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#SquadGoals: How Tone It Up created a massive online fitness family (accidentally)

tone_it_up_foundersIf the world has learned anything from Taylor Swift, it’s that everything is more fun with a gang of gals at your side—including fitness. (When’s the last time you saw the pop star leaving a ModelFIT session without BFF Karlie Kloss?)

Yet Swift’s high-profile squad is positively inconsequential compared to one power crew that’s currently percolating in the fitness world: the community of women that’s formed around Katrina Scott and Karena Dawn’s Tone It Up online fitness and nutrition program.

The pseudo-sorority originated on social media when the Los Angeles duo’s fans started seeking each other out by using the hashtag #TIUTeam. It now consists of thousands of women who follow Scott and Dawn’s weekly beachside workout videos and healthy eating plans—and check in daily to encourage each other. (Also landing a Bravo show certainly didn’t hurt their success, and they recently debuted a collaboration with Bandier.)

Remarkably, the community wasn’t started by a marketing exec, but like many Instagram yogis have experienced, it grew organically via the fans themselves. “When I first saw #TIUTeam on Twitter, I was like, ‘T, I, U … That stands for Tone It Up! And then I was like, ‘What’s a hashtag?’” laughs Scott.

To help their far-flung squad bond over burpees in real life, Scott and Dawn created an annual four-day, no-dudes-allowed retreat complete with active outings (think surfing and beach volleyball); shopping for fitness gear, including Tone It Up’s new sunglasses designed in partnership with Oakley; and social events like the Rosé 5K, which ended with a celebratory glass (or several).

I chatted with Scott and Dawn about the benefits of working out with a squad and how to create one of your own—even if you’re a wallflower. —Erin Magner

tone_it_up_heartsRumor has it you two met through fitness…

Katrina Scott: I moved from Boston to California about seven years ago and I was a personal trainer at Equinox. I had the Friday night shift. And I kept seeing this girl come in with her book and she would read on the bike. And I was like, “Oh my god, I think she needs a friend, too!”

Karena Dawn: I had just moved to Manhattan Beach [in Los Angeles] because I had broken up with a boyfriend, so my Friday nights were a little open.

KS: One night she was stretching, and I couldn’t think of anything to say except, “Wow, you’re so flexible, do you do yoga?” She said yeah, and I said, “When’s the next time you’re going to class? Maybe I’ll go with you.” And I went to yoga with her. I think part of fitness—and friendship—is just putting yourself out there. So many women go to fitness classes and they’re afraid to talk to the other women in class. But I think it’s great if you can say, ‘Hey, I’m going to this smoothie place after, you have to try it…”

tone_it_up_leg_liftWhat if you’re too intimidated to strike up a conversation in that setting?

KS: When I was teaching group fitness classes, I’d really appreciate it when someone would come up to me before class and say, “This is my first class and I don’t know anyone.” Instructors really want to hear from you. If you say you’d love to meet some of the regulars, they can make it happen. Why not form a fitness tribe?

KD: There’s so much we’ve done fitness-wise that we wouldn’t have done if we didn’t have the other person to go with.

KS: If it weren’t for you, I would never have done yoga, trapeze…I would never have gone to a barre class. We’re always the worst ones in barre!

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(Photos: Oakley/Tone It Up)