Female Focus 15
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In 2021, Cooper Fitness Center’s Female Focus program celebrates 15 years of empowering women to take their health into their own hands. Female Focus Director Colette Cole, MS, reflects on the profound impact the program has had both on its participants and herself.
Medically-based fitness for women
In 2006 Cooper Clinic Preventive Medicine Physician Michele Kettles, MD, MSPH, published The Women’s Health and Fitness Guide. Kettles contributed her expertise on fitness from a disease management perspective while Cole added proper fitness training techniques. Combining their knowledge, they tailored their book to cover a multitude of health conditions affecting women specifically including osteoporosis, pregnancy, menopause, heart disease and fibromyalgia. After the book was published and featured in The Dallas Morning News, a flood of women called Cole seeking individualized help for disease management and personal training.
With the public’s interest piqued, Cole knew she didn’t have the capacity to train so many women. “I began to brainstorm solutions with Brad Wilkins who was the fitness director of the time, now President of Cooper Health and Fitness,” says Cole. “He asked me to design a program plan for a group exercise class and we’d go from there. He saw potential in me and entrusted me with developing what became Female Focus.”
Evolving with women’s needs
In the beginning stages of the Female Focus program, the fitness training was designed for women with osteoporosis and bone health issues. Cole became interested in this topic in 1996 after running an in-house study on bone health and exercise with Cooper Aerobics Chairman and Founder Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper. Eight to 10 women quickly enrolled in the rollout of the four-week Female Focus program. With more women signing up, two additional groups were created the next year.
Cole soon began to identify many women in the program who desired to lose weight. This spurred her onto develop a weight loss class in addition to disease management. Over time, Cole integrated nutrition education into the class and extended the program from four to six weeks.
“Female Focus has been a chameleon,” says Cole. “We have tweaked the program based on the participants’ needs. This has opened the door to help women with a multitude of different health conditions, needs and goals.” The program now provides individualized exercise and nutrition plans for women of all ages through assessments conducted at the beginning and end of the program to tailor each woman’s training plan based on her health goals.
Cole’s desire is for the program to exceed expectations and provide an avenue for women to strive to be healthy in all areas including physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health. Whether someone is seeking structure to meet their fitness and health goals or simply enjoys working out with others for accountability, Female Focus offers something for every woman.
The concept of community
Cole says the heavy emphasis on community within Female Focus was not part of the initial program design. “The camaraderie among the women developed organically and has become a foundational element to the program today,” Cole explains. “A big reason many of the women return is because of the deep relationships they’ve built in the program.” Cole says there are still at least five faithful women who have been in the class since the first year of the program.
All ages are welcome, with everyone working out according to their personal fitness level and individualized program. Teenagers have also joined the program with their moms, with some even jumping back in the class when they are home from college for the summer. One 82-year-old participant attends regularly, and Cole boasts, “She can run circles around the rest of the class!”
Participants have developed deep, long-lasting friendships as they motivate each other, not only in their workouts, but through the storms of life. From career changes and challenging diagnoses to family deaths and the struggles of COVID-19, these women support and encourage each other through the good and the bad.
Giving credit where credit is due
Cole has consistently attributed the success of Female Focus first and foremost to her Lord Jesus Christ. “This is His program and He brings in the women He wants us to help,” says Cole. “However, each participant has given just as much to me as I give to them, if not more!” Cole is appreciative to each and every one of her past, present and future participants for their support and trusting the Female Focus staff with one of the most important aspects of their lives—their health.
She also expresses deep gratitude to the instructors, confident nothing accomplished over the past 15 years would have been possible without them. “They care deeply about each participant who walks through the doors and they are the reason the women have come back year after year,” says Cole. “The instructors’ vast knowledge and expertise is a bonus to the relationships they’ve built with the women.”
From in-studio and virtual small group training sessions to nutrition talks and fitness assessments, Female Focus has fluidly adapted over the past 15 years to best meet hundreds of women’s health and fitness needs. The program aims to continue to provide participants the necessary tools, attention and encouragement needed to maximize their wellness in the years to come.
To join Female Focus at Cooper Fitness Center or for more information, please call 972.233.4832 or visit cooperfitfemale.com.