Interview: Kara Palley, KP Basic Training [Tips + Technique]
It’s never too late to start your own fitness business.
Today, we’re talking to Kara Palley who switched careers and delayed embarking on her exercise entrepreneurship for many years. She discusses how she eventually decided to just start and has now developed a fulfilling niche in women’s fitness in northern New Jersey.
If you’re ready to grow and manage your business better, schedule a demo today.
Meet Kara Palley, Founder of KP Basic Training
Schimri Yoyo: Welcome back. This is Schimri Yoyo with exercise.com. We are continuing our interview series with fitness experts and today we are blessed to have Kara Palley of KP Basic Training. She’s the owner and founder of KP Basic Training and we are thankful to have you on the show with us today.
Kara Palley: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Schimri Yoyo: Alright. So we’re just going to jump right it. So and, and, and get a little information about your background. What initially sparked your interest in health and fitness?
Kara Palley: So, I was not really that much of an athlete growing up. I did like to play tennis, I liked ice skating, but I always enjoyed exercise just as an outlet. It always made me feel good, and I remember when I was in college or maybe a little bit before that was when sort of the aerobics craze started a long time ago Jane Fonda workouts.
[Editor’s note: See the video below of a classic Jane Fond workout.]
And I remember taking classes, and I loved it and I just became hooked early on, but I was really, for a long time a consumer of the service, not a provider. I never thought about it as a career, at least early on.
Schimri Yoyo: When you begin to pursue this professionally and become more of a provider, not just the consumer, did you have any mentors that you look to for advice?
Kara Palley: Yeah, absolutely. Very important. I actually had, after my youngest child was born, I had a personal trainer and I’d never done personal training before that. And then I started to really think about it.
Schimri Yoyo: Okay.
Kara Palley: And then, definitely, I had it where I went to for personal training. The owner of that gym, I consider to be one of my earlier mentors. And then as I went along, I always sought out people that I thought were really good at what they did, that I really knew what they were talking about and they were able to communicate that and sort of pass on that passion and knowledge and expertise.
Schimri Yoyo: Okay. Now, who was that owner or that personal trainer of yours? Let’s give them a shout out.
Kara Palley: Her name is Katie officially, Kathryn Applewhite, and she’s still in New Jersey. She’s a trainer and a yoga teacher and I don’t really see her that much, but I still follow her on social media, and I still think about her classes every day.
Schimri Yoyo: Well, that’s good. We definitely want to shout out to people who have been instrumental in your practice. So shout out to Kathryn Applewhite.
So you mentioned yoga. That actually leads me to my next question. When did you first start participating in yoga and incorporating it into your practice?
Kara Palley: I, at her gym, actually she became certified in one of the methods and then she forced everyone to take it. And I was, as she used to call us, the cardio queen, and I thought it was the most ridiculous thing. And it was impossible, and it was hard, and I didn’t understand it, but she was teaching it. So, we all took it and I took that for a while. And then I didn’t take it for quite a long time, and then got back into it later.
Schimri Yoyo: Okay. And now what are some of your favorite foods, either for your workout or post-workout or just in general?
Kara Palley: I like everything, almost.
Schimri Yoyo: Amen.
Kara Palley: So I’m really a foodie. I grew up—my mom was an amazing cook, and we ate everything. We’re not, we weren’t picky. We just ate everything. I would say, though, I like the savory, salty, savory flavors more.
As far as working out, after working out, I usually have a shake, like a protein shake. I mix protein powder and either almond milk or flax milk or something like that. And I have that. And I like protein. I like in-greens.
Schimri Yoyo: Yeah. And you’re located in New Jersey, correct?
Kara Palley: Yeah, I live in New Jersey. In Northern New Jersey.
Schimri Yoyo: Okay. Yeah. So I was going to say between Northern New Jersey, New York City, and even Philly where I am, that’s only an hour and a half away. That’s not that far. You have a lot of different options for food, for really good food and dining cuisine.
[Editor’s note: See the video below to get a sampling of some of the best food options in New Jersey.]
Kara Palley: So I went to college near Philly, so we, I learned all about Philly cuisine.
Schimri Yoyo: That’s awesome. So, yeah. You never, you never shy of an option for good eating though.
Kara Palley: Nope.
Schimri Yoyo: It’s great. When you’re not training or coaching, what do you do for fun?
Kara Palley: That’s a really good question. I like to follow current events. I like history. I read biographies and that kind of thing. I like to work out on my own, do my own stuff. I keep thinking I want to start ice skating again. I used to ice skate. I haven’t, that hasn’t happened yet. I like to cook, and I spend time with my kids. I have two grandchildren also, so.
Schimri Yoyo: Oh wow. Congratulations.
Kara Palley: Thank you. So I babysit. They live nearby.
Schimri Yoyo: Oh yeah, true. Renaissance Woman. You’ve got your hand in a lot of different things.
Kara Palley: Yeah, right.
Schimri Yoyo: Now, what one word best describes your philosophy and the methodology of fitness coaching?
Kara Palley: So one word I think about this is strength.
Schimri Yoyo: That’s good. Can you, you can elaborate?
Kara Palley: So it’s, I just think it’s the most important thing for people to be strong, especially as we get older, especially women, although men should be strong too. Everyone should be strong. But I think that it goes the furthest and improving your health and your independence and how you feel about yourself and how you’re able to continue to do all the things you love to do if you’re strong.
Schimri Yoyo: Okay.
Kara Palley: Than as opposed to not being strong.
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Schimri Yoyo: Yeah. How prevalent are body image issues with the clients you serve and how do you address them?
[Editor’s note: Check out the videos below about aging and a healthy body image.]
Kara Palley: Well, I assume you’re meaning like media ideals of what you’re supposed to look like?
Schimri Yoyo: That, or I know a lot of times I, at least in my experience, some clients just either don’t feel good about how they look or how they feel and so then, it becomes this self-fulfilling prophecy that because they start shaming themselves. Then, they lose the motivation to want to do any better cause it’s become very fatalistic. So kind of things.
Kara Palley: I would say that it’s fairly prevalent. I think education goes a long way to fixing that. People think that there’s a one way, or a way that they have to do things and then they beat up on themselves and say, “Don’t do it.”
But I do more fitness than weight loss alone—I’m getting more into that—so [a negative body image] is really not the first reason people come to me, [they don’t come to me] just because they don’t like the way their body looks.
It’s more that they want to move better. They want to feel good and want to be strong, and they want to be healthier or doctors told them, “You’d better start getting moving.” And body image—it’s, I think, it’s secondary for most of my clients.
Schimri Yoyo: Alright, thank you for that answer. How, how are nutrition and exercise related to each other as far as your training? You talked about your love of cuisine and everything like that. How, how do you have the discussion of nutrition with your clients?
Kara Palley: So nutrition is really—and it’s even taken me a long time to get there—but it’s really the most important, even though “strength” is what I said was my keyword. I mean, really without good nutrition, it’s not going to work. It’s like the foundation and the walls of the house. It makes your movement possible. It makes your movement better, it makes—you know—it’s your health.
So many things to depend on good nutrition. You could lose weight without exercising at all if you wanted, if that was your sure goal was just to lose weight. So it’s really, I think, the most important, and movement and exercise are part of the formula, definitely.
Schimri Yoyo: Oh yeah. Absolutely. Right. I think obviously you said that you’re not able to sustain those strength gains if you’re not having the proper nutrition, so.
Kara Palley: Exactly. Exactly.
Schimri Yoyo: So in your opinion, what’s the relationship between strength and conditioning, injury prevention, and also rehabilitation? How do they all work together?
Kara Palley: So, I think if you’re starting off with no injuries, and you’re lucky, then you just need to know how to do all the movements properly.
You want to make sure you’re doing everything in the right form, and you’re using your muscles the right way, and you’re not using your joints primarily, and you’re doing things in an intelligent way, that you’re not going all out and using weights that are too heavy or too many repetitions or too many classes in a row.
If you already have injuries, then it just becomes all the more important too to do things intelligently and not to jump in, but also not to rest too much, also.
Schimri Yoyo: That makes sense. That actually leads to my next question. You mentioned rest. How do you help your clients to be proactive both in their training and their fitness, but also in their rest and recovery?
Kara Palley: I don’t think too many of them have trouble with the rest or recovery. I shouldn’t say that, but there are definitely people that think that they have to push themselves super hard. And even, there are the clients that everything is like, “Oh, I’m not feeling it right,” or, “Ouch,” or, “Oh, no!” Or then there are those who are the other way where they won’t say a word, and you have no idea if it hurts or if they’re tired. And it turns out a lot of times they’re pushing themselves too hard.
So you have to strike a balance, but I always tell my clients that you should be able to finish your reps whatever they are. So if it’s too heavy and you can’t finish, then you have to go lighter. Or if you’re doing a stretch, you have to not take it too far because then you won’t be able to hold it where you might hurt yourself or tear something, so.
Schimri Yoyo: So, would you say it’s important for you and the client to keep that open line of communication as far as, do they know what’s hurting or what doesn’t feel right?
Kara Palley: Oh yeah, I have some clients that all they want to know is the why. They want to know, “Why am I doing this? Where should I be feeling like over and over?” And then they’re the ones that don’t ever ask. So I always try to provide that, so they make to make sure that they’re going to progress.
Schimri Yoyo: Okay. And now how do you incorporate yoga and stretching as part of your practice?
Kara Palley: I actually got certified to teach yoga by the Yoga Alliance, and I don’t really teach classes. I do it more as a part of the sessions sometimes. So I incorporate it more just holistically at this point. Because I don’t really do group classes, but it’s more of an awareness: how to make sure that your body’s in the right alignment and how to make sure you’re incorporating breathing and also the posture. And there are always a lot of things that have to be happening at once in a movement, but it’s not always as obvious if you’re just saying, “Okay, squat.”
But with yoga, there’s just more, I think there is just so much more detail and more cueing you can do and also ways to help the client get more out of the exercise. So there is a lengthening and there is a strengthening and there are a lot of different components to it.
[Editor’s note: View the video below to learn about yoga and its effects on aging.]
Schimri Yoyo: Yeah, it seems to me that you put great value and emphasis on them having the proper technique and form.
Kara Palley: I do, I do.
Schimri Yoyo: That’s good. And how do you measure success for yourself and then also for your clients?
Kara Palley: Well, usually for me, I have some kind of a goal that I want to be able to accomplish. For myself, it’s usually not like in numbers. It’s more in what I can do in my own know fitness. Like I can run a 5K or I without getting injured, or I can do a headstand without using the wall or something like that. It, that’s more what I do.
My clients, you know, it really depends. For them, it could be not being in pain, moving without pain. It could be getting stronger, it could be improving balance, bone density. So you know, you have to measure each one based on whatever the goal is.
Schimri Yoyo: Okay. And now what, what common traits or shared have you observed for your clients that have had the most success under your tutelage?
Kara Palley: I think consistency. It’s very important. I mean, people, if they get to the point where they are either going to join a gym or they are going to start taking classes, or they are going to hire a personal trainer, They’re part of the way there, and they’re definitely part of the way there. But some people still think of it like it’s outsourcing.
[Editor’s note: Enjoy a humorous clip from former NBC sitcom, Outsourced.]
Like I’m going to pay somebody, and it’s all going to work— and to a point, it will. But you also have to be willing to really sweat and to feel discomfort—not pain necessarily—and to know that it’s going to take time, and you have to put in the work.
Schimri Yoyo: Now, that’s good. Now take this opportunity to brag about yourself a little bit. What makes KP Basic Training unique?
Kara Palley: Well, there’s a lot of humor. I still use a lot of humor, and I just keep it very real. And I’m open about my own fitness challenges, all my injuries, and everything because I really, I had a career before this and then I had kids and then when they got older, then I was thinking, “Okay, what am I going to do next?”
So, for me, I’ve almost like been a client. And when you’re talking about mentors, I’ve had many others who have sort of helped me along so people see that I’m struggling, and I’m open about it. So, that’s unique. And I also try to help people see that they can do things that they really didn’t think they could do because we were all built to run.
You know, our ancestors ran everywhere. There were no cars. We were all built to lift things. We were built to do a lot of things that when we just were not in the practice of doing them, but we can. And when people feel like they are actually able to do something that they couldn’t do, it’s very exciting. We all get excited.
So I, that’s what I try to make people feel like it’s possible. So that’s the content I provide. It leads to, hopefully, leads people seeing that it’s something that’s attainable for them.
Schimri Yoyo: It seems like you empower your clients with education and also with empathy and humanity.
Kara Palley: That’s right. And I feel like they do.
Schimri Yoyo: You take your work seriously, but not yourself seriously. That’s good. It’s a good trait to have.
Kara Palley: That comes with age too.
Schimri Yoyo: Now, when you first started out as an entrepreneur starting own business, how did you decide what services you would offer and at what price points you would offer them?
Kara Palley: So, I always wanted to do one-on-one training mostly. I did try to do group [training], and I tried to do small groups. I kind of always knew that it wasn’t so much for me. Even though I’m talking with you now, I’m not really so—I don’t really love talking in front of a lot of people, especially the cardio formats where you have to keep count in your head and talk and think of the next thing.
It’s not for me. I found it to be difficult, so I just am not going to do it. It’s just too much anxiety, and I’m just not, I could be probably good at if I tried, you know, but I just got rid of it. As far as pricing, I really just looked at what people in my area charged and when I first started out I was a little bit lower. Maybe I still am a little bit, I don’t know. I haven’t really looked lately. The online stuff is a little harder to price.
Schimri Yoyo: And now how do you budget your time between working on your business and then working in your business?
Kara Palley: Well, I’m going to have to get back to you. It’s really hard. I mean I, just, I always, people always say, “Oh, you’re so organized.” And I am, but when I worked, I worked where these were the hours, here was my office, here was what I had to do. And now, I have the kids and I have the house and I have the business, and it’s not structured. So it’s forcing me to become structured and I’m working on it.
Schimri Yoyo: Well, you’re not alone.
Kara Palley: Flowing with my clients consistently, trying to add more things in. I get up really, really early to do my own workouts, which frees up time, and, of course for me, going to bed earlier so that I’m not doing whatever, fooling around or eating or scrolling on my phone because I know I have to be up, so I have to get to bed. So that’s where I’m starting, and I’m going from there.
Schimri Yoyo: I ask that question to all of the fitness experts just because I’m interested to truly know how they do it, but there’s a common refrain. It seems that even those who—some might be a little further ahead than others—but it’s on one of those things that, I think, no one ever feels like they’ve arrived with that time management piece. You’re always improving, always tweaking things and so it’s good to know.
Kara Palley: Some people are just amazing at it, and you know they’ll get there.
Schimri Yoyo: Now, what have you learned that you wish you would’ve known when you first started out in business?
Kara Palley: I would say that you should just start. I mean, you should know something, and you should have some kind of an idea, but you shouldn’t just wait and say, “Oh well, I can’t do it yet because of X. I was like learning a new movement.”
Like if I told my client, “Okay, today we’re going to do split squats,” and she’s never done it before. I explain everything that’s involved and say, “There’s a lot to remember, so we’re just going to start doing it and then we’ll tweak it as we go along.”
So I think the same concept holds if you’re going to be a business person. And I delayed it for a long time. I wanted to go into this field, I would say years and years ago. But I always said, “No, I can’t, my kids are little, this, that, I’m not in shape.”
So it would have really been better, I think if I had started sooner. So, that’s what I would say. Just start. It might take you longer but start, and you don’t have that much more experience.
Schimri Yoyo: That’s good advice. Now, thank you again, Kara, for your time, and we appreciate your participation. You know, you said you had some anxiety as far as speaking, but you’ve been providing some great content for us.
Just a few more questions before, I let you go. How do you use social media and technology to promote your services?
And I use some automation. I’m not so adept at it, but I use some like automated posting things and reposting. And I use social media a lot also just to look for information to learn things and also to get client sales. So it’s really a great tool. I haven’t plumbed the depths of it at all. And there are some really good apps too.
Schimri Yoyo: And now lastly, what resources, whether it be books, magazines, podcasts, would you recommend for our audience that you find valuable?
Kara Palley: So I’m not a big podcast person. I find just, this is just me personally, that I zone out when there’s a podcast going most of the time. I have a lot of books, a wide variety of books, but I really do a lot on—I just go on the internet.
I follow, if you follow hashtags on Instagram of things that interest you, like a rotator cuff, you know, it could be anything and it sort of leads you in the direction of finding things. There’s a good, really good website for nutrition information, examine.com, which is great.
There are a few fitness professionals that I follow. I followed their blogs, but I don’t really, I couldn’t really say I like podcasts or magazines or any particular author. James Clear is good. A lot of people are reading him: Atomic Habits. Yep. So, that’s good. So you find out everything you’re not doing, but it’s good to really understand the habits and how you get more efficient and organized in your own life.
Schimri Yoyo: Yeah. That seems to be a very popular book, Atomic Habits. So I’m sure that our audience will check that one out as it has been mentioned a couple of different times. So thank you.
Well, thank you again for, Kara, for your time.
Kara Palley: Thank you.
Schimri Yoyo: I appreciate you jumping on, and I’ll wish you continued success with your business and would definitely like to maybe have a meal with you sometime. We’re not too far away in Philly and North Jersey. So maybe we’ll have to dine because I’m a big foodie myself.
Kara Palley: Right. Thank you. Thank you so much.
If you’re ready to grow and manage your business better, schedule a demo today.
Schimri Yoyo is a writer for Exercise.com and a financial advisor with active life and health insurance licenses. In a past life, he covered Villanova Men’s Basketball and Big East Football for Examiner.com. Schimri has also produced freelance copywriting, editing, and proofreading for various websites and online publications for over a decade. He is an avid sports fan, possessing an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Boston Celtics, Boston Red Sox, and San Francisco 49ers. Schimri is an educator and a storyteller who is eager to assist individuals and families to stay financially and physically fit.