Dressed in head-to-toe Kohl's athleisure, with signature beachy mermaid hair, Karena Dawn and Katrina Scott, aka the Tone It Up girls, are cozied up on a couch in front of me. They're getting ready to lead a workout event hosted by Kohl's, and Scott happens to have a breast pump underneath her shirt.
"I gotta do it," Scott says, acknowledging her breast pump. "I don’t want to say no to things. I know we're gonna go to shoots, we’re gonna go to New York, and I'm gonna pump in an Uber on our way to a meeting, or on the plane. I'm making sure that I'm normalizing breast feeding, pumping, and everything."
In the past 10 years since Dawn and Scott launched Tone It Up, a workout platform and online community, a lot has changed besides just having babies. They've garnered a massive following on social media, developed Tone It Up-branded workout gear and snacks, and become thought-leaders in the ever-evolving wellness space.
Dawn says they were "pioneers in girlfriend-to-girlfriend fitness," and body positivity. "Fitness was very mean about 12 years ago when we first started together," she says. But as people's understanding of fitness, health at every size, and body positivity expands, so has their mission.
Conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
Karena Dawn: "We decided to call it 'intentions' this year — an intention that you carry with you throughout the year, rather than something that you're forcing yourself to do."
Katrina Scott: "This year I didn’t want to get rid of anything. I decided to set new intentions for the things that I was going to do. That way, if I end up having, like last night, a few too many glasses of wine because it was my first night off without my daughter, that's okay. If you set yourself up for all the things you want to cut out of your life, then you're kind of setting yourself up to be disappointed. So, [I'm] incorporating new things and things you can look forward to."
So, what are your intentions?
KD: "One of my big ones was go to more mindful retreats this year. I have three booked now, I've always wanted to do it. One with my husband, [which is] a week long meditation retreat, one with Deepak Chopra, and I'm going to Wanderlust."
KS: "I really want to, everyday, just be patient with how I take care of myself, and be a really good mom. This is the first time it’s my new job, and my new normal, and I want to figure this out and make sure I'm a healthy example for her in everything that I do. Just giving myself patience and grace. This is the first time I've ever had to take care of another human — it's hard enough to take care of myself."
If you set yourself up for all the things you want to cut out of your life, then you're kind of setting yourself up to be disappointed.
Refinery29 talks a lot about body positivity, and so do you. In the 10 years that you've been running Tone It Up, how has your definition of body positivity changed?
KD: "We've never been like, you have to change this, get rid of that, it’s always like, work your beautiful waistline or something. We've always spoken very positively about the body, and anyone in our community coming in, and feeling like they don't have to look a certain way."
KS: "It's all been very intentional from the very beginning. Ten years ago, we said we'd never do a workout that 'fixes anything.' [Body positivity] wasn’t 'in' when we were doing it, and now it's like very obvious everyone is talking about it. We always said, talk to your body the same way that you’d talk to your best girlfriend. When you're talking to your best girlfriend, you'd never be like, You need to get rid of this. In that dress, you should see the way that your arms look. Your entire perspective will change. You are and should be your number one fan."
KD: "We practice non-judgment on anything, anyone, and ourselves. I think that's really important."
KS: "And you're allowed to have a tough day; give yourself grace in that sense. Imagine your best girlfriend having a really bad day: what would you tell her?"
Social media is such a huge part of the Tone It Up community, but I know sometimes scrolling through endless Instagrams can make people feel really bad. Do you ever think about that when posting, or do you ever experience that yourselves?
KD: "I don’t think that of our own feeds, because what we put out there is honest, truthful, and what we believe. I have gone through and unfollowed [accounts] if it wasn’t something that better served me or my life, and maybe something that annoyed me, or doesn’t make you feel good — unfollow. Even our best friends following ex-boyfriends, unfollow!"
KS: "I went through and unfollowed [people] because I was missing out on the stories I did want to see. Social media is a place where you can connect, not only with strangers, but with people who you really love and might not be able to always make a phone call to. I realized I wasn’t seeing those stories because I was following these people that I didn’t know. Take a step back and look at what you want to use social media for, and really just make it your own. That's the coolest thing about social media is that you can make it exactly how you want to make it."
We're really into joyful movement right now, which is the idea that you should focuses on physical activities and ways of moving your body that make you happy. What are some non-aesthetic reasons why you work out?
KD: "I talk about that a lot, why I work out. I think that for the mental benefits, working out is perfect. It starts up here, and then it goes through, spreads through, the rest of your life, just making sure you're feeling happy."
KS: "That's the number one thing Karena has taught me as my best girlfriend and partner is that you've gotta take care of what's going on in [your mind] before everything else. Especially through motherhood, I knew I was getting into a very unknown territory. Over nine months my body changing, and then post-baby I was like, Mental health first, and I'm gonna be okay.
KD: "I started working out again in my early 20s because I was going through such a dark period, and for 10 years I had turned away from fitness. I signed up for a race and my first triathlon and started moving again. Life just started to fall back together again, just by adding physical fitness."
KS: "A lot of girls will come to us wanting to work out, and when they start working out then they start feeling good, and connecting with other girls in the community. They're like, the last thing on my mind is having perky booty. It's a bonus, my peach booty, but it's not so much priority anymore."