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Online Exclusive: How Daily Exercise Revived Me as a Businesswoman in a Pandemic

By Sara Hodson
CEO, LIVE WELL Exercise Clinic

Prior to March 2020, balance was challenging. As the CEO of LIVE WELL Exercise Clinic, I spent my time running a very busy franchise business. We had expanded from one clinic in my hometown of White Rock, BC in 2011 to 17 clinics across Canada. We were in a major growth period, on track to open four more clinics, expanding into the United States. Business was booming – the need for supervised exercise, and what LIVE WELL offers was growing. 

As a mother of four children – my youngest is 10, and my eldest 17 – I spent most of the last decade chasing balance: Whether it was helping my youngest with homework, or driving my eldest to competitive dance classes, “me time” was something I had to build into my day – but it was non-negotiable. On days when the scales tipped, and I was working too much and not taking care of myself – I felt it. 

“Me time” consisted of lots of exercise! Whether it was going for a run in the trails behind my house, hopping on my spin bike for a quick ride at home, or scheduling a workout with my best friend, Tasha McRae, VP of Brand and Culture at LIVE WELL, I didn’t compromise on exercise because without it, my mental health suffered. I knew the benefits of only 10 minutes of exercise to change my mood. I struggled a little with sleep, but I did my best. I’m also a passionate equestrian, and lose myself in the moment when I’m riding my horse. In late 2019, I went through a divorce, so the timing of the pandemic made this new way of life very challenging to adjust to. When my kids were at their dad’s house, I chose to treat myself to a night in a hotel in Vancouver where I walked the Seawall, grabbed a meal on a patio with a great book, remembering Sara Hodson wasn’t just a mom or the CEO of LIVE WELL – Sara was a person.

Then COVID-19 hit us in the face.

Within nine days of the initial lockdown, LIVE WELL went from an in-person clinic to a virtual platform. We did it, pivoting our business model quickly. I needed to support my team, and my children who were thrown into homeschooling. The underlying pulse behind all of this was driven by societal fear. Remember back to those initial weeks, when everyone was masked, grocery shelves were stripped of essentials, and no one knew what was going on? “Fourteen days to flatten the curve…” I remember it vividly. 

Needless to say, my self-care suffered. 

I worked around the clock on LIVE WELL’s business model and unit economics, creating a leaner version of LIVE WELL that could translate into more clinics across Canada and support a post-pandemic economy. I would stare longingly at the trails behind my house and my route along the beachfront; my exercise bike became a clotheshorse and my strength-training gains slid away. Now, I wasn’t just running a business and helping one kid with homework – I was a quasi-teacher for four kids, all the while hopping on endless Zoom calls and trying to jam 26 hours into one 24-hour day. 

Suddenly, I became a person that I didn’t recognize. I was physically and emotionally exhausted, I wasn’t sleeping well, and I was sad, anxious and likely depressed. 


What was that? 

My career and my life have been driven by the Exercise is Medicine movement. With my background in exercise science, I knew only 10 minutes of movement could shift my mind.

About a month into lockdown, I looked at the trails and decided I needed to get Sara back. I started running, and it changed me, triggering an avalanche of self-care, I made healthier choices with food, set an alarm on my phone to get seven hours of sleep each night. I reached out to Tasha, and we agreed to “meet” on Zoom for a strength training session (which sometimes turned into dance sessions!) I started reading – even if it was only for 10 minutes. I would ride my horse daily too! 

Beyond a doubt, working mothers were changed by the pandemic – the brunt of childcare duties fell into our laps, exposing a large gender divide that already existed. Experts fear the effects on our mental health will last for a long time.

I believe this is a moment in time with a tremendous opportunity for working moms.  

As we come out of the pandemic, we have to ask ourselves important questions:

  • Why does self-care matter to us? 
  • What kind of parent are we if we don’t take care of ourselves? 
  • What kind of business leader do we become if we only focus on work? 
  • What message do we send to our team if we have no self-care practice? 

Self-care needs to be at the top of our to-do list, even if it feels indulgent. 

And the only person who can make that happen is you.

Sara Hodson is the CEO of LIVE WELL Exercise Clinic and co-chair of BC’s Fitness Industry Council. In 2021, LIVE WELL innovated its franchise buying process to make it a low threshold, high opportunity investment. To find out about how you can take advantage of this opportunity, please click here

Sara Hodson recently participated in the CFA’s virtual event focused on women in franchising called Elevate & Empower: Female Leadership During Uncertain Times. To purchase on-demand videos featuring Sara’s participation in the panel “Striking a Balance: Strategies to juggle both home & business life successfully,” click HERE.