Erin Horst: A Mindful Evolution

By Christine Fillat  |  Photography by Heather Crowder

It’s a tough world out there. Taking time out for ourselves is essential in this technologically fast-paced world. And with a bit of hard work, we will look good while we do it. Evolutions, an Annapolis-based fitness, health and wellness fixture for 15 years, was built to appeal to gentle souls who wish for physical and mental wellness.

As a teenager in California Evolutions founder Erin Horst struggled with her weight. She experienced a eureka moment when she decided to quit dieting and just live her life. Miraculously, the weight started dropping.

Her move to Atlanta proved to be pivotal. At an all-women’s gym she worked out with a personal trainer. She liked it so much that she became one herself. “I just loved it. It was a great environment. I was around people that I loved working with. I loved my clients.”

The connection between work place harmony and personal satisfaction resounded with Horst. When she and her husband moved to Annapolis, she worked as a personal trainer at a Maryland-based fitness chain where the atmosphere was not positive. “I really felt unhappy in there because people who worked there complained about the management or just complained in general. I just decided to pull myself out of that environment and work at home.”

Not intending to do anything more ambitious than train clients in her basement, she quickly changed her mind when her husband quit his job and started his own business, working from home too. “That was a little bit too much,” states Horst. In 2001, she opened her personal training and Pilates studio in a 2500-square-foot space on Housley Road. At this time, Pilates was creating seismic waves of interest in the fitness community and her studio was the only place in town to combine Pilates with personal training. “There was such a demand, quickly, for people not wanting to go to a personal training facility and then their gym to do their own workout, so through the clients pushing, pushing, pushing, we opened Evolutions as it is now.”

Just under two years after starting her new venture, Horst moved to her present location in the Annapolis Design District with 10,000 square
feet of space. Wildly popular would be an understatement. Within six months, Evolutions took over the whole building. Now, 15 years later, with a loyal following, the facility is 20,000 square feet of fitness possibility with every cardio, kettle bell, weight training, and TRX contraption to make a fitness junkie swoon. Combine that with a dedicated yoga studio, barre studio, Pilates studio, massage and stretch therapy and you have a one-of-a kind facility.

“People have worked here for a very long time, which has helped create a family and a special environment … I built the business thinking of staff rather than customers, which is backwards for most businesses. I always thought that if my staff were happy, then the clients would be happy. As a former personal trainer, coming from different environments that I didn’t like, I kind of based my business on that in the beginning.”

The journey hasn’t always been easy. The economic downturn in 2009–10 was a particular rough patch, with members dropping out or moving to the newly opened 24 Hour Fitness. Tough as it was, Horst weathered the storm and had an opportunity to take a good look at her business and evaluate what worked and what didn’t.

“We started focusing much more on mindfulness and more than just your body, really trying to get that point across, that you can exercise till the cows come home, but if you’re not well inside, if you’re not well in your mind and your spirit, then it really doesn’t matter what your body looks like. Honestly, your body can’t be that healthy without those other two components.”

At Evolutions, Horst encourages her clients to take time out from their fast-paced lives. “You can’t have mindfulness without a little quiet. It doesn’t have to mean a traditional meditation practice. It can be simply sitting quietly for five minutes and starting to just be aware of your mind, of the thoughts. However, I do believe that there has to be some silence in whatever practice you choose.”

When asked about success, she is humble, “It’s intention … and gratitude. Most entrepreneurs don’t make it past one year. In 15 years, I have to count myself as successful for making it this long. [I have] lots of gratitude
for that.”

We celebrate Erin Horst’s 15 years of mindful fitness with Evolutions, a true evolution, and wish her another successful 15 years.