Meet May’s Member of the Month – Erin Karp!









Since you were one of the first members I recall connecting with at ZUM, it feels like you’ve always been part of the ZUM community, but how long have you officially been a member? 


Almost exactly 15 years!


Wow! I wasn’t too far off! How did you first discover ZUM?


I was working in Belltown, and the old location was 2 blocks from my office. I wasn’t working out anywhere at the time. In fact, I’ve never stuck with any sort of a gym or athletic program. I’d gone to other gyms and never lasted more than a few months. Out of the sheer convenience, I figured I’d check it out.


Interesting…we’ll come back to what the difference was, but when you joined what were you looking for? Trying another spot to see if it stuck? Did you have specific goals?


I’ve always had weight issues and have always wanted to lose some weight. At that time, that was probably the driving factor along with wanting to get into something that felt like “shape.”


That’s pretty relate-able for many of us, but it can be daunting to start. How did you go about tackling that goal at ZUM?


Since ZUM was so close to my office, it was easy to go at lunchtime. I took a couple of classes on my week trial, and they set me up with Derek to do a Baseline after I joined. He showed me some exercises, but I was completely clueless (I still largely am) about how to put together a workout, so for me classes were a good gateway. I didn’t have to figure it out, I could follow someone’s instructions. I did yoga once a week, a dance-based class taught by a guy named Ross, and HardCore – I was pretty addicted to HardCore early on.


So you weren’t training with Dr. Butler (as he’s referred to in the Karp family) right away?


No, I think we started about 6 months after I joined.  He would put together workouts for me, so I could come in and workout on my own in addition to our training sessions and taking classes. Before I knew it, I was coming in and working out 4-5 days/week during my lunch hour. Derek also suggested I work with the nutritionist ZUM had at the time, so I was getting a lot of support on all fronts.


Did that help you obtain your initial goals?


Absolutely! Like most people when they first begin things, I was pretty gung-ho about it, and actually lost quite a bit of weight within the first 4-6 months. I joined in the spring and went with a friend to Aruba in early November. That trip was the first peak of my journey. I had lost weight; I was feeling good. That was probably the best I’d ever felt about myself physically.

More importantly, I started the process of actually being able to feel how my body felt when I changed things up – exercising more or less, doing different types of workouts, changing how and what I ate.

I remember having an epiphany one day right around Christmas-time. I worked in an office, and people would bring in all the traditional goodies. After grazing on goodies all morning, I came in to workout with Derek. I was surprised how sluggish I felt. I mentioned it to Derek who asked what I’d eaten. All of a sudden, I realized I had been eating treats all morning – there was my “aha” moment. That was the first time I was ever really conscious of the effect of what I ate was having on how I felt.


That’s such a huge, Self-empowering moment! So here you are 15 years later, still making it to ZUM at least once a week. What made the difference for you here compared to the other gyms you’d joined?


First of all, it’s the people. I’ve said many times, “ZUM is my Cheers,” for anyone who’s old enough to know what that means. It is the place where everybody knows my name. People greet me; we have things to talk about, and there’s history. I feel I could go into ZUM any day, any time, and there would be people there who know me. I don’t necessarily hang out with the people at ZUM, but I feel like they’re my friends, and, to some extent, my family. It’s a good place to be.

The results too, obviously. Thanks to “Dr.” Butler. I couldn’t do it without D.


Speaking of results, what would you say your greatest achievement has been since joining? After 15 years, there’s probably a lot to choose from!


15 years is a long time, and there have been a lot of ups and downs. I turned 41 right before my son was born. The fact that I am a mother in my 40’s (and staring 50 right in the face) and can keep up with my very active 8 year old son? That’s got to be my greatest achievement. If it weren’t for ZUM, I don’t think my son or I would be having the same family experience.


That’s powerful. As most things appear to after having children, have your reasons for working out changed too?


Yeah, it’s all about how I feel and keeping up with Simon. It’s about being able to do all the things I both need and want to do in my life.


Which hasn’t been the easiest thing to do within the past few years, right? Would you be willing to share a little about your health issues?


Of course. I’m 3.5 years past my initial diagnosis of colon cancer. I’ve had multiple surgeries and a total of 18 months of chemotherapy. During some of that time, working out has been just to feel like I can still do something – just to keep moving. Some of the time, it’s been about recovery and rebuilding – “now that I’ve been through this latest step, let’s find out what can I do.”

During my chemotherapy it was always very important for me to schedule my chemo in a way that I could still come to the gym once a week. Making it to the gym during that time was a victory.


And you did! There were very few times we didn’t see you. Where are you now with your cancer?


I’m in the “wait and see” period, but I’ve been in remission for about a year. Now I feel like I have the ability, while I’m not actively sick or in treatment, to really get back to working out. I feel like I’m in as good of shape as I was shortly after my son was born – maybe the best shape of my life.


You look amazing. Clearly, you’ve got renewed inspiration and new physical goals you’re working toward. What was the trigger for this new journey you’re on?


It really was the surgery I had a year ago. Between the steroids I was taking with chemo, the medications, the stress, and my dad dying – my weight had really ballooned.

I lost a little bit of weight just from the surgery itself. It was an opportunity to say “ok, I want to get back to feeling strong and healthy.” Part of that is getting rid of the extra weight I’d put on. At my peak, I was 65 pounds heavier than I’d been when I took that trip to Aruba. I have lost 40 of that. I’d like to lose more, but I’ve also come around to realizing it’s not necessarily about the number on the scale – it’s about how I look, how I feel, and how my body is functioning.


How do you feel?


I feel great! I’ve had a huge energy increase. I walk to and from my office 3-4 times/week. I’m an addict to my Fitbit, logging about 5 miles daily. It’s so great. I love walking around our neighborhood with Simon, to the farmer’s market on Sundays, to Simon’s baseball practices and games. Looking forward to a lot of bike riding with Simon this summer!


There’s no denying you’ve always been an incredible mother, but how has this new personal journey impacted your relationship with Simon?


In our family, I’ve always said that my husband was the “fun” parent, and I was the “rules” parent. Being able to be more active makes me able to be more fun too. I can go out and ride bikes with him, I can go out and play catch with him and help him practice baseball. I’m not just the “rules” parent or the “sit on the couch and read together” parent anymore.


That’s awesome! Do you see fitness as an important part of your own self-care as a mom?


Absolutely. The one hour a week that I’m at ZUM working out with Derek, is the one hour that is absolutely 100% my time. That’s part of why I hold onto it so tightly and won’t cancel unless I absolutely have to. It’s important for me physically, but it’s also and emotional and mental outlet for me to hold onto.


But that hasn’t kept you from sharing ZUM with your family though, has it?


No, not at all!  Simon came with me a few times as an infant – exposed him early. One time when he was about 3 he came to HardCore with me. He had his own bench and was doing the workout right along with me. He’s worked out with Derek and me a few times and just loves ZUM. He says that as soon as he’s old enough (18 in his mind), he’s going to come workout at ZUM, and if I’m lucky enough to be working out at the same time, I might get to see him there.

Before Simon, I shared ZUM with my dad, Larry. He was a doctor and very rigid in his thinking about medicine and exercise and what things could and couldn’t be done. Dad had back problems and on-going pain for years. After I started training with Derek, I told him how wonderful it was and how much better I felt. Despite my best efforts to encourage him to try it out, he insisted nothing could be done to help him; going to the gym would just make his back pain worse.

Finally, when I was about 7 months pregnant he joined me for a session, He’d been an ob/gyn and was concerned about my working out so late in my pregnancy, so I invited him to come observe and see for himself. Derek worked with both of us that day. The next day when I called to see how he was feeling, he said, “It’s amazing. I have no pain.” He was hooked.

He joined ZUM and worked out with Derek religiously. He loved ZUM as much as I do. In fact, he worked out at ZUM until weeks before he died.


One of his last visits he raced me up the stairs and he beat me! I think I was even sort of trying. I have a lot of favorite members, but Larry was in a league of his own. We all really miss him and the joy he brought to ZUM. 

You’re no stranger to introducing people to ZUM, so what would you say to someone who is new or looking to join? 


The breadth of knowledge at ZUM is astounding. There is someone at ZUM who can answer any questions you might have. If, for some odd reason, they can’t, they will find an answer for you! They know so much about fitness and health from so many different perspectives. It’s almost more of a question of why wouldn’t you go to ZUM? If you have any sort of health or fitness related goal, don’t go with canned video workouts – go to ZUM! There is someone there who will workout with you and you will get what you need out of the experience. I can pretty much guarantee it.


That’s darn good advice. Ok, let’s get to know you a little better! What’s something interesting about you that we might not know?


After college, I lived and worked in Tokyo for 2 years. I’m extraordinarily, rusty, but at the time, I spoke fluent Japanese.


Amazing! How about a guilty pleasure? 


Chocolate. I will eat any chocolate, anywhere, anytime – except white chocolate. Given the choice, I will always opt for dark chocolate.


Favorite movie?

When my husband and I were first getting to know one another, he asked for my list of top 5 best movies of all time and then he sent me his list and I said, “how on earth can you not have Casablanca on that list”? So, I think that may be it, but it’s next to impossible to pick one favorite, so:

Harold & Maude
Benny & Joon (I was a big Jonny Depp fan until he got creepy)
anything with Katherine Hepburn


Favorite TV show?


The West Wing – without anything else being anywhere close.


Favorite book?


I love reading.  There are good books and then there’s brain candy, which I read a lot of these days. One of my favorite books of all time is Ahab’s Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund.


Favorite music?


I’m an 80’s kid. It’s so hard to pick a favorite song or artist, but one of the musical highlights from recent memory was 11 days after my last surgery, my family and I went to the U2 concert. It was amazing.


Favorite ZUM class?


HardCore. I would still take it if it was easier for me to get downtown.


Favorite movement or exercise?


Right now, I’m really liking chest presses. The stretch feels really good. Luckily, Derek always has me trying new things, so I never feel like I’m in a rut – even after 15 years!


Is there anything else you’d like to share before we wrap up?


Yes! Conventional wisdom used to be that you don’t need be screened for colon cancer 50. The rates of diagnosis in people under 50 are going through the roof. Get screened. If you’re anywhere close to 50 or have any symptoms – go see your doctor. No one wants to talk about colon cancer because we’re still embarrassed by it, and no one wants to deal with everything that goes into a colonoscopy. Yeah, the prep isn’t fun, but the procedure itself is a piece of cake. Going through the prep for a colonoscopy is so much better than going through treatment for colon cancer. Do yourself and your family a favor and get screened.

I hope ZUM stays around for as long as I stay around. I only make it down once a week, but it is the highlight of my week in so many ways. People should bring their relatives and friends. But if you don’t, you’re going to have friends at ZUM!