The year began like so many others, a hearty dose of optimism about making exercise a priority. If experience was any indication, the high would be followed by fizzling enthusiasm, leading to a long list of excuses that end at the bottom of a Pringles tin.

If that sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone. This has been my story, time and time again, and likely the same for thousands of others.

We appreciate the value of the principles. In a world full of caveats, exercise, nutrition and wellness are generally considered unmitigated goods. It’s just that fitting those habits into a modern lifestyle leaves so many of us feeling like frustrated failures.

Enter Katrina Scott and Karena Dawn, the best friends and business partners behind the booming “Tone It Up” movement.

When I first discovered Katrina and Karena I was timid. Sure, they are the epitome of a healthy lifestyle, but clearly they must have something in their gene pool I seem to be missing.

As I scrolled curiously along their Instagram feed, my reluctance slowly eroded as I came across photo after photo of regular women, women just like me, who had made positive changes in their lives. They said it wasn’t easy. That I believed. They even posted messages of times when they lost their resolve. That I could appreciate. But what struck me the most, was what they said about each other.

In the hashtag driven “Tone It Up” world, women across the country and around the world are out there every day cheering each other on, offering encouraging words, lifting each other up. The message I took away: When women help each other become fitter, healthier and happier, good things happen.

In a world that so often makes beauty the stressful focus of women’s lives, the “Tone It Up” girls have a different message: Take care of your body and soul, and beauty is just one of several happy byproducts.

Their story began at a gym in Southern California, where Katrina and Karena met as members and immediately became best friends. A business partnership followed almost as quickly, with no visible distinction between the two sides of their relationship.

There’s no shortage of bubbly, positive, pretty women pitching health and fitness on the Internet. But Katrina and Karena offered their virtual training clients something special: Sisterhood, and all the support that comes with it, delivered digitally.

What started as a fitness website with workout meet-ups on Manhattan Beach quickly blossomed into a full-blown health and nutrition business. There are workout videos and retreats, but also meal-plans and real-world strategies to make it easier for women to work past the obstacles separating them from their goals. To keep them motivated, there’s personal interaction. When clients reach out to K&K, they respond.

It’s as successful a formula as you’ll find, and the numbers support it: There are more than 260,000 members in their program today, broken down into 130 geographic groups, each of which provides mutual support. Before-and-after photos of regular women from throughout the world adorn the TIU website and social media channels.

“It’s crazy how much it’s grown,” said Karena. “What Tone It Up has become is a community of women who come together and support each other and lift each other up. It’s more than just the workouts or being in the best shape of your life. There are women who meet their new best friends through the Tone It Up community. Or women who move to a new city and go to a hashtag (like #TIUChicago) and they have a whole group of friends already. So it’s become something pretty amazing.”

The centerpiece of their TIU program is an annual series of fitness challenges. The eight-week Bikini Challenge starts in spring and runs to the start of summer. Paying members get access to weekly video workouts on their website, plus a free fitness contest, recipes, and nutritional advice. “It’s eight weeks of getting ready to have the best summer of your life,” explained Karena.

To keep the content fresh, K&K began traveling to new locales to produce each series. The twist? The winners of each year’s Bikini Challenge win a vacation to the locale where the workouts were filmed. They’ve done Playa del Carmen, Newport Beach and Hawaii, twice. TCI made their wish list after a visit about five years ago, and they spent two weeks at The Palms Resort producing this year’s challenge content.

Expect plenty of TCI flavor in the nutritional component, too. “It’s going to be lots of fresh fish and ceviches,” Katrina said.

Despite their busy production schedule, the two friends found time for fun, too. They went boat touring, where Karena’s boyfriend and Kat’s husband dove for conch. They ran into some Tone It Up girls on vacation (“It is just really cool to see our community, even in Turks & Caicos,” Karena said) and hit their favorite restaurant on the island – Provo’s Da Conch Shack. They shot part of this year’s challenge at the iconic outdoor restaurant, but it was at the weekly Fish Fry their trip came to a memorable wrap.

“I think our entire group turned it into like Coachella on Turks and Caicos Islands,” Katrina said. “We were all dancing to the music and I just forgot where I was for like an hour. It was so much fun.“

It’s an exciting time for K&K. There’s a TIU apparel line, plus lines of skin- and hair-care products. They sell multivitamins and offer a certified organic, non-GMO and glutenfree nutrition line called Perfect Fit.

The only drawback? The more complex their business becomes, the harder it can be to find time to keep up the personal touches that made them successful in the first place. It’s a hard lesson, but they’re learning how to delegate “so that we can really stay connected to our community,” Katrina said.

“Sometimes you have to think back to why you started, and the reason we started was to be able to inspire people. So if every day we are still able to do that, then that’s great. Some days when we’re dealing with so much business stuff, then we kinda have to step back and say, ‘We need to shift things and really focus.’

“It’s great, because we are able to do our own social media, connect with our customers, our entire community, all of our girls. We do events, have retreats or meet ups. And we can do that because we have a great team. We’re really grateful for that.

“What brings us the most joy is seeing women all across the world really living positively,” Katrina said. “We’re hoping to make the world a better place, one Tone It Up girl at a time.”

tone it up challenge
To provide a little extra motivation for their annual Bikini Challenge, the TIU team will send a participant to Turks and Caicos and a stay at The Palms. Find out more online at and on Facebook. They can also be found on Instagram and Twitter: @ToneItUp with hashtag #toneitup