Late last year, scientists grew lettuce on the International Space Station for the first time. They grew actual lettuce in space. And then ate it. And apparently it was delicious.

That’s real rocket science.

You know what’s not rocket science? Making others feel great. And yet, when you find someone that effortlessly makes others feel great, it’s like you’ve stumbled upon your own scientific discovery. I walked into Susan Cotter’s STRENGTH Studio because she is one of those fitness trainers that is on every “Best of…” list. Classpass voted her Most Motivating Instructor on the West Coast. Uh, that’s a pretty long, fit and motivated coast.

After brief introductions and a quick game of 6-degrees of separation, which in the Seattle fitness community turned out to be one-degree of separation, we decided to snap some pics before class started. Surprise, surprise we are jumping in the air.


Susan knows that nobody ever feels worse when they leave a workout; they will always feel WAY better. She wants you to do whatever you need to do to simply walk in the door, and she will take care of the rest. Every single workout she has ever taught at her studio is different – mixing in cardio, strength, balance and rhythm. I can tell you first hand, you’ll get a balanced, challenging workout that hits every major muscle group. She also happens to keep every workout written out, page protected and organized by date, in giant 3-ring binders. Collectively these binders must weigh as much as she does. (sidebar: This kind of organizational pathology speaks to me like you wouldn’t believe.)


Despite this crazy archive, she has never once gone back and repeated her workouts. Why bother keeping them I asked her? She couldn’t give me a concrete answer, vaguely saying it had to do with her need for organization distilled in her during her years as an elementary school teacher. I have a feeling it’s more than that. I think the binders serve as a sort of archive to her work, like a happiness timeline. When you’ve completed a workout at STRENGTH, you feel energized and positive.

Unless you’re a crazy person like me who remembers tiny details of my workouts for days on end, the workout itself is often forgotten. This is how it should be when you spend time with an expert like Susan. You want someone else to take care of the details so you can simply show up. In turn, you build up your strength reserves to take on your own life’s challenges. You take the energy she creates in these workouts and become stronger, inside and out.

Wouldn’t you say this is just as important as space lettuce? Yes. The answer is, yes it is.


Here’s a little more about Susan:

NAME: Susan Cotter

GYM/STUDIO: Strength Studio

ROLE: Owner/ Motivator/ Trainer


BACKGROUND (Tell me a little bit about how you got to where you are today including why you care about fitness):

Like many others who have undergone a drastic career change, it is usually emerges from some sort of emotional turmoil. This was the case with me too. I had been a 1st grade teacher for years. I loved it so much I even completed my Masters in Education. I left teaching to stay at home with my kids but when my marriage broke down, I needed something that blended elements I enjoyed from teaching (planning, interacting with others, influencing change) with maximum flexibility. I couldn’t be a teacher and still drop off and pick up my kids. Fitness instruction was the answer. Because I didn’t play sports, I didn’t feel like an athlete, even though I danced for years. I knew I could bring out the inner athlete in my clients and convince them that strength can be built outside of sports.

When it was time to me open up STRENGTH, my closest friends all put their credit cards in a pile and told me to take what I needed. Talk about trust! This was one of the greatest shows of support I had ever had.

My clients are mostly women looking for high-energy workouts that take the thinking out of fitness. It’s like personal training in a group setting. I know everyone that walks in the door, all of their injuries, strengths and fears. I make it a point to bring the energy so high in the room so that each of my clients can bring their energy forward into their lives.

Please complete the following statements:

  1. My pre-workout ritual includes… waking up early, setting my intentions for the day, listening to my music and a giant cup of coffee with half-and-half. [Angie: bless this superfit woman for admitting she not only drinks coffee, but generously pours in half-and-half! not flax or chia or sweat from the brows of newfallen angels, half-and-half.]
  1. If money and time were no object, I would be a professional… trainer. I am I am living my dreams and wouldn’t trade this for anything. [Angie: believe it, this woman just got back from a 4 day holiday… the longest in 6 years]
  1. My spirit animal is… the orca, commonly referred to as a killer whale, but in reality, a nurturing, pod-loving, social animal.
  1. When I’m not training, I’m… with my 3 daughters, supporting them and empowering them to express their inner strength. All of this was created so I could be in their lives and model strength for them every single day. I also started the Girls of STRENGTH program as a way to keep pre-teen and teenage girls engaged in exercise when you normally see a drop-off in sports participation. I mean, once girls get boobs, it’s a mass exodus from organized sports. I create a safe fitness program to empower girls to own their body and their athleticism. I try to hook them into the fitness sisterhood so they can feel strong their entire lives.
  1. My greatest extravagance is… workout gear. Being a Lululemon ambassador helps fuel the obsession. It makes a dent, but barely.



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