Q&A: Tone It Up Cofounders

The women behind Bravo's Toned Up tell us about growing up in New Hampshire, drug use, and losing weight the healthy way.

Photos provided by Bravo Media

Karena, left; Katrina, right. Photos provided by Bravo Media

Katrina Hodgson currently lives on the beach in California, a far cry from the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee near where she grew up. Her childhood memories are like most lucky New Englanders: spending summer weekends at Fenway Park, going to the Cape, or boating on Lake Winnipesaukee. The Keene State College grad got her start as a personal trainer and group fitness instructor at Boston Sports Clubs.

Now, you can find Hodgson and her business partner and roommate, Karena Dawn, on Bravo TV’s show, “Toned Up” which will air its season finale Thursday. The show takes an in-depth look at the business the women created, called Tone It Up, a wildly popular fitness and nutrition program. We talked to the women behind the brand to see what life is really like off camera.

Why did you both decide to get into the fitness industry?

Katrina:  I was a heavier child and struggled with the insecurities of being the “chubby girl” in class. I asked my dad for a treadmill before middle school, and he couldn’t believe it. He was expecting something more like a shopping trip or amusement park tickets. He then transformed our garage into a home gym, and I fell in love with fitness. I decided my sophomore year that I wanted to go to school for exercise science somewhere in New Hampshire.

Karena: I grew up watching my my mom working out to Jane Fonda tapes and my dad running and eating healthy. We ran our first half marathon together when I was 12. After moving to California from Indiana, I discovered Triathlon. I fell in love with the sport and the feeling of crossing the finish line. That’s when I decided to dedicate my life to fitness and helping others find their passion.

What are some of the lessons you’ve learned on your health, fitness, and business journey? 

Karena: I struggled as a teenager with depression and my escape was drug use. After I discovered Triathlon and running, I realized fitness was my healing process. It gave me self worth and a sense of achievement when I crossed that finish line. It feels good to accomplished what you set out to do, and it gives you strength in all other aspects of your life.

Katrina: I always struggled with my weight. Even while personal training I gained a lot of weight back and I realized a lot of us do that. We start taking care of others and we forget about ourselves and our own goals. Going through a transformation myself gave me the confidence to help others and to be able to relate to their struggles. I’ve been there and had to wake up one day and finally make a change. It’s my lifestyle now.

What advice do you have for someone who is just starting their health and wellness journey now?

Here’s our advice to someone just starting their journey:

1. Enjoy yourself! Find workouts that you look forward to. You’ll stick to them and have more fun.

2. Find balance. Exercise, recover, and fuel your body right with a good meal plan. Nutrition is so important for your metabolism, energy levels, recovery, and getting the best out of your workouts.

3. Consistency is important. Friday through Sunday can add up to almost half of your month! Be active on the weekend; you’ll reach your goals in half of the amount of time.

Is your program really for everyone? Can you be overweight and start Tone It Up?

Katrina: Our program is for everyone. My mom lost 60 pounds on [the program].


When working out on your own, what are some of your favorite things to do? 

Karena: I love going for long bike rides along the coast. I also love to surf.

Katrina: I like to go running on the beach or stand up paddleboarding.

What do you wish you knew at the beginning of all of this?

Both: We definitely run ToneItUp.com at full speed ahead every day, so maybe taking a little more time away from our phones and computers. It may have accelerated our business, but it also made us realize how precious time is with loved ones. We now more than ever make sure to plan girl’s trips, date nights, quality time away from our computers and cell phones, and make sure we enjoy life and our surroundings. There’s only so much work you can get done in one day and we think a lot of people can relate to that.

When you’re in New England, what are some of your “can’t miss” things to do?

Katrina: I go to Lake Winnipesaukee every summer with my family. I also love going to Boston where my college friends live. We’ll go out in the Back Bay or discover new restaurants around town.

What do you want viewers to know that may not have been portrayed on the show?

We definitely want women to know that we’re two normal girls. It may not come across on the show that we understand what a lot of people are going through, but we do. Our community is a positive place you can go to be inspired, meet other women who empower each other, find someone with a similar story, and achieve all of your goals. That’s exactly what our show is about.