High school teacher fills classes at GreatLIFE with love for fitness

May 15, 2019

This paid piece is sponsored by GreatLIFE Golf & Fitness.

Like all the great ones, Ken Lindemann has earned a place in GreatLIFE’s unofficial hall of fame for fitness instructors based both on longevity and on consistent enthusiasm for the job.

The O’Gorman High School math teacher has been directing classes at the Woodlake Athletic Club since 1990, long before GreatLIFE took over and reimagined the city’s golf and fitness landscape.

In those 30 years, the building and the business went through highs and lows, but one of its stone pillars has been Lindemann, whose commitment to his duties once included a 17-year stretch without a pay raise.

That’s what you call keeping a positive attitude and liking what you’re doing.

“The most important thing is that you have to make people believe you like what you’re doing,” said Lindemann, who grew up in Minot, N.D., and came by his appetite for exercise via his time as a wrestler in high school and college. “You want to make sure they know you want to be there and you’re enjoying yourself — I’d be doing this even if there wasn’t anyone in the room.”

A lot of the time this is true — he would be there anyway — but occasionally, like the rest of us, things weren’t going as well as he let on. No matter. Show up and smile.

It’s an attitude and philosophy that has served him well both in front of a fitness class and everywhere else.

“It’s the most important lesson I’ve learned,” he said. “I was able to take it into the classroom with me. Make your students think you love teaching math, and they’re going to like it right along with you. As crazy it might seem, it works.”

He got his start in this business leading exercises in Fargo while in college. He showed up for a class at the prodding of a girlfriend and left that day with an open invitation from the staff to join the crew. He stalled on that initially but decided it could help him prepare for life in front of a class.

“I was not comfortable talking to people,” he said. “Finally one day, it came to me that this might be a way to get me ready for my career.”

Two years later, he was about to begin that career at O’Gorman, and he was hoping to augment that entry-level teacher’s salary — and stay in shape — by getting a similar gig at Woodlake in Sioux Falls.

The application process went well. He impressed them with his knowledge and his fitness level but later listened over the phone as a Woodlake administrator explained they weren’t ready to shake up the lineup to accommodate a new instructor.

He hung up the phone. Then, a light bulb came on. A minute later, he called back.

“I can teach your 6 a.m. classes,” he said.

Done deal.

“That’s how I got hired,” he said. “I’d teach Tuesday night classes at 7:30 and then be back at 6 on Wednesday morning. It was like I never got to go home.”

It was well worth the effort. He even met his wife, Kerry, through the class in the spring of 1995.

“She went off to Duke Law School,” Lindemann said. “I never ever thought ‘Oh, that’s a girl I’m going to date someday.’ I remember meeting her, but I never thought anything would come of it. She was a little out of my league.”

The Lindemanns and their daughter, Morgan, 9,  live an active lifestyle — they’re all GreatLIFE members and use the facilities — and Lindemann still teaches classes. Perseverance and loyalty paid off when GreatLIFE took over the building and made dramatic renovations.

Lindemann, who got his first raise in 17 years when GreatLIFE became his employer, teaches a cardio class at 5:40 p.m. Mondays, a body pump class at 6:45 p.m. Mondays and a body pump class at 5:40 p.m. Thursdays. He also occasionally does a class on Saturdays at 8 a.m.

“Not that I care about the money, but 17 years is a long time to go without a raise,” he said, laughing. “With GreatLIFE, the classes are bigger, and there is more energy. It’s just a more fun way to do it.”

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High school teacher fills classes at GreatLIFE with love for fitness

He took the early morning shift and then worked years without a pay increase. That’s what you call loving your job, which explains why years later this GreatLIFE instructor is a member favorite.

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