Meet Karin Franzén Bohman - founder of Bodily
- I have always been driven by inspiring and guiding people to develop. To see a person finally manage to do something - such as a movement - that they have been trying to do for a long time and have not been able to do, and with a bit of guidance and training, finally manage to do it, is really something very special. The happiness I see in adults, in the same way as when children do something for the first time, gives me the energy to keep going.
Karin Franzén Bohman looks unashamedly healthy, alert and fit. And you can tell she's passionate about what Bodily does to help people who want to make a change. She smiles, laughs often and looks at me with sparkling eyes. Karin is the founder of Bodily and we met to talk about how the idea for Bodily was born, what she sees as the big benefits and also to take a look into the crystal ball to see what the future holds.
Karin tells us that she started coaching others at the age of 20, first in various ball sports. When she was 25 and had completed her training as a physical education teacher, she also started coaching in athletics.
- I coached athletics for almost 20 years and after that I have been a fitness trainer, mental coach and nutritionist for various sports teams and individuals.
A MEETING IN SWITZERLAND BECAME THE BASIS FOR BODILY
A little later in the conversation, we come back to those with the coaching role. But the fact is that Karin actually left coaching for a number of years. Instead, she worked on developing concepts and organisations.
- Nine years ago, I was between jobs. At the time, I was in Switzerland where my boyfriend lives and wondering what I was going to do when I grew up. Then, by chance, I met a middle-aged woman who needed help to feel better.
Although Bodily wasn't born there and then, and although it wasn't the first time Karin had guided another person to better health and fitness, it's clear that that particular meeting was important for what was to come. Karin remembers that the woman she met was working hard, taking care of her family and home, but had lost track of herself and her own health.
- She had lost her routines and her self-confidence. So we started meeting a couple of times a week. We exercised, ate and talked about life and what makes you feel good. After a while she would travel a lot for work, but wanted to continue the routines we had started.
So what would they do then? Of course, it was so much easier to meet IRL and they realised it would be more difficult remotely. But Karin found an app they could use that gave the woman tips on exercise and food, as well as recorded mental practice and affirmations, positive messages you repeat to yourself. It turned out to work really well.
- A few weeks later, her husband and several friends wanted in too. Then I knew what I had to do. I was going to start a company that helps people get into good exercise and eating habits. It would be simple and accessible. The problem was that in order to start a company in Switzerland, I had to leave Sweden and register in Switzerland, which I wasn't prepared to do.
So Karin shelved the idea and instead started another company where she spent four years recruiting managers and executives.
THE PANDEMIC HAD A NEGATIVE IMPACT ON PUBLIC HEALTH
Then came the pandemic. Karin felt early on that the pandemic was changing the way we live. Public health was affected not only from a medical perspective, but also because many people became sedentary and inactive. We could read a lot about how many people around the world started to live more unhealthy lives, physically and socially as well as mentally.
- Even I became more inactive. To change that, I tested some different exercise programs, apps and different concepts and felt that it was possible to develop diet and exercise programs, which also have the social aspect of pep and coaching.
Karin's thoughts went back to the concept she once developed. Now it was to be given new life - this time more developed and inspired by many different concepts. Bodily - or Bodily Programs - was born. At first on a small scale, but gradually with many different programmes.
BETTER HABITS IN EVERYDAY LIFE
The goal was based on a simple idea: Bodily's programmes should be for ordinary people. Anyone should be able to join. The training should be easy to do. You don't need access to a gym or complicated machines. The food should be easy to prepare, tasty, nutritious and inspiring to the eye.
- It's about bringing better habits to people's everyday lives with exercise and nutrition. I'm convinced that it doesn't take huge adjustments or painful or extreme programmes. It should be possible to achieve clear and lasting improvements and better well-being through small changes in everyday life through more movement and better food.
Karin believes that the important thing is to get it done, anytime, anywhere, as you are.
- I usually say - well, it's a bit like a mantra, that: "do your best and do it with the conditions you have today. Tomorrow is a new day with new conditions". It's simple and Bodily's participants understand it. Simplicity is the key!
The programmes are simply meant to suit everyone, but of course individual adaptations are required. This is something Bodily's coaches help with, with the support of Karin.
SURPRISINGLY GOOD RESULTS
Although the programme was primarily designed for those without major difficulties or underlying illnesses, and Karin knew the concept was sound and that it would work, she was surprised at how good the results were and how quickly major positive changes were seen.
- Well, I never dreamed that the combination of regular simple exercise and a better carbohydrate diet would have such positive health effects.
The fact that the results were surprisingly good in more areas than you might think is certainly something to agree with. Here are a few examples of health improvements that participants have testified to in just ten weeks with Bodily's The Changer:
- Some have had their blood pressure lowered so much that they were able to stop taking medication.
- For others, IBS has disappeared completely.
- For others, problems with joint and back pain have reduced or disappeared completely.
- Diabetics have been able to reduce their insulin dose significantly.
- For many, headaches have disappeared.
- People who used to have trouble sleeping sleep well all night and wake up alert!
In addition, people who were already fit have reported that they are so much stronger and that after ten weeks they are performing better than before - and this despite the fact that they have exercised less than before when they followed Bodily's programme.
- Yes, it really is just that: wow, that's great!
Participants have told us that their doctors have been amazed at how much all their values have improved in such a short time.
- I have then suggested that they can prescribe Bodily Programs!
Karin was running The Changer herself when Bodily started. She was 59 years old at the time, but she says she has never been stronger than after that program!
- That's thanks to the well thought out diet and balanced training.
BACKGROUND AS AN ATHLETICS COACH
As a child and teenager, Karin was an omnivore in sports. She tried everything from archery, ball sports and athletics. It was all fun and she got pretty good at most of what she tried.
- When I trained as a physical education teacher, it was athletics, with its versatility, that I fell in love with. But then from a leadership perspective. I loved doing sports. But watching others develop through movement was even more interesting.
Karin started coaching around 40 children in Bromma IF. The focus was on having fun together and always doing their best. Everyone got to try everything. Pretty soon many of them were on the podium in various competitions, some became Sweden's elite as youngsters.
- Hammarby IF then became my second athletics club where I got to focus on runners. Soon I became involved as a leader in the national team and had the opportunity to travel to various championships. During my years as a running coach, I got to follow runners who are now friends for life.
Karin believes that the combination of education, various jobs dealing with learning, development and health in people of different ages and her own experiences with training, nutrition, poor health and well-being have contributed to the creation and content of Bodily Programs.
- In my backpack I have both good and bad experiences that I draw on when working to meet people's diverse needs.
It's exciting to hear about the evolution of Bodily Programs, about how people have found their own version of their best selves. So I also ask Karin if there is anything she knows today that she would have benefited from during her time as an elite athletics coach.
- Yes, if I had known what kind of diet actually creates better conditions for performance in running, for example, I wouldn't have hesitated for a second in providing better conditions. The runners I trained who managed to place among the world's elite on the youth side could have done even better! Without a doubt.
BODILY IN REALITY - BETTER THAN ON THE DRAWING BOARD
Looking at Bodily as it is now, is this exactly what you had in mind from the start?
- No, it has become so much better!
Being able to influence public health has always been a dream for Karin. Her colleagues at GIH have done a fantastic job with research, communication and influencing politicians to create better conditions for both children and adults to get more physical activity in their daily lives.
- But what they haven't talked about at the same time is the importance of diet in combination with physical activity. Sure, we talk a lot about how sugar in soft drinks and sweets is not good. But there are such simple tricks - eat less more often! Don't eat added sugar at all. Cut down on salt. Drink more water. Think so simple!
Karin says that both children at school and adults at work could focus better and have so much more energy.
- A little daily physical activity and the right diet! These are important keys to both well-being and success. Bodily can help with that!
She speaks quickly, but often thinks before she answers. She cares about getting it right. It's easy to be infected by her enthusiasm and commitment.
ENCOURAGEMENT FROM COACHES AND OTHER PARTICIPANTS IMPORTANT
What are Bodily's strengths if you compare her to others who offer programmes for training and better eating habits, for example?
- It's the combination of access to easy training, well thought-out nutrition and the support and pep of the community. It's where participants and coaches meet in an easy way. They are inspired and learn from each other. Many participants really push it in evaluations.
Team Bodily currently consists of 40 coaches, mentors and administrators, all of whom have been and are attending Bodily Programs themselves. They have experienced first-hand the big change that The Changer creates. That's why they are committed to helping others experience the same change.
- They are helping to develop Bodily using all their skills and experience. Thanks in large part to them, Bodily is constantly evolving. Did I say I'm passionate about development? says Karin, laughing.
She is convinced that one of the success factors is that the training is easy to do wherever you are. At work, on the road, at the gym, outdoors or at home. Anywhere. Whoever you are. Dressed for exercise or not.
- Just get it done!
The recipes are easy to prepare even for someone who has never cooked before. The whole family can join in the training as well as eat the food.
- Creating new habits and routines in everyday life is a winning concept. But you probably won't fully understand it until you try it for yourself. Life is so much easier after The Changer!
A LOOK INTO THE CRYSTAL BALL
Right now, there are a lot of exciting things going on for Bodily. The team is being trained. More programmes are being developed to meet people's different needs. Internationalisation is near.
- We already have participants living in 20 different countries, most of them Swedes. We want to reach out to more people both in Sweden and abroad. It shouldn't matter where you live - everyone should have access to Bodily's nutrition, training and community, even in English.
Bodily is also getting an updated profile.
- Where we have our heart and our values won't change, but maybe our look will. Maybe we'll look a little different soon, maybe some new colours and maybe a new logo. Maybe the website and app will get an update soon... It could be.
In two years, the idea is that Bodily will be on everyone's lips, in every home, in every workplace and in every country. Then Bodily will offer even more programmes to reach out to all categories of people.
Before we finish, I ask if there's anything we've missed talking about. Karin is, of course, quick in her answer, which she gives in question form. But I think I know the answers to the questions she asks. Probably you who have read this far too.
- Did I mention we love to see people feel good? To see sick people get well? That everyone can participate? That doctors should prescribe Bodily Programs? That our goal is to help people get stronger both physically and mentally? No, well that's the way it is anyway!
Janne Blomquist, writer