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CEO steps out of her comfort zone in teaching aerobics

Heather Plampin, the president and CEO of vacation rental company The Cottages on the Key, gets her non-work kicks out of teaching an intense group fitness class.

  • By Mark Gordon
  • | 5:00 a.m. January 9, 2024
  • | 2 Free Articles Remaining!
Heather Plampin has been teaching a step class at EoS Fitness in Sarasota since March 2022.
Heather Plampin has been teaching a step class at EoS Fitness in Sarasota since March 2022.
Photo by Lori Sax
  • Manatee-Sarasota
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Heather Plampin. She’s president and CEO of The Cottages on the Key, a Sarasota-based luxury vacation rental management company with properties on Siesta Key and the surrounding area. Company handled some $14 million in revenue for property owners in 2023. Plampin also founded the Compass Collection in March 2023, which utilizes the Cottages model for properties nationwide.


Step Class instructor, EoS Fitness, Sarasota. A step class is a group exercise session where people step on and off a small platform, usually in a choreographed session. “It’s really intense,” Plampin says. It’s nonstop cardio.”

Grip it: Plampin grew up in South Carolina, where she was a competitive gymnast, and nearly participated in the Junior Olympics. After moving on from gymnastics, Plampin says she sought “something to do with all this energy I had.” She soon discovered step aerobics classes. And was hooked. “I took every step class I could possibly find,” Plampin says. 

Pike position: Plampin, 46, has lived in the Sarasota area for about 15 years, and initially took step classes at a Sarasota Family YMCA branch on Euclid Avenue. When the main step class instructor there, Larry Becker, got sick a few years ago, the classes began to disappear. Plampin says she craved not only the exercise, but the spirit of a group workout. “What I really missed was being part of something bigger, the camaraderie of being part of a team,” she says.

High class: Plampin first searched for gyms around town that had set step classes. She didn’t find one she liked. So, she pivoted. “The CEO in me was like ‘I will find a way to bring this class back,’” Plampin says. “I will make it work.’”

Step parent: Becker became a mentor to Plampin, teaching her the rhythms and pacing of running a great step class. “There are so many different combinations you can do,” she says. “It can be really complex. “You have to focus on the beat but also four seconds ahead from where you are for when you change to the next song.”

Stick the landing: Plampin ultimately earned a Group Fitness Instructor certification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine. The YMCA had gone through some restructuring under a new ownership group, and interest in a step class waned. Plampin pivoted again, this time to EoS, a national network of fitness centers with locations in Tampa, Orlando and Miami and as far west as California, Utah and Texas. But even getting to teach a class at EoS had its challenges: Plampin says her job interview at the EoS location in the Landings in Sarasota was more like a tryout, where they told her “you have a lot of talent but really need some practice. But we’re going to give you a shot.” 

Heather Plampin competed in gymnastics until she was 14.
Photo by Lori Sax

Come through: A few weeks later, in March 2022, an EoS manager called Plampin with some jolting news, and a request. The regular step class instructor had just called out sick. The manager asked Plampin to teach the class. “I was really nervous,” Plampin says. “I told myself: ‘I don’t care if you fail but you’re going to do this. You’re going to give it your best shot.’ I was so nervous I forgot to brush my teeth. But I’m glad I did it.”

Build an audience: Going on two years at EoS, Plampin has built up a bit of a following for her class, which she teaches every Wednesday at 8:15 a.m. There’s about 18 to 20 regulars, she says, for the class she calls the power meditation hour. “You really can’t think about anything else except the next step,” she says. “It really puts you in a state of Zen.” 

You got this: Plampin peppers her classes with motivational phrases — “being present not perfect is good enough” is one. At the end, Plampin, through her hands-free headset, will often challenge the class: “You better believe it: Now ladies it’s time for global domination.” 

Clear the mind: Plampin stays in shape when not teaching through a combination of cardio and other activities. On weekends she will take long walks, usually from the Southside Village/Hillview neighborhood to the Bay Park and waterfront area north of downtown Sarasota. Sticking to the class theme, Plampin also goes to an F45 group fitness center, takes hot yoga and does pilates. “When I don’t workout,” she says, “I feel a little discombobulated. Exercising gives me clarity for my business.”

Be prepared: Plampin is undaunted if something ever happens to the class she teaches at EoS. “I guess,” she quips, “I’ll have to go open a gym.”



Mark Gordon

Mark Gordon is the managing editor of the Business Observer. He has worked for the Business Observer since 2005. He previously worked for newspapers and magazines in upstate New York, suburban Philadelphia and Jacksonville.

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