KROQ and KLOS host Lisa May left L.A. radio for a career in fitness, and then COVID-19 hit – Pasadena Star News


One week after Lisa May said her on-air farewells at KLOS-FM (95.5) in December 2019, the longtime Southern California radio personality moved to Palm Springs, eager to start her next chapter as the owner-operator of a fitness studio.

May, who’d spent the bulk of her three decades in radio at KROQ-FM (106.7) delivering news and traffic on the Kevin & Bean Show, had owned a desert home with her boyfriend for about five years. Now, in the final days of 2019, she started to hunt for the perfect place for her business.

Related: Life After Radio: Former KOST-FM host Mark Wallengren is doing just fine one year after going off the air

“I had a pretty good idea of where I wanted it, in Palm Desert, which is kind of central to the Coachella Valley,” she says. “There’s an area where there’s a Whole Foods and a Total Wine & More. Everybody knows where that is, so I wanted to be in that area.”

And soon, she was, at least on paper.

“I signed my lease on March 9, exactly where I wanted to be,” May says, laughing at the memory of one of the final carefree days before the COVID-19 pandemic turned the world upside down. “And then the nursing homes were shut down on the 16th of March.

“So it was like a week before everything went nuts.”

Put on hold by the pandemic

May, unlike some longtime radio people, left of her own volition, ready to try something new. (In 2015, when KROQ unceremoniously let her go, it was a different story.)

She’d explored her interest in the fitness world with part-time shifts at The Strength Code, a slow-motion high-intensity strength training studio in Toluca Lake. Now she was ready to bring that same fitness philosophy to the desert.

Plus, getting to sleep in a little bit later after decades on morning shows? Well, she wasn’t going to complain about that, either.

But COVID-19, of course, wasn’t anything May could have seen coming. And when it hit, it derailed her plans for months to come.

“I didn’t know what to do,” May says. “I felt like there’s so many things I should be doing. The website still had to be developed. All that kind of stuff that you need to do to start a business. Open up bank accounts. Like, do I do that now? Do I wait?

“I kind of just froze,” she says of those initial weeks and months of lockdown. “To be honest, I don’t think for the first month I did anything. I just hung around the house, watched a lot of Netflix. Finally, read some things.

“In a way, it felt like it’s not my fault. I’m not allowed to do anything. So it was a forced vacation.”

Then, slowly, she got back to work: ordering fitness gear for her studio, making renovations, getting things done.

Not that that was ever easy.

Fitness machines offer challenges of their own, May says. Big, heavy, and complicated, there aren’t a lot of specialists out there to break them down, move them to a new location, and reassemble them.

“There’s only a few people who really do this, and so ‘the guy’ who would do it was not moving,” May says of the leg presses and pull-down machines she’d purchased from far-flung points on the map. “It was like, ‘Maybe June,’ and then, ‘Maybe July, maybe August,’ and finally toward the end of August I finally got all my equipment.”

News blackouts

While May never doubted her decision to change careers, leaving radio wasn’t without its regrets and the odd new challenge.

“When I post things on Facebook, there’s people who used to listen to KROQ or KLOS that responded,” she says. “They’re just lovely and nice and supportive, and I miss that. A lot.

“And just having laughs in the morning, and staying on top of what’s happening in the world,” May says, and then describes a conversation about a news event in which she couldn’t remember the name of the person involved — or the thing that person did.

“I used to be able to reel that stuff off, because I had to know the news, and now it’s like I can’t remember the name of things and places. I sound like an idiot.”

She laughs at that, and then adds that she’s also discovered how much she misses the years of routine embedded in her radio days.

“It really clued me in to how well I do with a schedule,” May says of one big challenge in leaving her on-air career. “And how hard it was for me to not have a schedule.

“Even though getting up at 4 a.m. or 3:30 (a.m.) isn’t fun, I work well when I know when I need to get up and where I need to be, and what I need to be doing,” she says. “I really flailed, for a long time.

“I’m still trying to figure out how to spend my days so that I don’t end up making a silly left turn in the middle of the day, going down some rabbit hole, and looking up and going, ‘Oh, I meant to do A, B, and C,’ and I didn’t do it.”

Training days

By mid-September, when the coronavirus had eased for a spell before the winter surge arrived, May opened for business. Boyfriend Gary and a handful of desert friends had already helped her do a few dry runs of the new studio and gear.

Soon, paying customers walked through the doors of The Strength Code Palm Desert, too.

“We wear masks, I wear gloves,” May says. “It’s only one person in the studio at a time. They don’t even see anybody else. And everything gets wiped down between clients.

“It feels very safe.”

The second surge and lockdown left many of her clients, especially older ones, at home, though by mid-February, more and more people were again making appointments.

“It feels like a lot of people are ready to get back to it,” May says. “I do love training people, which, you know, that was a little bit of a question.

“And sleeping ’til six is a delight.”



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