You’re on the verge of collapse – or is it a breakthrough?
Whether you view a demanding class as a challenge or a punishment, there’s no doubt you’ve found yourself wondering between intervals…
What the hell is my instructor thinking?!
We want to know too – so we asked three beloved fitness gurus what’s really going through their minds in the middle of a workout and how they got to the head of the class.
Meet Gerren, Kristi, and Steve: leading some of the newest and most challenging fitness classes anywhere. They intersect at Equinox, a gym where the instructors lead in creating an environment of excellence. All based in New York City where they each have significant followings, their classes have become known for results and their names get passed between those in the know like a tip on the hottest new downtown restaurant.
But beneath their ripped exteriors, these taskmasters are people too – and just like us, their fitness had to start somewhere. They took a quick water break to give us the inside on their own journeys, and how motivation and dedication work together to create big results.
Known For: 30/60/90 High Intensity Interval Training
Kristi created 30/60/90: HIIT at its finest, which was named the “Best Fat-Burning Class” by New York magazine shortly after setting the standard for modern group fitness. Attracting women and men, newcomers and elite athletes, 30/60/90 took group fitness to a new level almost a decade ago and continues to set the bar for all HIIT training workouts around the globe.
Known For: Equinox signature programs: Whipped, Tabata, Stacked, Bootcamp
Gerren Liles is a health/fitness professional on a mission to help people become their best selves, inside and out. He currently teaches classes for Equinox Fitness Clubs throughout New York City, as well as offering private training services throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Known for: Many things, but Speedball is #1.
With 17 years of industry experience, Steve Feinberg is well-known for the implementation of group fitness/wellness programs across premier facilities, universities, community associations, and residential/corporate fitness centers. Steve created the Speedball class format and developed the Instructor training program, and also specializes in martial arts and boxing. He has worked with top-ranked professional fighters, elite amateur athletes, International fitness presenters, the average Joe and Jane, and youth travel soccer teams.
What led to you launch a fitness career?
KM: I started taking aerobic classes back when I was in high school in Connecticut and loved them. When I moved to NYC to be an actress and subsequently became a waitress… I spent pretty much all of my free time taking aerobic classes. Little by little people started asking me if I was the instructor which gave me the confidence I needed to believe that I could be. I love group fitness and I love performing so it was the perfect combination.
GL: I was always into working out, but not intelligently (total meathead). A near diabetes diagnosis lead me to change my diet and workout habits. When I wanted to take a break from being a school teacher, working in the fitness industry was a no-brainer. Started out as a personal trainer at Equinox, then moved to group fitness and never looked back.
SF: When I was young, I loved athletics. Not that I was AMAZING, but I could play whatever it was well enough to be picked for teams, and I played with a lot of enthusiasm. Post losing my way in college and ensuing epiphany about who I wanted to be, my absolute dedication to Kung Fu study stoked the fire that powered my love of movement mechanics – there is no comparison in recorded history to the type of precision and scrutiny martial arts place on the nuances and position required for best execution. This led me on a bit of a knowledge quest about the body and exercise programming for all body types and physical abilities. (Reminder: there was no YouTube, no Facebook groups, blogs, accessible online trainings, or video montages back then!)
Have you ever struggled with your own fitness?
SF: Serious weight and lifestyle struggles began in my late tween years, and by the time I was being Bar Mitzvah’d, I was relegated to shopping at the husky section of the J.C. Penney’s in Sunrise Mall. Bad years to be overweight, those early teens, and definitely based on a series of poor choices. There are overweight genetics in my immediate and extended family. My nucleus has always struggled with weight, but I didn’t want to submit to that as a life sentence, although it would’ve been exceedingly easy to do and eating/ingesting whatever one wants can be quite liberating (those reading this who’ve struggled with substances and/or food understand exactly what I mean here). The first exercise program I wrote was my own. Fitness is my lifestyle management medication, and it’s the only prescription I take.
GL: Ha, I still struggle! Fitness wasn’t really a part of my life growing up, my brother and I were called “burger babies” after the late night runs our family used to make to Wendy’s or White Castle LOL… I definitely have my guilty pleasures that I partake in on occasion. Working out, I’m generally good at being consistent with, although having a physically taxing job sometimes affects the effort in my workouts. But I do as best as I can.
KM: Like everyone I have struggled with finding the right amount of exercise and the time to fit it in. Teaching 22 classes a week for about 15 years, I don’t have much of a choice but to get a lot of activity. The challenge is finding time to squeeze in my own workouts which is always a struggle. I am fortunate to have a job where I get quite a bit of activity, but the mental benefits of being a student are huge, and worth it.
What do you hope people get out of your class experience?
GL: For the hour that they are with me, I want to discover their limits and pass them. Enjoy your ability to move and be amazed by your strength and endurance. The human body is a wonderful thing and it’s important that we take care of it so we can enjoy life to the fullest.
KM: I hope people discover that they are stronger and fitter than they ever realized. I also hope the mental strength they develop in 30/60/90 transfers over to their daily life. Finally, I hope they find a new healthy group of friends they will keep for a long time.
SF: So much. I have high hopes for my students with correlating high expectations for my programming and delivery thereof. There are common denominators. Every experience that I provide, for any size group, should start with SAFE. This doesn’t indicate that there aren’t risks involved, as there always are opportunities for injury where movement is concerned. So let’s just say I hope to provide the highest quality exercise, with the clearest communication and delivery of those exercises, which will allow for an atmosphere of SUCCESS while minimizing risk as best as possible. My next priority is JOY. I mean this in the most simplest terms, and my most convenient definition for this simple daily miracle that takes place in my life is to have participants leave me feeling well better than when they arrived. That’s what I want people to experience when they come in contact with my professional services, or anyone who represents my information or methodologies on any level.
What do you think gets in people’s way the most when it comes to getting in shape?
SF: Real talk? Themselves. I could spend the rest of my day listing the myriad of circumstances that range from excuses to legitimate reasons and limiting patterns, but the reality is that all roads lead back to one source: the self. The discomfort we are willing to put ourselves through against all odds, and the easier decisions that could be made that seem to be counterproductive to our short term progress and long term health, is well worth it. Oversimplified as this may be, and nowhere NEAR as easy as it sounds, it is still a universal truth.
GL: Life gets in the way. Career, family, finances. Many things. But I also believe that you can make time for things that matter to you. And the more you incorporate health and fitness into your life now, the less likely you’ll have health complications later in life.
KM: I think people have unrealistic expectations and when they don’t get the results they want relatively quickly they give up. Fitness needs to be a regular part of your life or you will never stick with it. I also think it’s important to focus on results other than physical changes…focus on how much better you feel mentally and physically, how much stronger you’re getting, etc. etc.
What motivates you?
KM: I am motivated because I move whether I feel like it or not. I think that is one of the biggest myths when it comes to successful people… that they are more motivated than most. Motivation follows action. If you want to be motivated, then move…. the motivation will almost always kick in. It doesn’t happen when you’re sitting on the couch “waiting for the spirit to move you” as my mom used to say!
GL: I’m a teacher at heart. Whether I’m teaching little kids or “big kids,” I love to pass on knowledge and see people become better than what they used to me. It’s rewarding for a client or member to tell me they’ve lost weight, or performed well in a race, or feels their confidence growing. Also, I’m a creative being, so anything that gives me an opportunity to create and express is appealing to me. Lastly, I’m an admitted social media junkie!
SF: Remembering who I am, what makes me me, how I attempt to make people feel and live better as my mission statement, and then leading by example/acting accordingly whenever possible. The rest of the small victories, positive feedback through emails and live conversations, eval forms from convention delegates, are the slices in my pie of motivational awesomeness. What I would tell the preverbal THEY: I need THEM as much or more than they need ME, the relationship is completely symbiotic. THAT’s how I stay motivated on a daily, weekly, and for two decades now (I’m proud to say!).
How do you define success in fitness?
KM: Well, this changes numerous times a day for me lately! I have created a product that still draws thousands of people every week in NYC, which is one of the ficklest cities in the world. I have also created numerous rockstar instructors who get so much joy from teaching 30/60/90. The thing I am proudest of, though, is the amazing community of both instructors and clients 30/60/90 has created. I am not sure I could have dreamed that up.
GL: Most people define success by the scope of their reach, if they have thousands of followers on social media or have classes packed to the gills. That can be a definition, but for me, the success is seeing my members living and enjoying their lives empowered, fit, and with positivity. To know that anyone is willing to dedicate an hour of their day to me is a great honor.
SF: I touched on this before, but my ultimate success barometer is how many people’s lives are affected positively by my life’s work. As long as I continue to add to, not subtract from, my total value to the world I serve, I am successful.