Thursday, August 22, 2013

Breakin' a Sweat: Body Conceptions by Mahri (Manhattan)

I am awful at any exercise class that involves a ballet bar. A few years ago, I managed an indoor cycling studio that also housed a very frightening room with, you guessed it... a ballet bar! I made the mistake of stepping foot in there twice, and both times, I almost died. I've never seen so many veins pop out of my forehead. 

... but don't let that scare you!

Leading the barre revolution at this "said" studio was Mahri Relin. One look at Mahri and you immediately feel like you need to "up" your fitness game. She has (fair warning: this might get a little weird) the most beautifully sculpted physique I've ever laid eyes on.

Guys, I guess what I'm trying to say is... how can I look like that?

So I tracked wonder woman down in NYC to see what she's up to these days, and believe me, it's quite a ballet bar-full!

Look at you, Miss Thang! You started your own fitness movement - Body Conceptions by Mahri! Tell me, what's this all about?

I was a dancer in the city for many years, and dance-inspired fitness became my gateway into the fitness world. I loved working for other studios, but I spent a lot of time thinking about how I would like to develop my own unique identity, both as a business AND as a fitness method. I had a great roster of private clients, and my work with them gave me some amazing opportunities to see what kinds of exercises and approaches produced the best and most dramatic results. I also spent lots of time studying the body, gaining certifications, and working with physical therapists to help find the best ways to move and exercise intelligently.

Signature classes in Body Conceptions method work on the entire body from the arms and thighs to the abs, back, and seat. I tell people that I'm creating a dancer's body even though you don't have to be a dancer at all to do it. We do lots of high reps and exhaustive movements that length and sculpt the arms and thighs and that lift and tighten the glutes. We also do bigger dynamic and cardiovascular work that exercises the heart and burns lots of calories. Everything I do connects with the core, which looks great - and also creates a functionally stronger body. I've had runners tell me they can run faster and longer, and skiiers tell me they find their days on the slope much easier. And I have lots more stamina and control in my own dancing!

How does Body Conceptions compare to a regular barre class?

I have loved taking and teaching barre classes, and I totally respect the barre approach to strength building and muscle sculpting. In my method, I also use exercises that exhaust the muscles in deep, extended positions (with dreaded pulsing!) followed importantly by stretching.

Beyond this, however, my class feels like a different experience. You'll find yourself jumping and dancing around to rocking music, and the movements throughout the class feel much more dynamic. My exercises are highly focused on integrating the whole body, which makes the core much stronger. And the exercises end up feeling more challenging and interesting.

And most of the time, you will take my class without ever actually touching a barre!

If someone (cough, cough) is hesitant to brave a group class, do you offer private sessions?

Totally! We offer private sessions in-home, and we'll also give you private classes for your friends or for special occasions. I also spend nearly every weekend in the summer doing private sessions all over the Hamptons.

I love getting to know my clients and figuring out the best ways to help them reach their fitness goals. I am constantly looking for ways to support and challenge them and to help them incorporate fitness and wellness into their lives as a lifestyle.

What do you think makes your program stand out from all the many others in New York City?

Dance fitness used to be pretty rare, but it's been popping up all over the city the last few years. I love being part of a cutting-edge trend, but I'm more concerned with building an identity that has so much more to do with holistic wellness in all stages of life - from youth to pregnancy to post-injury and peri-menopause!

In order to achieve my wellness goals, I have partnered with a lot of my favorite wellness professionals in the city, and I have connected my clients with some of the smartest doctors, nutritionists, health coaches and psychologists who specialize in working with active people. I am so lucky that Joanie Johnson, one of my amazing trainers, also owns a health coaching company (Motivated Nutrition). I am personally certified in pre- and postnatal fitness, and I am also partnering with a nutritionist and doctor to explore the needs of women as they age.

Lastly - and in many ways most importantly - Body Conceptions has begun to stand out for its warm and welcoming environment. We have the nicest and most supportive instructors who will challenge you without ever making you feel like you don't belong in the room. Women who struggle with their weight or who are coming back from pregnancy or injury should NEVER feel too intimidated or judged to walk into a fitness class - and it's my mission as a business to make sure everyone feels welcome.

What kind of physical changes can people like me expect to see after working with you?

At the expense of sounding cheesy (sorry!), I'm interested in the changes you'll feel both inside and out after taking Body Conceptions classes. I hope that people start noticing how much joy they feel after class, how much more effective and focused they feel in their daily lives, and how much camaraderie they experience with other members of class, among other emotional benefits.

On a physical side, I've seen some CRAZY, dramatic changes! Many of my clients go down a pant size right away - and one of my clients told me that she felt good in a pencil skirt for the first time in years. My clients begin to notice that they feel tighter and more sculpted, and several of them told me this summer that they had never felt comfortable in a bikini until now. I have seen some beautiful pictures of clients in their wedding dresses who developed amazingly sculpted arm and back muscles after training with us, and I have also seen photos of pregnant clients showing me how great they looked (and felt!) because of our prenatal sessions.

I am so proud of my clients' focus and dedication. To me, it's so vitally important to make fitness a part of your lifestyle and not just burn out your body and mind to get suddenly skinny. I aim to make Body Conceptions classes and sessions interesting, healthy, and fun enough to keep people coming back, seeing progress, and feeling happier than ever.

And now for the fun stuff... since you were talking all things "abs" in your recent feature in Fitness Magazine (AND since it's bathing suite season), I've got to ask - What's the #1 exercise you can do at home for your abs?

I'm totally obsessed with planks, and I think they're some of the most effective exercises of all. Planks don't have to be static. In fact, planks in my class incorporate everything from leg lifts to hip swivels, body circles, push-ups, and even some jumping.

With a body like that, one would think you never splurge! But be honest, Mahri... what's your biggest culinary splurge?

I'd like to say something angelic like tiny pieces of dark chocolate or frozen Greek yogurt, but I'm honestly obsessed with the carrot cake at Carrot Top Bakery. They are literally two doors down from my apartment, and I've been known to skip healthy meals to eat one of those slices of heaven. I absolutely DON'T recommend doing this!! Ha!

What do you love most about your job?

It's honestly two-fold. I have so much joy getting to know my clients and helping them navigate their highs and lows. My background in psychology is reflective of my deep interest in helping and supporting people, and I think it also gives me an appreciation for the reasons why we self-sabotage or why so many of us wrap our worth around our appearance. No one is perfect, and that should be totally OK.

I am also extremely appreciative of the women who have come to work for me. I really enjoy working with them and celebrating the things they do best. They are totally passionate, intelligent, hard-working people, and I want to be able to give back to them as much as they've given me.

And most importantly, do you have any tips for people who, like you, are trying to turn their passion into a career?

I got into this whole thing worried about my lack of business background. But then I realized that my experience managing people, creating fitness material, teaching classes, performing onstage, and seeing other fitness businesses operate gave me enough background to jump in and make pretty good decisions. And most importantly, I loved what I was doing.

In general, here's what I suggest:

  • Stay true to what really jazzes you. Don't let other people tell you what you need to do if it doesn't work for you.
  • Try to be as realistic as possible about your skills - but also trust that there is so much room to grow. Learn from your mistakes and BELIEVE that you can create your vision.
  • Don't compare yourself to anyone else, even others doing nearly the exact same thing. Your path is your own, and finding your way with total authenticity, positive energy, generosity, and openness to great opportunities will lead to great things meant for you alone!

Mahri's offering a major discount if you'd like to see what her class is all about ($20 for your first class instead of $35)! Thanks, Mahri! Just click here, then click the 'Schedule' button. When you sign up for your first class, you'll automatically be charged the introductory rate! Hey, that's so good you might want to bring a friend!

Inspiration meets perspiration in Mahri Relin's fitness studio Body Conceptions by Mahri. Deemed one of the two "Best Body-Sculpting Workouts" in New York City by Vogue, Mahri's class employs energizing popular music and a rotating exercise roster to continuously inspire her students and challenge their muscles. Her dance-based method focuses on dynamic movement and muscle exhaustion to produce the ultimate sculpted and toned "dancer's body". With her advanced certification in fitness, Mahri draws from her extensive background in personal training, barre-methods and dance inspired workouts. Mahri was a trainer for Tracy Anderson and Creative Director for FlyBarre at Flywheel Sports, and is a select trainer for Ford Models. She has been featured in Vogue, Dujour, The New York Times, Well + Good, Rate your Burn and Dance Spirit Magazine.

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