By Brendie Heter
Signal Contributing Writer

I lost 47 pounds in 2018.

My original goal was 20 pounds, so I’m quite pleased with the results. I never intended to write about this process — in fact, I kept the entire journey private.

So many people talk or post about their weight and health these days. Shakes, cleanses, detoxing and miracle supplements saturate my social media newsfeed, and I didn’t want to contribute to the noise. And to be totally honest? I didn’t want unsolicited advice and be shoved into Facebook groups selling weight-loss products.

 

My background

I had three babies within 3.5 years, and my body was a wreck. I “bounced back” relatively OK after my second baby, but accidently got pregnant again when the baby was only 4 months old. I was sleeping three to four hours a night, eating leftover chicken nuggets and working from home.

I had a 3 year old, a 1 year old and a newborn. I felt my body and confidence slip away from me. It was a horrible feeling physically and mentally.

I was “active” all day chasing toddlers but felt slow and sluggish.  Additionally, my babies were large (10+ lbs) and I had pelvis injuries during delivery. I was miserable and felt trapped and isolated. Early January 2018, I sent a group text to close friends and with tears typed, “I’m not OK and need help. Please keep me accountable.”

 

Eat less, move more

Medical and health professionals have been repeating themselves for decades. Eat Less. Move More. The “move more” part is what made me nervous. I mean… really uncomfortable and nervous.

I’m not a “gym person” and don’t like fitness. I just don’t. You can’t make me. You know those people who love the gym and enjoy the process of sweating and burning calories? After a year of working out and trying over a dozen gyms, I can honestly say, I’m still not that person.

I won’t lie to you. Gyms aren’t my favorite. I still feel like an outsider when I walk through the doors.

This piece developed because I’m afraid of commitment. Most fitness centers have annual memberships and contracts.

My suggestions: Start slow. I’d encourage you to find a fitness center or gym that works for you. Look at their classes and visit as many as you can. There are hundreds of options for various physical abilities and price points. You just need to start looking.

 

The gyms

 

  • Yoga Works: I paid for a month trial and went three to four times a week. It’s important to realize that yoga is inherently spiritual. During my trial, one instructor read from a “prayer book” before class. Their staff was professional and well-trained. There are a variety of classes based on skill level. Instructors focus on “energy” and there is occasional chanting, prayers and exaggerated breathing to align your mind and body. (I think) a few instructors put “essence” on my wrists to help with “energy.” There were people from all ages and walks of life. If you enjoy yoga, it would be a good place for beginners. I really wanted to like this place but it was too hyper-spiritual and New Age for me.  $75-$100/Month
  • Afterburn Fitness : I participated in the spring 6-week challenge. It was overwhelming and terrifying. I had never done anything like it, and everything felt scary. It was loud and hectic. They had a lot of support for beginners. At Afterburn, there’s a huge emphasis on group effort, teams and working with partners. There was also frequent partying and drinking references. The instructors and merchandise often reflected a “party hard” and “work hard” mentality. The overall gym, amenities and class schedule are amazing. They have a lot to offer at a reasonable price. Large variety of people and ages in each class. If you have injuries, you need to get to classes early and make sure the instructor knows because it’s high intensity. Their instructors are motivating and management was responsive to questions. They had affordable childcare that was clean and well-staffed. Classes started on time. I can see why it’s a very popular gym, and it was one of my better experiences.  $100/Month
  • I Love KickBoxing:  This place is high energy, fast-paced and therapeutic. There is a lot of cardio so you burn calories and leave a sweaty mess. Pro Tip: You cannot plan to go anywhere after a class here — you’ll be drenched with sweat. I didn’t love that they played music with swear words. I understand that probably wouldn’t bother most people, but it bugged me. The teachers know students by name, which was motivating and encouraging. The class sizes are small so they correct form quickly. No childcare, but kids 13+ can take classes with their parents. They have showers, lockers and mainly female students. Class always started on time. This was my favorite kickboxing studio, but they wouldn’t let me leave with the prices or contract to review.  
  • Stroller Strides: This is a total body-conditioning workout designed for moms with kids in tow. Each workout is 60-minutes in smaller groups at various parks in town. The coordinators are moms themselves and very friendly. The workouts are specifically designed for postpartum bodies, so it felt very safe and welcoming. This would be great for a new mom or someone trying to meet people in town. They made it easy to work with kids by bringing bubbles and moving around keeping them distracted.

    However, it’s better-suited for first-time moms with younger babies.  It was too hard with multiples and older kids. It’s a great place to meet other moms. Low key, but good workout and perfect for beginners. The owner (Dani) is very kind, professional and passionate about helping moms regain their confidence and physical strength after childbirth. Price varies based on the program and location.

 

  • FIT 45:   FIT45 is an Australian-based company with two franchised locations in SCV. There’s one in Newhall and Valencia. They have smaller classes with lots of personalized attention. Each class is only 45 minutes with high energy and well-organized circuit training. There’s a heavy team effort mentality. I felt comfortable pushing myself because they always had two trainers closely watching me. They quickly corrected form if I got off track. There was a lot of yelling but it was all positive. Trainers were like happy drill sergeants. Their website is hard to navigate. It’s not user-friendly and hard to keep track of your classes, but they did have an app which was easier to use. They have 8-week fitness challenges available. Joy (trainer at Newhall location) was lively and friendly. She knew everyone’s names and motivated each person individually . CINEMA LOCATION: The trainers were very personable and the music was louder here. Nice amenities like hair ties and hand sanitizer available. No childcare or showers at either location.  A very positive experience all-around.
  • Orange Theory: There’s one shower and you bring your own towel. Orange Theory workouts have been designed to keep heart rates within a specific range to stimulate your metabolism and increase your energy level. They have a heart rate monitor to rent or purchase. They have lots of classes and an app to reserve spots. They had the first personal trainer to know what “diastis recti” was for postpartum moms. Their trainers knew the most about kinesiology and scientific body movement.

    Additionally, they had the only trainer who went over specific rowing technique and proper form.  Their staff was very friendly and not pushy. The power went out right before my first class. The trainer managed to have an amazing class anyway, and they gave me another free trial. They had great instructors with clear details and motivation. I pushed myself hard because I could see my heart rate easily on the monitors. It was fascinating to watch the technology. No childcare, but no pushy sales tactics.  $75-$100 / month.
  • Cardio Barre: This ballet inspired fitness studio surprised me. I wasn’t expected such intensity and results. Cardio Barre has a small family atmosphere that’s warm and inviting. There is childcare available and you bring your own towel. Central to the workout are toning and resistance exercises for the butt, legs, torso and arms to sculpt muscles and elongate the appearance of your body. They basically isolate muscles with small repetitive movements that will kill you the next day. It seems like a great option for people with injuries who can’t do high impact or resistance training.

    There were more older women in the classes, and it was a fun and warm environment. Classes can be packed, but they make it work. It really didn’t feel like a gym because it was “homey” and decorated nicely. It was ultra-clean and very organized. It’s truly a “total body workout.” They have an “OnDemand” online version, as well. This was the only place my feet and shins left angry with me.

  • Revelation Wellness: This is faith-based that includes worship and prayer. It’s free, but donations are accepted. There is even free childcare provided at some locations!

    There is a cool vibe and supportive atmosphere that’s not intimidating or competitive. The leaders genuinely care about the attendees. There were people from age 14 to mid-90s in some of the classes.

    For the older women, there’s an instructor sitting on a chair demonstrating modified moves for participants with limited mobility. It was really cool to watch. The coordinators also work with women recovering from abuse who are trying to regain self confidence and body awareness.

  • LA FITNESS: (Newhall Ranch Road) The parking lot is very busy at this location. Childcare is available. The gym itself is absolutely huge. It has almost any feature and amenity you’d like. Classes are crowded but well run and most start on time. Kickboxing class was fast-paced with little guidance from instructor. I found the instructors yelled a lot, but gave little specific instruction. Most participants were following each other for help. In each class, there was only a few who seem to know what was happening.  This is one of the most affordable gyms. But while it’s affordable, it’s also typically crowded.
  • Henry Mayo Fitness: The website was easy to navigate. Limited group class schedule in the evenings. The classes were small, dynamic and well-organized. The instructors were great and the facility was spotless. I don’t think I visited a cleaner in gym during 2018. It has a pool, child care, towel service and massage therapy available.
  • 9 Round Kickboxing : There were no class times, which is an interesting concept. It has an open style with nine continual rounds, and trainers always on the floor. Workouts are 30 minutes. There’s no childcare. Owners are super nice and friendly. The facility was very clean but relatively small. It was a great total body workout in a short amount of time. I really liked the organization and efficiency of the system.
  • BEACHBODY: I wanted to include a cheaper online service for those unable to get to a gym. However, I was hesitant about signing up with Beachbody. This is an online “OnDemand” subscription service to workout at home.

    The creator of BeachBody (Tony Horton) started the popular P90X system in the early 2000s. I tried the P90X when I was in college, and it was brutal. Tony’s energy and mannerisms are a bit much for me.

    However, the new BeachBody online service has options for almost any personality. They have dancing, family workouts, well-thought out modifications for people with injuries and it’s easy to use on multiple devices.

    It was surprisingly convenient, not cheesy and they have quick 30-minute option. It was also the most affordable option. You could do this service in conjunction with a local gym, as well.

DISCLAIMERS: Throughout 2018, I signed up for trials, free passes, purchased Groupons and participated in one six-week challenge. None of the facilities knew I was writing this article. I wanted no special treatment or access. I wasn’t compensated, and I paid out-of-pocket for some of the centers. I live in Castaic, I have limited time to leave the house to work out, and most of the fitness centers I tried were in Newhall, Valencia or North Valencia area.  I did contact other gyms in Saugus and Canyon Country but they didn’t return messages or facebook inquiries. So I stayed primarily in Northern Santa Clarita Valley since I had so limited time. The below are summaries based on my interaction with the gyms and my personal preference.  Things that bugged me might appeal to you. For more detailed explanations, please visit www.BrendieHeter.com. (I rank each location and provide more background on my experience.)

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