I was loving the sunshine this past spring, but in true New England fashion, the weather started to get a little too prematurely warm for me. Thankfully, Powerr Fitness in Warren had a big open-air gym, so I knew I wasn’t going to perspire like I was wearing a Snuggie in a sauna during the class. Walking into the gym, I was greeted by owner and instructor Robert Read, as well as his wife Amanda and their two adorable daughters, whom he called the “Peanut Patrol.”
That morning I would be participating in a functional movement group class with four other, very welcoming members. The small size of the group personalized the hour-long session nicely, but also provided me with a little extra boost of energy, which a one-on-one training session would not have done. Eighties classics by bands like Foreigner were bumping on the speaker, and only one thing gets this ‘80s baby more pumped than “Hot Blooded,” and that’s Britney Spears.
We started our session with a warm-up jog around the nearby cul-de-sac, then did various arm, abdominal, core and leg exercises. As soon as Robert complimented us – “Looks like the ACME Plank Factory in here!” – during a core hold, I knew I was going to have fun while getting a solid workout. I chatted with different members of the class and found that they’d all experienced positive changes since they’d started exercising with Robert, from significant weight loss to improved overall physical health. After a couple of exercise rotations, a group member requested some Britney. Using Robert’s phrase, I was immediately amped to “hit-those-box-steps-one-more-tiiiime.”
An avid exerciser throughout his life who has also dealt with both weight gain and weight loss, Robert has had vast experience in personal training and nutrition. From the start of the session, he emphasized his belief in a step-by-step, gradual approach to improving physical fitness, whether his members are seasoned athletes or just getting into a regular exercise routine for the first time. Additionally, each of his workouts can be scaled so that every member of the class can participate to the best of their ability. For example, I thought I could handle a box step exercise on a height level that would’ve been normal for most people. However, I’m kind of short, kind of out of shape and still catching up on 2016’s New Year’s resolutions. Robert offered to substitute a slightly smaller box as we’d be doing multiple reps, but as a fitness newbie I wanted to wait until halfway through the class before saying, “Um, can you, like, make it easier?” I made it through about two reps before opting for the smaller box and was made to feel zero shame in my downscaled exercise game. I crushed it with that small box, too. Well, more like a smush-crush-mushing-overly-ripe-avocados-into-guacamole kind of crush.
Throughout the class we rotated through various exercises using different machines and equipment, so the motions never got repetitive or dull. We exercised our arms with tricep pulls on tension machines and bicep curls with various weights, and our core with plank holds. For legs we rotated in jogging and box steps. The abdominal workout involved multiple types of crunches with toes pointed in against the wall in a frog-like position. I’d never done a sit-up like that before: I think I burned off a Hawaiian pizza and two spinach pies by the end of class.
One of the cutest things I witnessed was Robert and Amanda’s daughters cheering everyone on during random points in the session, calling out, “Go, go, go!” and “Box steps, box steps!” from the gym’s designated play area for members with young children. Parents with little ones could exercise while their kids stayed entertained playing games and watching movies.
Since my daily physical activity has decreased due to a recent career shift, I need to take Britney’s advice and “work” if I want to be in shape and sip martinis, too. An environment that promotes a gradual approach to fitness, laughter and, of course, the gospel of Ms. Spears seems like the right place to do it.