ORLANDO – It’s not supposed to be a party for women, but sometimes it feels that way, said Noelia Heelam.
“The only thing we’re missing is the drinks,” she said.
Julie Prince agreed, saying “It’s like a dance party without the liquor.”
Heelam and Prince don’t get paid to throw parties, but to help other women lose weight, get into sharp, have a safe and comfortable place to get into a rigorous exercise routine, and to socialize a bit – in some ways, almost like a dance party.
“Here they just let loose and be free,” Heelam said.
Heelam and Prince are two of the instructors at FIT Women of Orlando, an exercise studio at 2816 Corrine Drive in Orlando. Their spacious studio, with more than 1,400 square feet of space, is designed for women who want to work up a sweat, get toned, and build up their energy level.
“It’s a women’s only fitness facility,” said Prince, who is a Kettlebells instructor. “We try to foster a sense of companionship. We really try to connect women together.”
“It’s a different dynamic in a women’s only class,” said Becca Schmidt, a yoga instructor at FIT. “In a mixed (gender) class, women might be more guarded in what they do.”
The FIT studio has been open for two months, having recently moved from a smaller studio a few blocks away.
“This is a larger location,” Prince said, adding that the office remained vacant for months before the FIT team rented it.
Their goal has been to create not only a first rate fitness studio, but also a place where the clients and instructors work together like an extended family.
“We know our clientele’s names,” Prince said, while Schmidt added, “Which you don’t get at a gym.”
“It’s as close as you can get to one on one training as well,” Prince said.
The classes typically range in size from five women to 10, and as high as 20 on some occasions. The ages range from 16 to 65, Prince said.
Heelam is a Zumba instructor, and she said the Latin-inspired dance and fitness program is increasingly popular with women who want to get into shape.
In fact, she’s had to cap her classes at 20 people in order to give everyone the space they need to do the high-energy Zumba dances.
“You can hardly move,” she said. “It’s nice when you have your space and not be worried that you’ll punch somebody else.”
Prince said she also has a Kettlebells Boot Camp, which is also quickly gaining in popularity.
“Kettlebells are really trendy right now,” Prince said. “These things will get you in shape faster than anything else.”
In addition to the studio itself, FIT has an office with a dressing room and shower, and an area where the staff can offer nutritional consultations and customized diet plans, as well as figure out what kind of workout regiment is best for them.
“We sit down with our clients one on one and come up with their goals,” Prince said. They’re also planning to create a child care area in the back office.
And, of course, music is a big part of the studio and is constantly playing.
“Mine is 70 percent Latin and 30 percent international,” Heelam said. “It’s all those rhytems.”
Schmidt said she tends to play New Age and soft rock during her yoga sessions, while Prince said her Kettlebell classes go great with “Hip hop, rock, Lady Gaga – I try to keep it as up tempo as possible.”
The instructors said they decided to open this studio after their own experience tapping into a fitness program — as clients, rather than instructors.
“I started doing this ten years ago,” Prince said. “I realized what a change it made in my life. I was 20 pounds overweight.”
After getting into a good fitness program, Prince said, she slimmed down, got into shape, and felt better about herself – and her energy level shot up. She had found her chosen profession.
“I always wanted to get into this field,” she said.
Heelam said she turned to fitness as a release from the pressures of being a full time wife and mom.
“I wanted to get the stress out,” she said. “It started for me as an escape.”
Zumba, she said, was an easy sell.
“It’s a release, it’s something I enjoy,” she said.
The fitness studio has also proven to be recession-proof, Prince said, since everybody wants, needs and enjoys a good workout.
“It’s done well,” she said. “It’s growing. We’ve gotten a good response since we opened our doors. We’ve had people walk in and they don’t have a job right now, but they’re still going to get their exercise. It’s a stress release.”
To learn more about the FIT studio, call 407-967-5486.
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