Burn and Tone, 476 17th Ave., Longmont, facebook.com/burnandtone, 720-987-9358
Instructor: Omar Martinez, of Longmont, a certified personal trainer with the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America.
Martinez's first passion is hair. He worked his way up to relative hair fame as the Tigi Talent Director of Latin America in 2010. At the time, he weighed 338 pounds.
One day, during a meeting with a company bigwig to discuss career goals, Martinez says he learned he had been rejected from being featured in a hair-color video - not because of his talents but because he was so overweight.
He says he couldn't argue; image is important in the beauty industry. But that didn't make it hurt less.
"The feeling that you have the talent, and what's holding you back is your image -- that sank into my heart and truly triggered a change in my life," Martinez says. "The only thing holding me back was my image, my weight, and I'm in control of that. I created that for myself."
So in January 2011, he began eating more healthfully. He started doing Zumba (Latin dance classes). Then he got certified as a trainer, began teaching and began selling Skoop superfoods (healthyskoop.com), which he also promotes to his students.
"The biggest impact I had was when I started to learn about nutrition and combined it with exercise to be a part of my daily lifestyle," Martinez says.
Three years later, Martinez has lost 140 pounds and created the high-intensity fitness class in Longmont, Burn and Tone. The studio is run by Christy Flores, who is also an instructor with multiple Zumba certifications and one of the first teachers certified in Insanity.
What is the workout? An hour-long high-intensity interval workout designed to burn calories and tone muscles (hence the name). Feeling super motivated? Stay for the hour-long Zumba right afterward; many students do.
The class includes a fast-paced warm-up, active stretching (to help prevent muscle fatigue), a full-body exercise and then a "power exercise," set up in intervals with short breaks, to keep the heart rate high. Exercises always vary to keep muscles challenged.
The class uses body weight held over extended periods of time to build strength, such as holding a static low squat for so long that I actually felt tears well up in my eyes. The power exercises are ridiculous -- some of the hardest, full-body, fast-paced exercises I've ever done (such as bicycle crunches going incrementally faster with the pace of the music), but they're at your own pace and level, so you can take them down a notch if you want. Except the class is so energetic, you will feel inspired to push yourself.
The class is extremely high energy and loud, with dance-club-grade speakers, great music mixes and flashing lights. I've seen a similar club-like atmosphere at other fitness facilities in Longmont, and it works very well to create fun motivation.
What's different? Burn and Tone uses songs from the Insanity playlist, and it shares Insanity's belief in the power of intervals. However, this class is different because it cherry-picks the most effective exercises with the least amount of risk for injury.
That's the criticism with many challenging classes, such as CrossFit and Insanity, Martinez says; people get injured, are out for months and have to start all over. Martinez has bad knees, so he picks only exercises that are low-risk -- but ones that will still provide the best possible full-body workout. There was no lack of challenge. (I say this with maniacal exasperation.)
In addition, the trainers at Burn and Tone are all enthusiastic and friendly. Martinez is known to cheer and sing at the top of his lungs, and he'll call you out if you're slacking off.
"What holds us back is our mind. Our bodies are incredible; they can do amazing things," Martinez says.
The room is mirrors on both sides to create body awareness for proper form, and also keep you connected to your body; you must look yourself straight in the face while you're doing all of these incredible things, and that builds confidence, Martinez says. It keeps you engaged, and it keeps you accountable.
"I push myself to the extreme crazy limit so the person next to me knows they can get excited about it and not feel awkward. And I have a huge, loud voice. It echoes forever," he says. "I'm always trying to encourage people to keep on going."
Cost: First class is free. After that, a drop-in is only $5. That's rec-center cheap for a private-club feeling.
"We want to give you access to a personal trainer, without paying the high price per hour," Martinez says.
Buy an unlimited month pass for $98 and have access to 16 classes per week. Classes draw between 12 and 30 people.
Level: All levels. Because the exercises themselves are simple, they can be modified for beginners to advanced athletes (including military personnel). My class included a wide range of ages, fitness levels and even a handful of men.
Chat with participants and you'll quickly be amazed. It seemed everyone I talked to had lost at least 20 pounds. Even the instructors, who were still going strong when I crawled out drenched in sweat after 90 minutes.
Clearly Burn and Tone has found a model that works, and the whopping 800-plus Facebook likes since the facility opened just two months ago is a testimony. The club doesn't even have a website yet and it doesn't advertise anywhere; it doesn't need to, because (bilingual) word-of-mouth and success stories will keep it thriving.
Earlier this year, I ranked a Zumba class at Tumbao Fitness as the first Longmont fitness class that pushed me to a 10 on a 10-point scale. Burn and Tone was harder -- but in the right way. A huge part of being able to push someone to the maximum is the instructor's ability to tap into the psyche and motivate the person to want to go all out. Anyone can put together a series of challenging exercises, but few instructors know how to convince you to not give up while doing them.
Maybe it's his background, having the mental power to have been able to lose 140 pounds himself, but Martinez is one of the rare instructors who knows how to dig deep inside your mind and pull out strength you never knew you had.
I'm in awe and truly moved that my two hardest classes of 2013 were both bilingual classes in Longmont.
When: 9 a.m. Monday through Saturday; and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, followed by Zumba at 8.
I stayed for an hour of Burn and Tone and could only make it through half of Zumba before I was worn out. Maybe some day this fitness columnist will be fit enough to last the full two hours with this hard-core Longmont crew.
What to prepare: Regular workout clothes and athletic shoes. Water and towels provided. Bring a yoga mat if you want for floor work, although there are plenty provided.
We didn't use any equipment in my class, but some use heavy ropes, big tires and other scary objects.
Muscles worked: Extreme full body and extreme cardio. I felt it everywhere, from legs to abs to shoulders to triceps. If I had to pick a body part that suffered the most, I'd say upper arms.
What I loved: I love what has happened to Longmont's fitness scene in the past year. I'd pit Longmont's fitness crew against Boulder's toughest athletes any day. Longmont's fitness offerings have risen to the level of Boulder's -- but without the intimidation factor.
I even brought my 3-year-old daughter and she played with other kids on the other side of the room. No one cared or asked me to take her home.
Classes like this show that you don't need Olympic-style heavy weights, a two-hour run every day and a $25 class to find your fitness edge. I challenge even the most advanced athlete to try the full Burn and Tone-Zumba combo. If you make it, I'll buy your first class for you. Maybe your second.
What I didn't like: Hmm, we've got a top-notch, fun, beyond-challenging, all-levels, cardio-and-strength workout for $5, with plenty of parking, a flexible schedule, optional nutrition guidance, excellent music and super chill instructors who walk the walk. Congrats, Martinez, I do believe you've created the perfect group fitness class.
How I felt after the class: Sweaty and exhausted. I woke up the next morning with a wonderful, achy buzz along the length of all of my muscles. When I recover, I might have to head back and see if I can last the full two hours.
-- Reported by Aimee Heckel.
Know of any interesting workouts? Tell us about them so we can check them out: firstname.lastname@example.org or 303-473-1359.