Monday, October 31, 2016

Audrey Bonafe, #girlboss at Fighting Gravity Fitness

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My latest fitness endeavor has been aerial yoga, or antigravity fitness. I haven't been to a ton of classes yet (life is nuts lately) but I plan on getting a better feel for the studio this week and putting up a new installment of the RVA Fit Gal's Guide later this week - stay tuned!

Meanwhile, I sat down and had coffee with Audrey, who owns Fighting Gravity Fitness over on Cary Street. It's next to Shyndigz, pretty close to VCU, and has an acrobatic flying girl as its logo. Very recognizable. Anyway, I was wondering how one becomes involved in such a sport (?) in the first place, what the scene is like here in RVA, and what I could learn about the fitness industry here. Read on for answers!

What the heck is AntiGravity Fitness?
AntiGravity is a technique created by Christopher Harrison in 1991, who was a former dancer, competitive gymnast, and Broadway performer. AntiGravity is designed to increase one’s overall health and physical agility while simply having fun. It is intended to align the body from head to toe while stretching and strengthening one’s muscles. We offer many forms of AntiGravity at Fighting Gravity Fitness, including beginner classes to get clients comfortable with hopping in and out of the hammocks and going into inversions, gentle stretch classes, classes that are strength conditioning, and fun classes too. 
Why would it be worth a try?
First of all, it’s fun! There are many benefits to AntiGravity. You get increased flexibility, core, upper and lower body strengthening, increased joint mobility, decompression and rehydration along with re-alignment of the spine. It feels so good! Also, inversions enhance one’s complexion by filling the capillaries in the face! Aside from being a low impact workout, you release “Happy Hormones” i.e.: Serotonin, endorphins & dopamine. Christopher Harrison’s guarantee is “You will leave each session Happier, Healthier and Taller”. You gain ¼ of an inch from those inversions because the discs are re-hydrated and decompressed. Pretty cool huh?

Of all things, how did you become involved in AntiGravity?

I was a Zumba instructor to begin with but I tore a tendon in my ankle and the recovery was long (note from May: reminds me of Sandi from TURN!). Then my back started hurting. I bought an inversion table and felt some relief from that, so I knew inversions were good for the back. I wanted to teach fitness but felt that at my age I needed to do something that was kinder to my body. At that same time a fitness magazine arrived on my doorstep with AntiGravity on the cover - it intrigued me and I started searching for it on the internet. There was nothing like it offered here in Virginia, so I went to Florida to try it out. From the moment I was in the Cocoon for the first time, I knew this was what I wanted to do. After that one class, I went straight to New York for training.

What are your personal fitness/wellness goals, and how are you achieving them?
When I was in my 40’s I was diagnosed with Osteopenia, which is the beginnings of Osteoporosis. Weight bearing exercises can reverse or prevent Osteoporosis, so that was when I became more physical. I enjoy exercising and I want to stay active and flexible as long as I can. I just turned 55 and I feel AntiGravity classes have it all. You are building strength by pulling your own body weight up in the hammocks, stretching to keep muscles and ligaments limber, and helping with balance. There is also the fun element that keeps you coming back for more. I feel there is no reason why I couldn't keep teaching this for a long time. I absolutely enjoy it and feel so lucky that this is my job!

What has been the most rewarding part of owning a business?

Let’s face it, starting a business takes courage and dedication. You need to be willing to risk it all, make mistakes and learn from them and not make them again. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I started. I never went to college or took a business course, so many times I felt I was flying by the seat of my pants. Although it is hard at times, it is so rewarding. I love every one of my clients and I look forward to seeing them every day. I’m able to do what I love and wake up every day happy to go to work. The biggest reward though, is that I’m doing it. I’m proud of myself for pushing through all my life struggles and never quitting, and being the first AntiGravity studio in Virginia.

If you could tell your 23-year old self anything, what would you tell her? 
Don’t be afraid to take that first step! When I was in my 20’s Jazzercise was really big. I loved it and wanted to be an instructor, but was too afraid and self-conscious. I was so insecure back then, I felt I wasn’t very smart, and unimportant. I was also very afraid of speaking in front of people so I never even tried. I never dreamed I would be doing what I do now! When you get older life has a way of teaching you good lessons and putting you in a position to force you to step out of that comfort zone and push yourself beyond it. Sometimes I say this is what I was supposed to do, I just didn’t act on it until now.

I would tell my 23 year old self don’t be afraid to fail, go for it, do it NOW, don’t wait,
step out of that comfort zone because if you stay where you are safe, you’re not growing. Making mistakes means you’re learning, the more mistakes the more you grow, and if you fail, get up and try again, and again until you get it right. Find something that you enjoy and go in that direction. Don’t settle, set your standards high and if you are in a job you don’t like, change it.

I would also tell my 23 year old I love her and she is important!

Y'all, I LOVE Audrey's answer to that last question. I've always tried to live by the motto that growth happens outside of my comfort zone, and she totally confirmed that. The coolest thing about doing the RVA Fit Gal's Guide is that I've done nothing but step outside of my comfort zone and try new ways to exercise and move my body. It's been amazing, and I encourage you to do the same - stepping out of your comfort zone can be as simple as trying an AntiGravity or hot yoga class. You won't regret it.

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