Inside ModelFIT's sunlit Bowery studio, a group of 10 people are lifting and shaking their arms and legs in playful, dance-like moves while a Jason Derulo song blasts in the background. It's a quiet Thursday morning in New York City, and everyone is half-laughing as the instructor helps individuals with their form between encouraging water breaks.
With celebrity clientele like Taylor Swift, Karlie Kloss and Chrissy Teigen, it's hard to believe that ModelFIT opened its flagship studio, complete with delicate flower vases and Diptyque candles, less than a year and a half ago.
It all began a few years ago when Vanessa Packer, who founded the healthy lifestyle website bonberi, started working with personal trainer Justin Gelband. Gelband, who's known for his work with models Miranda Kerr, Irina Shayk, Erin Heatherton and more, had the fitness thing down. But Packer, who is all about maintaining a healthy diet, meditating and getting enough sleep, was trying to help him get his health on track in other ways.
While she was teaching him to limit energy drinks and incorporate green juices into his diet, he asked her to work with some his clients. Soon enough, the duo started talking about combining forces in a larger way.
"Once we became friends, we started talking about the possibility of working together -- doing what I was doing with the nutrition stuff, and what he was doing with the fitness stuff," Packer told The Huffington Post. “We wanted people to get a personal training feeling in an intimate class setting. From the inception of that thought and that plan, we opened two years later.”
Vanessa Packer and Justin Gelband opened ModelFIT's flagship studio on Bowery in New York City on February 25, 2014.
So, what makes people go crazy over ModelFIT? At $40 a class, ModelFIT isn't cheap, especially for us non-model folks. But after giving it a try, we have to admit that it was a solid workout. Although there were jumping jacks, ankle weights, arm, ab and leg exercises involved, perhaps the best part was how little huffing, puffing and sweating the hour entailed.
According to Packer, this lack of huffing and puffing is because ModelFIT's whole mission is about living a balanced life. If you're a regular at ModelFIT, you're probably eating well and getting enough sleep. Because of that, ModelFit encourages you to slow down and take your workout one step at a time, resulting in a lean, toned body that doesn't push you to your physical limit.
Indeed, research shows that sweating buckets is hardly the be-all and end-all of fitness. While cardio is certainly important and we're all about a good sweat sesh, there's a lot more to it. "Being in shape means improving health, endurance, and building core muscles, all of which you can do without sweating," certified trainer Craig Ballantyne told Women's Health.
As for what makes the actual workout unique, it's all about the small muscles. "We really take the time to focus on all those little muscles that in everyday life you don’t really use or even know about," Packer explained. "Another thing we focus on is not killing yourself to get results. Our prescription for being fit and being well is not to work out for two hours a day and eat whatever you want. Our workout is a mindful workout. You have to think about the muscle you want to feel and the movement you’re doing."
Will ModelFIT expand all over the globe? With the success it's seen over the past year, it certainly seems like a possibility. But for now, Packer is focused on making New York's flagship studio the best it can be while working with Gelband to spread the word about ModelFIT's unique, small muscle-focused workout. Want to give it a test run? Try ModelFIT at home with this 20-minute total body workout instructed by Packer herself.