“You just need to start and you need to find your reason why”
For a very long time my workouts were mostly cardio with the occasional ab exercises and lunges thrown in there. If I wasn’t working up a sweat, then I wasn’t burning calories (or so I thought). Over the years, I’ve become an avid runner and I love everything about running. The freedom of going at your own pace, running with others, and just letting your mind run. As much as I love running, the more I run comes with the increased risk for injury. I’ve had my fair share of injuries and I started to notice a pattern…all of my injuries were related to overuse and muscles working extra hard to stabilize a weaker part of my body. I’ve been slowly increasing strength training exercises, but I would be doing the same exercises on repeat because I didn’t know what I SHOULD be doing. I would talk with people and they would tell me I needed to be using more of the weight lifting machines, cable cords, bars etc. I was terrified! I don’t know about you, but my gym is pretty male dominant in the weight lifting area so I just never dared to step foot in there! Problem? Yes, because I wasn’t getting stronger and I didn’t want to ask someone to help me! Who can relate??
Let’s fast forward to summer of 2018 where I found my answer—BENEFIT Studio. I initially bought a Groupon and I took a variety of classes and really feel in love with the Wednesday class at 5 am led by the owner: Angela Gordon. This class focuses on lifting heavier, but fewer and more controlled reps. Hands down I’ve never taken a class like this before and I was shocked when I found myself looking forward to waking up before the world does to go. Since I’ve been incorporating heavier lifting 1-2 times per week I feel stronger—my legs feel stronger when I hit the pavement, my arms are starting to have some definition and I can lift more than I thought I could! Talk about a cool feeling. What’s kept me going back to the studio is the edgy, but personable instructor, the people, and the safe environment to be yourself, pick something up, and get stronger.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Angela Gordon, owner of Benefit Studio to learn about her weight lifting journey, owning a business, and her weight lifting philosophy. Talk about an inspiring journey and I’m excited to share with you all! I was shocked when Ang told me that she loathed working out and you wouldn’t find her hanging out at the gym often (maybe ever?!). Well the guy she started seeing was pro gym and weight lifting so that’s where it all began. What I love about this story is that Ang had no idea what she was doing in the gym. How she learned? By watching the guy she was dating and his friends do squats, bench presses, deadlifts etc. After about 5-6 months of going to the gym consistently her clothes were too big (no change in eating or drinking habits I might add). The next step was to join the gym and when she did she figured out her form and continued to get stronger. Ang was able to lift more than the guys and she found her “why” for lifting. Lifting gave Ang confidence and she liked feeling and being strong. Looking back, it took Ang about 3 years before she started noticing changes—like how she went from a size 14 to a size 4-6 with only shedding 10 pounds! From 2008-2012 she continued to lift and bartend and the end goal was to be able to make the gym her full time job. Why? Because Ang learned first-hand how much better she felt and she wanted to be able to help others feel the same joy.
In 2011 Ang took her personal training certification and she was officially a personal trainer. Ang’s first job was in 2011 at Victory Lady Fitness Gym (an all-female gym) and her manager taught Ang how to relate to people and build a relationship. This was a perfect fit because Ang described herself to me as “a people person and I love to help people”. In 2013 she quit her bartending job and only worked at the gym, which led her to her second love: Group Fitness Instructor. It only took Ang 3 classes to realize she loved teaching group fitness classes. What I thought was so cool is her thought process behind her class flow. In the beginning Ang would go to different gyms and watch other instructors to see what they were doing, what fit well with her style and also to get class inspiration. In the beginning, all workouts would be written on a piece of paper (well now it’s all in her head!) and she would format her exercises based on who was attending class. Her workouts try to focus on arms, legs, and core. The goal of Ang’s classes are “to keep people engaged, not insanely hard, but not also a cake walk”.
In 2013 Ang began as a sub for Benefit Studio, but it took months before the owner at the time put her on the schedule. This caused some self-doubt and made Ang wonder if she made the right decision. Well after her first class the people loved her and she started teaching 1-2 classes per week on the regular. Ang also began to build her private training clients and in 2016 she became the co-owner of Benefit Studio with Emily Thomas. When asking Ang what made her buy a business was simple “she loved her job, what she was doing, and had met some really cool people along the way”. Ang doesn’t have a business background nor had any desire to own a business—but she knows about working hard. Ang is figuring the business side out as she goes, asks people for help and continues to feel lucky for waking up each morning doing what she loves.
I also had to ask Ang about the myth “lifting will make me huge!” Her response “If someone gets huge it’s likely from steroids or eating > 10,000 calories per day. Most body builders are on illegal substances, not because they lift 3-4 times per week. If you’re worried about getting bigger then you can turn your lifting sessions into a maintenance program: completing 12-15 reps and not increasing your weights. If you are doing 6 or less reps with heavier weights you are creating new muscle growth and anything more than 10 reps is for endurance. Yes, your shoulders and arms might get a little bigger, your body dimensions might change, but it’s more about a distribution change than getting bigger”.
I was also very curious to hear about her lifting philosophy and what she enjoys most about being a fitness instructor and personal trainer. As I am still very new to the lifting scene I couldn’t wait to hear her answer. Ang’s philosophy “You just have to get past the feeling of being scared. Focus more on listening to your body and being aware. There is just something cool about feeling strong and being strong. You just have to start and find your reason why. The goal is to feel good in your own skin and that will be different for everyone.” Why do you teach? “I think one of the coolest things about being a trainer is you get to decide what to do. The possibilities are endless! I try to come up with 3 major moves “chest, back, legs”, and make 10-15 exercises with those major moves. I continue to teach because I want those who come to my class to feel great about being there and leave wanting to come back. I make it a point to know something personal about every sing person. I love a class size of 8-12 people because each person brings a different vibe and energy to the class.”
Ang has continued to teach and in December of 2018 became the sole owner of Benefit for “her people” who continue to come back to her classes for her unique teaching style, funky personality, and personable demeanor. For me, I’d say that my “why” was to prevent running injuries, but now my “why” is to feel stronger and confident in my own skin. If you are feeling nervous like I was about lifting, but want to try it—find a place like Benefit Studio.
Here’s a breakdown of the different classes you’ll find at Benefit Studio:
- Monday: TRX mix-ups—lots of different and new moves using the TRX bands.
- Tuesday: Shape and burn—Focuses more on stability and smaller movements while using resistant bands.
- Wednesday: Empower—Slow and controlled; working on strength and strong mental connection.
- Thursday: Muscle up—Dumbbell and body weight work—full body workout
- Friday: Ohh FIT-organized chaos—Encourages variety by using different equipment throughout the workout.
- Saturday: Workout with the Trainer-Team training with Angela, but still about your personal goals.
- Sunday: Circuit training
Feeling curious and want to try BENEFIT out yourself?? Head to their website!
Want to get a taste of Angela’s workout style?? Click here for a FREE and NO EQUIPMENT workout that will get you sweating in no time!
Keep calm and pick up a weight 🙂