Strong Fitness & Performance Center Review: An Essential Workout

The Dallas Fitness Ambassadors rolled into Strong Fitness & Performance Center recently for a group workout in their newly designed Fitness area. The North Dallas gym, which is massive and well-designed, is divided into four Core Programs: Fitness, which we tried out, 24/7 Olympic, Crossfit, and Strength training.

strong fitness dallas review veleisa burrell

Once the DFA team took our time to Instagram and Snapchat the posted workouts – because what is a workout if your followers can’t follow along – the fun began! We split between two groups and handled a low-impact warm-up which had me thinking “Okay, I can do this.”

The lovely trainer, Coach Lizzie, took us to the next level as one group jumped on the spin bikes for intervals of sprints, standing resistance and recovery while the other half worked on lunges, rows, burpees (the worsssttttt) and mountain climbers (the other worsssttttt). Mind you, at this point, I am hungry and trying to work through it, but I was making eyes at the vibrant green selection of juices that Substance Juice had lined up for post-sweat session recovery.

substance juicery dallasEight minutes finished on the first half and it’s time to switch to treadmills and TRX for squat jumps rows, chest press, and knee tucks. I’m a huge fan of TRX so I was actually excited to finish the session on these straps. The self-propelled treadmills…will one day be the death of me.

veleisa burrell strong fitness dallas review

Workout finished and it’s time to jump on the healthy snacks provided by Strong Fitness and the yummy green juice mimosas courtesy of Substance Juice. I recommend coming to this Fitness workout fully satiated, since my hunger slightly sapped me of energy that could have gone into lifting heavier or pushing harder. If you get to work with Coach Lizzie, you’re in luck. She managed to be both motivational and funny, which you don’t always get in a trainer.

strong fitness dallas trx workout

strong fitness dallas treadmills

Thank you, Strong Fitness & Performance Center, for a hard workout that hit all the high points of what I need to stay in shape: conditioning, cardio and weighted exercises. Plus I won a beautiful “Millennial pink” Lululemon yoga mat that is already a constant companion in my CorePower classes!

strong fitness review veleisa burrellStrong Fitness & Performance Center provided my workout at no cost. The opinions expressed about the facility and employees are my own and have not been influenced by Strong Fitness & Performance Center. 

Photos provided by Dallas Fitness Ambassadors.

Confession Time: Social Media Fitness Stars Do Nothing For Me

Recently, while reading Greatist’s list of the 100 most influential people in health and fitness, I realized that I recognized next to none of the men and women who were known primarily for their social media presence.

Influencers 2015 Banner

As much as people look to social media for fitspo photos, my ignorance doesn’t surprise me.  I’ve never looked to individuals, wanting to emulate them, not even from my formative pre-teen and teenage years. While some girls wanted to be Britney Spears or Beyoncé, I simply enjoyed their music and stage performances. You won’t find me riding for the Rihanna Navy or shouting from the rooftops for any other legion of superfans. The only people I stan for are family and some exceptional friends, and, of course, my husband.

Looking to what other people are doing also translates to personal relationships, romantic and platonic. The #squadgoals and #relationshipgoals movement mostly amuses me me. I see the excitement, the posts and comments, and I think “When we spend so much time looking to others for how we want to conduct our lives, how do we determine accurately what works for us?”

Going back to fitness: if I’m so busy being obsessed about this woman’s abs or another personality’s arms, am I starting from a healthy point? While inspiration can help kickstart the process, it’s also important to accurately assess what is viable based on the time and effort we’re willing to put in. If you’re working 70+ hours a week at work, you might not be able to take that romantic Italian vacation with your super-hot, 6’3” boyfriend like you saw some social media celebrity do. Similarly, if you’re on a first-name basis with the 7-11 clerk due to your need to get Blue Bell at 12:30 a.m. on Saturday after the club, you’re not on track to get six-pack abs. This is not to say it’s unachievable. It’s just improbable based on the level of dedication that these things take.

The only thing that’s going to help you hit those fitness goals.

The moment I gave up on absurdist goals like six-pack abs or a butt you could bounce a quarter off of, I gained clarity about what I could actually achieve. I could definitely feel stronger. I could definitely lift heavier, week by week. I could definitely see the progress in a yoga posture, in the number of burpees I can do, in the way I feel about sprinting on the track. Achievements happen outside of the social media bubble. They happen when you put social media down and actually get up and out, challenging your best efforts. So sure, scroll through those top 100 fitness personalities. But when you put down your phone or tablet, be sure you’re picking up the kettle bell!

Are you affected or inspired by fitness personalities on social media? What extra element do they bring to your exercise program?

Inspiration for Creating Your Community: From Running to Yoga

The majority of my career has been spent in fields where diversity is lacking: travel/tourism, public relations/marketing and yoga. Despite the limited number of professionals who look like me, I’ve managed to create a network of contacts, associates and friends who understand the unique challenges people of color face in our shared industry.

Yoga, both as a community of practitioners and as a career, is facing a critical review. Many students feel a sense of otherness while in studio. And while you can find many photogenic yogis on Twitter and Instagram, it’s not likely that you will find a brown or black face among the well-known teachers and leaders at yoga conferences and events. Yoga may bring to mind peace, love and good feelings, but it’s also a business and a billion dollar industry. It’s hard to get excited about investing in an fitness environment that prices you out and doesn’t embrace you when you do venture into a class.

Knowing the challenge of representation in the yoga community, the growth of running clubs started and run by African American men and women has given me hope for what could happen to yoga. Groups like Black Girls RUN!, Black Men Run and Run2Live created multi-city communities from people who felt unwelcome in mainstream running clubs but still wanted to participate in the sport. Black Girls RUN! has been on my radar for about a year now. While they’re runs are far too early for my blood (seriously, what does 4:45 a.m. look like?), I have friends who swear by the camaraderie of the group, clocking multiple-mile runs two to three times per week.  The same high they get, heels pounding the pavement and sweat flying while they surpass personal records and create memories, is what I’d like to see created for men and women of color in yoga.

Now that I’ve made the comparison, I will point out that yoga is a different beast. For starters, most people practice yoga in a studio, which can be a restrictive cost. Running starts at walking, which requires minimal equipment (shoes, hat, iPod for music). Issues about costs can be addressed by offering classes at a reasonable rate in the communities that aren’t being exposed to yoga. Additionally, the running groups participate in races, which is another layer of satisfaction – who doesn’t love the thrill of a race and getting a medal? Yoga typically isn’t associated with competition or awards. By setting and achieving individual and group goals, yoga can create that feeling of accomplishment that some derive from running.

I was lucky enough to be in a certification course with two other Black women. I’ve kept in touch to learn more about their experiences of being a student and in finding a place to be a leader. The USA Today article and the founders of the running groups have inspired me to create a network of independent and in-studio teachers of color. Though Dallas is not considered a major hub like an Atlanta, NY or DC, the city is fitness-focused and greater visibility of black and brown yogis can bring additional people into the fold.

What is the multicultural yoga community like in your city? Do you see a unity like the running groups, or is it more disjointed? What are you doing to create a more inclusive community?

Visibility Matters: On Practicing Yoga While Black


With one week until I begin the 200-hour teacher training, I’ve been reflecting on how I will use my practice to make a difference. Should I volunteer to teach? Will I join a smaller studio to lead classes on evenings and weekends? In all my thinking, I must have put something out in the universe. And the universe is telling me that I need to be visible, whatever I do.

Last month, The Atlantic posted a story that was sure to get my click: “Why Your Yoga Class Is So White.” Though the studio I attend can boast a slightly more culturally and age diverse group of practitioners, I don’t think it would be too much of a stretch to state that when most people think of yoga, they picture a skinny, ponytailed white woman, able to bend and stretch into impossible positions. A 2012 Yoga Journal study cited in the article states that more than four-fifths of Americans yogis are white. The article goes on to talk about studios and instructors who are working to change this percentage by offering low-cost yoga in underserved communities. As a product of an underserved community (shout out to Southwest Houston), the reference to the role religiosity plays as the preferred method to improve health (greater than meditation or yoga) resounds with me. More often than not, we attended Bible study, worship services or another activity at the church as frequently as I now attend yoga classes. While I would not say that yoga practice has replaced my religious practice, I do find similarities between the two in the repetition of mantras and routines, charismatic leadership and group assembly.

Much has been made of Black American women and lack of prioritization of physical fitness. According to the Office on Women’s Health in the Department of Health and Human Services, 4 of 5 Black women are overweight or obese. As the daughter of a mother who struggled with her weight and imparted the need for wellness to me and my sister from an early age, I’ve managed to avoid any weight-related issues, in part due to my yoga practice. By being visible and discussing how yoga supplements my weight and aerobic training, I’m setting an example to my niece and other young women.

The second article to discuss the lack of diversity in yoga came from Forbes. I’d summarize this as the discussion of the “Columbising” of yoga by the West, first the British and then Americans. The separation of the physical practice from the mental practice of meditation is not a facet of yoga that I’d ever considered before. However, after recalling some of the obviously competitive people I’ve had the pleasure of being next to in class, this makes sense. The focus on a wholistic yoga practice, one which includes the exploration of the history and principles of the practice, understanding the body and exploring mediation, is part of the reason why I signed up for the teacher training.

I write all this to say that I recall the feeling of being the only person in my class, and how it required me to get outside of my comfort zone and where I thought I belonged. That sense of not belonging gave way to a more peaceful, less stressed version of myself as I deepened my practice. Becoming an instructor allows me to be part of breaking the mental and visual barrier, one that keeps men and women from discovering the healing properties of yoga. This will be on my mind as I take my first step on the mat as a student next week, and will guide me for the subsequent eight weeks.

For some inspiration, check out the following social accounts: Black Yoga Superstars and Hippie Heathen.

Photo courtesy of Dave Rosenblum via Flickr

My Next Adventure: Yoga Certification

There is a saying that I’ve seen for years but only recently come to understand: “If your dreams doesn’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.” Once I made the decision, or the decision was made for me, to stop letting my work contribute only to the bottom line of other people, I truly got this phrase. Fear can be a big motivator; it can move you forward or it can keep you in one place. Once I got the swift kick in the tail that made me reevaluate my career trajectory and start looking at additional streams of income, I used any residual fear to move me forward.

With a bit of fear and a lot of excitement, I am super happy to tell you that I signed up for the 200-Hour Training Program with Sunstone Yoga Academy. The classes at Sunstone are what kept me sane and in phenomenal shape for the past 18 months, and the philosophy of their teaching resonates with me. I want to learn how to instill the feeling of peace and the ability to leave stress on the mat that I receive after every class with others. So, I’m taking my first step.

Clearly, I don’t mind being “different.” One goal in doing this, aside from learning more about my yoga practice, is to expand the visibility of African American yoga practitioners. While I know several women who integrate yoga into their exercise program, some view it as an Eastern practice at odds with Western Christian practices. I want to change those minds and help them discover a new way to keep the body and mind healthy.

I’ll be detailing my progress on here (because, of course I will) once the training begins next month. Until then, if you’re in the Dallas area, check out Sunstone (if you’re near the Skillman Live Oak location, holler at me so we can meet up). Are you a yogi (or aspiring to be a yogi)? What do you enjoy the most about your practice?

Early in my practice, last summer.
Early in my practice, last summer.
Yoga Photos 2
Look at that concentration 🙂

What I’m Reading – A (Kinda) Regular Feature

I realized today, as I backed up from my local library branch, that I had an adrenaline rush that was likely akin to what shopaholics feel when they leave the mall. Slightly flushed and smiling to myself, I looked over at the short stack of books I checked out and imagined the perfect silence in which I wanted to read them, curled up on the couch with the sunlight spilling through the living room window behind me. Ever since I finally figured out how to use the online request system for Dallas Public Library, I’ve been tagging books and eagerly awaiting their arrival at the nearby branch.

Much like a overly enthusiastic shopper, I also like to share my finds with the world. As an effort to share with the audience outside of my Instagram and Twitter followers, I’m going to begin posting photos of my loaned treasures on here.

My Latest Haul

I’d love to hear what you’re reading as well, since word-of-mouth is often how I discover new writers. Well, word-of-mouth and my sister who truly will one day bury herself, Hoarders-style, in her living room with the amount of books she has.

Why I Need to Live Like a Rap Star

How I carry my thug (via vermegrigio on Flickr)

How I carry my thug (via vermegrigio on Flickr)

I fully admit to being inordinately amused by the exploits of most rappers, especially in the antics and lifestyle outlined in their lyrics. I figure if an artist is truly about their business, they’re likely are not doing all of the extra activities they list. There are only so many hours in the day.

So, in the spirit of my ratchet music appreciation, and thinking of the conversation I had with one of my coaches, Dawn, I’ve decided that incorporating some aspects of the rapper lifestyle may not be a bad thing.

Fake It Until You Make It

Going back to my earlier statement, rappers are some of the bombastic creative people in the nation. A local star who still lives at home with his mother, works the stock room at Best Buy and records in his third cousin’s basement will have you believe he was just signed to the most well-known label with a million-dollar advance and has the hottest chick the game on his arm at all times. To use an overused term, it’s “swag.” Applying this to me, I have to be more prepared to talk about my ambitions for freelance work. No one wants to hear the hem and haw of tentatively describing aspirations for excellence. Claim it, declare it, own it. Rappers have this spirit in spades, even the ones who record in their closets. Why not adopt that in your business?

Roll With a Supportive Crew

What performer do you know that goes on stage with less than one hype man? I’ll wait…Exactly. Having a passel means rappers are never alone, bored, hungry and without entertainment. And they always have a fall guy, who doesn’t want that! For my needs, my crew  consists of my sorority sisters, family, my career coaches, former supervisors and various social media accounts for inspiration, laughs and thought-provoking commentary. Since I tend to avoid any kind of legal snafus, I never have to ask any of them to take the rap for me, which I’m sure they appreciate. Instead, this assorted group provides me with feedback and guidance, as well as accountability to do even better than I think I can.

Make An Investment

As Jay-Z said years ago in a line that epitomizes the rap life mentality, “Money ain’t a thang.” Cars, jewelry, houses – but I mean, who really looks at the price tag (thanks for that one, Nicki Minaj). Since it’s all about appearances, and I don’t have to impress the masses, my investments are a bit different. For example, one of the first things I did upon realizing that I have to build my brand outside of any company affiliation was purchase business cards and rent a P.O. box. Though my initial reaction was “Why am I spending money when I don’t have any coming in?” I knew it was the right thing to do to show that I was serious about my aspirations. Now when I go to networking events, I have my own card to hand out. And should I need to receive payments or contracts, I can have them sent to a location that is independent of my home address. As I go even further down the road of independent ownership of my work, I know additional investments will be necessary, though likely not dipped in gold like a Jesus piece. Mentally, this is part of the process for which I have to prepare myself (and my bank account). Thankfully, my momma didn’t raise a fool when it comes to saving and spending wisely.

So, that’s how I plan to adopt a limited scope of the rap star lifestyle. How are you embracing your inner rock and roll star: what would you add to this list?

Also, just for fun: my 90s rap name is Smoove V Tha Magnificent Thief. I will take that, expect T-shirts soon!

A Skeptic Builds an Inspiration Board

As part of my continued practice of bringing positivity into my life by exhibiting positive attitudes, I began working with personal coach Mia Redrick. I’m not a mother in need of finding balance between home and work life, which is one of Mia’s areas of expertise, but the recommendations for her business coaching from associates said it wouldn’t matter. So, stepping out on faith on this one. The first group call demonstrated that there is a variety of women who are looking for the same thing I’m seeking, which reassured me. However, as we wrapped up the call, Mia gave us the first assignments: a vision board.

*insert record scratch*

Let it be stated that until this point in my life, I’ve never believed in vision boards. I believe in positivity, I believe in prayer and I believe in writing down your goals/objectives/wishes. It just went beyond my limitations that poster board, glue stick, images and some aspirational phrases would get me any closer to what I want in life. It’s all too Oprah-Real Simple magazine for me. Also, please remember I’m from Southwest Houston, we didn’t do things like make vision boards.

Also known as “not my cup of tea.”

After much harumphing and sighing, my sense of “why not” (and also my knowledge that this was part of a process of self-betterment that I’m paying for) overrode my long-held stance. I made my way to Target and got a nice black poster, started ripping through old issues of Inc.ForbesLucky and Women’s Health Magazine and next I’ll break out the glue stick to start organizing my thoughts into the most spectacular vision board ever made. I’ll make a note to share the final version on here.

What are your thoughts on vision boards? Do you think they were part of your success plan? Even better, share yours with me if you’ve done one before.

My Life: A Change Done Came

I am a private person. I like being a private person. After learning through trial by fire that if you want something to remain your secret, you tell no one, I curated a small group of confidants. Even within that group, I’m private. So this post is kind of a big deal for me. I was inspired to share this after my mom and I sat down to Easter/birthday brunch last week and she told me in her sage, Yoda-like way, “You have a gift with words, and you need to share it. You don’t know how your story will affect others.”

So here it goes: my transition that I’ve alluded to in previous posts is that I’m between jobs.

Even typing that makes me cringe. Ever since I could legally hold a job, I’ve worked. It’s part of my identity, connected to my self-given purpose. I remember clearly going to pick up my checks – yes, that paper slip that conferred moneys before the ubiquitous direct deposit most of us use now – and how it felt to have funds to put gas in my tank and get me some grub on the go. Ahh, the days of simpler needs.

Now, to be without a place between 9 and 5 is a supremely foreign feeling. This is not to say I’m not doing anything. I’d been preparing for a change for a while, feeling that God was leading me elsewhere. I stayed prayerful, started making contacts and thought about my purpose and passion. I had quite the reality check from my inner circle when I began to stress about bills and if I could buy my first house this year. The statement affected me deeply, and it’s become my thinking: You are a child of the Most High, why do you have so little faith of the great things He has prepared for you?

The past month restored me. I didn’t realize how much I was internalizing my stress, thereby blocking my creativity and personal drive for success. I’ve been reading for my own enjoyment again. I have a growing wish list of inspirational books on Amazon and the fact that spring is coming doesn’t hurt. As an April baby, and after experiencing a true winter once I moved to north Texas, spring has a magic. The dry and cracked branches suddenly burst forth with white, pink and yellow blooms, the temperatures produce a warming effect that has everyone walking a bit lighter and all the bleakness of the previous season is left behind to nourish the harvest of the next.

It feels like I’m in my spring, blossoming and growing. I’d love to hear about your season of transition, share with me!