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.

Continuing Education: My First Yoga Workshop

I’ve talked about how hard it is to stay on top of my own fitness. This weekend, I challenged myself to keep learning by attending one of Sunstone Academy’s yoga workshops. (Full disclosure: I work for Sunstone part time as a teacher and I attended Sunstone Academy for my 200-hour Yoga Teacher Training.)

In the past few months, Sunstone has offered workshops on diet and nutrition with Dr. Sommer White. This weekend, the workshops focused on advancing one’s yoga practice. Of the four available courses, I went to “The Art of Arm Balancing” on Saturday afternoon.

If she can do this, I totally can as well, right?
If she can do this, I totally can as well, right?

Y’all. I don’t think I’ve challenged my body this much since…ever. The warm-up alone, as we found and engaged the entire core, had me sweating bullets. By the time the teacher, Lady Yoga, got us into our first arm balance (the ever-approachable Crow), I knew I was in for a major workout. As Lady Yoga explained, arm balancing is not just arm strength; you have to engage mula and uddiyana bandhas. These bandhas help us lift and stay into balances and inversions.


Over the course of the workshop, Lady Yoga led the group of about 20-25 people, half of whom were also teachers like me, through Crow, Side Crow, Baby Crow, Running Man, Flying Pigeon, Eight Angle (which I could not get to save my life) and the most challenging for me, Visvamtrasana.

Nailed it!
Nailed it!

Not since training have I been so challenged in my practice, and I loved every moment. I will be attending more yoga workshops, focusing on both the asana (physical practice) and philosophy. Keep up with what workshops I’ll be attending in my quest for knowledge by following me on Twitter: @veleisap.

And if the workshop wasn’t enough, I decided to hop on the Grit Fitness X Luke’s Locker kickoff challenge. Whew, y’all, lemme tell you: the ladies of Grit Fitness are amazing. In an hour, we went through a dance cardio, kickboxing and glute workout and I felt (and still feel) all of it. Check out their latest fun challenge: #LUKESGRIT, plus my sweaty selfie with Annabelle, who kept me moving throughout class!



Level Up: How to Stay On Top of Your Own Fitness as an Instructor/Trainer

Recently, I had a thought: if I took an informal poll of my fellow fitness teachers or the trainer members of the Dallas Fitness Ambassadors, probably 99 percent would say that as their teaching and training increased, their focus on their own growth went down. An inverse and perverse relationship, if you will. Speaking for myself, as I’ve invested time in reading, learning and teaching others, my training schedule has suffered. I almost have to force myself to dedicate an hour to getting on the mat, not to creating a new flow or reading the latest yoga news.

As a student, you have seemingly unlimited time to learn, explore and jump around to different classes and studios. Now that I teach, I have a home studio and getting to other locations to experience other instructors often takes a back seat to meeting and greeting with the teachers and students at my own location.

It’s easy for me to recognize when I need to switch it up and revert back to being a student. Not only do I physically feel the need for a return to a challenge, but my mind clues me in that I’m not growing. My fitness routine, whether it’s yoga or weight training or my “unbridal bridal” regimen of sprint work on the track, connects me to an inner energy source and allows me to be a better teacher. I sleep better, digest my food easier and generally am a happier person when I’m challenging my body and mind through fitness.

Me, as a student, working on my handstand.
Me, as a student last year, working on my handstand.

Returning to the act of being a student is a humbling experience, and often, as teachers, we need a reminder that there is no end to the practice of learning. We can all be taught something new, whether we are a beginning instructor or a seasoned veteran trainer. When we don’t expand our minds through continued education, what we put out to our students can become stagnant or boring. And really, who wants to be a boring fitness leader?

I vow anew to give time back to myself, to explore not only different instructors at my own studio but with other yoga studios. After getting my butt kicked at Surf City Fitness last month, I’m excited to try new experiences and see how it shapes my teaching principles. I’m a big proponent of lifting, and lifting heavy, and I’ve seen the improvements to my time on the mat due to pumping iron. Thankfully, my fiance and I belong to the same gym, and he loves kicking my tail in the weight room, telling me to lift heavier, move faster and challenge myself. I’m excited about my renewed focus; maybe you’ll join me?

If you’re an instructor, have you found that your own fitness journey has stalled as you’ve taken on clients/started teaching?

If so, how do you plan on jump-starting it again to ensure that not only are you satisfied with your progress but you’re giving your students the best knowledge and experience based on what you learn?

Shout out in the comments, or message me on Twitter (@VeleisaP) or Instagram (@LeisaWithAnE). Looking forward to hearing from you!

What It Feels Like to Return to Yoga After a Hiatus

During training, we ate, slept and breathed yoga. Asana was the word of the day, all day long as we strove to understand every posture. Six months after finishing yoga teacher training, I’m immersed in functional fitness classes as I teach Sweat and Core classes at my home studio. Last year, 80 percent of my physical practice was yoga-based with 20 percent going toward weight training. That breakdown is now flipped on its head, and when I’m not in the studio teaching weight class, I’m in the gym with my fiance doing his regimen. Before I knew it, I’d gone nearly a month without taking any kind of yoga, which is a crazy-long time for me.

Last night, it was me and the mat and my Yoga Studio app. As I stepped to the top of my mat to begin an hour of class, my body automatically went to what it knew: shoulders back and down, chest lifted, breathing in and out deeply. Turns out, my time away doing weight work improved my practice. Upper body and core work helped stabilize Chaturangas and those taxing leg presses and weighted walking lunges meant I could get my thigh closer to parallel in Warrior positions.

Best of all, when I went to practice inversions – handstands – after the class ended, I got some hang time! For reference, just six months ago, I was either kicking over into a backbend or flailing. One key piece of handstand prep I found was from Kino McGrego (Kino Yoga); I’ve embedded it below.

Moral of the story: don’t be afraid to change up your fitness. Engaging in a range of exercises means you won’t get bored, cross trains your muscles and improves your performance. What are your two to three must-do exercise programs? How do they intersect? For example, do you find your Pilates classes complement marathon training?

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

Recognizing Overextension Before It Burns You


Last week I was on it. Sunday had me at the track, sprinting until the only ones left going were me, my BF/trainer and his cousin. During the week, I managed to get in a day of yoga and two days of total body training. Coming up on the weekend, my legs were a bit tight but I was rocking and rolling, no stopping me now! Even though I knew sprint training was coming back around, I decided that a bike ride – only ten miles I told myself – wouldn’t be too bad on a pretty Saturday afternoon. Mind you, pretty is relative; it was near 100 degrees this past Saturday. After I made the loop, admiring the lake and views along the way, I managed to drag myself back home and shower, all the while questioning my own sanity for taking those hills on my novice legs.

Before I knew it, Sunday was there, staring me in the face. Cool breezes stirred across the red clay of the track. I shielded my face with a hand, took a deep breath and prepared to burst into my first sprint – 200 meters. Pace yourself, said the trainer. Just as I go to “turn over” (another track term I’ve come to know) I feel a cramp in my quads. It’s nearly impossible for me to pump my legs, they feel like lead. The remedy given to me was to try some 40 meter sprints, to stretch out the muscle.

First sprint, fine.

Second sprint, an ever so slight but definitely unable to be ignored twinge hobbles me.

And I’m pissed.

Continue reading “Recognizing Overextension Before It Burns You”

Theory Versus Real World: What Gets You A Job?


cube Both look so appealing, don’t they?

I have to say, lately it feels like “The Onion” is trolling my life. Between poking fun at how little time we truly have to dedicate to our passions and then a too-close-to-home joke about the usefulness of a communications degree, my ego is a bit bruised. Though I’ve still not forgiven them for their “joke” about Quvenzhané Wallis (for a review of that mess, read Awesomely Luvvie’s thoughts), those two articles are the epitome of the snark, sarcasm and punch to the gut smart writing the site is known for.

Let me not lead you to think that this post is about “The Onion” and their capacity to make you feel things, all of the feelings. The reason why the article on the communications degree hit home so hard is because that was my life in the first six months after graduation. Now, as I approach December graduation for this Masters degree (silently cheers), the question of how communication schools are appropriately preparing students for the tough job market really comes to the forefront. When I was an undergrad at SMU, my major program was known as corporate communications and public affairs. Very clear, right? The school offered three tracks: corporate communications, public affairs and nonprofit. I ended up with multiple internships and met some nice people at the organizations. But really, what do you learn on internships, other than how much you hate filing and how to be shuttled around as you shadow person after person who doesn’t have time to really delve into their role because in five months, you’ll be gone anyway. I don’t know how much interaction the school had with the companies who hired SMU interns, but that relationship could have used an overhaul and direction on what the students should be learning. The evidence of the lack of collaboration was apparent when, in an interview not long after I graduated, I realized I could have an hour-long discussion about critical theory but I couldn’t tell you what an editorial calendar was and I had no idea how to pitch the media.

SMU has since revamped their program underpinnings, and current undergraduates can focus on communication studies or public relations and strategic communication. Many non-theory related skills that would have helped me as a student who was transitioning to the real world – video production , photojournalism, production, campaigns – are now core classes. Perhaps, back in 2003-2007, we didn’t truly understand the way the communications field would shrink, requiring practitioners to be Jacks of all trades. However, I can’t help but feel a bit cheated. Don’t misunderstand, I love theory – I should hope I do, since I’m in graduate school. Hindsight being the all-knowing pain it is, I now understand that combining that theory with cross-departmental offerings would have been a benefit for me, and I’m sure others.

As “The Onion” points out ever so cleverly, the kind of real world training obtained in internships and junior positions can be limited as well, and communication studies programs need to proactively influence the preparation students receive. Yes, the ability to keep organized files is important, but if that is the highest level of involvement an intern receives, it’s a waste of everyone’s time – except for the company who gets dirt cheap labor for summer.

In my previous position, the intern was an eager student who wanted to learn as much as possible, exactly what one would want from young workers. I made it my goal to make sure her internship did not mirror the experience I had  years ago, waiting on the next assignment and considering how I was going to apply the little I was learning to my resume.

The best feedback I received when I left: she felt blessed to have had me as her manager. So I guess something good did come of yesteryear, if I can take the complete opposite of my experience and apply it to her internship.

What would you say made you prepared for your first job out of school: theory or internships? A blend of the two? Any intern horror stories you want to share?