Located between two train tracks in Jefferson, La is a large, beige warehouse. Inside, you can find the walls covered with work-out equipment from weights to stationary bikes to punching bags, and music blaring a variation of music from N.W.A. to Brittany Spears. On a back wall, behind row and ski machines are three words; THIS SHIT WORKS. Welcome to Vitality by Kristen.
“Vitality, since day one, has sought to build a community of true diversity. We do things differently,” says Kristin Kavanaugh, the gym’s founder and trainer. “We have an all-female coaching staff, we integrate beginners with seasoned pros, we do not push ‘diet culture.’ All of these things are ways we set ourselves apart from most of the fitness world. Health and wellness is not something that should be reserved for some and not others. We want everyone who has ever thought ‘I’m just not a gym person’ to walk through our doors and see people that look like them and maybe have felt that same way. We want those people to trust that our staff will be present with them from day one and meet them at whatever fitness level they are at today. Our community is warm and welcoming but also fun as hell!”
Offering several training courses multiple times a day and throughout the week, Vitality’s work-out sessions are a blend of strength training and conditioning, cardio, and CrossFit. “I discovered CrossFit in 2012 and it was a game-changer. It reminded me of all my favorite sports teams and workouts combined.” Not only does Kavanaugh train her gym members with these exercises, but she pushes herself through the same work-outs. “I’ve become so aware of my own body and it has changed my workouts. I’ve gotten nutrition certifications and I’ve learned better ways to fuel myself to maximize my workouts. Customizing my meals and daily workouts to maximize my gains is basically a hobby for me. I love working out and I can’t see a life without some level of fitness!”
A key element of Vitality is its open and welcoming nature to those on any stage of their fitness journey, beginners and pros, those who want to lose weight or just want to get healthier. “DO NOT COMPARE YOURSELF TO ANYONE!” Kavanaugh encourages her members. “We work-out for ourselves. My favorite quote right now is ‘You don’t have to be good to start, but you do have to start to be good.’ It’s easy to pick ourselves apart if we feel ‘out of shape,’ but try to just take it day by day and accept little victories. For a while, the victory may just be that you showed up in the first place, and that is okay. Be proud of yourself more than you are ashamed. It may take practice, but it will change the experience and your life.”
Despite mandates to practice social distancing amid the Covid-19 outbreak, Kristin and her team at Vitality are making efforts to keep their members working hard and to not lose steam over the coming weeks. “We have shut down our facility for the mandatory length of time. We have been in constant communication with our members through virtual remote training with scheduled classes Monday-Saturday offering weighted and weightless workouts. We have also let our members rent out equipment to take home for our weighted program,” says Kavanaugh. While these online sessions aren’t as intensive as their usual gym sessions, Vitality’s members are still working up a sweat and keeping healthy during the quarantine. “Even though it’s sad not to see our members in person through the week, I’m enjoying seeing them at their homes with their pets and loved ones. We are still getting that one on one connection via zoom! We are a strong community that will stick together. It’s been a stressful time in our community, but I know once we make it through this we will be stronger and smarter.”