Below I speak with Mahri Relin, Owner and Founder of Body Conceptions. Body Conceptions (BoCo) is a Dance Fitness technique that incorporates both dance-cardio and strengthening. There are group classes, but trainers can come to your home for a bespoke workout. I have been doing Body Conceptions for over two years now and have seen amazing results. I wanted to ask Mahri how she got started, her method, and where she is headed. See below for more!
What made you start Body Conceptions?
I had been a dancer for a very long time before I started working in fitness. My first exposure to fitness is how dance and fitness came together and I really fell in love with “dance fitness”. I have a background in neuropsychology and clinical psychology which made me think, “Why is it that people do fitness?” When I set out to start my own company, I wanted to create a supportive and warm environment- people who really cared and were well versed, had a great education in fitness and physiology and injury. I had a mission to have a culture around that. I had worked for a couple of different fitness methods and it’s not that I didn’t see that in the other places I worked, I just didn’t see it in as complete a way as I wanted. Supporting each other needed to happen on all levels- from the management and instructors to the clients and beyond.
What is it about your method that helps get such great results?
I put a lot of thought into the structure of the exercises. First, I’m really concerned about safety, technique and alignment. It is important to be able to do this workout safely all the time. I have been able to do it up to four times a day without injuries. The way I structure the exercises is very consistent with how a dancer trains her body. It’s a dancers’ physique we are aiming to create. I wanted to have a program where people could see the results of their work, and I wanted to demonstrate our effectiveness empirically. We often do these challenges where people can choose to get measured to see their progress. I’ve seen huge changes in people’s waist sizes and hips. We measure their arms too but we are sculpting, not bulking up their muscles. We see a lot of symmetry created in the muscles. People come in with one leg bigger than the other and we fix that. The key is the way we are working- the muscles are elongated and sculpted using dance principles, and we see dance results.
What do you think it is about a short term challenge that makes people so interested? I see them on your Instagram and people seem very excited about them.
It’s the focus it creates. I have people who take my class all the time and see great results but it’s when they focus on a very specific period of time that people set and achieve a goal. I’ve looked at different lengths of challenges and have found that 6 weeks is the golden length. If it’s too short, people want to keep going and if it’s too long, they get fatigued and find it harder to focus on the goal. Six weeks tends to keep you in the mindset of coming to class and focusing on wellness and eating habits. Originally deciding to measure people was a dilemma for me because I was not trying to create a perfect ideal size, but I found the measurement kept people feeling responsible to themselves. Seeing that change is what really encouraged them. Some people during challenges choose to not get measured- which I respect, but they tend to get less robust results than others who are actually seeing the changes and getting motivated by them.
How do you choose your trainers?
It’s one of the most important decisions I make. As a business owner, I want people who can work as part of a team. People who are willing to support each other and the company. People who are naturally warm and caring. On top of that there is diligence, and a drive to be as great as they can be as trainers. I don’t want them to feel competitive with each other, but many of them are competitive with themselves. It’s a long process, and I take my time to audition people. I usually choose people from the dance community. I ask them to come teach a class, and I watch to see how motivating and joyful they are. In group interviews I want to make sure everyone is supporting each other.
I noticed that you help a lot of women stay fit through their pregnancies and after. Tell me about training expecting mothers.
Working with women who are pregnant is amazing to me. It started when I was working for Tracy Anderson. This was an area they asked me to focus on and that made me interested in understanding pregnancy in much more depth. I worked with a clientele at Tracy Anderson that included some who had undergone IVF, as well as some high risk pregnancies. I went through certification and continuing ed. Part of why I continued to study pregnancy was because I wanted to help people at all stages of their lives. It’s really about understanding limits. Prenatal fitness has some limitations, but pregnant women can do a lot more than they think. The key is exercising intelligently and understanding what you should do and what you shouldn’t do. For example, core work is key for recovery and labor, so we focus on the best way to work your abdominals and how. There are lots of hormones released into the body and joints are looser, so there’s a lot to be mindful of.
There are a lot of studies that show that women’s metabolism slows after the age of 40. Do you do anything different when you are training women over 40 to take this into account? How about in your own life?
What’s really amazing is I have not yet seen an age related change in my metabolism. I think I’m really lucky to be exercising the way I am. At Body Conceptions, we focus on building lean muscle mass which is so important for women. Cardio is fantastic, but we do more sculpting than other dance cardio workouts – and I do even more sculpting with women as they get older. The development of lean muscle mass is the process that most effectively increases your resting metabolism.
How important do you think nutrition is when incorporated with fitness?
I think it’s key. Nutrition is so important. I have a great group of specialists I can connect my clients with. I have my own expertise but I do think people should work with nutritionists. Certain foods and habits that work for some women might not always be great for you. Its understanding your body, your gut health, your lifestyle and your unique health profile. I have a nutritional component to all of my challenges. Wellness is a full holistic process. It’s not just about fitness.
Dance cardio has become a major trend over the past few years. Do you see any other fitness trends on the horizon?
As our knowledge of the body increases and technology increases, personalization is essential. It’s definitely becoming more and more of a trend. Fitness trackers, apps, we have so many more options. I feel lucky that our method is improvisational. It constantly allows us to be sensitive to individual client needs. I hope we can get away from A “more is more” mentality and move towards more intelligent fitness. A lot of the fitness that’s out there is geared towards young bodies, so it’s not great for us as we get older. We can still work really hard, but we have to be smart and aligned with an understanding of how the whole body works.
What is next for BoCo?
I am focusing more and more on women as they get older. Also, I’m looking for different ways to bring my method elsewhere. Dance cardio is in New York, LA, and London but it’s not everywhere. I’m open to collaboration and creating part of a “wellness community”. I want to be part of something bigger so that my clients can benefit on every level.