Anya Grottel-Brown is a recent transplant to LA from the East Coast. Her series, The Newcomer Journals, is about all things local that are new, different and same.
I’m trying to twist myself into something called Flowing Warrior II: legs spread far apart, one leg straight, the other one bent at the knee, arms and hips parallel to the floor… I’m feeling distinctly un-warrior-like, but Stephanie Nakamura, one of Curves coaches, beams at me: “Great form!” she says. On the screen Jillian Michaels, Curves’ celebrity coach, is off to the next exercise, drilling us to “get our booty down,” so that we can get those “coveted ripped abs.” The only thing I’m coveting at the moment is a warm sesame bagel from Sam’s, which I’m almost sure I will get on my way home.
Push-ups are next. “Thirty seconds of push-ups! You couldn’t have done that at the beginning of the month!” Stephanie says. I don’t think thirty seconds is much cause for celebration, but I can feel Stephanie’s good vibes floating down to where I’m huffing on the mat (I’m with you! We’re in this together!) so I crank out a few more. I’m definitely getting that bagel now.
I joined the Larchmont Curves when we first moved to the area a year ago because I wanted to be able to walk to a gym and this facility fit the bill. I’ve stayed not just because I get a good workout – I’m definitely stronger and have a better muscle tone – but because the gym has become a mini community. The conversation among the 6:30 am crowd ranges from kids’ education options to art, architecture and food. It’s like ladies’ lunch out, but without the tea and scones.
I’ve also stayed because of coaches like Stephanie. Curves caters to women of all ages, shapes and sizes; within that population, there are dizzying degrees of fitness levels. Coaching wisely – knowing when to correct and when to leave alone – is no doubt a challenge but it seems to come naturally to her.
“I love working with the retirees,” she says. “Their children benefitted from women’s athletics, which came with Title IX. They did not. They literally light up when they realize what they can do. It’s amazing because these women are not only making their muscles stronger, but building their brain power which is so important.”
Stephanie has worked out since high school and has an athlete’s body awareness. “Not everyone has this,” she says. “I want the women here to take it step by step so that they are constantly aware of what they are doing. I don’t want them falling because they don’t have the strength of body or mind.”
Body awareness is what drives Stephanie’s other pursuits. She is studying acupuncture and will graduate at the end of the year with a masters in Asian and Oriental medicine. She hopes to pursue a PhD at the intersection of acupuncture and brain research, working with patients at the threshold of depression.
“There can always be more to healing. Western and Eastern medicine can complement each other and affect really good change,” says Stephanie. She’s certainly affecting good change right where she is at the moment.