Evolve - Changing the Game of Group Fitness
"I'm going 50 different directions but it all comes down to one thing, passion. That's the one common denominator no matter what branch of fitness. I love it."
- Sharif Abboud
Let me tell you about one of my favorite trainers in Dallas and his brand new gym, Evolve. Admittedly, I'm a little bit bias when it comes to Sharif and his gym, but for good reason. I've been training with Sharif over the last 5+ years. I am hooked on his group fitness classes, and I'm not the only one. He is one of the most requested trainers in the Dallas Area. His classes are filled with people from all walks of life coming from all parts of the DFW Metroplex. Located in the heart of downtown Dallas, Evolve serves as the ultimate platform to show off his patented group fitness style. The following is just a taste of what it's like to experience a group fitness class at Evolve.
The class begins with a warm up, a brisk walk or run on the treadmill, some calories on the row, or some steps on the stair master. Sharif and his wife and co-owner/manager Madison kept Group fitness in mind when designing the gym layout. The cardio area is stragically organized for an instructor to keep people moving on all types of machines. Power Bikes, Row Machines, Treadmills, Stairclimbers, all are located just a few steps from each other, and are constantly used in class.
It was Sharif's attention to detail that allowed him to create a cardio area while keeping the space functional for group fitness. "I'm obsessed with it. That same mindset went into the creation and layout of all parts of the gym. It's all about flow and energy. If you get that right, then it all works." The result is a functional space that is versitile, suiting any type of workout from Olympic lifting, Interval Training, Cardio Work, or agility workouts.
During the warm up, Sharif speaks with each person taking his class. He finds out what limitations or injuries might be bothering them, and modifies their workout accordingly. "I always make it a point to say their name and acknowledge them at least one time before they walk out of here. Sometimes, that acknowledgement means the world to them. Others might not even recognize that I'm doing it. But that attention to detail over time will allow me to specify the workout the next time they walk through the door."
Each class has an overall goal, it could be strength, speed, power, or a particular muscle group. Not too often do you find group fitness classes (outside of crossfit gyms) with this kind of fitness variety. It's also another reason that keeps people interested and coming back for more.
Every station for today's circuit is designed to compliment the other. First, we start with the Plyo Push-up on two Bosu Balls, then move into an air squat jump while holding a weighted slam ball. Now that the heart rate is up, we go into plank position with alternating knee-to-elbows. Now that the core is burning, we go into mountain climbers using turf gliders to get even more speed and core-twerking sensation. Finally, the next station brings us to our feet, but now we are strapped to a bungee cord doing side shuffles to a sideways lunge. This is a first ever for me working with a bungee cord, and I am struggling keep from face planting with every lunge. By this time, I'm sweating profusely. My breathing? Heavy. My legs, core, and shoulders? Spicy....and we are only half way through the circuit.
"You will NEVER get good at my workouts," explains Sharif. "I am constantly changing my circuits, making sure everyone gets a different experience with each workout. Fitness level doesn't matter, progressions and modifications happen, but the base movement stays the same. You were back squatting 205 lbs while the person behind you was squatting with an 18 lb kettle bell. It's the same movement, and both of you feel the same amount of work." This is one of the reasons so many people seek out Sharif in the first place. I've taken his classes for over 5 years now and I haven't been to one yet that didn't kick my butt, in a good way.
After the first round was over, we then move back to the treadmills and row machines. Between completed circuits, we get 3 minute metabolic conditioning mini circuit before we break: 1 minute each of row machine, treadmill, and burpees. Sharif knows that these exercises are not fun, and so he is talking constantly during this time.
"Treadmills, you are 20 seconds in, 40 seconds left. You get out what you put in. Keep this pace." Sharif also loves to call out people throughout the workout. "David, I need you to rip through those burpees, you've got 30 seconds left." Sharif is great at constantly touching base with each person in the class. He knows when and how to push people to their limits without being overbearing. Good friend and fellow blogger Mai-Lyn aka DeepFriedFit said that her first class with Sharif was a great one, and thought it had just the right amount of intensity.
"Row machines you've got 20 seconds left, I need everything you've got!" By the end of these 3 minutes, everyone has found a new gear; an aerobic level of fitness that is hard to attain by yourself. You feel like you've accomplished something as a team by surviving these 3 minutes, and that brought our first round to an end. We completed two more rounds by the end of the workout.
"You do what you can with what you have." says Sharif. Before opening his gym, Sharif held classes with a few kettle bells, some fitness bands, and a concrete floor. His class was just as effective and just as popular. The reason? Variety. "We started out pushing a plate on a towel." says Madison "But it doesn't matter. Other group classes I've experienced don't have that same variety, and tend to become boring. That's one thing that will never happen in our classes."
Sharif is a talented and passionate trainer with a unique approach to group fitness. He is supported by his wife and co-owner Madison who has the skills and experience to do every thing else necessary to ensure their gym is successful. Together, they have created a gym that already has a cult following. I imagine this is just the beginning, and I fully expect Sharif and Madison to hold true to their gym's name and take Evolve to the next level.