Where the Women At?

Equilibrium Fitness for Women

3930 Broad Street, Marigold Center

San Luis Obispo, CA 93401



 Membership Required: Yes

Membership Price: Generally, a monthly rate $44 a month with a $29 administration fee + $199 (which can be paid up front or dispersed over a period) (Students only) or $289 for six months

Membership price is discussed on a person to person basis; startup costs and membership fees can vary based on the member’s individual needs, and prices vary from season to season. Membership price does not include personal training. Call ahead to sign up for a free week (7- day pass) or to schedule a personal training session.

Distance from Cal Poly: 5.6 Miles

Pool: No

Courts: They have two studios, one for spin and another for most of the other classes; some classes are held on the main gym floor.  Equilibrium offers a ton of classes including BODYPUMP, BODYFLOW, BODYCOMBAT, BODYJAM, BODYSTEP, yoga, abs, circuit cardio and more.  Get the full schedule here.

 Showers: Yes

April Trussler and Nicole Ervin let their hair down for a photo.

Let me just start by saying that Equilibrium was by far the most helpful in this project.

“We love Poly students!” says co- owner Julian Varela, and they really do. Some of Equilibrium’s staff is made up of Poly kinesiology majors looking to continue a career in physical fitness.   If you’re looking to try it out, you can opt for a free 7- day pass complete with access to classes, or you can go for a free personal training session.  Since I’ve never been personally trained before, I set up an appointment with April Trussler, one of Equlibrium’s personal trainers (all are female except one).

We started out with a questionnaire to assess my fitness goals and find out what I’d be able to handle.  This blog has been really useful for breaking out of my 20/20/20 routine (20 minutes cardio, strength training, and elliptical), but I wanted to know what other strength training activities I could do when I can’t work a fancy class into my schedule.  Since I’m kind of shy when it comes to resistance training equipment, I decided to ask for exercises that would help me utilize more of my gym’s equipment (ie weights, machines, balls, etc).
“I’m tired of relying on the same old standbys:  squats for gluts, push- ups for arms, crunches for abs,” I told April.

“Perfect.” she said. “I’m going to make you try all the exercises that are too hard for everyone else.”

We jumped right into the workout without stretching, so I asked why.

“It’s better to warm up a little bit on the treadmill first.  Believe it or not, it’s better to stretch after the workout than before.  It helps prevent injuries and muscle strains late on in the day.”

News to me, since I’d been hearing since second grade PE that if I didn’t stretch before physical activity, I’d break my spinal chord and get picked last for softball the rest of my life.   Here’s what we worked out:

 Legs: We started off with some classic lunges plus weights.  “The most important thing to remember about lunges is to make both of your legs into 90 degree angles,” says April.  “You want to keep all of the weight above your knees and never let the front knee go past your toes.  It’s all about distribution of weight.”  Go down for a lunge, then simultaneously bring the weights up for a curl, making sure to keep your shoulders square and your elbows close to your sides.  Travel from one end of the room to the other three times, or do three sets of sixteen.

I was introduced to something I had seen many times, but never fully understood:  the Bosu ball.  It looks like a decapitated Pilates ball on a platter.  Continuing with legs, April designed this modified squat to get the most out of one’s butt muscles.  Start with one foot on the Bosu ball, hips shoulder width apart, toes forward, and both legs relaxed by straight (the leg with the foot on the ball can be slightly bent to keep your hips level).  Squat, making sure to keep your back straight and your knees over your ankles.  It took me forever to learn how to do a proper squat.  The easiest way to remember is just to stick your butt way out and bend your legs.  When you start to come out of the bend, switch feet on the Bosu ball so you have the other foot on the ball but are still facing the same direction.  Repeat two sets of fourteen on each side. For extra fun, grab a medicine ball (mine was 8 lbs) and twist to the side opposite the Bosu- ball foot, bringing both hands the middle for the leap.  Keep your shoulders square and back straight, and really move your core to get the ball around, don’t rely on your arms or your back to move that ball.

Arms:  For the arm version of the above workout, get in pushup position (you can use your knees if staying on your toes is too tough) with one hand on the ball.  Do one, then switch hands so the opposite hand rests on the ball. Do three sets of fourteen.

Abs:  When we started this one out, April tried doing a basic crunch with a medicine ball but then decided it would be too easy for me (!)  She modified it to a stretch/ ab workout that focuses on the obliques.  Lay on your back with a pilates ball just below your shoulder blades and hold the medicine ball square above your chest.  Twist to one side and bring your arms out in front of you, so your upper body is on its side and parallel to the floor.  Come back to center with your arms out, bring the ball back to your chest in the center and repeat on the other side.  Do three sets of fourteen.  This one was my favorite!

Back:  In most gyms, there is a thing that looks like this:

Get on it with your stomach on the upper pads and you knees bent around the bottom ones.  Grab a medicine ball (and a partner) and hold the ball close to your chest.  Bend forward, being careful to keep your back straight, and come back up so your body makes a diagonal- do not arch your back.  On your way up, toss the medicine ball to the person standing across from you, and catch it when they toss it back.  I asked April how to do this without a buddy, and she suggested just keep the ball in your hands, and bring it out then in when you come to the top of the pose.

“Usually when we do ab workouts, we focus so much on the front and our backs get neglected and become weak,” says April. “This really works your lower back.”  It totally did.  That neglected muscle hurt all weekend.

Leg Raise/ Dips: Also in the gym there is a thing called the Roman chair.

“I have no idea why they call it that,” said April when I asked her.

I think it’s probably because it looks like a Roman torture device.

This machine can be approached in a number of ways, but its main purpose is to work the lower abdominals and leg muscles.  Push your back up against the back of the machine and bend your arms so that your forearms rest on the arms of the machine and your upper arms are as parallel as possible to the rest of your body.  You can start each lift with your feet on the bars, but for a harder workout, don’t let your legs touch those things.  A leg lift is exactly what it sounds like: bring your legs together, let them hang so they line up with the rest of your body, and lift them straight up into the air so they form a 90 degree angle with your waist.  Do not bend your knees. Do not bring your upper body forward.  Keep it plastered to the back of the chair.  When you bring you legs down, don’t let them go back behind your hips as this tempts you to use momentum to get them back to the 90 degrees instead of using your abs.  Take time to readjust your arms as needed.  Do as many as you can- these are intense.

Personal trainer April Trussler demostrates a pull up on one of the resistance machines.

The gym’s website claims that “what truly sets [Equilibrium Fitness] apart is our team”, and it’s true:  personal training, group classes, and other instructor- lead activities are definitely Equilibrium’s strong points. Equilibrium is pretty small- it occupies a small grocery store sized space in the Marigold shopping center, contains two workout studios (one filled with stationary bikes for spin class) and a locker room with a couple stalls and a few showers.  Since it’s an all- girls gym, customers feel pretty comfortable-the windows are frosted so nosy outsiders can’t peer into the gym.
“It’s nice that it’s all women because sometimes I don’t feel like dressing up to go to the gym!” exclaims Courtney, a Sigma Kappa third year. “I’m working out!  I’m sweaty and gross!  I can’t think about looking hot at the gym!”

Each year, EQ hosts the Sorority Fitness Challenge, a point- based workout competition 2-3 weeks before Greek Week. “We designed it as a way for us as an all- women’s gym to reach out to some of the young women on the Cal Poly campus,” says Member Services Director Renee Brian.  “We try to introduce some of the other sorority girls to each other and to a healthier alternative to some of the diets or other ways to lose weight.  We feel like the sorority challenge exposes those girls to how fun health and fitness can be and how energized they can feel after a workout.”  Rennee says Equilibrium singled out sorority girls because they were the easiest way to target diverse groups of young women on the Cal Poly campus. “I was literally at Equilibrium eight times a day,” says Malori Comer, winner of 2010’s Sorority Fitness Challenge.   “During the last week, you got double points for bringing a friend.  So I literally dragged anyone who was willing.”

“We try to take a couple girls out of each sorority who really stand out and give them a free three- month membership,” says Renee.  “We know not everyone can afford a gym membership, so this is our small way of giving back.”

Though she says Equilibrium will never offer a membership without a startup fee, she says the gym works with individuals on a personal basis to try and decide how to make membership to the club the most financially possible. “We promote to any of our members that are canceling their membership to gift their rate to another girl, especially if that rate is lower than the one we’re currently offering,” says Renee. She prefers payment options be discussed on a person- by- person basis. Indeed, most of what Equilibrium does is pretty one- on- one.  The smaller space and more intimate setting makes the gym especially good for personal training, so staff members will be up in your space no matter what.  Not exactly for people who want to show up, get dirty and leave without talking to anyone, which, admittedly, I do want sometimes. However, co- owner Julian Varela, former Fitness Director at Kennedy, says he wants a more closely- knit community. “I never appreciated big- box models,” says Varela.   “[Equilibrium] is smaller and the energy here is different. The members notice each other.  If you haven’t shown up, the members wonder about it.  We’re just better able to know our demographic.  It’s a positive culture, a little more supportive.”

Though he says the clientele splits between Poly women and the 55 and older crowd, Equilibrium is actively campaigning to bring more clients from campus.  Besides the Sorority Fitness Challenge, Varela is also working with a trained martial artist and SAFER to develop programs “more practical and applicable for self- defense” and preventing rape, an issue especially important to women.

For men who are interested in the personalized training that Equilibrium provides, club owners Dave Pomfret and Julian Varela also operate an appointment- only Performance Center for both men and women at 3140 Lirio Court, San Luis Obispo.  Eventually, both business partners hope to expand Equilibrium into a co- ed club (they inherited the all- women clientele from The Fitness Club for Women, whose owners retired around 2007). It’s an enterprise on the rise.  Though strictly sisterly now, we can expect the EQ brand to expand in the coming years, providing Cal Poly with yet another option for exercise.

Equilibrium has a blog too! EQ BLOG is packed full of motivation and information.

Would you attend a gym that isn’t unisex?  How do you feel about personal training?  Would you ever do it?  Have you ever had to do personal therapy for a sports injury?  Have you ever tried an unsuccessful approach to losing weight? 


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