It’s spring. For me, that means running outside again. Probably some races. I run because I enjoy it, but I’m also very competitive. I like to push myself, and, you bet, do better than the person next to me. So as I enter Ozone in Fairfield, I know I can and will push myself 100 percent. Of course, at the outset I’m still blissfully unaware of the grueling boot camp ahead of me.
Ozone is located at 338 Commerce Drive, home of the former Little Gym; it’s all grown-up business now because Ozone has stocked the place with weight machines, treadmills, kettlebells, a TR-X station, benches and the other paraphernalia you’d expect. A few women begin to gather, and Deb O’Toole herds us over the artificial turf to begin the routine.
Deb owns the place, which opened in September, with her husband, Ken. With more than fifteen years in the fitness industry, they started the club in response to what they saw happening in low-fee gyms. “We want to bring the personal back into personal training,” Ken says. To do that, each new client at Ozone begins with an assessment. “Everyone comes in and says they want to do a group class—because they’re motivating—but sometimes they need to start with strength training,” he says. Clients work their way up levels, or zones.
The focus is on proper movement and correcting structural imbalances to improve performance elsewhere. They expect coaches to teach soccer and instructors to teach dance, but Ozone wants to show you how to move correctly. “One of the biggest problems is that people give up. Here, we make a prescription to fix you,” says Ken. “One-on-one training goes to functional movement, trigger points, muscle release, strength issues, massage—and then out on the floor.”
Today, because I’m a guest, I start in a group class. Nine women (I’m the unexpected extra) bring over weights, kettle bells, and mats, and chat among themselves. Water bottles get pushed to the wall. Deb takes her position in front of the class and announces, “OK, let’s begin with jumping jacks!”
The series of warmup moves are familiar, yet it dawns on me that this class may not be a breeze. “Stick those glutes out,” Deb instructs. “We’ll get that metabolism going all day!” Next comes the plank. “Elbows, back straight…squeeze and hold it for thirty,” she says. It’s harder than it looks, and it’s followed by Planks Part II. “Now we’ll bring in the legs,” Deb says. “Make sure you squeeze your glutes and suck in those abs tight,” Deb encourages us. “Fire up that core!” Yes, my core is fired up. Frankly, I’m exhausted. “I should be able to put a platter on your back—make it flat,” Deb scolds. “Everyone warmed up now?” Warmed up?
The remainder of the class is a blur of bending, lifting, twisting, throwing, and lots of talking and laughing. When we are asked to put our backs against the wall and lower into a sitting position, no one talks. Ouch. This hurts. “Easy on the paint,” Ken says loudly, joking. “I just painted that wall!”
We ease into the home stretch and I begin to realize what a challenge this workout has been. This one workout. What if I came here regularly? “Faster, faster,” Deb says.
After the work out, I spend time with Bill Fellah, program director at Ozone, to talk about trigger points. “Think of them as hypersensitive points in a muscle,” he begins, due to overuse or unexpected tension. Pressing on a trigger point provides necessary compression of the tissue. After a moment of discomfort, there’s relief.
Bill presses part of my leg with one of his elbows or thumbs—I don’t even know, because my eyes are closed. He lifts my leg and pulls on it with his whole body like it’s an oar. I feel tension in surprisingly specific parts of my muscles.
“I tell my clients to think of it like a rope,” he says. “What happens if you pull on a knot in a rope? It gets tighter. So break up the knot first, then pull.” It becomes clear he’s got an encyclopedic understanding of this; he should, he’s ISSA (International Sports Sciences Association) certified and has eleven years of weight lifting experience.
“He’s our research guy,” Ken confirms.
I raise my hands in surrender, yet Bill continues his work. “Our goal is to help our clients feel better, then move better,” he says. I wonder if I’ll be able to walk later. He starts “active release,” which means he presses while also moving my leg. I breathe deeply, because, really, what else can I do? This is harder than the workout because I have no control; in the workout, I can adjust.
When he’s done, I get off the table and I am surprised by how light my legs feel. “I don’t believe this,” I say. “There’s no pain in my hip.” That pain that keeps me up at night is gone. I squat, to test it. I’m giddy. I feel loose. “It’s good to be loose,” says Bill, “but also to be strong, feel some tension.” I do the perfect squat—relaxed and strong.