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A Conversation with Frank Salzone, Equinox Group Fitness Instructor

By New You Editorial
Posted On Dec 01, 2014

Aside from looking like a superhero, elite trainer and Equinox Fitness group training star Frank Salzone (born and raised in Staten Island, New York) has built his body into high-performance machine. At the same time, he’s quick to remind us that our bodies are not a part of the technology we use. He made a splash on the online reality series Fit or Flop, and has proven he’s got the charms, know-how, and approach to lead us all past our plateaus.

New You: There are many trainers out there… What differentiates the “good” from the “great”?
Frank Salzone: A “good” trainer is knowledgeable about human anatomy and how to design correct workout programs for clients. A “great” trainer is someone who not only is knowledgeable but also cares for their clients and takes the time to learn about their clients. A great trainer is someone who knows how to push each person individually and takes the time to learn what motivates each individual client. Great trainers will even go the extra mile. For example, if they are training their client for a particular race, they may even decide to join them in that race. Great trainers talk the talk and walk the walk. They lead by example.

NY: You offer your expertise at Equinox as a very sought-after group fitness professional. What is the great opportunity of training at a group level?
FS: The decision to train at a group level at Equinox allowed me to share my knowledge with a wider range of members. It forced me to focus on improving my leadership skills in a way that I would be able to not just lead an entire room of Equinox members, but also be able to make each member in my room know that I am there to help make them better and improve their life. It’s very humbling to see a room of motivated members each week, progressing closer and closer to their goals and they thank you when they reach them.

NY: What can a gym member expect from taking one of your classes?
FS: When you come to one of my classes, you can expect me to lead a room with intensity, knowledge, and inspiration to help you push to the end of class and further. When I teach a class, I strive to have my members challenge themselves both physically and mentally—to push harder than they thought they were able to. I focus on a lot of mind-set, or mental toughness training. My classes get progressively harder as we work so that when your body feels like it can’t go any further, your mind kicks in and forces your body to not give up. I teach my classes the same way I train myself. I have found that by building mental strength in the gym, I’ve become more successful outside of the gym as well.

NY: What are some of the most important considerations for a person to take, off the bat, when determining an exercise regimen?
FS: The first and most important consideration for a person to take from the start is asking themselves, What is my goal? Having a goal in mind sets the path for everything else to consider: When do I want to reach my goal by?  Am I willing to dedicate the time to reaching my goal? What are my current diet habits and what do I need to adjust in order to get the most out of my time in the gym?  Do you have any past injuries? [If so, make sure to get the OK from your doctor before starting a routine.] Knowing what you want to accomplish is a very important part of your workout routine. Without being able a clear goal in mine, you will find it very hard to motivate yourself and even harder to see results from your time in the gym.

NY: There’s a lot of information floating around out there about fitness—sometimes the concepts people encounter contradict one another. How can the average person cherry-pick the most trustworthy, useful information?
FS: There’s a lot of information out there but if a person wants the most trustworthy information they need to see where the information is coming from. You want to get your information from reliable sources and respected fitness and health professionals. One website that puts out a lot of great content on fitness, nutrition, and recovery [or regeneration] is Equinox’s Q Blog (http://q.equinox.com). I always like to check out the Q Blog for new and updated information and to learn from some of the most respected names in the fitness industry. Another recommendation when it comes to choosing the right content is, ask. If you see an article or information that pertains to you but you’re not sure if the content is correct, don’t be afraid to ask your trainer or one of your group fitness instructors. We’re there to help you succeed and want to see you reach your goals. If you have a question, never hesitate to ask an instructor after class.

NY: What first inspired you to join the fitness industry, and how does it continue to be gratifying?
FS: I was originally training to become an FDNY firefighter. I was devoting two to three hours a day in the gym and I really fell in love with working out. As my fitness level progressed, I decided that I would study to become an instructor to help other achieve their goals the way I was. From my first few clients in Staten Island, where I used to live, to moving into Manhattan and building a following of members at Equinox, the most gratifying part of my job is having a member come to me and telling me that because of my coaching in class they were able to do something physical which they never thought they would be able to do before. Seeing a student reach a new level in my class and them telling me so is one of the most gratifying moments I can think of as an instructor. Their success in my class becomes motivation to me when I am striving to hit a new goal.

NY: What are some workout common missteps people take that might derail them, inspiration-wise?
FS: In this day and age of evolving technology, with faster and more powerful computers and cell phones, one thing we forget is that the human body is not part of technology. Yes, technology can help the human body with newer and better fitness apps and wearable accessories to measure and track progress, but with all the technology in the world, you have to remember that to see gains within your body, you need to allow time for your body to get stronger. Many people at the gym stop after a week or two of getting in a workout routine because they are not seeing results. They won’t in that short period of time. The human body needs time to build muscle, slim down, or get faster. When it comes to your body you need to stay disciplined, consistent, and have patience with your workouts in order to see results. You cannot expect to workout three or four times and see immediate results.

NY: What’s your personal take on diet and nutrition?
FS: Every body is different. When it comes to diet and nutrition, yes certain basic information should be followed by everybody in order to live a healthy lifestyle. Focus on fresh food such as fruits and vegetables, drink plenty of water, and stay away from processed foods and sodas. The basics are a given we should all follow. When it comes to more detailed nutrition plans—an example being vegetarian versus meat or the Paleo Diet or any other diet out there—everyone’s body reacts differently based on that person’s needs. When starting a diet plan, always consult your doctor first, but my personal take on the correct diet plan for you is that you might have to experiment a little before finding the right one. That means having patience and spending a few weeks trying out a particular nutrition regime and if it works for you then continue it. If you are not feeling at your best you may have to modify what you are eating. A nutrition plan for a distance runner will be very different than a nutrition plan for a person looking to lose 10 pounds. So focus on your diet needs based on your individual goals.

NY: What’s the wisest way for people to stay injury-free and, therefore, at the gym?
FS: Listen. Always listen to your body. Your body is a very smart machine and when something is wrong, it will tell you. If something doesn’t feel normal, chances are your body is trying to tell you something. If something does not feel right, you may need to either rest it a little longer or go see your doctor to make sure you are 100 percent.

NY: What’s your take on rest and reward?
FS: When it comes to rest and reward both are very important in the overall success of reaching your goals. Rest is just as important as your actual workouts. Your body needs to repair itself in order to get stronger. Your body goes into repair mode when you are sleeping so it’s very important to get seven to eight hours of sleep at night. That allows your body to repair the muscles that you worked out at the gym that day. If you don’t rest, you don’t repair. If you don’t repair, you won’t get results. Reward. Your reward can be anything that motivates you to keep working out. Maybe if you hit the gym 5 days consistently at 6 am each morning, you reward yourself with sleeping in on the sixth day. Or if you burn an extra 300 calories, you can have that cocktail when you go out with your friends on the weekend. Find a reward that allows you to want to push a little harder in your daily workouts. The reward should not be a huge thing like an entire cheesecake or something that would ultimately hurt your progress, but something that you will enjoy that will not send your progress off track.