If you play poker, you may know the saying 'All you need is a chip and a chair'. It essentially means you don't need a lot to stay in the game, all you need is a chip and a chair (termed after Jack Straus's comeback in the 1982 World Series of Poker). I often think of this saying as I visit different gyms. They all have the same type of equipment and a group of instructors - you don't need a lot to 'stay in the game'. But what makes a gym stand out? What makes you want to keep going? For me, it's about the energy and the passion behind the gym.

Katie W at CityCyle recommended I try out a new gym called FINA Seattle. You know, I can't say no to a recommendation so, after a month of trying to make it there, I finally time to hit up an early Monday morning class. I signed up for a 6:30 AM Total Body Conditioning. It sounded perfect.

I got there around 6:15 AM and I will say, parking is tough. Leave some time to find a spot. FINA is located on Dexter so parking right on the street was tough. There is a pay lot about a block and a half north of the gym but I was able to find a spot on a side street about a block away. 

When you get close to the space, you can feel the energy and the music before you see the gym itself. The doors were open so I walked right in. The gym is one open space with all the equipment in the front and a kitchen against the back wall. The restroom and cubbies are located in the back of the room behind the kitchen. The first thing I noticed was the simplicity of the gym. There are no mirrors, no cardio equipment, no fancy audio system. Just you, the equipment and a passionate instructor.

Tristan, one of the owners, taught the class. When you meet him, you instantly know that he is an athlete. He is built like an athlete and his eyes have an intensity behind them that only comes with being an athlete. Tristan is from Mexico City and started training to be a boxer when he was 12. He has such a passion for fitness and conditioning. Spend 10 minutes with him and you'll realize that FINA is built on sweat, dedication and a passion for working hard.

Tristan mentioned in his intro that he believed in the personal connection and really getting to know his clients. I have a true appreciation for this given I am the same way. And I was lucky enough to experience this as there was just one other person in the class with me. He happened to be a long time Tristan client who followed Tristan from another gym. We all know that speaks volumes about Tristan as a person and as a fitness instructor. 

The class was set up with 7 stations. We would spend 30 seconds at each station, do a 45 second round of cardio and then take a break. We would do this four times. Sounded pretty straight forward... or so I thought. The stations were the perfect mix of cardio and strength. We rotated through lat raises, chest presses, TRX pull ups, ropes, ski jumps and side squat jumps over a box with a kettlebell. He then had us do 45 seconds of burpees. The first two rounds were doable. Rounds 3 and 4 were BRUTAL. And I mean BRUTAL. To a point where, for the first time ever, I wondered if I would be able to complete the workout. Fortunately, Tristan has a gift. He would sense when I was starting to fade. Whether it be in my energy level or my form and in that moment, he would come over and say in his calm, encouraging voice, "Move those ropes faster." or "Move your shoulders away from your ears." Small changes, small notes that made such an impact. 

When the class was over, I was grateful that Katie W recommended the gym. So grateful. FINA Seattle represents so much about what I love about working out. The space is so simple, but so effective and really represents that it's not about the bells and whistles, it's not about fancy gimmicks, you literally only need 'a chip and a chair' to play. Or as Tristan so eloquently put it, "All I need is for you to bring the right attitude. I can train from there."

If you try ONE gym this year, try FINA Seattle. In fact, go to their Launch event this Saturday!!!

Launch event: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/fina-seattle-gran-opening-tickets-35922595450

Workout Scale:

Cardio: 4/5

Core: 3/5

Legs: 3/5

Arms: 4/5