Tag Archives: Personal Training

Excel Fitness Zumba for Haiti

Excel Fitness trainer, Ilicia Balaban and client Dena Shaffer, have teamed up with Congregation Beth Israel and One Small House to travel to Haiti this July, with 10 other West Hartford residents to build a house for a family of three that has been stranded and living as refugees in a tent since the 2010 earthquake that devastated Port au Prince. 

 The build took seven days and required that the team raise $8,000 to cover the cost of materials that were used to forge the modest home. Team members worked tirelessly to raise money for the home, sending letters to friends and family, participating in networking drives, and reaching out to contacts that span a wide variety of interests and activities.

 Tuesday, June 25th, 2013, Excel Fitness joined in the effort by hosting a specialty Zumba class, taught by instructor Kate Barrett, and we are proud to report it was a huge success. The class was well attended and raised over $430 for the build. One hundred percent of the funds collected for the class will be donated to materials for the build.

Excel Fitness has a long standing history of community involvement, contributing to a variety of charity and non-profit organizations in the greater Hartford area and supporting our members and clients in their pro-bono endeavors. Excel Fitness owner, Jeff Roux remarked, “It is very important to me and to all of our staff that we continue to participate in the causes that are important to our members. It’s our way of giving back to a community that has given so much to us. We are thrilled to support Dena and Ilicia in their travels to Haiti and to have been a part of such an inspiring event.”

Upon their return, Ilicia and Dena could not speak more highly of their experience working with the family they were building for and giving back to a community so desperately in need. “This experience has absolutely changed my life,” remarks Balaban, “I can’t wait for my next opportunity to travel either back to Haiti or elsewhere and contribute to a similar project!” The extent of the family’s gratitude was truly inspiring. Shaffer adds, “[This work is] transformative, and not just for the people who live here but for each of us as well.  We will take these experiences home with us, we will change the way we relate to the international community and to issues of poverty.  Their stories are our stories, our fate is tied up with theirs, and CBI and One Small House have launched a partnership that is simply overflowing with potential.”

On behalf of all the participants in this trip, we would like to take a moment and thank all of those who donated to funding the materials for the build. We would not have been able to contribute so enormously to a family’s survival and skill development without your support!

For more information on the opportunities available and services offered at Excel Fitness, and/or to schedule a complementary consultation, please call Ilicia Balaban (860) 523-8167.


Health Benefits of Herbs and Spices!

Did you know that some herbs and spices have more disease-fighting antioxidants than most fruits and vegetables?


Can lower blood sugar, triglycerides, LDL, and total cholesterol in people with type 2 diabetes. Try for one-fourth to one-half teaspoon of cinnamon twice a day.


Contains curcumin, which can inhibit the growth of cancer cells. Try to have 500 to 800 milligrams a day.


Stops gene mutations that could lead to cancer and may help prevent damage to the blood vessels that raise heart attack risk.


Destroys cancer cells and may disrupt the metabolism of tumor cells. One or two cloves weekly provide cancer-protective benefits.


Contains capsaicin, whose anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects may lower the risk of cancer. There’s no specific recommended dose, but moderation is probably the best way to go.


Can decrease motion sickness and nausea; may also relieve pain and swelling associated with arthritis. Doses used from 500 to 2,000 mg of powdered ginger.


A study found that, gram for gram, oregano has the highest antioxidant activity of 27 fresh culinary herbs.

Adding more herbs and spices to your diet can help reduce the risks of certain diseases.

For more information on how increasing your daily intake of certain foods can change how you approach health and fitness, as well as jump start weight loss and muscle development, schedule an appointment with one of Excel Fitness’ Certified Personal Trainer today. Call (860) 523-8167 or email info@excelfitnessct.com

By Chris Caruso, C.P.T.


Hartford Young Professional Entrepreneurs (HYPE) organization is a great way for young professionals to meet and network with other local professionals in similar and complimentary professions. Check out the following video, featuring Excel Fitness owner and trainer, Jeff Roux, on his experience and success working within the HYPE network.

2013 Entrepreneurship Awards

Excel Fitness is an intimate gym and personal training studio located in West Hartford, CT. We offer personal training, small group training, gym memberships, CPR/AED certification courses, and massage therapy. Call today (860) 523-8167 for a one-on-one, risk-free, complimentary consultation with one of our certified personal trainers!!!

Excel Fitness’ “Our Biggest Loser 2013” Participants Lose Over 100 lbs in Just Two Months

The 26 men and woman who enrolled in the Excel Fitness “Our Biggest Loser 2013” competition have put in countless hours logging their meals, adhering to a plan for healthy eating, and sweating tirelessly to shed weight and body fat with the hopes of winning this year’s grand prize: $325 CASH!!!

The competition, which ran from January 18, 2013-March 15, 2013, “has had a huge impact on client’s ability to set and stick with otherwise tricky New Year’s goals to lose weight, get active, and feel great,” says Excel Fitness trainer Ilicia Balaban. Long time Excel Fitness member and personal training client, Mary Flynn explained, “I joined the [Our] Biggest Loser contest to get re-motivated in my weight loss efforts.”

Upon entry, participants scheduled a brief meeting with one of the Excel Fitness certified personal trainers to record initial weight and body fat. Participants were encouraged to take advantage of special training offers like a free 60-min personal training session with the purchase of four or more OR 10 percent off small group training classes. Many participants took advantage of the special offers, augmenting their oft-strenuous cardio sessions with uniquely designed weight training, calisthenics, plyo-metrics, kick-boxing, stretching and other effective exercise techniques.

Results were computed following the final weigh-in on March 15th; weight loss and body fat loss were divided by starting weight and body fat to achieve a relative number, making the competition fair for all participants, regardless of how much excess weight the individual was hoping to lose.


1ST Place:Tomas Nenortas: $325 grand prize

3rd and 1st Places Winners Leona Gwaz and Tomas Nenortas show off their hard won prizes!!!

2nd Place: Ryan Friedman: Two, 60-min personal training sessions ($160 value)

3rd Place: Leona Gwaz: Sony MP3 Player ($150 value)


Of the initial 26 enrollees, 14 individuals completed the final weigh-in, and their weight/body fat loss numbers were astonishing. Altogether, Excel Fitness “Our Biggest Loser 2013” contestants lost over 100 lbs and reduced their body fat by an average of 1.4% per person.              Winners Leona Gwaz and Tomas Nenortas show off their prizes

Excel Fitness offers a clean, state-of-the-art, intimate, personal fitness center. Our staff consists of seven nationally certified personal trainers, with a range of specialties, from weight loss and strength building, to injury rehabilitation and sport specific training. Excel Fitness offer personal training, small group classes, regular memberships, CPR/AED certification training, and massage therapy.

Excel Fitness is located at 589 New Park Avenue, West Hartford, CT 06110.  Call to schedule a complimentary initial workout and assessment or go to www.excelfitnessct.com for more information.


What Is The Paleo Diet?

The Paleo diet is the healthiest way to eat because it is the only nutritional approach that works with the individual’s genetics to help promote lean mass, increase strength, and retain energy! Research in several different scientific disciplines, including exercise science indicates that our modern diet, full of processed food


high in gluten, preservatives, trans fats, and sugar, is at the root of degenerative diseases such as obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, depression and infertility. Those who have tried the Paleo diet know that it delivers the best results, including:  improved blood lipids, weight loss, and reduced pain from autoimmunity. The Paleo diet may seem like a dramatic shift (not unlike the shift to the Atkins carb-free diet) but it is not as challenging as some may think. The Paleo diet provides simple solutions to remove the foods that are at odds with our health (grains, legumes, and dairy) and also increase our intake of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Lean proteins

Lean proteins support strong muscles, healthy bones and optimal immune function. Protein also makes you feel satisfied between meals.

Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and nutrients that have been shown to decrease the likelihood of developing a number of degenerative diseases including cancer, diabetes and neurological                                                                                                            decline.

Healthy fats from nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil, fish oil and grass-fed meat

Scientific and epidemiological studies show that diets rich in Monounsaturated and Omega-3 fats dramatically reduce the instances of obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and cognitive decline.

For more information on how the trainers at Excel Fitness can assist you with your health and weight loss goals please call today (860) 523-8167 to schedule a complimentary consultation!

By Chris Caruso, C.P.T.

The Truth About Core Training

Your “core” in comprised of abdominal muscles (rectus abdominus, and obliques) and the muscles of your lower back. When these muscles contract appropriately, they alert your spine that weight is about to be lifted, requiring proper bracing to maintain alignment and safe, effective movement. Training the core muscles is a crucial component to any strength training or exercise routine, however, like all other muscle groups, your core should be treated with care as well.

While it is safer to work your core more often than other groups, intense abdominal routines should not be performed on concurrent days. Before you lift any weight, check in with your body and ask, “What would my body like from me today?” If your abs or lower back are already talking to you from exercise done earlier in the week, lay off for the day and give them proper time to recover.

If you’re feeling strong and ready to go, try the following move to kick start your core routine:

Plank Tap-out: Begin in a low plank position on your forearms and toes. Begin to tap your feet in right, right, left, left (or whatever pattern feels good to you) for 30-45 seconds. Focus on keeping your ribs moving towards your pelvis and you lower back vertebrae lifting up to maintain space in your spinal column.

For more information on the benefits of core training or to learn some new moves to incorporate into your existing routine, call Excel Fitness at (860) 523-8167 or stop by today and schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our trainers!

Your Workout Saves Lives (and Not Just Your Own…)

New Year’s resolution season is behind us. For many people that means the fitness resolutions we were so committed to at the beginning of the year are beginning to fall by the wayside as life gets more hectic and time-management priorities favor the responsibilities that keep us stressed rather than make us healthy.

Excel Fitness is teaming up with St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital this February to help motivate our clients while simultaneously raising money for juvenile cancer research. Our goal is to raise $1,000 for the organization, with 100% of proceeds going to St. Jude’s. Whatever your fitness goals are, pick one, and ask your friends/family/co-workers/etc. to sponsor your goal with a dollar amount per measurable accomplishment. For example, my goal is to attend 3 power yoga classes for the week; my friends have agreed to donate $10/yoga class attended. Your goal can be anything you’re trying to accomplish and could use some extra support and motivation with. Other examples include: number of miles walked, time spent on the treadmill or other cardio equipment, number of times at the gym, or even amount of weight lifted. The possibilities are endless, and should reflect a personal goal in addition to the goal of raising money for a good cause!

The Workout for St. Jude Pledge-a-Thon will be held Monday, February 11th-Sunday, February 17th. Participants can pick up a sponsor pledge form at Excel Fitness. There is no obligation to be an Excel Fitness member or use Excel Fitness as the location for your fitness activity. For more information contact Ilicia at (860) 523-8167 or visit: https://www.stjude.org/stjude/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=83716f9523e70110VgnVCM1000001e0215acRCRD

By Ilicia Balaban, C.P.T

Vitamin Z

Welcome to that special time of year, best characterized by the sniffling, sneezing, coughing, sore throat, body ache…FLU SEASON (among other illnesses)!!!!! Year after year we hear: “This is the worst flu season ever!” Ads from various drug stores and doctor’s offices urge the young and old to get their flu shot; while the shelves are routinely overstocked and repeatedly barren where the OTC analgesics reside.  There are many GOOD ways of protecting yourself from other people’s illness and amping up your immune system to handle any wayward germs that may make it past your best efforts:

To name a few:

  • Drink lots of water (64+ ounces/day)
  • Wash your hands every hour or more in hot water with anti-bacterial soap
  • Avoid sharing food, beverages, or other items that could be infected
  • At the gym, wipe down equipment before and after each use
  • Increase intake of vitamins A and C

This week I had my own bout with a particularly harsh stomach virus that left my so dehydrated after 10 hours that I ended up in the Emergency Room receiving 2 liters of IV fluids to replace what I had lost. I was told in the ER that I would probably feel sick for 4-5 days but after 48 hours, if a-symptomatic, I could return to work without fear of contaminating anyone else’s space.

I proceeded to doze in and out for the next 36-of-48 hours, which brings me to my point:


I promise, you can take all the Airborne, EmergenC, Multi-Vitamins, etc. you want to keep your immune system strong, but at the end of the day, SLEEP is the single best thing to boost your immune system and keep your body strong enough to fight off the crap Mother Nature continues to send our way!

If you do get sick: in addition to increased sleep, think protein and veggies! The same stuff that keeps you slim will keep most viruses and colds away. These “bugs” live on sugar (all carbs, especially wheat turn to sugar in your mouth). The more you can stay away from the “comfort foods” and stick to lean meats and veggies the quicker you will be back on your feet!

For more information on keeping yourself and loved ones healthy this Winter please speak with any of our Excel Fitness certified personal trainers (860) 523-8167.

By Ilicia Balaban, C.P.T.

Are You on a Healthy Diet?

Millions of people in the United States are considered to be overweight, and many of those who are overweight are actually obese. Carrying excess weight often leads to a whole list of health problems, including: heart disease, kidney disease, and diabetes among others. Weight loss isn’t easy, and for many of us it’s a battle just to maintain a healthy weight, let alone lose the extra weight that’s making us sick and keeping us unhealthy.

Finding the right diet for you can be a challenge on to itself. Conflicting messages in the media tend to lead us in many different directions, making it hard to know what information to trust or which diet plan will be most successful for our unique body. I mean every day you hear about some new fad diet, which is guaranteed to lose weight fast. Okay, some of these diets do that, but they are extremely low calorie diets, and as soon as you go off the diet and eat regular foods again, you will see the weight you lost come right back. The best way to lose weight and keep it off, is to follow a healthy diet that has all of the nutrients we need to stay healthy, and make sure that you are eating enough so that you do not feel hungry. Make sure that when you are on a diet, that you allow yourself the occasional treat. This will help to keep you from binging, which often happens to those who are on extremely low calorie weight loss diets.

For more information on proper nutrition for weight loss or exercise, schedule a complimentary consultation with one of our Excel Fitness certified personal trainers today!!! Stop by the gym, call (860) 523-8167 or email info@excelfitnessct.com.

By Chris Caruso, CPT

Facility Upgrades Happening at Excel Fitness

The team of trainers at Excel Fitness has always been committed to providing the highest standard of service to all of our clients and members. In the past month, Excel Fitness has undergone some cosmetic changes to match our excellent service with performance equipment and special features!

While Hurricane Sandy dampened our spirits, Excel Fitness owner, Jeff Roux was hard at work brightening the gym with a beautiful new paint job and working with trainer, Chris Caruso to replace a portion of the carpet with brand new rubber gym flooring. New light fixtures have been installed in both the men’s and women’s bathrooms, enhancing our member’s pre and post-workout experience.

Most notably, we have NEW EQUIPMENT! We recently purchased a brand new, state-of-the-art Cross Trainer that utilizes a stride sequence, which engages the gluteus and hamstring muscles without requiring users to change directions. All of our cardio equipment is now outfitted with cardio theater units, enabling users to tune into television programs while working out. Stop by today to check out our new appearance and find out how the team at Excel Fitness will revolutionize your exercise experience!