VIDA Specialty Squad: Raffi Umanzor
By Mekita Rivas, VIDA editor and member
VIDA is home to dozens of the District’s best personal trainers. But did you know that many of our trainers also have specialized certifications and expertise? Each month, we’ll be introducing you to one of these superstars in our brand new blog series: The VIDA Specialty Squad!
Meet May’s squad member: Raffi Umanzor! Raffi is a personal trainer and group fitness instructor at VIDA Fitness U Street who’s well-known for his intense indoor cycle classes. In fact, Raffi’s classes are so popular that they’re always full — people even arrive up to an hour early to snag a seat! Raffi’s upbeat personality and nonstop energy make him the perfect trainer and instructor to get you out of any funk or rut. We caught up with Raffi to chat about his own fitness journey and what he loves most about working at VIDA.
Tell me about your fitness journey up to this point. Did you do sports when you were younger or in college?
Oooh girl, sports? I wish! I think sports like cheerleading, gymnastics, and basketball can help build athleticism and motor skills that come in handy later in life. Sadly, I wasn’t the MVP growing up. I actually struggled with obesity throughout my early years. It wasn’t until I was 17 years old that I began to lose weight and take working out seriously. Like many, the gym and I had a tumultuous on-again/off-again relationship in the beginning. Back in the day, I was an “elliptical sis” too. It wasn’t until I utilized programs like group fitness classes and bootcamps that I began to see results.
How did you know that you wanted to be a personal trainer?
When I saw how fine I looked after my weight loss — just kidding! To be honest, I lost 90 lbs. That’s a whole second grader! But I’m a big girl at heart, so there are days when a bag of Doritos looks much nicer than a SandBell. My history with weight loss and the gym is the reason I train. It allows me to relate to my clients. A healthy relationship with fitness does wonders for someone’s self-esteem and worth. And for people like me, it serves a purpose.
What do you enjoy most about working at VIDA?
I call it kiki-ing with my clients. I have the best clients a trainer could ask for. Personalities, everyone single one of them. They inspire me to do more and to do better. VIDA does a great job of allowing communities to grow and blossom, and over my time training that’s what I’ve seen in myself and in my clients. I think there’s a healthy level of competition in our group classes, and I believe that’s enough to ignites someone’s fire.
How would you describe your personal training style?
That’s up to the client. I take the “personal” part very seriously. I go into every session asking my clients what they need and how they feel, and then I evaluate what they need. As for me as a trainer, honey, I give you VERSATILITY. I can whip you up a fierce circuit that will leave you gagging for more. I can take you to the weight room and give you a little “Flex Friday” moment. Feeling tight? Let me show you the importance of foam rolling while we talk about all things social justice, love, and dating. That’s definitely my style.
What would you say to someone who’s on the fence about working with a personal trainer?
Personal training acts almost like workout school. Unless someone grew up in a gym setting, it’s hard for them to build their body awareness. To have longevity in fitness, you need to know how to engage and contract your muscles. A lot of people plateau because they don’t know the importance in rep tempo, engagement, or stretching. I try to suggest to everyone that they utilize the free VIDAFit that comes with their gym sign-up.
Rumor has it that your indoor cycle classes are wildly popular. Why do you think that is?
Gracias! I would say it’s because of my energy and the thought I put into my music. I’ve been doing this for eight years now, so I’ve had to continuously challenge myself to stay inspired. I come up with theme rides, play with sounds and genres, and try to cater to a diverse demographic. I even give you choreo on days I’m feeling extra saucy. I love to perform and make people smile.
Is there anything else you’d like to add that I haven’t asked?
I just want to give a huge shout-out to the stellar fitness team at VIDA. I’ve learned so much from my fellow trainers Kevin, Bill, Diana, Regina, and Eric. I also have to give major props to the three leading ladies in management Shanika Kynard, Christine Kontra, and Colleen Palomaa for their insight and support. And, duh, my parents for just being great parents!