Michele Messina’s innovative, female-focused RAW fitness classes are offered weekly at Soul Fitness, and we thought we’d take a few minutes to chat with Michele about RAW and how great it is for our female members.

Q: What is your background as it relates to health/fitness?

A: I am a Behavioral Therapist as well as a coach, trainer, and nutritionist.

Q: What’s the philosophy behind RAW workouts?

A: Simply put, it’s “Healthy body, healthy mind”. Of course, we want to develop each participant’s body for health and strength, but with women there’s also a big area of need for mental wellness. Women deal with a huge amount of issues around body image, so we work on what beauty means in addition to what it means to be strong. Every RAW class is designed to integrate strength and beauty. Every woman wants to look their best, but it’s also about feeling your best.

Q: Why did you start RAW?

A: I’ve been a professional body builder, and in my training and experience, I realized that many women have a hard time feeling okay about lifting heavy weights – they are really afraid of bulking up! Most times, women walk into a gym with the intent to do strength training or circuit work… But they end up just doing 45 min of cardio because the big weights are so intimidating. With RAW, I wanted to create a safe place. So, each class is a full body workout, but the environment feels safer; it segregates in a very positive way. Teaches women that they are capable and powerful enough to walk into any situation with strength and grace.

Q: How are workouts specially tailored to women’s bodies?

A: Every position and movement is designed for anaerobic or aerobic exercise. In my training as a bodybuilder, I realized that a lot of the training and strength-building exercises were designed for the male body. As a result, women who followed the same methods would form more boxy or bulky muscle tissues – not what we want! With RAW, we’ve refocused each and every exercise to be designed for the female form. The movements are based on developing muscle tissue that women want, such as long and lean arm muscles, as well as exercising in a way that compliments a woman’s hormones and timing. We’re working the same muscle tissues as they do in bodybuilding, but in a way that results in long, lean muscles and NOT bulk. If you do things the right way, your body won’t get bulky.

Q: How do you include nutrition and mindfulness training in RAW workouts?

A: Again, that “Healthy Body, Healthy Mind” philosophy! At the beginning of each week, I like to issue a special challenge to each class, and we talk about it together. The idea is, “how are you going to live with purpose this week/month?”. Throughout the week, I’ll give tips and tricks on nutrition during class (such as while we’re warming up and cooling down). We talk about them and create more ideas as a group. This kind of open community around health and fitness also creates an accountability to me and the other participants. RAW is a community that can help you! I don’t believe in just fitness classes, but also that supportive community that keeps you going and helps you stay on track. To further develop the RAW community feeling, we do frequent Happy Hours and volunteering events, which solidify those bonds. I also host a focused nutrition class every 2 months.

Q: Do I need to be at a certain level of fitness before I’m ready for RAW?

A: Nope, RAW has something valuable for anybody. I also adapt the programming and intensity based on people’s needs, such as injuries. We want to build the fundamentals of strength. And remember, “You’re stronger than you think you are!” as I like to say! Anyone can do RAW as long as they are ready to get outside of your comfort zone and try new things.

Q: When is RAW and how do I sign up?

A: Just visit Soul Fitness to get started with RAW! Classes are every day except Sundays and Thursdays:

Monday – 7 a.m., 11 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.
Tuesday – 7 a.m.
Wednesday – 7 a.m., 11 a.m. and 5:30 p.m.
Friday – 7 a.m. and 11 a.m.
Saturday – 9 a.m.