Just beyond the hills of the rich and famous lies Simi Valley, a “mom and pop community” that is home to one of the original Cardio Barre franchises outside of Los Angeles.

The studio opened in April 2008 and will have its eight-year anniversary in just a few short months. Franchise owner and instructor Melissa Collins spoke with us about the studio environment she’s worked so hard to create and the tactics she’s developed to help everyone who walks through the door get the results they want.

At the End of a Long Hallway…

cardio barre simi valley

The Simi Valley studio requires attendees walk through a long hallway. At the end of that hallway is a bright, open lobby and smiling staff at the front desk, but getting from one end to the other “can be a little intimidating,” Collins says.

The hallway, although intimidating, can be seen as a metaphor for one’s journey to wellness, with Cardio Barre being the light at the end of the dark tunnel. Collins reinforces this notion by requiring smiling faces as staff greet brave patrons entering the studio.

Down the hallway, through double glass doors, attendees see a buzzing front desk, a free childcare room to the right, and a window full of colorful sticky notes to the left. These notes get pinned to the window of Collins’ office each year and come from the studio’s “gratitude jar,” into which patrons and staff can toss grateful mentions and warm thoughts throughout the year.

It’s acts like this that create the environment that helped Simi Valley find its bearing as the flagship studio of a young and still-developing program, an environment Collins is very proud of curating.

“Everybody knows everybody’s name,” says Collins. This is partially due to the check-in system at the front desk that instructors sit at before every class. “It makes it a very personal environment,” Collins explains, which is why knowing each client’s name is a priority at the Simi Valley studio.

“Our Business is a Results Business”

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Collins knows that Cardio Barre is here to help you reach your goals, which is why she puts a huge emphasis on technique.

“Quality of form is key in our studio,” she says, “not necessarily how many reps you do.”

This pairs nicely with Collins’ well-rounded approach to fitness. Her experience as a health coach has taught her that the nutritional and emotional elements of wellness have to be mixed with exercise to get the results you want.

“Our approach [at Cardio Barre] is more well-rounded than just going to a studio or a gym and working out, and then having a bunch of products you can buy,” Collins says. She likes to connect with clients personally and answer their questions about all aspects of health before and after class.

“As a woman, this business is deeply personal for me,” remarks Collins. “I know the struggles and the challenges of women and getting older.”

Collins notes that the Simi Valley studio might not be what you expect from a Southern California workout environment. “It’s not a place where people’s bodies are their business,” Collins says.

Instead, Simi Valley is often populated with married and single moms who enjoy the “family environment” that Collins has fostered by encouraging her kids to come to the studio, maintaining a free childcare program, and fostering a Cheers-like atmosphere where everybody knows your name.

“Defying Gravity”

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The poster above the entrance to the studio reads “Defying Gravity.” For Collins, this simple statement holds many meanings.

“As you get older, gravity is not your friend,” Collins laughs. “We lift up everything, and lift people’s spirits, too.”

As it is for many, Cardio Barre for Collins is more than just a workout. It’s the opportunity to find one’s self and grow emotionally and mentally while getting in shape.

“[At Cardio Barre] we get to fly and be free for an hour, do something that makes us feel good physically and mentally. It’s just a great place to be.”

Collins and the other Simi Valley instructors foster this environment by putting a lot of emphasis on personal growth and motivation.

At their studio, instructors give struggling clients a little extra help during class and touch base afterwards, patrons become advocates for new attendees who may feel intimidated during their first few classes, and a series of motivational mantras regularly fill Simi Valley’s space.

“We’re not striving for perfect, we’re striving for progress.”

“Why are you here; what is your goal?”

“Do the work that will equal what you want your results to be.”

These are a few of the purpose-driven statements that shape the Simi Valley studio. By focusing on consistency, form, and purpose, Simi Valley is truly able to help clients defy gravity. And that weightlessness, physically and mentally, makes the long, dark tunnels in life feel like a walk in the park.