‘If I didn’t love what I do then I wouldn’t have taken it on while the world literally tipped upside down’.
We spoke to Marianna Franzese- Director and Owner of Curves Hampton, and chatted all things Circuit Training, female-only fitness spaces, the best fitness for weight loss, and non-boring snacks.
You became the franchise owner of Curves Hampton after the first lockdown in September 2020, how did this come about?
My involvement with Curves actually began when I was about 16. I was attending college and started working as a coach at the Hampton Curves, where I would be working out with our clients and motivating them- super hands-on. It was such a positive experience, but I had to step away from it due to starting an International Business degree at the University of Portsmouth- which really emblazoned a passion for business for me.
Then, three years ago, when I’d just left University (and had student debt coming out of my ears!) I was told that the current owner of Curves Hampton (a franchise with a five-year agreement) was selling, and wanted to know if I would take over. I knew I wanted to own my business and make a difference in some way, but with the financial burden of University still hanging over my head, I had to turn it down.
Jump forward to 2020 and I was contacted again and told that Curves Hampton was closing. We were in the throngs of the pandemic and, of course, gyms weren’t exactly thriving, but I just couldn’t have this gym closed down. Four days later I was signing the next five years of my life away.
Did you choose Curves because it was a business venture waiting to be completed, or was your love of fitness more of a deciding factor in choosing a gym?
Fitness has always been a hobby of mine and has always been in my life. It just always made me feel great, so being given the opportunity to pass this feeling along to others while also owning a business was a no-brainer, I had to do it.
Would you say that you do more of the physical coaching or more of the admin side of things?
Right now it’s definitely 50/50, but I’m looking forward to coming off the circuit a bit- the admin role is a full-time job in itself! I really do love both sides, and I probably feel my best when I’m coaching people as it’s such a positive social environment.
”No distress here, just damsels.”
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I can imagine! Especially as Curves is a women-only gym. How important do you feel having women-only spaces is?
Honestly, I think it’s essential. I find during consultations that 9/10 clients haven’t previously dipped their toe into the world of fitness because they don’t feel comfortable in a gym space. Fitness should make you feel good- you shouldn’t have to feel restrictions and worry over what you’re doing or what you’re wearing, or if your actions are being watched and judged. You know when people try to give you patronising advice that you didn’t ask for in the gym? There’s none of that here at Curves. No distress here- just damsels.
What advice then would you give to people- of any gender, who might feel worried about going to the gym?
The number one piece of advice I would give to anyone who doesn’t have much experience with fitness, or is feeling worried about pursuing it, is to do it for yourself. Once you get into that mindset you don’t care if someone’s looking or what they’re thinking. Prioritise your body, mind and health; because no one else can do that for you. It’s not necessarily easy to get there, but once you think about fitness like that, then you can tackle anything.
”If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right!”
What do you think the best fitness for weight loss is?
I would always recommend a 60/40 split- with 40% being cardio and 60% being strength training. The weight you lose through cardio is often quick and may look great, but it’s not sustainable on its own. If you’re going to break down your body fat without compensating with muscle, the thing that will rebuild as soon as you stop the cardio or the diet is fat. As much as cardio is great, we need to be building up muscle to speed up our metabolism as well, so should make sure we’re getting lots of strength training in too. We encourage people not to look at the scales, but instead to look at their body fat percentage.
So Curves is entirely circuit training based, what do you feel is beneficial in keeping to this form of fitness?
You know it works! There’s just no doubt about it. You get a completely even split between upper body, lower body, and core training. You walk in and know you’re going to get a well-thought-out workout led by a coach that keeps it fun and changes it up. At Curves we always say ‘If you are not having fun, you are not doing it right!’, because we always strive to make sure the circuit is fun and new. The hard work and thought are done for you, all you have to do is show up and sweat!
Instead of weights, all of our machines go off of resistance- they have pressure cylinders that contract and become heavier the more strength you put into it. It’s very HIIT based and we want you to go as fast as you can in the time you’re on each machine, but it means the machines are accessible for anyone of all ages who want to give it a go! The ages of our clients range from 17-75 because our machines are adaptable to any fitness level. Where else are you ever going to see a 17 and 75-year-old working out in the same space with the same facilities?
”Quick fixes aren’t sustainable with weight-loss.”
How would you suggest people best track their weight loss progress and fitness levels?
We actually hold monthly check-ups here at curves. We take your weight, your height, your body measurements, and then your body fat percentage and BMI. For those continuing long-term fitness, it is much more beneficial to just track body fat percentage and BMI because we want to make sure they’re getting stronger even if their goal isn’t to lose weight.
If clients are looking to track weight loss progress then they’re more likely to see progress in measurement changes and body fat percentage, though we recommend checking once monthly to show real progress instead of standard body fluctuations. We don’t want people obsessing and feeling bad about their journey.
Take your time with progress! You shouldn’t be after quick fixes because they’re not sustainable. Take your time and enjoy the journey. Try tracking workouts and keeping food diaries if that’s something that appeals to you- keeping track of the things we’re doing and eating daily can help us find positive patterns and what works for us for progress.
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How important do you feel eating well alongside exercise really is?
I’d say it’s 50/50. When clients join my gym, half of their consultation is about fitness whereas the other half is about their nutrition at home. We notice that for people who exercise without changing their diets they’ll quickly hit a weight-loss plateau and it’ll become harder to lose weight. Eating well alongside exercise will speed your metabolism and make weight loss so much easier.
Of course, there’s definitely room for leeway- If you didn’t eat well one week you know maybe you should push it a bit further with fitness, and if you didn’t do much exercise one week then you should compensate by eating a bit better. I always recommend water too- it’s so important for keeping healthy and is the hybrid between fitness and nutrition. If your food isn’t giving you enough hydration and you’re working out and using up more of your body’s hydration, you need to replenish it with water.
What is the nutritional advice that you live by?
Colours! If your plate is colourful then it’s bound to be healthy. Make sure there’s a bit of green, red, white, starch, protein, veg. Keep it vibrant! If your plate of food is just one colour then something is wrong. Each colour brings a vital nutrient and it’s important to get a range of these.
”I’m a massive fan of the Balance Box Cocoa Bliss Bars- they’re like the healthiest bounty I’ve ever eaten!”
What is your favourite non-boring snack?
I am a nervous snacker myself. When I’m stressed I often want to crunch on something, so I need to be able to eat snacks with satisfying consistencies. It’s amazing how often we think we’re craving something like a bag of crisps or some chocolate but we’re actually just craving the satisfying crunch or creaminess.
I’m a sucker for any kind of fruit with peanut butter, carrots and houmous, and I’ll always go back to nuts as they’re delicious and satisfying while keeping me full because of their healthy fats. I’m also a massive fan of the Balance Box cocoa bliss bars too! I love bounty chocolates, so it’s like the healthiest bounty I’ve ever eaten. So delicious and they fill me up too!
Are there any supplements that you take that you would recommend?
I take multivitamins in the morning and can’t recommend them enough. However great your nutrition is, there’s usually always a vitamin there that’s missing- especially when living in England and practically deprived of Vitamin D from sunlight! Supplementation is also really dependent on your diet- if you’re a vegetarian or vegan and find it slightly harder to get enough protein additional supplementation may be beneficial. People often turn to supplements for a quick fix- especially in terms of energy-giving supplements before a workout, but I often believe it’s better to simply eat an energising snack 30 minutes before the workout.
”Exercise is an outlet and a safe place.”
What does fitness mean to you?
Ever since I was introduced to fitness with Curves I’ve never been without it. One way or another I’ve integrated it into my daily life, and if I don’t work out then it’s usually attributed to feeling a bit down that day. Exercise is an outlet for me and a safe place where I can either think long and hard about things I need to sort through mentally, or just completely clear my mind and stop thinking for once.
I really think it’s the main thing that feeds my mental health and keeps me feeling good, helping to divide what’s for me and what’s for work- which any business owner will tell you can be super hard to get a grip of. It’s my ‘selfish time’, but I think everyone needs to be selfish every now and then and take time for themselves.
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Why do you think so many people use fitness as an outlet to benefit their mental health?
The scientific reason is that it releases endorphins which are our feel-good hormones! Whoever you are it’s bound to make you feel good. Workouts tap into that hormone that’s otherwise hard to tap into (unless you’re spending your day watching puppy videos!).
The personal reason is that there’s satisfaction in doing something entirely for yourself. Nobody else can do it for you, and when you complete a great workout the feeling of success and accountability is unmatched. You get to tick it off your list knowing you’ve completed something great for yourself.