Get Fit

Going Full Tilt at VP Fitness

Personal training done right at downtown's new VP Fitness.


Like many avid runners, I don’t do enough to cross-train, particularly when it comes to strength. When the weather is this beautiful I want to get outdoors and run, not stay inside and lift. As a result, my speed and stamina are fine, but my strength and stability leave a little something to be desired.

I mention this because it took VP Fitness Master Trainer Joe DePena all of about 30 seconds to recognize it when I walked into his gym. He took one look at me, instructed me to do one rep of one balance exercise and immediately knew what my problems are: my strength and stability are lacking, my balance is off and my right side is stronger than my left side to the point that it is visible in my pushups (more on those later). The hour that followed was a high energy, high impact series of rapid-fire strength training designed to fortify my imbalanced runner’s frame.

VP Fitness is a new presence downtown, taking over the space vacated by the former Boston Sports Club. The completely remodeled space is designed to accommodate every aspect of your workout from cardio and weights straight through to nutrition and sports massage. I got the full boat on my visit, doing a one-hour personal training session, followed by a freshly made protein shake that carried me right into a post-workout shower and one-hour massage. Tough gig, I know.

Joe has the unceasing intensity you expect in a personal trainer – spouting off all the usual stuff about never quitting and referring to himself in the third person – but unlike many he actually has a sense of fun and humor. At one point, he asked me the seemingly innocuous question, “What’s your favorite animal?” I answered wolf and quickly found myself with a band lashed around my waist and tethered to Joe on the other end. “All right, you’re a hungry wolf and that’s your food on the other side of the gym. Whatever you do, you’ve got to get over there before it gets away.” This led to a couple of minutes of me scrambling frantically to reach the other side while Joe held me back and aggressively threw me off course. I hate to think what would have happened if I had responded mastodon.

Simple pushups proved to be my undoing, however. Sure, anybody can do a pushup, but it takes a lot more focus and coordination than I realized to do a pushup correctly. With the imbalance of strength between my left and right sides, proper form was difficult to maintain, and we wound up revisiting pushups several times throughout the hour.
After my training session, it was over to the café area for my “Post-Workout Protein” shake, designed to make up for “what Joe just did to you,” the girl at the front desk said. It contained coconut water, coconut butter, pineapple, protein and “branched-chain amino acids,” which are apparently a thing my body wants after it has been shocked into submission for an hour.

The one-hour massage that followed more than made up for the pain of the workout. Masseuse Nicole Zuleta worked first on my arms, then moved on to my legs. I know that I don’t do nearly enough stretching after my runs, but I never truly realized the extent to which that’s true until Nicole went to work. I could actually feel her stretching out areas of muscle, reinforcing just how wrong I am in my undisciplined approach to post-run care. Of course, that was nothing compared to when she moved on to my shoulders. As someone who spends a large amount of time stooped over a computer, I shouldn’t have been surprised by her audible gasp when she went to work on that area. “You sound like you just discovered something about me,” I joked. “You apparently store a lot of tension in your shoulders,” she responded. “You might want to schedule a follow-up to just work on this.” Given how well I slept that night after Joe and Nicole went to work on me, maybe I will.

VP Fitness
10 Dorrance Street