Exercise enthusiast draws from Latin background to provide lifestyle change

Latin Americans are known for their rhythm, their passion and their food. Seven years ago, when Rosario Armenta-Gardiner immigrated to Calgary from Mexico, she combined all three with her love for exercise to shape not only bodies, but also a community of like-minded, passionate individuals.

She created what is known as Integral Fitness – a system providing a series of exercise classes targeted at busy mothers and professional women who are looking to fit a high-cardio, full-body workout in their daily routine. The classes include Armenta-Gardiner’s own spin on Zumba and an exercise boot camp.

And along with offering group sessions in various locations around Calgary, Armenta-Gardiner has incorporated her knowledge and expertise in nutrition along with her familiarity with toning exercises to design a completely personalized lifestyle change that is different for everyone.

She calls it the “four-week challenge.”

“I know by my experience as a trainer that, as general rule, it takes about three weeks – 21 days – to build a new habit and change bad habits,” Armenta-Gardiner says. “So I have designed my four-week challenge to create a new habit in people’s lifestyles.”

Rosario Armenta-Gardiner challenges all her clients to present the best in themselves.

Photo courtesy: Integral FitnessIn order to break bad habits, the clients need to acknowledge them, says Arementa-Gardiner. She sits individually with clients and identifies with them on a personal level. The client divulges personal dietary and physical habits — specifically the naughty ones — to begin a physical, nutritional and mental shift.

“We take into account any habits that are not so healthy, like drinking or maybe they aren’t sleeping too well,” she says. “During our consultation we create new habits and make improvements on existing habits that aren’t working out too well.”

Armenta-Gardiner adapts Mexican dishes to make them healthier without effectively making them as un-appetizing as Styrofoam.

“Some traditional Mexican dishes can be fattening,” she says. “I have found a passion in tweaking and modifying recipes to make them healthier and help the dishes fit people’s lifestyles, and still keeping the flavours but reducing the amount of calories that a normal dish would have.”

Client’s challenges are uniquely tailored to their schedule and target goals. Leticia Jones, from Mexico as well, began her four-week challenge last May. Her personal situation called for a unique lifestyle plan.

“I have known Rosario for over seven years and I have followed all her accomplishments along her career as a fitness trainer, so I was sure she would be the perfect person to help me,” Jones says in an email. “I have three kids – a seven-year-old boy and five year-old twin girls. As a mom I didn’t have much time to go out to the gym.”

“I needed something oriented to my needs, my time and lifestyle – but especially something to be able to do from home,” Jones says.

She noticed the difference quickly, but more importantly other people noticed a physical change as well.

Jones says: “My shape looked different and I had high spirits. I felt happier and optimistic about things.”

Krista Hender is a mother of two who participates often in sports such as volleyball and softball. After having her second child, she struggled with finding time and desire to work out and was unhappy with the weight she had gained during her second pregnancy.

Leticia Jones (right) has been training with Armenta-Gardiner.

Photo courtesy of: Integral FitnessBefore taking the four-week challenge, Hender attended boot camp sessions with Armenta-Gardiner and aimed for higher fitness goals.

“I knew what I was capable of before I had children so I asked Rosario if she could work one-on-one with me,” Hender says in an email. “I have always been an athlete and I have high expectations of myself when it comes to fitness.

“Throughout the four-week challenge, the change that appealed the most to me was my shift mentally to appreciate every step of the process,” Hender says. “I concentrated on what I was accomplishing rather than being unhappy with myself because I’m not where I want to be yet.”

After completing Armenta-Gardiner’s challenge, the two ladies found it was easier to continue with the healthy lifestyle the challenge taught, but the challenge should merely be a gateway to better living.

“The four-week challenge is a great way to start but it has to be a lifestyle change and there is no reason to stop at just four weeks,” Armenta-Gardiner says.

“It is just the beginning. People see amazing results but to live a healthy lifestyle you have to make healthy choices.”

gbarraza@cjournal.ca