Joco Diversions

Sling your weight around (and lose it)

Updated: 2014-01-07T22:30:36Z

By MARIA MARTIN

Special to The Star

If that New Year’s resolution to get in shape is looking as likely as a world leader’s promise to bring peace to the Middle East, take heart.

Darby Brender has a message for you: It doesn’t really take long to make a big impact.

The idea behind Fusion Fitness, with locations in Leawood and Overland Park, is to make the most out of an hour.

“If you can get to a class a few times a week, we’re going to get you in shape,” she says. “We know you’re busy, so we get in the cardio and the major muscle workout.”

After the success of the Overland Park location, which opened in May of 2008, Brender opened a second location in Mission Farms a few years later. She’s recently added spin classes to a lengthy list of fitness classes, which range from a boot camp for those hoping to lose more than 20 pounds, to barre sessions, to programs that mix movements like plyometrics with Tabata and yoga.

Her goal to be a fitness instructor started well before she went to college, Brender says.

“I always wanted to be a fitness instructor, but I didn’t think my parents would think that was cool after I got my degree in business.”

After the birth of her daughter, however, she found a way to combine business acumen with her true passion.

At a recent class in Leawood, music is blaring and instructor Katie Moreland is weaving through a crowd of around 20 hard-working women. It’s one of about 70 classes that are offered at the Leawood and Overland Park locations every week.

“Lift those legs, and hold,” she yells. “Really hold. Nice job, guys.”

Annie Tumlin, who works the desk and does public relations for Fusion, explains that most classes can be divided into tennis shoe classes, which focus on cardio, and non-tennis shoe classes, which focus on toning.

“It’s empowering to work here,” Tumlin says. “There are people who come in and need to lose 100 pounds, and others are just determined to stay in shape. They’re all inspiring.”

Emily Cowden is taking a break from the workout, which is fine with the class leader. Breaks are way for those just starting out to avoid injury, though Cowden is clearly no beginner. She’s been working out at Fusion for five years, and says she’s drawn both by the physical rush from the workout and the sense of camaraderie from those around the room.

“There isn’t a class where I don’t have a social connection,” says Cowden, who works and has three children. “I’m proof that if you love a workout, you will find the time to fit it in.”

Shawna Wright, one of the 20-plus instructors at Fusion, works the “boot camp” classes.

Wright started as one of Brender’s clients, losing 57 pounds as part of a fitness challenge. Today, she helps others who struggle to lose weight and regain their health.

“So many people come in with a number in their head of how many pounds they want to lose,” Wright says. “What they don’t realize is how much more they will gain than lose. Seeing people start to become their best selves is amazing.”

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