When Carlos Leon and Menna Olvera met in the 90s at a Crunch gym in Los Angeles, working out meant lifting heavy weights in an effort to get big, visible muscles — and for them, maybe a Runyon Canyon hike or two.
“People were more interested in looking fit than being fit. People were like, ‘Let’s have big muscles and good abs, but we still can’t run a mile,'” Leon says. At the time, it was based on more aesthetics, as opposed to what I’m doing now, it’s more mobility, movement, moving your body, feeling better about yourself.”
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Olvera was from California while Leon, a New Yorker, was in Los Angeles for his daughter Lourdes Leon, with whom he shares Madonna. They quickly became friends and fitness has always been at the center of their relationship. It was Leon who took Olvera to his first yoga class, a Kundalini class where they couldn’t stop laughing as they did the heavy breathing that this style of yoga demands.
“We were like two schoolgirls in the back,” Leon says.
The couple are far from laughing at the yogi’s breathing these days. Together they opened Oleon House, a boutique workout studio in Manhattan’s Chelsea that wants clients to not only look good but also feel good, by combining personal training with mindfulness and yoga. In the few months since it opened, Oleon has become the go-to spot for many fashion insiders (and yes, Lola also trains there with her dad).
After that first yoga class, Olvera became more and more interested in The well-being and health over time; Fast forward to 2007 when Leon introduced Olvera to Donna Karan’s Urban Zen Institute, where she began working with Rodney Yee doing programming.
Leon, meanwhile, has been a coach for decades, but five years ago suffered a health problem when he was diagnosed with prostatitis. This caused him to change the way he viewed his approach to health and he called on Olvera for help.
“That’s when I really had to do all my training. I mean, my whole lifestyle had to change. I had to learn to relax,” says Leon. “I was fit, I could run, I could do everything I could do. And I looked great, but at the same time my body was shutting down.
Olvera helped him find a meditation practice and a more restorative side to his workouts, which led them to their current joint approach.
“As I got older, I started to realize that there was more to big muscles and lean abs than being strong inside and mentally,” says Leon.
Joint training increases heart rate with a more traditional circuit training session, followed immediately by the second half of the workout with Olvera, which focuses on relaxing the nervous system through yoga, restorative poses and meditative movements. .
“The whole evolution of training has been crazy for both of us, you know?” said Leon. “It also goes with time – people get smarter.”
Olvera says he noticed a change during the pandemic: Suddenly, the workouts New Yorkers were used to, the bootcamps and people’s favorite go-go-go trainings, weren’t leaving them satisfied anymore.
“I think a person’s total being has been really tested during the pandemic. You needed endurance, but not just physical endurance, you needed spiritual endurance, you needed emotional endurance. You had to be able to be strong for your family, if you were a mother or a father, at the same time earn a living and make sure your children were educated,” she says. “So I think the pandemic has really brought to light, ‘oh, it’s not just physical endurance, it’s the whole of who we are.'”
At Oleon House, someone can come for personal training (Carlos side) or just yoga (Menna side), but their signature workout is the hybrid: 30 minutes with each.
“Somebody walks in and we both meet him, we want to know what his goals are, we want to know where he’s been, we want to know what he’s done in the past, what his approach to fitness was like. in the past, if they even had one, maybe they didn’t,” Olvera says. “And then we also start teaching them if they don’t have any meditation or yoga practice , we really want to make it accessible. From there, Carlos will give them a different workout [each session] then I adjust the post-restore recovery based on what it does with you. So we kind of work in tandem and it’s not something set in stone. It must be quite fluid because day by day, when you enter, your body is different.
They also offer an intensive six-week program for clients who want to go deeper into their health, where Leon and Olvera do health and nutrition coaching alongside exercise.
Both feel their approach is something new in the business.
“I have been in the business for 30 years now. I haven’t seen anything to really use a physical element and bring a restorative element to it,” Leon says. “I think people are going to relate to it. People who really want to take their fitness and wellness to the next level. I think it’s something new and people are going to be more hip, you know, for lack of a better word.
“I also have the feeling that the landscape of the The well-being industry; self-care is such an important topic,” says Olvera. “So in 60 minutes you get your fitness training and self-care opportunity all in one session.”
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