Gym Class: A Workout For the Brain and Body

Welcome to Gym Class Hero, our series featuring the most motivating workout classes offered in Chicago.

With Memorial Day weekend over and done, it feels like summer’s already here. I’m in a beach bum state of mind. Of course, that does no good if my beach bum isn’t ready for the world (or the ‘gram). Swimsuit season is ominously looming over my head like a dreaded final exam. It’s time to cram. Eating healthy is one thing but I need something more. Join me over the next few weeks to work off all the sins accumulated from winter to last weekend (no judgement) with new workout routines to invigorate both body and mind.

Headstrong at Equinox: Booty and Brains

Headstrong at Equinox

Headstrong is a new conditioning class offered by Equinox, created by locals Michael Gervais and Kai Karlstrom. The goal is to push the limits of willpower while using movements that come naturally for us all.

“Strong bodies make strong brains, and strong brains make strong bodies.” – Equinox

Just as a runner works to condition her legs, we must also work to build mental strength, says Headstrong’s creators. Use the brain to train the body and vice versa.

Headstrong at Equinox: The Journey

The class is broken down into four parts: Focus, Adapt, Willpower, and Reboot. Each part holds its own soundscape and even lighting prompts (excluding the Gold Coast location).

FOCUS: We begin by fixing our perception on what we deem to be most valuable. I think of my faith and my family. For the next 60-minutes, whenever I want to quit, these are the thoughts I should recall. We sit on the floor and rock from side to side, starting with just the torso and then the entire body, eventually coming to a standing position. I feel old odd, clumsy.

ADAPT: Playful movements are introduced. We hobble around like three legged spiders until the instructor yells out a prompt. Then, we walk backwards on all fours like spandex clad crabs.  It’s silly but fun, and a silent comradery forms in the room. It’s us crabs against the world.

Headstrong at Equinox

WILLPOWER: Ah, yes. This looks familiar. Planks, lunges, and burpees? Oh my! Although I’m used to complaining and floundering my way through a grueling set, I’m learning to shift some of that resistance to my mind — that is, fortifying my willpower. I’m engaging my brain, remembering what’s valuable, and forcing my body to succumb to the superpower of my massive intellect. It works, kind of. I collapse to the ground before the end of our countdown, and way before anyone else does, but I’ve done better than my usual. #GoldStar.

REBOOT: My favorite part of any workout routine, the cooldown. We return to the first movement, the rocking from side to side. It no longer feels clumsy. I no longer feel odd. Instead, I feel more in tune with myself. As If I’ve re-introduced my muscles to my brain and they’re getting along now better than ever.


Michael Gervais brings his extensive background in mindful movement including yoga, Pilates, Feldenkrais Method, and Alexander Technique.  He is an Equinox Group Fitness Manager in LA where he teaches movement as well as meditation.  He is also a proud T4 client and always thrilled to approach new challenges with the sweetness of a beginner’s mind.


Kai Karlstrom is the T4 manager at Chicago Loop.  He has worked for Equinox for 8 years and is also the T4 national educator for energy systems practical application.  He holds a BS in exercise science from Eastern Illinois University.  As an endurance athlete he has competed in everything from 800M to 1/2 Ironman.  He has represented Team USA at multiple ITU world championships, finishing 41st at London in 2013.

Visit Equinox for more information.