How the ‘Best Motivator in Town’ Keeps Workouts Fun

Photo courtesy of Emily Fahey

Photo courtesy of Emily Fahey

Emily Fahey is a woman of many talents. When she’s not leading a group fitness class, training private clients, or running her 80s-theme bootcamp, Fit Club Tropicana, Fahey is both an AIDS Lifecycle Coach and an occasional Amy Winehouse impersonator. (Now there’s a combination you don’t see every day.)

Fahey got her start in the fitness world as an athlete, and transitioned into coaching in London in 2017 while waiting on a US visa. After returning to the US, she launched Fit Club Tropicana, a high-energy, results-driven workout with an emphasis on fun. (Participants, known as “instigators,” are given neon headbands and wristbands, encouraged to wear costumes, and rewarded with prizes.) While this Brit will be heading back to jolly ol’ England come spring, she’s leading off her stateside farewell tour with a look into how she motivates herself and her clients to smash their wellness goals.

Rockyt: What do you teach?

Emily: Since 2015, I have worked as a Cycle Rep on AIDS/LifeCycle, a 545 mile bike ride from SF to LA. I look after 420 cyclists and help them to train, fundraise, and prepare for the event. I teach some introduction to biking skills for beginners. I [also] teach Indoor Cycling, Strength Circuit classes and TRX at 17th Street Athletic Club, where I am also a personal trainer. I have a group exercise class called Fit Club Tropicana, (an indoor and outdoor bootcamp workout in Dolores and at Mission Dance Studio), and I am a private personal trainer working from my home gym. Lastly, I run a 28-day fitness program called “Get Sliced in 4 Weeks;” this combines workouts, daily inspirational emails, meet plans, an online workout, and community events to connect our Instigators.

Rockyt: How do you prepare for the classes you teach?

Emily: I prepare for the classes by looking at a four-week progression session. I also look at who has booked into the classes and the (attendance) numbers and plan activities accordingly. I will look for inspiration online for new ideas, particularly for my group classes at Fit Club, where the emphasis is on making fitness fun. My class is well-planned; there are clear instructions, set times, rest periods, and a list of equipment. With the cycling classes, I will plan what we want to focus on and plan the session around one main activity, [like] Tabata, ladders, etc.

Finally, music! Music is very important to me. My cycle classes are watts and power based but I use the beat of the music to drive the activity or the drop in the song to cue the harder work. I am a power-based instructor who also uses rhythm.

Rockyt: How do you cross train?

Emily: My routine consists of two indoor cycling and strength classes, one personal training session a week, and loads of foam rolling and stretching.

Rockyt: What are your favorite studios for cross-training?

Emily: 17th Street Athletic Club, Yu Balance and I really like Ascend Body on Valencia.

Fit Club Tropicana Instigators in Dolores Park. Photo courtesy of Emily Fahey

Fit Club Tropicana Instigators in Dolores Park. Photo courtesy of Emily Fahey

Rockyt: Are you training toward a particular fitness goal right now?

Emily: Having done so many cycle events, 70.3 Irons, etc, I have decided not work towards a large event, but focus on strength and lifting. I would like to improve my max squat.

Rockyt: What's your training regimen?

Emily: Two squat days a week, one with a trainer and one at home. Lots of glute activation and rolling. I am very quad dominant with tight hips due to years of biking; I am working on those imbalances all the time!

Rockyt: Do you take rest days?

Emily: I rest on Saturday and take a very leisurely bike ride. I enjoy getting errands done, having a nice IPA, and exploring my neighborhood.

Rockyt: As an instructor, what are you known for?

Emily: I am known for being the best motivator in town. A priority is to keep my workouts varied and fun, but focused on really hard work. Folks say the time goes incredibly quickly and they achieve more than they thought possible. A signature piece for me is “Abracadabra Abs,” an ab workout to the 80s track Abracadabra. We’ll do four ab exercises back to back, rest, and go again.

Rockyt: Tell us about Fit Club Tropicana.

Emily: We teach people who hate the gym to love their workouts. The 50-minute to one-hour workout will begin with a warm up of 1980s-style aerobics, followed by a group or partner challenge, then HIIT circuits. The workout ends with a five-minute ABS and resistance band strength training. The music is mostly 80s, and is extremely uplifting. We are a body positive and inclusive community; everyone is welcomed and made to feel welcome, regardless of their level of fitness. We think all bodies are great bodies!

Rockyt: Why did you start Fit Club Tropicana?

Photo courtesy of Emily Fahey

Photo courtesy of Emily Fahey

Emily: On AIDS/LifeCycle I was asked to lead the stretching, so I dressed as Jane Fonda and did a dynamic stretching routine using 1980s aerobics and music. Everyone loved it and it led to the idea of a fun, 1980s-style workout! Great fitness starts with the support of an equally strong community. I wanted to find people that don’t love group workouts or feel intimidated walking into a gym or fitness class and teach them to love their workouts. People in society are becoming more isolated and there is less time for human connection. (e.g. online workouts, food order, online packages). I wanted to provide opportunities for folks to really connect with exercise.

Rockyt: What should new folks wear to FCT? Are costumes required?

Emily: Everyone is offered a neon headband or wristband. We encourage free expression at all our classes. Wear whatever you are comfortable in and get ready to sweat. Don’t have colorful workout clothes? Fear not, Come as you are and borrow something from our enchanted costume box of dreams!

Rockyt: What distinguishes FCT from the other bootcamps in town?

Emily: You’ll get the same excellent workout but we’ll add fun, endorphins, and a wildly supportive community. You could also win the Golden Pineapple award which is handed each week to the most hard working Instigator. That winner then hands it off the next week.

Wanna check out Emily’s classes? You better hustle! Sign up here for Fit Club Tropicana or Run Club Tropicana, or here for her classes at 17th Street Athletic Club. (17th Street first timers can get a free week at this link.) For personal training, complete the questionnaire here.