By Michael Murillo

The traditional health club format is so common, everybody knows the game: You pay your money to become a member, get access to rows and rows of machines…and that’s it, unless you want to incur additional charges. This has been the standard method for the last 15-20 years and it still attracts many people seeking to lose weight, improve their health and make important lifestyle changes.

But, according to Mark Lopez, owner and head trainer of Fitness Revolution in New Tampa, there’s just one problem: It doesn’t work.

“The concept of Fitness Revolution revolves around the single sentence, ‘The fitness industry has failed us,’” he says. “The current business model is to herd in as many people as possible to keep the shiny equipment, giving members little or no educational value or personal attention on how to reach their goals.”

As a result, he says, many people still find the health club setting intimidating, and often give up, frustrated by trainers and members who don’t always create a positive workout atmosphere.

But, that’s not the case at Fitness Revolution of New Tampa, and the difference between this nationally franchised fitness system and program and other health clubs is intentional. You never exercise “by yourself.” You work out in a group that often consists of between four and 10 people in order to maintain a group atmosphere that still allows individual monitoring. Lopez says that 12 can be an ideal size for a group and 15 people in a single class would be the maximum.

Fitness Revolution, which was founded by long-time trainers Nick Berry and Pat Rigsby, today has nearly 150 locations in 36 U.S. states.

Although the sessions have something of a “boot camp feel,” each client is placed in a setting they can handle (for example, Lopez will offer lower-impact exercises for those who have back, neck, elbow, knee and other health issues; always consult your physician before beginning any workout regimen) and every workout features varied routines and minimal equipment (resistance bands, dumbbells, etc.) in order to provide the “muscle confusion” needed to optimize your results and avoid plateaus that can impede progress and frustrate you. Group members work out together three times a week (Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, at varying times, with Saturday sessions also available) and support each other in a truly positive setting.

Lopez said that the group setting is a critical part of the program’s success, and builds a community of support that usually stems from a person’s home or work influences and helps even the most fitness-challenged individuals achieve their goals.

“I think the biggest and most overlooked benefit (for most people who work out regularly) is the social support. For the average person, all the odds are against them. They’re sitting all day and going out to eat more,” Lopez explains. “Being part of a community of like-minded, health-conscious individuals means exercise and healthy eating is not only fun, it’s actually the norm.”

That community has worked wonders for New Tampa resident Carol Gravante, 55, who says she has lost about 50 pounds with Lopez’s help (and more than 90 pounds total in her personal weight loss journey, which was hampered by misdiagnosed medical ailments and multiple relapses from a healthy lifestyle).

“I had failed at two other boot camps- — crashed and burned big-time — and I was so afraid to try another similar program,” Gravante says. “Mark was very patient, very encouraging and yes, very, very challenging.”

After almost two years of working through different programs with Lopez, she feels that she has a great deal of support from not just the person leading the class, but from her fellow workout partners as well.

Lopez adds that he also provides support to the community, and his charitable spirit is almost as energetic as one of his workouts.

“I just want to get involved and give back to the community,” he says, and that desire is seen in regular events designed to help others.

On Saturdays mornings, he leads a free workout for those who bring a canned food item for the food drive at Cypress Point Community Church, which is where Lopez uses a 2,000-sq.-ft. space four days a week for Fitness Revolution. He also has run exercise benefits for Autism Speaks, an organization that funds research, advocacy and awareness about autism, and for the New Tampa Players, the popular local community theatre troupe. Lopez plans to continue holding monthly charity workout benefit events to support a variety of different causes.

But, helping his clients also gives Lopez a great deal of satisfaction.

“It’s really an amazing feeling,” he says. “Watching them give it 100-percent during every session, staying accountable to their eating, and listening to their stories week after week, month after month,” he says, adding that simply dropping even a single dress size or getting an unexpected compliment can make a big difference in a person’s attitude. “Those small, little changes day by day — you can see their confidence grow,” he beams.

Fitness Revolution New Tampa is located in Cypress Point Community Church (15820 Morris Bridge Rd.). Through September 15, clients can work out for 30 days for just $99. From that total, Lopez will donate $50 to the school sports program, Little League or other community sports organization of your choice. For additional information about Fitness Revolution, call 843-5294 or visit

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