Healthy Habits Heroes: Elizabeth and Clay Burwell

Elizabeth and Clay Burwell, owners of High Performance Gym, share their tips for making strength training a regular part of your healthy routine.

Healthy Habits Heroes

Photo: Christopher Shane

Next time you're at the gym, take a look at the people using the weight equipment. Unless you're in a body-builder shrine, you'll see plenty of folks who look more like you and less like an action-hero wannabe. The new crop of iron aficionados aren't just keeping their triceps toned: They know that strength training increases bone mass and helps anyone maintain a healthy weight. And there is no perfect workout. Making muscle-boosting part of your routine—aim for twice a week—just takes finding a style that suits you, whether it's resistance bands or barbells. Soon, regular sessions will help you feel and look stronger and healthier.

Clay and Elizabeth Burwell were both attracted to bars of varying sorts from an early age. His were the ones with weights attached: "My stepfather was a fitness fanatic," Clay says. "I remember doing sit-ups with a 25-pound weight on my chest on a decline bench in our living room while watching Saturday morning cartoons." As a member of the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division, he took responsibility for overseeing his fellow soldiers' physical training exercises.

Elizabeth preferred the bars—barres, actually—found in mirrored dance studios. Years of ballet, jazz, and modern dance lessons led to a move to Manhattan, where she danced professionally. Barbells led to wedding bells after she and Clay met while working as personal trainers in the same New York City gym. The two opened High Performance Gym in Manhattan in 2007 and relocated to Greenville, South Carolina, late last year. Together they've trained all types, from celebs to housewives. They point out that the rewards of working out—feeling young, avoiding injury—go beyond the aesthetic.

Think pumping iron isn't for you? "My advice is to stick with it for six to eight weeks, and then you'll understand the motivation to keep going," says Elizabeth. "If you stick with it that long and work hard, you'll feel so good that you're not going to want to stop."


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