Interview with Nourish NW
A Holistic Approach to Fitness and Food
Among many things Portlanders care about, personal fitness might be close to the top of the list, given the ubiquity of fitness centers and yoga studios in the city. But simply doing yoga, working out in a gym, or even minding your food intake is not enough to stay healthy. “It is about adapting 2000 a lifestyle,” says Olivia Martino, one of the two dieticians at Nourish NW. “Its not just eating healthy, and its not just working out.”
Nourish Northwest is a new nutrition and fitness studio in SE Portland that promises to help clients adapt a healthy lifestyle by combining fitness training and nutrition with community building and social relationships. Nourish offers fitness classes, boot camps, TRX, yoga, nutrition counseling, and cooking classes in small groups or individualized settings where people can socialize.
Paula Jahn and Martino, two dieticians who met while working together Seattle, came up with the idea for Nourish a little over a year ago. “We used to work together at a cancer research center in Seattle,” says Martino, “and we always talked about doing our own business one day.” But eventually Martino would leave the Northwest to go work at the Pediatric Obesity Center in Louisville, KY while Jahn continued to work in the Seattle area. But in the past year Martino decided to migrate back to the city she loved, Portland, so the two friends started plotting to make the business idea a reality.
Although both had intensive training and experience in food and nutritional counseling, business planning was new to them. Over the next nine months, the duo got in touch with friends who had recently opened new businesses, getting ideas from people like Brewvana’s Ashley Rose Salvitti (an old friend of Martino’s). Eventually this planning materialized into Nourish NW, which opened just a month ago.
Combining their personal and professional experiences, Jahn and Martino have a different take on fitness training and nutrition counseling. Unlike most fitness centers in the city Nourish offers group classes in a smaller setting without having to deal with membership. “We used to go to 24 hour fitness in Seattle and we hated it,” Jahn recalls. “It had three levels, and tons of people. We liked to go to classes but we didn't want to be among this crowd of people at a gym.” Martino had a better experience attending a personal fitness studio while she was in Kentucky. The small group setting there struck her as the ideal way to conduct fitness training or any kind of classes.
The team’s original plan was to have yoga, fitness counseling, and cooking classes, but later they decided to focus less on yoga and have more fitness-based classes. Tabalates, Zumba, TRX, Pilates are among the fitness classes offered in Nourish. Tabalates is a new kind of exercise the Nourish team came up with. It is fusion of Tabata and Pilates. Martino explains, “Tabata is kind of a boot camp style class that's only 35 minutes long with 20 second intense intervals training, And we fuse the Pilates with it to make it an hour class, so its more like a cool down.”
TRX is another fitness exercise that is quite rare in Portland. Martino had tried TRX while she was in Kentucky. She was impressed with the way it allowed her to work out without impacting on the ground. “You are hanging from the straps,” she describes. “You’re using your own body weight and getting such a good workout. It’s a lot of fun.” She thought of bringing that to Portland, and is glad that locals seem to really like it. Among the yoga classes, Nourish has Vinayasa flow and a class called the edge, which is a more intense version of Vinyasa flow. The classes focus more on rigor than relaxation.
Martino is careful to emphasize that the fitness classes are not designed to be separate from nutrition and cooking sessions. “We want the same clientele to be upstairs and downstairs,” she says. Currently, Nourish offers nutritional classes, workshops, and cooking classes one day a week. These are mostly interactive sessions and not the kind of sit-and-watch cooking classes. The team hopes to broaden the program to include more group-based nutrition counseling and one-on-one sessions. Clients can redevelop packages with the trainers according to their need, preferences, and schedule. "We offer both individual and group sessions," says Jahn. "If someone really is inspired in a group setting, they can come to the cooking classes or the group fitness. But some people don't prefer the group setting, so they can choose to have it really personalized too. It is all about finding the lifestyle that fits you.”
Trained as dietitians, Jahn and Martino are not following the path that dietitians normally do. Martino explains, “Being a dietitian, you can be in a hospital, and never talk to patients. You could never talk about food and be a dietician. That seems so funny to me.” Her experience working in Kentucky was “very eye opening,” and played an important role in her decision to help people through nutrition counseling. “The obesity problem there is huge,” she recalls, “I was shocked and sad. There were kids three, four, and five years old who had diabetes, hypertension, and were on long lists of medications.” She enjoyed teaching the kids about basic nutrition, but she also happy to be back in Portland where everybody is interested in eating healthy. In Kentucky, she witnessed a big gap between economically well-off people who were generally healthy and people from low-income bracket with a range of health problems.
Money is an important factor in people’s decision-making process. The Nourish team is aware that a lot of people can't afford to pay $50 for a drop in. “We don't want to make it exclusive up here,” says Jahn, “So we are hoping to have a once a week drop-in community class, where it is donation-based. We want to increase access for people.” At Nourish, one can get a 10-class pass for $120, and the class pass works for anything from yoga to TRX, which makes TRX much cheaper than it normally is. “It’s kind of in between the cost of a gym, which might be cheaper, and a personal trainer, which would be a lot more expensive,” Jahn explains.
For both Martino and Jahn, cooking is a major part of their involvement in Nourish. Martino gained her confidence in cooking while she was in Kentucky working as a personal chef for a family. Jahn learned her skills in her graduate school where cooking was combi 2000 ned into dietitian’s training. Now they are glad to share their knowledge through a range of classes offered through June. They plan to base most of their cooking classes seasonally, getting their supplies mostly from farmer’s markets when they can.
The biggest challenge that the Nourish team faces is being more involved with the community, which is the next step they have to take. “We are a 'nutrition fitness community',” says Martino. “These are the three words that describe us and the 'community' part is hard right now because we are here all the time. We need to get accustomed to an area where so much is going on with food. It's not all about just getting clients, but helping out and volunteering.” Jahn sees the possibility of partnering with some local health stores or restaurants, or giving talks in schools and working with kids.
Since its opening, Nourish has had 26 classes over the first two weeks. Jahn and Martino both feel enthusiastic about the turnout so far. “People seem to love the space,” Jahn says, “They are enjoying the classes. People really liked the cooking classes we did. We just have to be patient.” The idea of community building also seems to be already at work, as she observes, “I feel like when people are waiting for a class to start, they are sitting here, talking to each other, really starting to create that community we want to nurture. It’s so great that it’s already starting to happen.”
The Nourish NW team are planning for the grandopeningparty this Saturday from 6-9 pm. There will be a bluegrass band, fitness demonstrations, a Zumba dance party, and lots of healthy and delicious food. You can sign up classes at NourishNorthwest.com or drop in at its location at 4418 SE Hawthorne Blvd.