Story Von Holzhausen is just as formidable as her name. A dancer and tomboy growing up, Von Holzhausen has translated her always-active lifestyle into a successful career as a sought-after trainer and teacher in NYC. Her firm, knowledgeable tone, razor-sharp eye for corrections and upbeat personality have kept her spinning in the Big Apple for many years.
One of Equinox’s most popular instructors, Von Holzhausen helps clients through glute uber-challenge Best Butt Ever, as well as through her own technique, Liquid Strength, which strengthens the body through correct posture—and barefoot connection with the floor. Founded after Von Holzhausen gave birth, in the wake of post-9-11 trauma and dealing with sciatic nerve issues, the class uses active isolated stretch as a main component. SVH also uses her long-time experience (from Mad Dogg to Schwinn) in spinning to pack her cycling classes. Read on to hear about this wise fitness expert’s well-founded do’s and don’ts.
SBS: What are you currently teaching?
Story Von Holzhausen: I teach The Pursuit, an electric specialized spinning game at Equinox, cycling and Best Butt Ever. For BBE, I’m coming up with a new class concept based on fast twitch versus slow twitch. The science behind slow lifting doesn’t translate well to group classes simply because it’s so slow. So I sprinkle in fast, explosive work, too. Best Butt Ever is my test lab for that.
I also train with Liquid Strength. Many of my clients are people with injuries, neck issues and beyond, or older clients with muscular-skeletal issues out of alignment that need to be fixed. They want to look good, yes, but getting in shape comes after getting rid of the pain. So, my personal training is very specialized, while my classes are for more regular clientele.
SBS: What is the mission of Liquid Strength?
SVH: When I had twins, I was constantly picking them up—along with the groceries and more. But we don’t train like we move. We train in a linear way. When you do bicep curls, you’re just standing there. But we don’t do that in real life. So, when I made Liquid Strength, I incorporated active isolated stretch and varied movements in different spinal positions.
Also, we often don’t train our muscles holding really good posture. We build muscle in really crappy posture. So it became important to me to make the class barefoot, so you can really feel the floor; feel that the heels are what attach you to your glutes. If you’re in the balls of your feet, it’s your knees working and moving.
And, I wanted it to be therapeutic. I created it in the wake of 9-11, so I wanted it to be physically challenging, but also emotionally soothing. So I made sure the mind-body connection with scientific basis was prime.
SBS: What’s your style of teaching?
SVH: Right now in fitness, there’s a big fad of sort of moving tires and counting how many you do. Everything has become about screaming and moving quickly, and many people don’t teach anymore.
On the other end, I’m definitely a teacher first. Often, I’ll stand and watch, and everyone is doing everything wrong. They’re not corrected. I feel what’s lacking is teaching people where to be in their body and how to feel in their body.
I can have 70 people in my class, and I’m looking at everyone. I’m going to call out and teach form the entire time. A class should be group personal training. It’s a lot more work to go around and teach and correct. But once you get it right, I can see that you get it and there’s that ‘oh my god!’ moment. It makes a huge difference. Fitness is physics. It takes so much to spatially understand it. But most people move on habit, so I like to teach people how to be aware of where their bodies are in space.
I’m 50, and if you don’t take care of your posture and your form, as you get older, you can’t work out as much. If you overuse joints, moving in that false fashion every day, it’s a problem. But if you diversify and train well, you can cut down on overuse injuries. You’ll be stronger and mobile longer.
SBS: What fitness trends should die?
SVH: I wish burpees would die! They’re structurally hard for a lot of people, and often it’s too fast to do them well.
I also don’t like music that has a super fast beat. People who are tall or short have different lever lengths, so moving on an eight-count is different for those different heights. We need better design to handle that, not cookie cutter fitness.
SBS: What should people look for in a personal trainer?
SVH: First off, look for certifications. But also, you can tell a lot when you look at someone. It’s not necessarily based on if they’re lean or not. What about their posture and how they hold themselves and move? A young trainer might be incredibly fit, but not have the other signs.
Ask them questions about their thoughts and philosophy. If they don’t have any and aren’t creative, that’s a problem. Also, if they need a ton of equipment, find someone else. They should be able to specialize things for each client creatively.
SBS: How does nutrition play into your health picture?
SVH: I believe a lot of issues come from lack of nutrients, and that happens even if you’re getting fake nutrients. You have to be aware that we have a lot of food enriched with cheap nutrients. And that creates issues: half the population cannot process folic acid, for example. In trying to process it, then, many can’t take in any folate. This has a ripple effect.
So, I try to think about eating every different color and naturally occurring food. I believe in alternate-day fasting, so you’re not eating out of habit.
A lot of women have a lot of food they’re told they can’t have, and that creates negative emotional attachment. But if you learn to cook and love food again, you will want to eat good, nourishing, healthy food.
Story’s NYC Faves:
Healthy Restaurant: Pomodoro Rosso
Splurge Restaurant: L’Artusi or Bobo
Fitness: TRX or cycling at Equinox
Nightlife Spot: Macao Trading Co.
Cocktail Spot: Red Rooster or Cookshop (brunch Bloody Mary!)
Calming Activity: Walking around parts of the city I don’t know well
Fun Activity: Bowling, shuffleboard, pool, ping-pong or an old-school arcade
Athletic Shoes: For running, Mizuna; for fitness, Adidas; for every day, Born
Resources: Harvard Health Letter
Books: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
Story’s Sticky Be Mantra: Be mindful. For me, being mindful is being all of the other things. It’s being present and acting for the greater good instead of reacting from an insecure or defensive place.
The Zaniest Part of Being Story: The zaniest part of being me is being 50. I love being older and feeling truly better with every year!