Though marine biology seems a far stretch from fitness, Marisella Villano traversed the expanse quickly to her—and her clients’—benefit. She started out with a degree in the former, but when the field jobs in Long Island were scarce, she switched her focus to aging, and soon thereafter, an opportunity at a local gym led to her cycling certificate. She had finally found her niche, and a personal training certificate, among others, quickly followed. Steadily on her path, she opened Marvilfit in 2014, a cycling-centric studio in Hampton Bays that also utilizes Villano’s knowledge of biomechanics, science and full-body workouts. SBS dishes with this Sicily-born, Astoria-bred cycling sage to learn more.
SBS: When you switched over to fitness, what was appealing about the field?
Marisella Villano: I’m addicted to the empowering feeling you get from working out. It’s so life changing. And, everyone has different needs when you train them. So it’s neat to see how people grow physically, mentally and emotionally through fitness. It’s not just about looking good.
SBS: How did you create the Marvilfit approach?
MV: I knew I wanted to do spinning, and I didn’t want to do weights or push-ups, etc., on the bike. That’s actually inefficient. When you are riding a bike, your upper body and core are holding your body up, and you’re basically in an isometric contraction from the time you start riding until you stop. When you add that gentle connection to the bike with sufficient resistance, the muscles actually work harder. As we add pace and more resistance, the core becomes the powerhouse for the ride and the arms are stabilizing. There really is no need for all that other stuff. Your most efficient workouts come from simplicity.
Then, I created classes to give people the best of both worlds through a total body experience. I still offer straight 45 spin classes. But people really like the total body aspect, too.
SBS: What is unique about Marvilfit in the cycling landscape?
MV: To start, we focus on offering excellent hospitality. We have a seasonal community, so we have our NYC people and summer residents and we remember them all: We know what bikes they like and where they like to sit, for example. We make sure our full-service studio feels like home.
Next, our classes are science based. We offer a read of your vitals on the bike, because I thought it was important to give feedback to our clients. So, I show them how to use their heart rate monitors, and we also have performance metrics. We have a simulated cycling experience and in that experience, we have LED lights to enhance the ride and create an energetic push.
SBS: What are the different classes offered?
MV: We start with a Basic Ride. Then we have a class of 30 minutes on the bike followed by 15 minutes off the bike for upper body and core work. Next we have a Ride and Build class of 30 min on the bike and 25 minutes of total body exercises, or Core class, which is 30 minutes riding and 25 minutes of core work, a riff on barre class. It’s athletic, with a focus on high reps and light weights.
SBS: What are your tips for new cyclists?
MV: During the first two weeks, just focus on learning how to feel comfortable on the bike. Once you’re comfortable, it’s amazing how you will be inspired to work harder. Don’t worry about the wattage or RPM to start.
SBS: What’s correct form on the bike?
MV: First, make sure you’re not rocking from side to side. When you’re sitting on the bike and your feet are at three and nine o’clock, the knee of the leg with the foot at three should not go over the center of the pedal. It should be right in the center or just behind it. Also, your leg should always have a slight bend. A full extension only happens right before the bottom of the pedal stroke.
Then, with my newbies, I try to keep their handlebars high, and that keeps them from leaning forward. Leaning forward into the saddle is too much for the core when it’s not developed yet. As it gets stronger, you can gradually get lower. But to start, the handlebar is just at the seat or higher.
SBS: What are common mistakes?
MV: You should always have resistance. We suggest everyone has a connection to the bike, just like if you’re riding outside. If you were outside and you didn’t have a good gear on a flat road, if you pedaled quickly, your bike basically wouldn’t move. So work as you would in that situation.
And, remember, feeling sore the next day after a workout doesn't mean you necessarily had a good work out. Often times it just means you have done something your body is unaccustomed to. I have had great results with clients who have had minimal soreness and great form. Some studies have shown that when people use and understand muscle awareness techniques, they build muscle at a faster rate than people who just go through the exercise motions and use momentum.
Form is everything in all workouts. I focus on quality of reps versus quantity in my mat classes, for example. Without the proper form, you’ll never be able to work the proper muscles efficiently or develop proper range of motion, which is essential for joint health and helps you avoid the risk of injury over time.
SBS: What advice would you give to a prospective studio owner?
MV: Know your stuff. Before I opened my studio, I studied the gyms in my area, took all the classes and assessed the field. Be knowledgeable, and come in being the best in the area. That will set you apart.
Common Cycling Terms to Know:
RPM: Revolution per minute
Wattage: The amount of work you put into your ride, or the energy exerted over time
Power: Resistance and speed combined
Acceleration: Increased speed
Surge: Adding more energy into your pedal stroke
Sprint: An all-out effort for 15 to 30 seconds
Marisella’s SBS Mantra: My favorite Sticky Be Socks are the blue "Be Great" options. I think we have an opportunity to bring our best self forward every day, whether it's doing good for others, being good to yourself or reaching for your goals. I always like to tell my members that they don't have to be perfect. They just need to strive to be better than they were yesterday.