Don’t worry, Workout and be Happy!

One of my favorite benefits from living an active lifestyle is the profound positive impact it has on my mental state of being.  Getting my heart rate up, increasing circulation, and supplying excess oxygen to my body and brain all come together in a cocktail of cerebral bliss. My language may be loaded, but it’s the truth!  Exercise has been proven to lower cortisol, as well as increase endorphin levels.  

As a former professional athlete, my body has grown accustomed to constant physical exertion.  So much so, that depriving it from movement severely inhibits my ability to be happy. I play basketball with my buddies, tennis with my wife, and the occasional jog to Community Fitness for a Gina Skene yoga class to round me out.

One of my happiest moments being active was being crowned slam dunk king!

Exercise has become somewhat of a coping mechanism for me as well. Recently, my family in Houston and South Florida were under duress with the recent influx of extreme weather.  Thank goodness everyone is alright, but I used my workout routine to help calm the nerves  from worrying about them.

My point is,  working out can help alleviate the stresses of everyday life.  Whether it be from work, the volatile political climate in the U.S. right now, or the impending gloom of knowing that “winter is coming,” an exercise routine can help us all be happier in the process.

Also, Congratulations to the Tread Lightly Campaign winners, Isabelle and Marie! Thank you guys for doing your part in keeping our community green and I hope you guys take advantage of those complimentary memberships to lead happier lifestyles!

Your Friendly neighborhood Fitness Blogger,

Andrew Avillanoza

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Thanks UWEP for supporting our community and giving us our newest teammate: Morgan!

Here at Community Fitness, we strive to create a positive and diverse work environment. In this way, we hope to serve all of our clients with top grade customer service, coupled with a unique and eclectic team of staff and instructors.

As such, we have welcomed one of our newest colleagues– Morgan– to our team with open arms. Morgan is finishing her Junior year at the Academy for Precision Learning, and is an avid athlete. She runs track and field for Ballard High School and is part of the Special Olympics team here in our community.  Morgan is excited to be developing job skills in the fitness industry, and we at Community Fitness are privileged to aid Morgan in her quest for independence as a young woman with autism.

Morgan was afforded this opportunity at Community Fitness through the guidance of the University of Washington employment program (UWEP), which is national leader in developing and implementing career support services for adults and teens with disabilities. Their goal is to provide employment resources and on-the-job training to members of our community by partnering with local businesses.

Through this program, Morgan volunteers every Monday and Thursday at our Power and Play studios.  Morgan is becoming proficient at taking public transportation from school to the studios with guidance from her UWEP mentor, Audrey. Audrey provides on-the-job training, designs and creates tools to assist Morgan in her duties, and will gradually reduce her presence as Morgan becomes increasingly independent. 

It has been a joy to have Morgan around to help us with our studio’s various needs.  I have personally worked with her several times, and It’s been a pleasant experience all around. She has an infectious smile and is dedicated to getting her work done in a timely manner.

“She is always happy and cheerful, and she brings great energy into the studio,” said Cheri Dracobly our Membership Coordinator.

Morgan is learning new skills, developing routines, and is ready to take on more responsibilities.  But it’s not all work, you can catch Morgan occasionally dancing in the Play studio during her breaks–Morgan loves to be on stage!

We are ecstatic to have Morgan as part of our team, and we hope that more local businesses support the UWEP program.  If you are interested, please check out their website

Your friendly neighborhood fitness blogger,

Andrew Avillanoza

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Fitness: It’s a Matter of Life and Death

Ever since my Aunt Tess passed away a few weeks ago, mortality has been on my mind. Our family has a history of high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and stroke. Aunt Tess’s passing leaves indelible grief in my heart, and is an abrupt reminder of my family’s laundry list of health problems. I’m sharing this story with the hope it could potentially help others overcome their health issues, and perhaps prolong their time with their families.

My Aunt Tess spent her life circumventing something that potentially could have improved her health: fitness. Aunt Tess worked in an office/lab most of her life. She worked hard to support her two children as a single mother and fitness always took a backseat to that.

Bill Campbell has been a resident of Seattle his whole life, he graduated from both Roosevelt high school and the UW.

As she grew older, I know she used her age as an excuse not to exercise, but it is never too late to pick up fitness.  Just look at Community fitness’s own Bill Campbell.

Mr. Campbell sat down with me recently to tell me the story of how he reengaged with fitness in his late sixties. For more than thirty years, Mr. Campbell spent a large portion of his life at a desk job that promoted a sedentary and mentally taxing lifestyle

“I was working on the phone for hours on end every day. I just sat there, and slowly lost a connection with my body,” Bill explained.

The 68 year old believes the lost connection with his body directly contributed to his eventual diagnosis of prostate cancer. He believes the cancer developed because of how unfit he was from years of being stationary.

Mr. Campbell shared that after the cancer diagnosis, he fell into a deep depression. The hormone and radiation treatments took a toll on his already weakened body. To clear his mind, he began walking the surrounding streets of Green Lake, when he stumbled upon Community Fitness.

“What I found was the best workout studio I’ve ever encountered, ever, and I’m dead serious,” exclaimed an enthusiastic Mr. Campbell.

I was manning the front desk last year when Bill came in to take his first class. He took Amanda Boden’s Barre class- which he admitted kicked his butt- and he has been hooked ever since.

According to our records at Community Fitness, Bill had taken 82 barre classes between when he started on October 29th 2016 to March 25th 2017. The reason March 25th is significant is because that was the day that he took his prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test and was officially declared as in remission.

“I honestly believe Barre saved my life. I was able to reconnect with my body and I found my next passion which is modern dance,” Bill explained.

Mr. Campbell is now enrolled in an intensive course in modern dance at The Velocity Dance Center, and is still regularly taking Barre classes at our Flow studio. Furthermore, he is taking Karate lessons and also plays pick-up basketball at Seattle University on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Now that Bill has reconnected with his fitness, he can reflect on how miserable he was during that 34 year period of inactivity.

Rest in peace. Aunt Tess will be remembered for her strong character and her unwavering devotion as a single mother.

“It was the worst time of my life. I just wish I would have found Community Fitness sooner. I wish I would have found Barre sooner. But I am grateful now because without Barre, I don’t think I would be in remission and I might be dead.”

Fitness is more to me than a lifestyle choice. It’s more than a means to losing weight, or getting fit for summer. Aunt Tess had a similar job to Bill in that it kept her at a desk for several hours at a time. I know she never regarded fitness as a priority and it is tragic to me that I never pushed her to be more active.

Fitness helped Bill Campbell break out of his depression and overcome his illness. and I can only dream of what it could have done to help my Aunt in her life.

Your friendly neighborhood fitness blogger,

Andrew Avillanoza

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Meet Your Instructor: Darsenio Hunter

DARSENIO_LULULEMON_0078 1Darsenio Hunter

Darsenio has been an athlete his whole life and still considers himself one today. He grew up in the Tri Cities playing most sports, from football to track and was even the first male on his high school’s co-ed hip hop dance team. Darsenio then went on to college, where he walked on the football team at the University of Idaho and eventually earned a full ride scholarship and helped them win the Humanitarian Bowl in 2009.

What drives Darsenio is the fact that we all have a chance to be the best version of ourselves. With consistent movement and positive lifestyle habits anyone can be their healthiest and happiest versions. He loves to push people outside of their comfort zones while making them feel good at the same time. “It’s a hard job at times coaching another adult on how to move their body, but it is also equally rewarding!”

Darsenio’s main goal in any class is to help people see that that they are that strong, deserving, hardworking version of themselves that they think but don’t always see. “It takes time to develop good and bad habits, and my job, no, my goal, is to re-train as many people as I can so that they can live how they have always envisioned.


When you aren’t at CFit, what do you do?

When I’m not coaching the awesome members at CFit, I can be found coaching classes at Rival Fitness in Seattle, bartending at Local Public Eatery in SLU, growing my online nutrition coaching business, working on my own fitness, hanging out with friends exploring what the PNW has to offer, checking out other instructors amazing classes, and occasionally napping.

How did you discover Bootcamp and what do you love most about it?
I’ve always been involved in fitness because I grew up playing sports all my life. I never knew until I became older that I was working out my mind and body during all of those practices. It wasn’t until college, when I was convinced to become a teacher’s assistant for a Bootcamp instructor, that I truly got my first taste of what an actual group fitness class was.
What’s your favorite way to spend a day or night off?
Hanging out and getting to know the various friends/members that I coach in Seattle. In our busy adult lives, not many people take the time to slow down, get out of their safe bubbles and get to know someone new. I enjoy eliminating that barrier between member and coach. I want us to be friends that make each other better in the class room and then be able to go out and celebrate your successes as true friends.

What is something not many people know about you? 
The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were my childhood heroes that I still adore today.

If you could instantly master any skill/superpower/talent/knowledge, what would it be?
The power of mind control! I would only use it for good, and here’s how: I would eliminate all negative self talk in people’s minds and replace it with the most positive, beautiful, powerful positive self talk they could imagine. We are hardest on ourselves and what I’ve seen, is this negative mindset about one’s abilities in regards to their health and fitness holds a lot of people back. If people started believing that they could at least attempt something, whether it is taking a new fitness class, eating a different way, or trying a harder variation of a move, then I believe people would start to see that change in themselves that a lot are looking for.
What are you most passionate about in life?
The more I’ve studied the topic, the more I’ve found myself to be most passionate about it, and that is, nutrition. Food is more than just a coping tool, it is literally vital to our survival. We take it for granted, abuse it, process it, and are even slowly killing ourselves with it. Nutrition is so powerful that you can reverse a lot of one’s bodily problems by just starting to treat food, and your body for that matter, the same way you’d treat something that is priceless and one of a kind. After all, we only have one body in this lifetime.
Any good movies/books/bands/foods/discoveries lately that you’d recommend?
Season 1 of ‘This is Us”.
What else would you want to share with people about you or your class?
I intend for my classes to be fun, challenging, functional and rewarding. Come to my class and you’ll have a great workout with like-minded people. Come to my class and you’ll be pushed and challenged from one athlete to another. Come to my class and you’ll do moves that you know and also ones you’ve never even heard of before. And finally, come to my class and you’ll leave thanking yourself for showing up and giving it your all!
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Dance your way to better mental health

As a resident of Seattle for only a few months and as someone who has never experienced a prolonged absence of sun, (I’ve lived in Texas, Florida, California and the Philippines) I’ve found that this dreary weather can weigh heavy on the mind.  I don’t know if the feeling can solely be attributed to the cold, or the lack of vitamin D. It is more likely a combination of the two, but never the less, I’ve felt a significant change in my day to day mental state.

calvin hobbes dance

Nothing in the world can snap me out of a rut like a good old fashion dance sesh. Give me some ratchet hip hop and a dance floor and I am a happy camper. My healthy obsession with dancing has led me to research and see if there is any scientific evidence behind this correlation of using rhythmic movement to improve a mental state.

What I found was amazing, and reason enough to share it with you in this blog post. There are studies that have shown that dance can improve social skills, counteract depression, among numerous other benefits that I didn’t initially consider.

Dancing accelerates the body’s ability to produce endorphins, which are commonly referred to as the “happy hormone.” Researchers have also cited that dancing with a partner can significantly increase testosterone production, which promotes muscle growth and improved self confidence.

One study conducted in the University of New England, showed that participants that spent 6 weeks attending dance classes showed significantly lower levels of depression than a control group that took no classes. The dancers’ lack of depression also closely mirrored the results of a third group that were taking meditation classes. The author of the study credited the concentration and mindfulness required in dance as inhibitors of negative thought patterns that contribute to anxiety and depression.

The expressive nature of dance also contributes to its cause. Dance can be a release for pent up emotions and feelings, and may also serve as a first step in dealing with them. “Depressed patients tend to have a curved back, which brings the head down so it’s facing the ground,” says Donna Newman-Bluestein, a dance therapist with the American Dance Therapy Association. “Dancing lifts the body to an open, optimistic posture.”

Music also has a therapeutic quality to it. A Stanford study shows that music engages areas of the brain which are involved with paying attention, making predictions and updating events in our memory. So, as your body is engaged in dance, so is your mind. It is truly a full body workout!

Thank goodness we all have access to Community Fitness and our wonderful dance classes! And be sure to check out Jhon Gonzalez’s cardio urban master class on March 11 to level up your dance skills!

-Andrew Avillanoza


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Jaime Oliver’s Superfood Oat Bars


We all know the feeling, It’s early in the morning and time is short before we have to get out the door and on with our day. It’s tempting to stop by that fast food spot on the way to work or the gym, but that would be counter productive in more ways than one. I recently ran across an amazing recipe for porridge oat bars that will satisfy your morning hunger while also providing meaningful substance to fuel your day!

I recently bought my wife Jaime Oliver’s Superfoods book and it is chalk full of amazing and nutritious recipes. These oat bars were among my favorites of the bunch.


  • 3 1/2 ounces (about a half a cup, I think I may have used a little more than that) of unsalted mixed nuts, such as walnuts, Brazils, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, cashews (I put some almonds in instead of hazelnuts)
  • 1 3/4 ounces (about a quarter cup, but again, probably used a little more) of mixed seeds, such as chia, poppy, sunflower, sesame, flaxseed, and pumpkin
  • 3 1/2 ounces of dried fruit. (I used raisins, cranberries and apricots)
  • 1 tsp ginger
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 orange
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 3/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1 tbsp oat bran (I wanted to keep it gluten free as I used gluten free oats so I used flax meal here)


  1. Preheat over to 375 F.
  2. In a food processor, pulse nuts, seeds, dried fruit and spices, pulse together.  Put into a bowl and set aside.
  3. Into the food processor, put in the banana and orange.  Pulse to a pulp.
  4. Into a measuring cup, put in the banana and orange mixture.  Then add the honey and top up with water to the 2 cups mark.
  5. Pour the mixture into a pot. Heat under boiling.  Add the oats and the nut and seed mixture.
  6. Cook the oats until the the mixture is gooey.
  7. Pour the batter into a baking dish and pat down.  Score the bars as Jamie suggests as it really makes it easier to cut later.
  8. Bake for 40-50 minutes until browned.

I definitely prefer these bars over the store bought fare because there are no processed sugars or preservatives present. These bars also fit easily into my wife and I’s Sunday meal prep routine, and my tummy and heart are all better for it. Thank you Jaime Oliver!

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Meet Your Instructor: Jessica Quande


Jessica Quande

Going by her last name (since 3rd grade!), Quande is a born and raised Washington native. Growing up, she found her love for dance while on the cheer team in high school. Dance Fitness stole her heart after taking her first Zumba class back in 2010. Since getting involved with Dance Fitness, Quande has lost over 120 pounds and found fitness to be a way of life. She has traveled the US teaching Master Classes and enjoys being able to mentor other Dance Fitness Instructors.

Be ready to get your sweat on in Quande’s Dance Fitness class! Her class allows you to experience all types of music and choreographed movement through different styles of dance. She incorporates cardio and toning exercises that will boost your health and wellness journey. She’s known for her “woot woots” and “AYEs” so do not expect a quiet class! She enjoys inspiring and motivating students to reach their fitness goals while encouraging them to believe they can do anything they want to do. Every class is always started on a positive note: “I GOT THIS, YOU GOT THIS, WE GOT THIS”.

When you aren’t at CFit, what do you do?
Follow fitness! I recently left my full time corporate job to engulf myself in the fitness industry.

How did you discover dance fitness and what do you love most about it?
I found my love for dance while on the cheer team in high school. Dance Fitness stole my heart after taking my first Zumba class back in 2010! I love that it allows you to experience all types of music and choreographed movement through different styles of dance.
What’s your favorite way to spend a day or night off?
Usually socializing and hanging out with my friends. My days stay very busy so getting quality time with them and having some fun is a great way to close out the week.

What is something not many people know about you? 
I am a Disneyland fanatic! If I could go every weekend, I would!

If you could instantly master any skill/superpower/talent/knowledge, what would it be?
Speaking another language or singing!!! When I hear others speaking in any other language I am always in awe. I took 3 years of Spanish in high school and unfortunately only remember a couple words. Music is a passion of mine and I wish I had the voice to go along with it!
What are you most passionate about in life?
People. This passion grew overtime. There is no better feeling than helping others.
Any good movies/books/bands/foods/discoveries lately that you’d recommend?
The Chieftain over in Capital Hill! Best Taco Tuesday around!
What else would you want to share with people about you or your class?
I am a loud one! Taking my class for the first time, be ready for all the “woot woots” and “ayyyyes!” I am big on encouragement and motivating those around you. There will be high fives and “good jobs” galore. We start every class on a positive note by using words of affirmation such as, “I got this, you got this, we got this.”


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Meet Your Instructor: Gina Skene

Gina Skene


Gina started practicing yoga after having three kids and wondering what was next for her body. A former ballet and modern dancer, she’d always been body aware. Then, with the intention of reconnecting, she stepped into her first yoga class in 2002 and never looked back. As she began to challenge her body and find her breath, she felt like she had come home and realized that chronic injuries had healed.

Gina teaches with a gentle strength that allows her students to feel safe while moving to new mental and physical edges. She is fascinated by every opportunity to help individualize the practice for each student.

Gina teaches regularly at the Shakti studios in Ballard and Bellevue. She has completed Level 1 and Level 2 teacher trainings with Baron Baptiste, teacher trainings with Lisa Black and Shiva Rea, anatomy intensives with Ellen Heed, and has studied extensively with Troy Lucero. She also learns a lot from the spontaneous inversions that her husband and three teenagers do at home with her frequently!

When you aren’t at CFit, what do you do?
You can find me drinking coffee with my husband, hiking, going to a baseball game with my kids, or hunting for agates somewhere on a NW beach.

How did you discover yoga and what do you love most about it?
I initially decided to try yoga to help with chronic neck issues. I felt better almost immediately and was so intrigued to explore this practice that helped me rediscover physical and mental strength–especially after having three kids! I still love and practice yoga because it reminds me daily to be present, awake, and clear in my life!
What’s your favorite way to spend a day or night off?
I always love to explore the cool neighborhoods of Seattle and try a new restaurant or wander into a little shop. If they have vintage or handmade items, all the better.

What is something not many people know about you? 
Some people may be surprised to know that I get very loud when I watch a Seahawks game, consider this fair warning…

If you could instantly master any skill/superpower/talent/knowledge, what would it be?
I would definitely choose to speak Italian like a native.
What are you most passionate about in life?
Nothing gets me more excited than seeing someone who is living a life that is a true reflection of who they are; whether it’s directing a nonprofit, writing software code, or playing music. I love seeing people truly show up.
Any good movies/books/bands/foods/discoveries lately that you’d recommend?
I recently enjoyed a movie that was released a few years ago: Ex Machina; a thought provoking movie about what it means to be human and our relationship with technology. My favorite relatively new hangout space is the public space at KEXP, it’s so fun to just go sit and hear the music and feel the good vibes there!
What else would you want to share with people about you or your class?
I think it’s always a good reminder that you don’t have to be ‘good’ at yoga or ‘flexible’ to give it a try. The yoga practice isn’t about making your body fit into given shapes or getting anything right. For me, it’s all about building physical and therefore mental awareness from the inside out. It’s so amazing that we can use our bodies as tools to get to know ourselves better!
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