We had the good fortune of connecting with Justine Vandenbrink and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Justine, looking back, what do you think was the most difficult decision you’ve had to make?
It was an incredibly difficult decision to start my own business. I had an established career and was successful in the oil & gas industry. Like many people, my whole identity was wrapped up in my job. I felt like it really defined who I was and deciding to leave that behind was particularly scary. It’s also terrifying to put your life savings into your own business and leave the stability of a steady paycheck. Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart!! Although the road has been anything but easy, I wouldn’t trade it for anything because I’m amazed at all the ways I’ve grown and am still growing even today.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
Around the time I was looking to start FYRE FITNESS, there weren’t many options in Houston for Lagree studios. Lagree was still very much seen as a type of Pilates so there was this false association that the workout was geared toward women. Having done the workout for years, I knew that wasn’t the case. I wanted to create a studio and a space where men also felt welcome and where we could remove that association with Pilates and it being a “girl’s workout”. The reality is that Lagree is for everyone – young, old, male, female, non-binary. The workout benefits all ages and genders. One of the things I love the most about our studio is the diversity of our clientele. We have clients that range in age from 20 years old all the way to 65+. The fact that these men and women can all work out in a class together by modifying or intensifying exercises for their strength level is amazing to me. One thing we also really honed in on with our brand is that Lagree is an incredible workout for athletes. Traditional weightlifting and athletic conditioning focuses a lot on fast-twitch muscle fibers and on making the muscles larger. That’s all good, but injury prevention is even more crucial for any athlete who wants to obtain longevity in their sport. Athletes are now beginning to talk more about the importance of variable resistance training and muscle pliability with the likes of NFL great Tom Brady leading the charge. Our tagline is “Ignite the Athlete Within” and when we say that we refer to all types of athletes, professional and non, current and former. Because in reality we all have an inner athlete. Our bodies are capable of so much more than we realize.
One thing that really sets our studio apart from other Lagree studios is our LIIT classes. High intensity interval training (aka HIIT) has so many benefits and is extremely efficient so we wanted to incorporate HIIT-style training with Lagree Megaformer. Traditional HIIT combines strength training with short high-intensity cardio intervals, but typically these cardio intervals tend to be high impact like running. Since Lagree really focuses on low-impact strength training, we wanted to keep our cardio low impact as well. That led us to the VersaClimber – a full-body vertical climber that engages all major muscle groups while keeping the spine in alignment. We created LIIT (Lagree Intensity Interval Training) classes to combine short high-intensity intervals on the Versa with targeted strength training on the Megaformer. That VersaClimber is no joke and it has your heart rate elevated in seconds. The combination with Lagree is so effective and most importantly efficient because most folks today don’t have time to do two separate workouts to ensure they get their strength and cardio. Pioneering the LIIT class format is definitely something I’m really proud of.
Despite what a lot of people may think, entrepreneurship is NOT easy. And anyone who thinks they want to be one so they can have more free time is sorely mistaken haha. While entrepreneurship can be extremely difficult, it can also be extremely rewarding – it just takes a lot of hard work and commitment. I’ve faced my fair share of challenges and I’m only now just getting to the point in my development where I can embrace those challenges instead of freaking out about them. I’ve done a lot of introspection recently on how I handle difficult situations and I’m learning to look for the lessons and silver linings instead of wallowing in the “why did this happen?!” phase. I’ve learned that if you want to be successful, you have to keep moving forward. There’s no time to feel sorry for yourself when things don’t go according to plan and you have to take decisive action and trust your gut. I get a lot of great sayings and tidbits from books I read and I try to share those pearls of wisdom with our community via Instagram posts. I think we all struggle with similar issues regardless of where we are in life so it’s nice to get those words of encouragement or little kicks in the ass 🙂
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Oh man! So many things!! In Houston we have some amazing food, so the list of restaurants is endless. I am half Korean so I love all kinds of Asian food. Top spots include: Le Colonial (the entire menu is delicious), Izakaya Wa (their sushi is unreal and I love that it’s in a super casual setting), Banana Leaf in Chinatown (I dream about the Singapore noodles!), Korea Garden (my favorite spot for bulgogi if I can’t get my mom to cook some :)). Vibrant in Montrose is also a favorite spot of mine because I try to follow a Paleo diet most of the time and it’s one of the few spots where everything is gluten, dairy, and refined sugar free!
I love to be outside (when it’s not too crazy hot!) so I’d definitely take them to some of my favorite parks like Memorial (the new Eastern Glades is beautiful) and Hermann Park and Buffalo Bayou are great as well.
I love to golf so I’d probably take them out to my favorite course for a round – High Meadow Ranch. It’s just outside Houston, but it’s got some great elevation which you don’t find on many courses here.
Lastly, I’d take them to the Museum of Natural Science and probably follow that with a stroll through Rice Village and a bite at Hungry’s 🙂
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Big shoutout to my husband for supporting my wild idea to start up a fitness studio and for continuing to exude positive energy despite any challenges we’ve faced. I probably would’ve lost my mind already if it wasn’t for him assuring me that it was all going to work out! Haha.
images shot by @millerprimephoto