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One of the more genuine story lines from that show (not that the gossip and catfights between all eight trainers wasn't entertaining, of course) was Luciano and boyfriend Jay Centeno's journey toward opening their own fitness studio in Manhattan. Plans of melding her expertise in high-intensity training with his years of Pilates-based instruction were briefly referenced, but a concrete idea of what someone might actually be doing in a class was never provided — and the last thing I expected was a machine that looked like a souped-up version of Mortal Kombat to be staring back at me when I walked in the door.
"These machines are developed in Texas, and they've been around for awhile," Centeno said of the Nexersys devices when we sat down to chat after class. "First it was developed as a video game" — okay, so I was not far off! — "and then it was developed as a personal trainer. And now we're the first people to actually put it into boutique fitness." (If you fancy one for your own apartment, you can find them on eBay for upwards of $2,300).
Essentially, it's a robot version of a personal trainer wearing padded mitts while a client boxes with them, but in place of a talking head that tells you to go harder or faster, you've got a screen that shows your hitting power in percentage form and lights up when you hit or kick fast enough in different spots to complete a combination.
Centeno, a master SLT instructor, and Luciano, previously found at Barry's Bootcamp, love the high-tech aspects that the machine will provide, which is something you can find in many cycling classes these days, as well as places like Orangetheory Fitness. "Eventually, it's going to store all your data," he said. "You'll be able to enter your name and you'll have all your data, it'll send [stats] to your email and you can share with friends on Facebook." she said. "We think that it'll help your clientele..." he started, and she finished, "...understand what they're doing,"
Their back-and-forth banter is refreshingly unscripted, just like their years-long relationship — when Centeno was profiled in our Hottest Trainer contest in 2014, he shouted out Luciano, a 2013 contestant, as his "favorite celebrity body." They seemed at ease working together when teaching my group of eight students right before our chat, too, but assured me that it wasn't alway so easy.
"That's what we're doing now because we have a lot of both his clients and my clients coming in, but this is probably the last week that we'll do that," Luciano said. "It was actually so much harder for us to co-teach." ("So much harder," Centeno piped in.) "It was like, 'No, you shut up! Let me talk,'" playfully hitting him as she reenacted the scuffle.
I didn't notice until after class that, at least post-warm-up, they stayed on their respective sides of the studio during our session, which went as follows: That warm-up consisting of moves like squat jumps to spike up our heart rates, followed by a run-through of the punching and kicking combos we'd be performing on the machines. (It looked like everyone in our class knew at least a little bit about kickboxing before, but the couple won't be leaving out newbies, they assured me — there are plans to incorporate beginner sessions on their class schedule, taught by trainers who specialize in technique.)
From there, the class divided in two, with half of us heading to the machines and the other half staying in the warm-up area, where black mats and sliding pads for hands and feet were already set up. You'd stay at each station for seven minutes before switching for a total of four mini-sessions. When you boxed, Luciano would quickly demo each combo we previously reviewed before we started hitting away, and she'd come around offering customized tips to each person — she told me I needed to move faster so that the machine would recognize my combos. Every once in a while, we'd stop for a quick burst of cardio, like to do rapid punches to the center console, or to drop to the floor and do sit-ups with our toes tucked under the machine's metal stand.
Over on Centeno's side of the room, there were a lot of lunges, planks, and squats with those sliding pads. I found the most challenging move to be one where, with both your hands and feet on pads, you move your feet in from a plank position to downward dog and back and follow it with a push-up. After 40 minutes, I was reduced to a puddle of sweat, but felt the opposite of wiped — in fact, I had energy to spare; I skipped the subway in favor of the 25-minute walk home during last week's burst of spring weather.
"We try to do smart training," Luciano explained of their methodology. "This is high intensity, but low-impact. On the [mats], you're not jumping — you're sliding, you're lifting, and that's the beauty of it. And on the machine, it has that resistance when you punch it....and it's safer than an actual punching bag."
When you put it all together, you get their unique workout, PACT Park — wait, what? Centeno broke it down: "It means Proprioceptive Aerobic Cross Training. Proprioceptive means body awareness — knowing exactly what you're doing not by seeing, but just doing — and the aerobic cross-training is by going back and forth [between the station]. And a park is just a fun place. So you add both of them together, and it's catchy!" (Both trainers were wearing branded shirts during our class).
As the duo get closer and closer to opening their own location for Pact Park, you won't find them teaching in any other boutique studios. "This is it, this is our baby," Centeno said. "We're doing everything from website to design. We're doing everything together, every single phone call." Joked Luciano, "We're in the nursing stage!"
And where exactly will that location be? "Right now, we're looking at Noho, on Broadway and Bleecker...right above Flex Studios," Centeno said. Nothing's been finalized yet, but if all goes according to plan, they'll open in the late summer. In the meantime, "what we're trying to do is figure out other pop-up spots while we're in this process," Luciano explained. "But our thing is the machine, so getting a space to keep the machines is what we're trying to figure out. Lululemon has been amazing — we're here the whole month, and we'll see if we can extend it."
In case they're unable to stay, sign up for classes now. Considering that most boutique fitness classes around here are above the $30 mark when purchased individually, Pact Park's $20 registration fee for an efficient 40-minute session is a bargain. The trainers also added that classes could go down to $10 — or even be totally free — if you go during off-peak hours.
And don't be surprised if you recognize some familiar faces while you're there: