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Meet Heather Fay, Founder of Pon De FLO - Caribbean & Reggae Dance Based HIIT Program

 Heather Fay
Image courtesy @pon_de_flo

 

I recently tried my first Pon De FLO class, and was blown away! Stepping into the studio is like going on your own little tropical vacation. It smelled like sea salt and coconuts. Greeted by a very friendly staff I was super excited to start working on my dance moves. But wait, to my surprise, there was also a face painting station, where we painted up before class so our faces would glow under the black lights. Such a fun and interactive element to bring into a studio. The workout was INTENSE, and I work out regularly. Dance sequences with HIIT interludes got me sweating, and there was no stopping. Push ups, burpees, jump squats and booty shaking all in a fun and unpretentious environment, sign me up! 

Read on to learn more about Heather Fay, the super woman behind Pon De FLO. 

AM: Tell us a little bit about yourself and your typical day?

HF: When telling you a bit about myself, I should tell you I am the creator of Pon De FLO, entrepreneur and fitness professional, but in actuality I am just a determined woman who dreams big, wants to help this world become more peaceful, caring and resourceful through helping people and great organizations. I am also a pretty big dork and always find humor in everything, even during the most awkward of moments…

My typical day is spent at Pon De FLO Studio which I just opened January 1st 2017 in Manhattan. As the owner, creative director, instructor and CEO of Pon De FLO, each day I wake up around 5am to get my bearings together and head to the studio. Once arriving at the studio, I open up our all vegan café, check out class rsvp’s for the day and I connect with my right hand lady, Meira Sussman (Operations Manager). Meira and I like to plan out our day, recap on the evening before and create strategies for the next day/remaining week first thing each morning. On average I instruct 3-4 classes per day so before, between and after classes I am either on the computer doing internal work or in the studio choreographing for Pon De FLO or developing the 4 new programs which are launching for our summer schedule. After the last class of the day, I spend time speaking with our members and new comers to receive feedback, crack jokes and feel the good vibes we set out to create each and every day. My personal highlight of each day is vibing with everyone after classes finish in the evening. This is the time when the essence of the program vibrates and everyone leaves smiling and feeling good, regardless of how they felt upon coming in. After all members leave, I catch up with staff and help with closing duties. On the night’s I head home to get rest, I usually read motivating articles, catch up on world events or create social media images for the next day on the way home. Once I get home, I play with Marley for a bit (my puppy human), fix dinner and then pop in a movie or motivational video to unwind from the day before falling sleep. Then 5am the next day I am up and excited to go at it again! 

AM: Tell us more about Pon De FLO! What makes it unique and what inspired you to create it?

HF: Pon De FLO is an extremely fun, intense but motivating Caribbean/ Reggae dance based HIIT program. Incorporated within a class are easy to follow dance movements and a variety of calisthenics structured into 3 intervals. At the peak of each interval is when the participant can potentially reach a 90% max heart rate. When participating in a class, it is encouraged to add your own style to the repetitive dance movements so you begin to feel more comfortable within your own skin. Comfortable enough to feel unrestricted so you can just let loose and not care about what the hell you look like. If you can’t be completely free within yourself while dancing and working out, when in life are you actually allowing yourself to let go 100%?! The atmosphere within a Pon De FLO class is completely non-judgmental and freeing. The important thing to remember when coming into a Pon De FLO class is that you are a human. Everyone has some sort of insecurity and by nature, we all are uneasy with the idea of stepping out of our comfort zones. It is up to you to allow yourself the opportunity to free yourself from the chains of your insecurity, get out of your head and learn more about your capabilities. We can all be our own worst enemy, but it is important to understand we all need to be our own best friend instead. Because of the HIIT structure within a Pon De FLO class, the class will become very intense which will present the opportunity for the participant to break out of their comfort zone and push physical limits. When you can physically accomplish what you thought you ‘couldn’t do’ or was ‘impossible’ to do prior to starting class, your mentality begins to change creating a sense of empowerment in your everyday life. Pon De FLO is all about getting out of your own way to constantly become a better version of yourself, which in turn helps this world become a better place. Of course, if there is any movement or callisthenic you physically are unable to do because of limitations or injury, it is highly encouraged to modify the movement or simply jog in place until you can catch back in so the participant never stops moving. There is NO such thing as ‘can’t’ and there are no ‘right’s’ or ‘wrong’s’ within Pon De FLO. All you need to do is allow yourself a chance to free your mind, have fun and push physical limits to continuously develop physical and mental strength.

My inspiration to create Pon De FLO began when I was instructing Zumba, hip-hop and strength group exercise classes. Within my dance classes, the majority of people were staying in their head, overthinking the choreography. If they felt they couldn’t get the steps ‘perfect’, they became restricted and didn’t dance hard. By overthinking, they were jading themselves from the true essence of dance. In addition, I noticed majority of people who took dance classes felt they either 1) Weren’t strong enough to take a strength class 2) Were intimidated because everyone ‘looked in shape’ who took strength classes or 3) They had a perception of strength classes being boring. 

Within my strength and spin classes, the #1 feedback as to why majority of the people would not take a dance class is because they believed they ‘couldn’t dance’ and had ‘no rhythm’. In my opinion, if you can walk, you can dance. It is only a matter of getting out of your head, being okay with the idea of being uncomfortable initially and not caring what people think of you while trying something new.

Seeing these two judgmental sides of fitness made me determined to bridge the gap. If you can dance, you can do burpees. If you can do calisthenics, you sure as hell can dance. Within all of my classes, I often played some of my favorite music which is Caribbean and dancehall. Whenever I played these genres, I noticed in all classes, magic happened. No matter what people were doing, they were slowly getting out of their head and moving to the music, not overthinking, not worried about what they looked like or anything. I knew this was the way I could bridge the gap between dance and strength. Within my dance classes I began incorporating calisthenics to Caribbean and reggae music. Within my strength and spin classes, I because to create rhythmic calisthenics and movements. Without knowing it at the time, Pon De FLO was born. I began to focus more on creating this innovative and freeing format which was empowering people and creating a more positive mentality for many. 

In each class, I would tell everyone to ‘Just flow with it’, which is why I decided to name my program ‘Pon De FLO’ which translates to ‘On the FLO’. 

AM: What are the mind and body benefits of Pon De FLO? 

HF: There are so many benefits, I could write a novel! 😊

Pon De FLO allows you to continuously push your physical abilities. Although the dance choreography will become more comfortable with time, Pon De FLO will never get easier physically. Because of the combined dance and HIIT structure, you will never plateau if you work hard, your core will continuously get stronger and your muscles will continuously become strong and lean. With increased core strength and lean muscle, your metabolism increases which means you burn calories at a faster rate, even while at rest. This causes reduced body fat and increased athletic performance. In addition, flexibility, stamina, endurance, quick reaction time will increase and risk of injury will decrease.

Mental benefits are the most impressive results of Pon De FLO. When your mentality is positive and healthy, it is only then you are able to acquire true physical strength. It will take a few classes for the participant to become comfortable enough to allow themselves to break out of ‘thinking mode’ when in class. Once that magic happens, empowerment will come. The participant will learn more about themselves while taking Pon De FLO, including the fact nothing is impossible. When you are able to physically accomplish what you otherwise deemed impossible or uncomfortable, that empowerment carries on with you in your everyday life. Your mind becomes stronger, causing you to break out of additional comfort zones in your personal life. You will also begin to have more respect and love for yourself which causes you to accept and give off true love. This is the starting point to helping this world become a better place.

AM: Where can we take a Pon De FLO class in NYC? And elsewhere?

HF: Currently, the only place to find a Pon De FLO class is at the awesome, one of a kind Pon De FLO Studio located at 156 Mott Street, NYC!

AM: Can we find your classes online anywhere, so we can follow along at home?

HF: We will be launching ‘Pon De FLO 2 Go’ hopefully before fall of 2017. Pon De FLO 2 Go is a channel you can subscribe to so you can get Pon De FLO anywhere, anytime! There will be 15 minute intervals posted so you can arrange your own 60-minute class, as well as on demand videos and live streaming classes! To sign up for newsletters and the official launch date anyone can visit www.PonDeFLO.com and click on the ‘Pon De FLO 2 GO’ page for more info.

AM: What's in the future for Pon De FLO?

HF: Total Awesomeness! I have so many plans, goals and ideas for the expansion of Pon De FLO.  Pon De FLO Studio will be offering additional class formats, community events and charity classes each month beginning with our Summer Schedule. The new formats, which I am SUPER excited about, include a Strength & Resistance class, a Core Development & Foam Rolling class, a Stretch/ Mind Body class and a Children & Teen Summer program/ classes. 

In addition, one of my goals is to create a nonprofit in about a year’s time. This nonprofit will be dedicated to giving back to communities, orphanages and helping foundations who are researching cures of diseases in the Caribbean.

Although Pon De FLO Studio is only 3 months old, my goal within 8 years is to open multiple locations here in NYC, across America and eventually across the world. Along with additional locations, I would like to develop Pon De FLO 2 GO to become better catered towards all ages and abilities just like an in house Pon De FLO class does. My mission is to expand Pon de FLO across the world in hopes it will become a positive force within the world we live in.

AM: What are 5 of your dreams? 

HF: All of my dreams are my life goals.

To help this world become a more compassionate, kind, forgiving, loving and accepting place for our future generations to live. The human race is all one of the same. Whether we like it or not, we are all family and no one is better than anyone else in the big picture of life. Our minds are a very powerful thing. Our individual mentality can unite or destroy. It would be so beautiful to see increased humility, compassion and peace around this world. A big dream I know, but if the people who want positive changes don’t sacrifice and act on their dreams, how will we ever evolve for the better?

To inspire others to live a simplistic and resourceful lifestyle. Meaning, not allowing material objects, money or power to define you. We all share this Earth, and we need to become more resourceful as a human race to take care of our home. If we rid the need and desire for power, money and fame, we can all become more resourceful and help our planet last longer.

To create an all-natural supplement to aid in muscle soreness post workout/ muscle disorders.

To write a series of books from inspirational, self-help to fitness.

To live off of the ocean, in a cabin style home, have a garden and have the freedom to create artwork in many forms of media whenever motivation hits.  

AM: Favorite song to work out to?

HF: I have so many! My current fav song to jam out to while sprinting is ‘The Kill’ by Thirty Seconds to Mars.

AM: Three things that are always in your gym bag?

HF: Body Spray, gum and spirulina.

AM: How would you describe your style in two words?

HF: Comfortable and chill.

AM: One place in the world you would love to visit?

HF: There are MANY, but at the top of my list is Israel and Egypt.

AM: Favorite yoga pose?

HF: Child’s Pose 😊

AM: Favorite good vibe quotes  

HF: “Be the change you wish to see in the world”

“It ain’t about how hard you can hit that matters. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.”

“Overcome the devils with a thing called love”

“Your only limit is you”

“It always seems impossible until it’s done”

AM: 1 food you could not live without

HF: AVOCADO

AM: Top 3 health food spots in NYC

HF: By Chloe was on my top 3, but I feel morally wrong giving my money to the restaurant now that chef Chloe is no longer a part of the business.

  • Whole Foods
  • Juice Press
  • V-Spot

AM: If you were deserted on an island, what one item would you want with you?

HF: Sun Block

AM: Favorite sinful treat food

HF: Cookies and Cream Coconut Milk Ice Cream

AM: Favorite way to start the day

HF: Going for a run along the FDR, then recovering listening to Akeda by Matisyahu

AM: Top 3 things you do to keep a positive outlook 

HF: Visualize success, watch a Rocky movie and do something to make others laugh or make myself laugh.

Keep up with Pon De FLO on Instagram @pon_de_flo and with Heather at @heathfay4

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