Girl Boss Guide ft. Donna Burke of FORME Studios

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Founder of FORME Studios, Donna Burke is the definition of a hustler. From running her own studio to maintaining an active social life to taking the time to talk with me about it all, she seriously does it all. For those of you who haven’t tried FORME, it’s one of my favorite group fitness studios in Atlanta because it offers such variety – and the classes kick your bootay. Not only that, but the welcoming vibe is like no other studio I’ve been to – just take a class there and you’ll see. I’ve known Donna for a while now, but was so excited to get the opportunity to talk with her even more about the backstory behind FORME and how she manages being (literally) Superwoman.

Yes Girl: I’ve always loved your classes, but can you tell me more about how FORME came to be?

Donna Burke: It all started out when my sister & I owned Atlanta Activewear a few years back. We did a lot within the local community and since I have a degree in Exercise Science, I came up with this idea to incorporate a barre class in our store! My sister initially questioned how we could do it with no actual barre, but I thought it would be a great idea to take it off the barre… and that’s how Barre Fusion was born. We set up a sign-up page, posted it and within 30 minutes, the class had sold out. My first thought was “What have we created?!” We knew our clients were interested in fitness but we never knew how successful Barre Fusion would be – 25 girls came to the first class. We started to do the Barre Fusion classes once a week and as demand grew, we now had a full schedule of classes in the mornings and evenings outside of store hours. People were paying to come and work out inside of a clothing store because they loved it that much. When we ran out of space, we moved our evening classes over to Witzlib and the class grew even more. The day we got a call from ClassPass saying they wanted us on board, I knew we had something here. We eventually decided to close the store when the activewear industry became too saturated, and in the same month that we closed the store, I bought the studio and opened FORME.

YG: How the heck did you come up with the concept for this AMAZING workout? 

DB: I’m a total gym junkie. I have tried every workout from CrossFit to Pure Barre to Water Aerobics. I got injured while training for a marathon and through that, I found barre – and quickly realized it was no joke! Through studying Exercise Science in school, I knew how to get my heart rate into that fat-burning zone that everyone wants to get in – and stay in. So, I took all of the aspects of the workouts I liked and put them into my own unique workout. In a Barre Fusion class, you do two total-body workouts within less than an hour that combine the small, pulsing movements of a barre class with cardio that promotes fat-burning. The cardio abs section really gives that ‘shake factor’ we all crave. I also got certified in Bootybarre, which is a similar concept to Barre Fusion, so it went hand in hand. Cardio FORME came out of a need for wanting something more intense, yet still fun, without being too cheesy. I put together a playlist and got inspired and, with the help of some of my friends who danced, I put together a routine and Cardio FORME was born.

YG: Tell me about your own personal success story with FORME. 

DB: I gained 50 pounds after getting injured. As much as I was toning up from barre, that layer of fat was still there because I wasn’t getting cardio in due to my injury, so I knew I had to incorporate cardio into my classes. As a result of FORME, I lost 35-40 pounds.

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Because we believed so much in our product and didn’t focus so much on it being a business, it made it so much more than just a workout.

YG: What is your weekly workout schedule like?

DB: All FORME – all day, every day! I only teach, and that’s because I teach about 10 classes per week. I don’t suggest that someone works out as much as I do, but I’m very aware of how much sleep I get and what I’m eating to stay fueled. I eat probably 3,000 calories a day to fuel my body because in a standard Barre Fusion class, you’re burning 650 calories. In a Cardio FORME class, you’re burning 800 calories within 45 minutes.

YG: There’s a lot of pressure in society to be perfect. How do you stay above it? 

DB: A lot of people get lost in the pursuit of perfection. I was always kind of the ugly duckling growing up and I struggled throughout school with that. Playing sports really helped me to learn to be okay with myself. I started playing soccer when I was 12, and my first coach told us he wasn’t going to train us as girls, but just as regular soccer players. He showed us we were completely equal and I took a lot of that with me as I grew up. Whenever people were nasty or rude, in my mind I was like “we are all the same, I don’t get it”. Growing up, our parents never treated us like we were inferior and that still resonates with me to this day.

YG: What does a typical day of eating look like for you? 

DB: The reality is, I don’t have the time to cook elaborate meals, so my goal is to always find a way to live as healthy as I can while on the go. In the morning, I wake up, teach and go to Starbucks. In the winter I’ll get a Jade Citrus Green Tea and in the summer I get a Venti Iced Coffee with cream and regular sweetener. [I don’t believe in sugar substitutes because your body doesn’t know how to burn it off!] For breakfast, I’ll have a sesame bagel with cream cheese or some kind of smoothie. Then I head into the office for my full-time job. Mid-morning, I’ll usually grab some type of fruit as a snack. Lunch can really vary, depending on the day. Some days I’ll grab pizza; some days I’ll bring a salad from home. I just can’t do the whole meal prep thing because getting out the door with all of my meals ready to go for the day just doesn’t happen for me. It’s easier for me to leave the studio and go by the grocery store and pick out what I’m craving. Dinner, again, is usually a quick trip to the store for whatever I’m craving… there’s usually ice cream involved with dinner, too.

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I’ve tried every diet out there – because paleo is fun, but I love pizza! I think balance brings you sanity.

YG: How do you maintain your desired level of fit while still keeping balance in your day-to-day life? 

DB: I truly don’t want a six-pack and super ripped arms, I just want to be in shape and enjoy margaritas! I saw something that really resonated with me the other day: Don’t waste 95% of your life trying to lose 5% of your body weight. I don’t believe extremes work for anyone because at some point, that extreme will make you crack and force you in the total opposite direction of what you were trying to accomplish. In achieving balance, you end up a lot happier. I’ve tried every diet out there – because paleo is fun, but I love pizza! I think balance brings you sanity.

YG: How do you balance your relationships with your insane schedule?

DB: It is really difficult. My boyfriend is so supportive of my crazy schedule and he really believes in the studio, so he does whatever he can to support. I really try to cut off all of my work at least by the time we finish dinner and spend that last hour of my day with him.  A lot of people will really dive into their business and forget their social lives, but mine are very intertwined because a lot of my friends are from FORME. Even though I’ve worked a ton throughout the week and still have to teach over the weekend, I make sure to make plans with my friends because it’s important to me.

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Our pride at the studio is preaching “Be who you are, whatever shape you are.”

YG: What tips do you have for entrepreneurs or women looking to start their own side hustles – or full-time hustles?!

DB: When people start their own business, they need to realize they’re going to work 10 times as hard for a quarter of the amount of money. Luckily for me, I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, because I saw the hard work pay off for my parents as entrepreneurs. I also recommend for people to keep their full time jobs as long as they can, because you’ve got bills to pay! Build your business on the side – we have 24 hours in the day, so when you really break down your day, what can you do in those 5-10 hours you have left over? Those hours outside of work are when you create your brand.

YG: What do you look for when hiring FORME instructors?

DB: My only requirement for instructors is a person who is genuine – everything else can be taught. You can’t teach someone to be a welcoming, nice person and we’ve all been there where we walk into a room and we don’t feel welcome. That was the one thing I did not want in my studio – I want the girls to be comfortable every time they walk in our doors. When someone is genuine, they are here because they love it and because they want to be here.

Interested in taking a class with Donna or one of her amazing instructors? Just head to FORME’s website and sign up! I promise, you won’t regret it.

 

Buckhead Fitness Week Recap

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At just $50 for 5 classes at some of Buckhead’s top boutique fitness studios, I knew Buckhead Fitness Week was an opportunity I could not miss out on! As a serial fitness studio jumper, I always love trying new studios or even a different type of class at the studios I’ve grown to love. For me, group fitness is my happy place when it comes to exercise.

To give you some more background on this event, Cyc (one of my favorite Buckhead spin studios) partnered up with Barre3, West Coast Workout, Stellar Bodies and Thunderbolt Power Yoga to offer 5 classes (one at each studio) over the course of 7 days and give group exercise lovers in Buckhead an amazing boutique fitness experience.

A little recap of my week:

I started off my Monday morning of BFW with a bright and early Barre3 class. As a first timer, I didn’t know what to expect but they made me feel right at home! I will definitely be back.

On Wednesday morning I tried out a new Cyc instructor and it turns out, they are ALL fantastic. Even at 6:30am, the energy in the room was killer!

I ‘celebrated’ St. Patrick’s Day on Thursday evening with West Coast Workout‘s signature Best of the West class. This high-intensity interval-based class is perfect for breaking a sweat and feeling accomplished afterwards! And I didn’t even crave a green beer after. #WIN

Pre-#GirlTalkSeries brunch (blog post to come!), I died a little at Stellar Bodies’ signature full-body class. For those of you who haven’t tried the Megaformer, it’s a must-try. Burns so good.

I closed out BFW with a rejuvenating hot power yoga class at Thunderbolt. There’s just something about sweating it all out in a hot yoga class on Sunday that makes me feel zen and centered for the week ahead.

All in all, I am so glad I got to try Buckhead Fitness Week and will definitely be doing it again next year! Did anyone else sweat it out during BFW with me?

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Thank you to Cyc Fitness for the opportunity to try out Buckhead Fitness Week! While my BFW pass was complimentary, all opinions are my own. 

Girl Boss Guide ft. Mallory Hope Schwartz of HopefullyPlated

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Beauty, brains & bubbly personality — That’s the best way to describe Mallory Hope Schwartz, founder of HopefullyPlated, a concierge nutritional planning service here in Atlanta, GA. As a fitness and food enthusiast, Mallory Hope married her passions together and created HopefullyPlated to make buying, preparing and eating healthy more accessible to her clients. I sat down with her to learn a little more — from her background to her favorite indulgent meal to how she maintains a positive body image. Read on for the full interview:

Yes Girl: Start off by telling me a little bit about your background and how you came up with the idea for HopefullyPlated.

Mallory Hope: I’m originally from Richmond, VA and growing up, we had a mixture of Southern culture and Jewish tradition. I always loved being in the kitchen so around the age of 9, I found a big passion for food, cooking and making everyone feel welcome. We started our weeks with family dinners and that’s something that really stuck with me. When I went to college in South Carolina, I felt most welcome by enjoying dinner with friends. After school, I moved to Los Angeles and on Sunday nights, I would host family dinners for my friends. That’s when the day-to-day passion of food really came into play. I was also teaching barre and spin in LA, and food and fitness truly go hand in hand. I took an intense 90-day food challenge and started asking myself: “How does food really affect our bodies?” From there, this idea of HopefullyPlated just started to brew. I tried a lot of different jobs on for size, but was always more passionate about fitness and food than any other career I had, so I always kind of felt like something was missing. When my dad had to undergo ankle fusion surgery, I moved home to help out and told my parents, “If I’m moving home, we’re eating how I would eat.” As a result, my family was healthy, my dad lost weight – I just truly saw what I could give. When my time at another job ended, I gave myself a one-day pity party and two days later, I purchased the domain!

YG: Walk me through how HopefullyPlated works.

MH: All of my meal plans are inspired by gluten-free options, limited sugar and no dairy. I want my clients to be inspired by having a healthy fridge. When starting out with a client, I’ll sit down with them and have a consultation where we’ll go over a special questionnaire I’ve created. I’ll have them walk me through their day and what it looks like – when they’re most hungry, what their weakness is, what their favorite foods are, etc. From there, I’ll move forward with the planning, grocery shopping, prepping, cooking and delivering! We also have a great new client discount and referral benefits.

YG: You’re also passionate about fitness, teaching specifically. Tell me more about how that passion came to be and your philosophy on working out. 

MH: I have always loved group fitness, but wasn’t ready to be brick-and-mortar and open my own fitness studio, so I wanted to go somewhere I believed in. Pink Barre is a great brand that supports my own goals and values so I knew it was a great fit for me. Right now I’m teaching 7-12 classes per week, taking my own yoga classes 3-5 times per week and then I’ll usually try and get in one swim or one strength training session a week. I’ve always diversified my workouts because that’s what works for me! I think each woman’s workouts are her own, and you’ve just got to find what works for you.

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Cooking insights from Mallory: “I use four different types of onions in my veggie pans, because they all have different flavors.”

YG: Going off on your own and creating your own business can be scary – Tell me a little about that experience and how it’s been for you.

MH: Coming from a very strong family, you always had to find your own moment to shine. I came from working in events and marketing where you give a lot to someone else’s brand. After a few years, it can get exhausting because you also want to market yourself and who you are… so I said “This is my chance” and if I didn’t take it now, I would’ve always wondered “what if?” Sure I’ve had failures, but at this point in my life, it just feels like the right time.

YG: What has been your biggest challenge in this venture?

MH: Getting rooted in the right city, with the right roommate, with the right comfort level and people around me, has really been my biggest challenge to this point. I had the mindset that all of the right pieces would come together and if they didn’t, then it wasn’t meant to be. Once that all came together, I haven’t looked back.

YG: What advice do you have for other female entrepreneurs?

MH: Don’t close any doors. I’ve met four people just today! You never know what can happen. Sometimes I’m talking and sometimes I’m just there to listen and soak it all in. You also can’t be too hard on yourself.

YG: What does a typical day look like for you?

MH: *Laughs* Nothing is typical – and I’m okay with that! I’m an early bird, so on one day I may wake up at 5am to go to yoga, teach a double at Pink Barre, go to the market by 9 and be home by 11 to grab a snack. I’m fluid in my day, but also determined. I don’t beat myself up if things don’t get done, because I know tomorrow’s just another day. In a typical week, one day will be a market day where I go pick up all of the groceries I’ll need for that week. I get all my food from the Dekalb Farmers Market – for me, it is the most locally-supported shop. I started going there on the weekends (their busiest time) when I first moved to Atlanta and I even loved it then. It is my zen! If my clients have specific dietary needs or preferences, I can navigate through the market with those in mind, so it provides customization for my clients. Normally, the following day is all prep – cutting, shredding and whatever else needs to get done for the following cooking day. Just to give you a sense of what that looks like, I’m typically roasting 5-10 plates of veggies on a cooking day so it gets pretty crazy! The next day or two are delivery days where I’ll drop off all meals to my clients. After that, I spend some time with recipe creation. I pull a lot of my inspiration from seasonal trends, the weather and food bloggers. I also take a couple days to really just build up my content and take a refresh, whether it’s blog posts, photos or (very necessarily) cleaning up my kitchen!

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Mallory’s philosophy on not finishing your meal: “It’s weird when you meet someone that doesn’t take home a goodie bag!”

YG: What’s your all-time favorite indulgent meal? 

MH: Oreo brownie sundae, all the way. I also have a weakness for French fries.

YG: How many times a week do you let yourself indulge?

MH: Usually if I’m baking cookies, I’ll eat a couple myself and give the rest away. I haven’t found a great Oreo brownie sundae to replicate my old favorite yet, otherwise I’d probably have it every day! I’ve found that I’m good with sampling the foods I love and I really don’t need to overly splurge.

YG: What are your favorite healthy food joints in Atlanta for when you’re not cooking?

MH: I do feel guilty when I eat out because I can pretty much cook everything at home – besides sushi! I’ll never feel guilty with sushi – Doraku and Genki are some of my favorites. Healthier options are usually anything non-American. Le Fat is probably one of my favorite options – Guy Wong is one of my mentors and he has definitely become a close friend of mine. He’s so warm and welcoming and always giving me positive feedback. Try their Clay Pot Chicken, “Shaking Beef” or Shrimp Spring Rolls. Chai Pani in Decatur packs a lot of veggies and spices. I’m also a sucker for Yeah Burger. Sean’s Harvest Market probably has my favorite smoothies in Atlanta. I have gotten healthier options at The Porter, too – they have such a cool menu! They’re one of my top restaurants in Atlanta.

YG: What would you say a normal day of eating looks like for you?

MH: I like to eat by using all of my senses – and this is how I plan for my clients, too. I really look at what colors are on my plate, what textures are there – “does it crunch?” and overall presentation of a meal. I think most people’s days are better suited when they start with a lot of protein. I’m a big egg person for breakfast and will usually add a 5 oz. piece of chicken or steak and some spinach or avocado. Snacks are usually fruit, homemade trail mix or a rice cake and peanut butter. My lunches are as colorful as possible – today’s lunch was leftover gluten-free chicken parmesan with sautéed zucchini and shallots. Dinner depends on how I need to refuel my body – usually something like quinoa or half a sweet potato with some more protein like steak, chicken or lamb. My lamb meatballs are like, the best thing ever. If I’m craving something sweet, I’ll put all-natural vanilla ice cream into a teacup so I get my fix while controlling my portions. As a little side tip, I like eating everything in bowls because it helps control my portion size.

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The baker in her says: “I literally buy four dozen eggs a week in fear that I may run out!”

YG: What’s your top tip for staying healthy and fit? 

MH: Have a plan – with wiggle room, of course. I typically know what meals I plan to eat, what barre classes I’m going to teach and how I’m going to work out that day. If I know I’m leaving for a noon flight, I know I need to squeeze in a 6am workout. I also pack snacks for the day when I leave my house. I wig out if I’m going to be somewhere without snacks!

YG: Let’s talk about body image. You seem to radiate positivity and self-love… Teach us your ways!

MH: I definitely grew up a little shorter and a little chubbier – but full of personality! As I slowly grew into my body, I could say “I trust in who I am.” Every single girl has insecurities – supermodels, girls on TV… we all are our own worst enemies and social media has made it even worse. Self-love comes from something deeper because we allow a lot of outside influences to play into how we feel about ourselves. So I gave myself a rule a few years ago: I will talk about my insecurities while I’m home getting ready, but the second I leave my door, I’m not allowed to talk about them any more. That burger I ate yesterday is not still hangin’ on me or that pimple – well I covered it up the best I could! Sometimes you’ve just gotta be your own cheerleader. Not every day is gonna be great, but how else are we gonna get through if we don’t love ourselves?

Want to learn more about how HopefullyPlated can help make a healthy lifestyle easier for you? Head over to www.hopefullyplated.com or email Mallory Hope at hopefullyplated@gmail.com.