Solange Salandy, founder of SIO FIT epitomises the motto of her health and fitness enterprise—Strong Inside Out.
She exudes graceful strength and poise, from her dreadlock tresses down to her sculpted feet. Her Coppertone skin radiates good health and your gaze eventually turns to her impressive biceps. The strength in Salandy's taut physique is evident, she has functioning feminine muscle not just for aesthetics, coupled with incredible mobility and agility and she is poised to take fitness to another level.
After spending more than half her life living in the US, the ACE-certified personal trainer is back home to share her knowledge using her fitness background, studies in nutrition and stress-relieving techniques learned from her travels in Asia to promote a healthier lifestyle in her country as lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, obesity and diabetes are on the rise.
With the Carnival season in full swing and crunch time for some people in the gym, with less than four weeks to be ready for the road in their Carnival costumes, Salandy's services are in peak demand for group training and personal one-on-one training.
She has a Carnival boot camp every Wednesday at Bush Mountain—Cascadia Hotel St Ann's, classes at a gym in Chaguanas and several personal clients in Maraval building their bodies from the inside out.
Salandy, 35, said she caters for a more senior clientele as well—her first four clients in Trinidad were women, the youngest was 55 and the oldest was 62.
She said all had issues that came with advancing age; wear and tear on the knees, shoulders, lower back and wrists.
Salandy said there was one young man in his late 20s who also had all these conditions, but they were weight and lifestyle-related. She can also tutor children.
Speaking to Guardian Media at Coblentz Gardens, St Ann's, Salandy said "There is a misconception that the gym and exercise are what's going to give you the physique that you are looking for to hit the road.
"In the industry, this is actually quite well known and popular that the formula is 80 per cent diet and 20 per cent exercise. Think about it as a cake; diet is the cake, exercise is the icing on the cake, exercise is putting the finishing touches on it.
"Tony Cefali, my trainer is the person who sparked my passion for the health/fitness industry. Together we had gone further to develop training plans you do not see every day in the gym.
"Our clients typically come to us for increased agility, speed, mobility and flexibility like an athlete. To look like an athlete you have to train like an athlete, so we don't use machines in gyms."
The former head of Digital at McCann Port-of-Spain said their method was unconventional and incorporated some military training, it entailed lots of battle ropes, dragging and pulling actions, tyre exercises, bear crawls, core activation, athletic movement, increasing speed and agility and pushing past your comfort zone.
Salandy said in 1998 when she was 14 years old, she moved with her two sisters and mother to New York.
She said her mother passed in 2001 and that was when she fell into depression for six months and she used fitness and dance class to bring her out of it gradually.
Salandy said the Eastern stress-relieving techniques component was added after her spiritual journey to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Bali, India, Sri Lanka in 2018 and 2019, she spent two weeks volunteering with monks in Chang Mai, Thailand.
She said she also studied yoga and a breathing technique for relieving stress called Breath Works while in Rajasthan, India and will return for advanced Yoga studies/practice.
Salandy said many trainers neglected training the core and concentrated more on the traditional type of strength training and the "showy" muscles such as the chest and arms for men and legs, glutes and abs for women, often using momentum to lift too heavy weights setting them up for injury.
She said she worked with her clients to unlearn any "bad habits" and rebuild from the inside out, assessing what their imbalances and weaknesses were to start their tailor-made programme.
Salandy said she liked the core to the Trojan wall, the spine was the king, the soldiers were the person's core and team that needed to be strengthened and trained to protect the king.
She said many people had back injuries because their core was not conditioned and they experienced lots of pain.
Salandy said her training programmes pushed her clients mentally asking them to dig deeper to understand the discipline and grit necessary.
She said she can get them to their fitness goal, but they must exhibit and be willing to put out the work because the results were worth it.
Salandy said the desire to change must be greater than the desire to stay the same.