Get ready for the next installment of the Fitness Dossier, the addictive column that explores (and tests) the most-talked-about fitness obsessions, from chic boutique studios to luxe fully equipped gyms to pop-ups and beyond. This week we get the dish from AKT In Motion founder, Anna Kaiser—surely you’ve heard of this immersive full-body, high-energy workout experience that gives Kelly Ripa her enviable arms and Shakira her famous booty. Kaiser tells us where it all began and gives her tips for getting into tip-top shape.
Give us the rundown on your background and how you came to launch AKT In Motion…
I was a professional dancer, and was also teaching group exercise classes in Ballet Body, Cardio Jams, and Yoga Stretch all over the city. I got certified in a lot of different fitness modalities because I love fitness. I practiced yoga for eight years and couldn’t do another sun salutation. I’ve practiced and am certified in pilates, and I couldn’t do another [pilates] 100. I also got certified in TRX, but I didn’t want to do that much upper body work. I went to Mount Sinai and became certified in functional anatomy for movement and injuries and worked with the cadavers, learning the body from the inside-out. I got certified by the National Academy for Sports Medicine and wanted to apply the anatomy and knowledge of kinesiology and movement mechanics to the creative side of my dancing and all the other fitness modalities that I love. No one was offering that option—a fun, hybrid workout option where you could get everything you need in one place. I would have to go to one place to teach cardio, another to teach yoga, pilates, strength, and so on.
What’s the idea behind AKT?
I wanted to match the personalization of the private trainer with the excitement and community of the group exercise studio and put everything I love into one place. Right now, I have five workouts. A H.I.I.T. workout, a circuit training workout, dance-based workout, toning workout, and an endurance workout. I want to be able to take someone’s history and goals and say, alright, if you do this many classes a week, this type of class, you’re going to reach your goals. Then I can design a program based on their likes and dislikes. Members get a program consult, and I give them a class model that’s going to get them to where they want to be. Plus, it’s a really fun environment—disco ball and lights and the trainers are all experts in what they do.
When you were dancing professionally, what were a few of your favorite gigs?
I started as a modern concert dancer with Donald McKayle in California. He was one of the originators of modern dance in New York City. When I moved to New York, I took on some new fun projects. I was in Shakira’s music video “She Wolf.” I was at Carnegie Hall dancing and performing in “Showboat” and the 50th anniversary of “West Side Story.” I was a principal dancer in the movie “Enchanted” and helped with pre-production. There were so many really fun projects and a lot of different genres. I didn’t want to just commit to one, much like fitness. I wanted the versatility.
Who were some early adopters of AKT who helped spread the word?
Kelly Ripa was one of my first dear clients. She and I have been working together for eight years, and she brought a lot of her friends in. When I was working with Shakira as a dancer, I started training her as well. She was really great about getting the word out to her community. I have a couple of clients on the Upper East Side who encouraged me to open my first studio, because they wanted to be able to introduce it to their friends. Also, my good friend Sarah Easley, who is an influencer in New York City fashion and is the founder of Kirna Zabête downtown, has been consulting. She was a huge believer and brought it to Connecticut. We’ve had a pop-up out there for the last five years.
What’s your advice for newbies?
Try all five classes. You’ll really feel how they work together, and get an idea of what you really like. Then sit down with our fitness concierge to create a program. It’s amazing what happens when you have a program that’s designed for you. You don’t have to think about it, you don’t have to schedule it, it’s done for you, and you can just show up and have fun.
What’s the biggest misconception about AKT?
That it’s a dance workout, and that if you don’t dance, you can’t do it.
What have you been up to this summer?
I did an intensive in East Hampton, hosted a party for The Select 7 and The Daily and Amex at Topping Rose, I’m teaching classes, and I’m getting Shakira ready for her tour in Barcelona. Then I’m going away to Italy for 10 days before Labor Day.
What’s the most challenging part of your job?
Wearing different hats. Going from a meeting with a potential partner to a strategy meeting with my CFO to a private training session to a continuing education content session with my training team to an HR interview with an employee and then changing and running to an event in the evening, a networking event or dinner with friends or business associates. There’s a lot to do when you’re running a small company. Also, bridging the gap between the business side and the creative side.
What are some of your other fitness fixes?
When I’m traveling, I have a workout called AKTread, and the videos are available on our app. It’s an interval workout on the treadmill, so you’re doing all of the movements that we’re doing in class in a small, confined space. My husband and I also come up with circuits that we do together—we’ll do a seven minute run and then a circuit of four exercises, then a five minute run times a circuit of exercises. Or we’ll go on a running tour of a new city that we are visiting. It’s a really fun way for us to stay physical together. A healthy approach to fitness is staying more active during the day, standing while you’re on the phone, getting outside and walking during one of your meetings with someone, getting a standing desk or getting into a room with someone and brainstorming instead of sitting behind a computer eight hours a day, rather than running into a workout for 45 minutes and then sitting at home. Our bodies were meant to be moved.
What’s your diet like during the summer?
I love summer food! I drink a lot of shakes because they’re easy. I love Juice Generation—it’s right around the corner from all my studios, and I’ll have a shake with berries and plant protein and greens and some ice. It’s a really nice way to recover after a workout and help build lean muscle. I’ll do a lot of fresh salads and ceviches. I love scallops and fresh fish. Fresh fruit too. Vine-ripe tomatoes or fresh berries—things that are in-season are just packed with antioxidants and nutrients.
What’s currently on your workout playlist?
“Humble” by Kendrick Lamar, “I Miss You Must” by Janet Jackson, “Like Kanye” by Riot Ten, “Contract” by GTA, and “Dan Bilzerian” by T-Pain. I do like “Show Me” by Loud Luxury and “Instruction” by Jax Jones and Demi Lovato. For a cool-down, “16” by Craig David and “Hold It Together” by Nico & Vinz.
What do you suggest that we wear to class?
Shoes are really important, especially in a high intensity workout. You want to find a pair that hugs your foot, is supportive but has a decent amount of cushioning. I currently really like Asics, and whether high profile or low profile, it’s good to try different types of shoes. I love so many brands. Koral, Alo, ULTRACOR. I love a good short or graphic pant with a loose-fitting tee that I can put over a supportive but stylish sports bra that’s different looking. It’s a mix between fitness and fashion. I’ll get a T by Alexander Wang t-shirt and pair it with Tory Sport pants and then wear an Alo bra underneath that has a lot of cutouts. I’ll wear one of my trucker hats so I can wear my hair down, because I love movement. Making sure that your clothes move and match the movement of your fitness and workout adds energy. And hair is one of our best props!
AKT Studio In Motion, 244 E 84th St, New York, NY 10028