Restorsea friend Gwyneth Paltrow suggested that I try AKT InMotion. After my first class, the Studio Manager, Lauren Hub, emailed me. She told me that I had to get a doctor’s note to continue to workout at AKT (because of my osteoarthritic knees). I asked her why (since I signed all of the releases) and she said that it was important to the studio that I “enjoyed my workout.”
I was hugely impressed by her follow up and response and took her suggestion of signing up for private training sessions. They paired me with two trainers: Ioana Alfonso, or Io as most people call her, and Jonathan Tylicki.
This week’s newsletter features Io. And our August 31st newsletter will feature Jonathan.
Please stay tuned for next week (July 27th newsletter) where Io walks us through Anna’s treadmill workout, AKTread (my go-to routine when I am on the road).
Who are you? What do you do, and where do you live?
My name is Ioana Alfonso and I am an actor, dancer, director/choreographer who is also a personal trainer at AKT InMotion. I live in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
You’ve had an amazing career. Can you share a bit about how you came to be where you are today?
I’ll try! I guess I would start by saying that no one becomes successful at anything alone, so I feel very lucky to have met a wide range of mentors, teachers and fellow artists that were able to provide me with guidance as well as a wide range of job opportunities that gave me varied experiences. They have, over time, generously shared the knowledge necessary to inspire me continuously in a business that can be so unpredictable and complex.
In addition to this, and maybe more importantly, my family (and more specifically my mother) has always been a huge support system for me in moments of doubt or when experiencing challenges of any kind both personal and professional.
I started dancing with very strict Russian teachers at the National Ballet in Puerto Rico when I was about 5 or 6 years old. This gave me a good solid technical base and a love for classical theater early on. Years later, when I moved to Miami, I began to study at a local studio where Mia Michaels became my teacher, introducing me to a whole new way of moving and expression. Studying under her, being mentored by her and later working professionally with her were instrumental in shaping where I am now on too many levels to fully describe here.
As a teenager I auditioned for a conservatory arts school call New World School of the Arts, where I spent my last two years of high school. There, I learned about discipline and hard work while being surrounded by artists in other areas of study like visual art, music and drama. My days started with academics at 8 am, then continued with dance around 3 pm (most of the year followed by rehearsals for shows until around 6pm) and would finish at the dance studio where I trained with Mia (for competitions, recitals, and other work) until late in the evenings. When I graduated high school, I went to NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts where I continued honing my skills, meeting fellow artists and developing relationships in the city. While attending high school and college, I still worked with Mia assisting her on big projects, performing with her and later joining her company as one of its founding members. All of these experiences, which I gained over time through school, fellow artists, and with Mia, led me to participate in a wide range of opportunities with professionals in many genres from stage to screen.
I later auditioned for and booked my first Broadway show, “Wicked” which expanded my performance skills to include the use of my voice in acting and singing. This led to work in straight plays, film/tv and voice overs as an actor instead of just as a dancer.
I have also had many failures, which have taught me innumerable lessons. I guess in retrospect I’ve always tried to press forward doing what truly makes me happy, letting the adventures unfold and being open to where life takes me while doing my best to accept the hard times as opportunities to learn something. It reminds me of Steve Jobs’ now famous commencement speech at Stanford where he says, “you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”
I also suppose it doesn’t hurt to have the kind of personality that when told “NO” is only fueled more to prove them wrong and say “YES.” My parents taught me to always push to keep growing and never settle for mediocrity. If an opportunity presents itself, I just always hope I am prepared for it.
So to answer your question I would say I have come to where I am today by co-creating with what Life shares with me through LOTS of support from family/friends/teachers, hard work, an openness of heart and extreme gratitude for any opportunity to give of myself to others.
What were some of the proudest moments?
Taking my mom on a surprise trip to Paris for her milestone birthday
Opening night of my Broadway debut with “Wicked”
Dancing a lead role for Twyla Tharp in “Come Fly Away”
Getting married to my best friend while surrounded by the most amazing group of family and friends
Any chance I get to help a client feel better in any way
Volunteering, performing, or participating in charity events for organizations like Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, the African Children’s Choir, Hole in the Wall Gang, Artists Striving to End Poverty, etc.
Why did you decide to become a trainer for AKT?
I met Anna through a mutual friend when I had finished filming “Smash” for NBC and was looking for my next job. The life of a performer can be extremely unstable at any level of success. You could literally win an Oscar or a Grammy, for example, and your career could still tank. I was looking for something that provided some stability and consistency while also being flexible so I could continue to pursue my artistic goals. AKT provides this while allowing me to share my knowledge of the human body and my passion for movement with others.
My hope is that this has a positive impact on clients that ripples beyond our work together sweating it out in the studio. I truly believe our body, mind, and spirit are connected, so to work on one, is to work on all aspects of our being. When our bodies are healthy and in flow we are happy, creative, and powerful beyond measure, enabling us to contribute positively to our community and the planet. By being a trainer I am in the position to be a small part of that process and that is exciting to me.
Anna has inspired me in unexpected ways and I am proud to be a part of the AKT team because of the attention placed on overall health, proper alignment, and form, but also because Anna empowers others to be their best selves while having FUN doing it.
How does AKT differ from other workouts?
AKT is always evolving. Classes are designed to progress and change, so the content is different every two weeks targeting muscles in a different way each time so you never reach a plateau in your fitness. This also has the added benefit of keeping the mind interested and challenged so it’s never boring!
AKT does not focus on fads, but instead draws on a range of proven methods to expand your limits, strengthen the body, improve flexibility and balance…all without the torture of a more masochistic training program that is not self-sustaining. Clients get a fantastic full body workout that is definitely challenging, but AKT is not a place you will feel pushed via intimidation. We believe in having a positive, happy community whose goal is to allow the individual to move at their own pace while still being encouraged to perform at their personal best.
Also, the AKT Teacher Certification is one of the most rigorous, comprehensive and selective programs in the fitness industry. AKT trainers are certified through NASM, with an educational background in anatomy and kinesiology and a minimum of five years spent as a professional dancer. AKT teachers include 6 conditioning specialists with expertise in pre/postnatal fitness, Pilates, the Czech Method, TRX, CES (Corrective Exercise Specialist), injury prevention, and more. Motivated by their student’s progress, AKT teachers spend out-of-class time researching anatomical and nutritional solutions tailored to their client’s concerns, and choreographing new movements in order to provide results-driven strategies that are entertaining, safe, and incredibly effective.
What do you need to know before starting an AKT workout?
AKT is a full body high intensity interval training workout where you will work on cardio, strength and flexibility all in the same session. Come prepared to sweat and have fun!
No membership is required. You can pay-as-you-go, but we do encourage you to join for the optimal AKT experience. Obviously, the more you come, the faster you’ll see results—and the better you’ll feel.
What is some life advice that you can share?
Always live with compassion and find joy. Take risks when possible and never stop being a student. Lead with love.
Finally, please share something surprising about yourself!
Spanish is my first language, and I once had my tongue pierced!