When Rob Whitaker of Camp Hill began taking classes at Harrisburg’s Thrive Fit Co., he couldn’t physically complete a class.
“I was not fit at all,” said the 34-year old financial planner. “But when you come from a non-fitness background like I did, you want to be surrounded by positive people.”
Those positive people include his wife (the couple attends Thrive’s 6 a.m. class together twice a week) and Thrive owner Ashley Mentzer.
“Ashley is very optimistic and helps you want to achieve more—not just on a fitness level,” Whitaker said.
He has attended Thrive’s boxing-inspired workouts and boot camp classes for more than a year and is feeling much healthier as a result, both physically and mentally.
“I’m 6-5, a big guy,” he said. “My blood pressure went way down. I lost and continue to lose weight and inches.”
Mentzer launched Thrive Fit Co. in 2017 through unconventional channels. She gained a following by holding pop-up classes in public places throughout Harrisburg, such as on the state Capitol steps.
“I started with two people on the first day,” Mentzer said. “It turned into eight and 10 and 20, and, some days, on the Capitol steps, we had 30.”
She began partnering with established fitness studios, hosting classes in their locations, bringing her tribe along.
Last summer, she organized the inaugural Thrive Fit Fest at City Island’s FNB Field. The daylong festival attracted nearly 500 people, who sampled fitness sessions and mingled with more than 60 Harrisburg-area health and wellness professionals.
The momentum continued.
Last September, Mentzer established a home for Thrive Fit Co. in the historic King Mansion on Front Street. Now, more than a dozen classes are offered weekly, including boxing-style HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) workouts and boot camp classes targeting strength and toning in specific areas such as arms and abs.
Mentzer, who turns 29 this month, grew up in New Cumberland playing softball at Cedar Cliff, then got into cycling, triathlons and group fitness instructing. She earned her degree in communications design from Kutztown, works in marketing and is now a Harrisburg resident. Where does she get all her energy?
“Finding passion and positivity, seeing how fitness can change lives,” she said.
In a Flash
Boxing is a unique component of Thrive workouts.
Mentzer trained under Claudie Kenion at Capital Punishment Boxing Club and became certified to teach boxing two years ago. But there’s no sparring at Thrive.
“I’m not teaching you how to become a boxer,” she said. “I’m teaching you boxing for fitness.”
She said that was inspired by “the hottest studios in New York City” to offer boxing classes with a nightclub vibe.
I sampled her offerings, signing up for a “Box + HIIT” class.
After some quick warm-up exercises in the main studio, where a prominent sign proclaims “GOOD VIBES ONLY,” we moved into the boxing studio, took our places at 16 boxing bags and donned boxing gloves.
Mentzer, wearing a headset with a microphone, dimmed the main lights, launching a party atmosphere complete with dance music and disco lights.
Right away, she taught us proper stance and the one-two combination, a soft jab with the left glove followed by a powerful cross with the right. We quickly progressed into the three-four (left and right hooks) and five-six (left and right uppercuts) combinations, with Mentzer carefully explaining and demonstrating each move. Within a few minutes, she began calling out creative combinations (one, one, two, five, six) with the class punching out her combos for 30 seconds at a clip.
Every few minutes, we broke up the boxing with HIIT movements—100 jumping jacks, squats against the wall, arm circles and more. Mentzer constantly circulated, offering pointers and encouragement, adjusting posture or stance. Enthusiasm was high, and the 45-minute class went by in a flash.
“Once you learn the moves, you become more fluid,” said Emily Menario, 26, of Harrisburg.
Menario never boxed prior to her classes with Thrive, but she was “intrigued” by the concept, she said. A special education teacher for the Susquehanna Township School District, she began taking classes more than a year ago and was hooked.
“People are usually shocked when I tell them the workouts involve boxing,” she said. “But I explain that anyone can do it because Ashley is a highly motivating instructor.”
Perhaps it’s appropriate that Mentzer’s innovative fitness concepts are housed in the historic King Mansion, as the 1920s-era, Mediterranean-style manse was actually constructed with athletic components.
The basement, where Thrive is now located, housed the King family’s swimming pool and bowling alley. Today’s parking lot was originally a tennis court. The Kings believed in providing their six children with opportunities for both academic and athletic pursuits.
Mentzer said that today’s boxing studio was specially engineered with shocks to accommodate the weight of the boxing bags. Filled with water, each weighing 190 pounds, they are the only aqua bags offered in the region, she said.
The building’s longest tenant, for 54 years, was the Merchants & Business Men’s Mutual Fire Insurance Co. The King Mansion’s newest owner is Marc Kurowski, a principal at K&W Engineers and Consultants, whose offices are in the building.
Thrive continues to evolve. Mentzer said that heart-rate training, cooking and wellness classes are coming, and the 2nd Annual Thrive Fit Fest is set for June 22.
Her vision for Thrive is ambitious, going beyond just instruction.
“It’s bigger than fitness,” she said. “People coming through our doors want to change their lives.”
Thrive Fit Co. is located at 2201 N. Front St., Harrisburg (entrance on the Woodbine Street side). For more information, visit www.thrivefit.co or the Facebook page.