If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve noticed that there’s a lot of activity going on in the Body Conceptions world these days. Between some amazing new instructors, photo shoots, events, and new locations, BoCo is busy — and getting busier all the time.
We caught up with Mahri Relin, founder and owner of Body Conceptions, to get to know her a little better — to understand where all of this came from, how she really feels about the fitness scene, and what drove her to create her company in the first place. We can tell that some big plans are in the works. Stay tuned for news of some exciting new directions. And in the meantime, read all about the woman behind the method!
Tell us about yourself. Where were you born, and where did you grow up. Where did you go to school, what did you study? What styles of dance?
I was born in Las Vegas, New Mexico but moved to Cape Cod, MA after a year and grew up there. I went to the Nauset Regional school system before heading off to college at Williams to study psychology and neurobiology. I had started dancing (ballet) when I was 5, but I didn’t think it would become a serious part of my life until I attended graduate school. I was in a doctoral program in Clinical Neuropsychology at UCSD/SDSU but spent every free minute taking modern dance or ballet class or performing in the area. Since I soon realized that dance was my true passion, I made the greatest decision of my life to leave school, move to New York, and see if I could make it in the dance scene. I had begun with ballet as a child, but I had gotten serious about modern dance and had also spent lots of time during my travels studying different forms of dance around the world. Because of this, I was pretty well prepared to enter the Broadway scene that requires proficiency in lots of different dance styles.
How did you get into fitness? What is your fitness background?
After dancing and performing nationally and internationally for many years, I realized that I needed to ground myself in the city and think about having a more consistent form of income. That was exactly the time when a great friend of mine contacted me to audition for Tracy Anderson. I was so impressed by the way that she brought dance and fitness together. And I also loved the way she used music to motivate people (because I’m a music fiend!). I was hooked and knew that I had found my next career. I was sad to leave her studio after a major ankle injury, but that brought me to FlyBarre, the new barre method that grew out of Flywheel Sports. I was honored to be named the Creative Director for their first year, and that paved the way for me to want to create fitness material that was most effective for me and also for my clients. I had lots of ideas that diverged from the barre scene, so starting my own method and my own company made the most sense.
Who was your mentor/guide supporting you on your journey to success? Describe how and why you established relationships in the industry?
I had some amazing clients who encouraged me to go for it and start my own thing. They saw that I had lots of ideas about how to run a company, and I was always coming up with new material that revolved around my personal fitness philosophy. And I saw how amazing their results could be. Once I started Body Conceptions, I was incredibly lucky to reconnect with Deborah Kessler, an old friend of mine with expertise in small business marketing and operations. She was a wonderful addition to the team and helped guide us tremendously in our early years. She remains a really valuable confidante and close friend.
I have built Body Conceptions around my growing relationships in the health and wellness community. I believe that fitness should be part of a larger wellness picture for people, and I like to bring lots of different resources to our clients. Out of this philosophy, I have had some of the most wonderful relationships with businesses and wellness figures in the community that include Jane Jourdan of Fit for Broadway, Dana Campbell Coaching, Lolë Activewear, Just Salad, Ellie Shepley, Brooke Marrone, Elvie, Tovita Nutrition, and WTRMLN WTR among many, many others.
What inspired you to launch Body Conceptions? What was your main goal when you started?
I had been creating material for other companies, but I had a huge desire to create my own method using fitness principles and approaches to movement that felt the best for my body. On top of that, I was seeing results in my clients that were amazing me.
I think my psychology background also had an impact on my decision to create a place and an environment that I believed in. I saw so many women who were afraid of exercising because they had insecurities about their bodies and felt like they didn’t fit into the fitness scene. And I believe that EVERYONE deserves to experience the benefits and joy that come from making fitness part of their life. I wanted to create a studio where the fitness was highly effective but where the environment was extremely welcoming, supportive, and community-driven. I am so proud of the way my instructors have embodied this philosophy.
How did you come up with the name Body Conceptions? Were there other ideas in the works? Can you explain the meaning behind the logo?
Believe it or not, my mother came up with our company name. She knew my philosophy about how fitness belonged in a bigger health and wellness context. And the name, Body Conceptions, spoke to the many ways that we think about and care for our bodies – through mind, spirit, diet, social connection, music, exercise, etc. I loved the name immediately.
The logo came from our wonderful designer, Brad Egnor. He created a feeling of flow and movement using the “B” and “C” letters that reflected my background in dance, my personality, and the sophistication I wanted to convey.
How have you and the company grown over the past few years? Has anything about the mission and/or goals changed at all?
I began the company as a one-person private training business. I knew I wanted to grow, so I wrote the manual for the method and started attending networking events to meet like-minded wellness professionals in the city and create partnerships. When I started, I didn’t think I wanted to open my own permanent studio but rather sought connections with people in hopes of eventually joining a bigger collective or wellness center.
Soon I had way too many requests for training to handle them myself and hired my first instructor. I also realized that I needed to start giving public group classes so that more people could find out about us. Within 2 years, I had 4 instructors and a regular class schedule on top of a growing private training program in the Hamptons, NYC, and New Jersey. It felt amazing!
Looking at the opportunities around me recently, I have thought a lot about our growth – both alone and in connection with the partnerships we have built over the years. I am also now open to having a dedicated Body Conceptions studio space, which would open so many doors for us and give our clients a truly elevated fitness experience. We have some exciting plans coming up, and I almost can’t believe how far we’ve come! Stay tuned!!
What obstacles did/do you face while running a small business? What are the most rewarding aspects of spearheading BoCo?
Starting from scratch the way I did gave me a lot of opportunities to build the business from the ground up just the way I wanted. I was able to be extremely careful about the instructors I chose, and I could spend a lot of time developing the brand culture. I could also build the relationships in the community the way that I wanted and focus heavily on client needs. The downside of starting small without investors is that you have to improvise a lot with your resources – and renting space in different locations can be tricky. And anything that goes wrong falls on your shoulders! But I am so grateful for the dedication and support of my team. I look forward to growing with them together and expanding the company model.
How is Body Conceptions different/similar from other fitness programs?
I developed Body Conceptions very carefully. It is based on dance principles and focuses on developing the lean and sculpted physique of a dancer. But I don’t ever want people to feel intimidated to come if they aren’t dancers! There is no complex choreography in our classes, and all levels are welcome. In addition, we have a more balanced focus on both body sculpting and cardio in our classes than other methods. You will truly feel like every part of your body has been targeted!
I am a huge music junkie, so music in our classes plays a major role in helping clients enjoy what they are doing without realizing that they are working so hard. I think having fun is crucial to sticking with a fitness method long-term. You should really WANT to make fitness a part of your life every day. And while this is one of the more challenging methods out there, I take huge pride in our extremely low injury rates and in how many of our clients overcome their back, hip and knee injuries through their work with us.
What do you look for in a BoCo Trainer? What do all of them have in common, and what makes them unique?
So many of us love our fitness classes when our instructors are great. For that reason, I take lots of time finding just the right people. I want instructors who are extremely warm, supportive, and motivating and who are not afraid to push our clients’ limits. It’s crucial to me for everyone in our classes to feel like they are important and for our instructors to monitor their technique and progress over time. All of our instructors have nationally recognized certifications. And most of them are also certified pre- and postnatal exercise specialists.
I like to choose instructors who understand the method but who also have their own unique charisma and personality. Every BoCo class you take will be true to our method, but you will also see differences between each instructors’ personality, choice of music, and style of movement. I’m really proud of those differences, and I love coming to the classes they teach to support them. I am a broken record, but I am so grateful for the love and care they all put into their work and the ways they have developed their own unique identities. I hope we are able to keep this level of excellence no matter how big we grow.
Your Trainers are specially experienced in pre and post-natal fitness. Can you describe what exactly this entails and why you want to focus on it?
Yes! We want to be able to work with women through all stages of their life – and that includes their pregnancies. So many fitness studios in the city neglect pregnancy. But so many studies that shown how important it is to keep exercising when you’re pregnant!
I have studied pregnancy extensively, and I subsidize the pre-and postnatal education of my instructors. That way, they can work with our clients from the moment they prepare for their weddings through their multiple pregnancies and beyond without interruption.
What was your most memorable BoCo moment? Was it when a client improved drastically, or when you got to teach class to your best friends? Or when Vogue published an article about you?
Wow – that’s a hard question to answer. I think my favorite night was our official public launch in March 2013. We held our big class and reception at a studio/gallery space in TriBeCa. Some of my favorite friends, clients, and members of the press filled the room for the class, and we had a fantastic live DJ – Shem Alleyne. The energy in that room as we exercised together was magical, and the love and support I felt from everyone that night made me feel so happy. Nights like those help you realize that you are making the right choices and that your work really matters to people. I couldn’t have done any of this without the support of my friends and colleagues.
Why do you believe that the BoCo method really works?
I love the way my body feels doing the Body Conceptions workout, and I definitely notice a difference in myself when I am doing it. But don’t just believe me! Our most dramatic empirical data has come from our challenges during which our clients take as many classes as they can for 6 weeks while we measure their progress. We see significant changes in their waist, hips and thighs across the board, and most challengers lose a total average of 7 or more inches. One challenger blew everyone out of the water when she lost 14.2 inches – 5.2 inches off her waist alone!
Many of our private clients have had major life changes because of their work with us. Three of my current clients started exercising for the first time in their lives and are now making it a regular part of their lifestyle. (One of them even ran a marathon last year!) Many of our clients lose lots of weight, and they also experience dramatic changes in their body shape. I am particularly proud of our pregnant women. So many of them experience easier labors because of our workouts, and they recover much more quickly after the baby. And on top of everything, we get to be part of their growing family.