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Wellness center activated

Sierra High Schol graduates open Active Nutrition in downtown Manteca

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Wellness center activated

Business partners Alex Avila and Amanda Reyna pose inside their new business venture, Active Nutrition, located in downtown Manteca along Yosemite Avenue. Active Nutrition is a wellness center, com...

HIME ROMERO/209 Health & Wellness

POSTED July 31, 2013 8:31 p.m.

With eyes as big as Olympic plates, Alex Avila could see his fitness franchise with remarkable clarity.

Two weeks before its grand opening on July 24, Active Nutrition was still very much a work-in-progress.

There was no signage out front, announcing its arrival. The floor-to-ceiling front windows had been blacked out by curtains, hiding the construction and staging taking inside.

And kettle bells, sand bags, boxing gloves, files and office equipment lay strewn about the floor, waiting for a permanent home.

Still, Avila’s vision for the spacious downtown location would not – and could not – be obstructed as he led Morris Newspaper Corp. on a walk-through.

Imagine, he said, unfurling his arm the way a showman would…

There are pull-up bars and rings and TRX straps springing from the walls and ceilings.

The lobby is alive with activity and chatter. People gather around the high-top table. Music is pumped in overhead. And there’s a juice bar, where blenders whip together frozen recovery drinks.

Over here, Avila says pulling back a black curtain and pointing to a mirror that spans a 30-foot-long wall, is the group workout area. Can you see it – a class of 25 pushing, grinding and dancing through a variety of workouts?

Beyond that, in a corner marked with three television sets, wood boxes and padded floors is Avila’s space.

“That’s my Man Cave,” the 30-year-old says with a crooked little smile.

“We’ll have Olympic lifting, pull-up bars, rings for muscle-ups.”

A longtime fixture in the Manteca fitness community, regaled for his personal training and coaching, Avila now stands on the precipice of a few new titles.

Wellness coach.

Health counselor.

Business partner.

Active Nutrition Manteca officially opened its doors on July 24, providing a home for a client base that for months worked out in Manteca’s open spaces – parks and parking lots.

 “Manteca’s downtown needs a place like this; a place where people can hang out, relax and have a shake,” said Avila, a 2001 graduate of Sierra High. “This is my hometown. I want to be the one you could go to for training and advice.”

Creating a healthy legacy

Avila didn’t reach this point alone. His business partner and fellow wellness coach Amanda Reyna has played a big role in the evolution of Manteca’s Active Nutrition chapter.

The 26-year-old Sierra High grad is a walking, talking testimonial for Active Nutrition, which combines activity and exercise with Herbalife’s recovery shakes and other nutritional products.

The former cheer captain and Stockton Lightning dancer began using Herbalife in January and lost about 20 pounds.

Bigger changes were on the horizon.

Reyna’s weight loss coincided with another life decision: She needed to maximize her time with Marinah, her bouncy 4-year-old daughter.

Reyna decided to leave a career with a financial institution in the Bay Area, cutting an hours-long commute – and drive-thru dinners – out of her day-to-day routine.

“I hit a point where I was frustrated with my life, unhappy with my body and not spending a lot of time with my family,” she said.  “I needed to make a change.”

Instead, Reyna decided to create a legacy of healthy eating and exercise for Marinah and her family, linking up with Avila.

“It was extremely scary. I’d have nightmares about my old boss and me begging for my job back. That was my job for seven years, so I was scared … Did I make the right decision?” she said. “I’ve put everything I have into this (Active Nutrition) and right now I have no regrets. That’s not my identity anymore; now it’s about making a new identity.

“All the money and all the hard work will pay off.”

Avila welcomed the partnership. With Reyna, he says, there is a balance                        in their fitness world.

“I told her what I wanted and she told me what she wanted. She wanted a lifestyle change, to be a role model for her family and to work in fitness. I wanted a facility. So it was like, ‘Let’s make it happen together.’ ”

And they have.

Grassroots business finds a downtown home

Active Nutrition began as a grassroots operation in the open spaces in Manteca in March, with four coaches coordinating workouts for all ages and intensities.

(Only Avila and Reyna remain with the business today.)

Penny Cornish, 25, has lost 17 pounds since she began with Active Nutrition in March. She enrolled in Avila’s bootcamp to shed baby weight, never realizing she’d develop a love affair with sweat.

“He’s been very motivating,” Cornish said of Avila. “He doesn’t let me give up. We work out hard, so instead of losing weight, my body was changing. Still, I wanted to see the numbers drop. He helped me realize that the numbers weren’t so important.”

Workouts were staged in parks and parking lots.

On Wednesdays, Active Nutrition wish-specific coaches would meet their clients at Dutra Family Park. On Saturdays, the Boys and Girls Club provided the backdrop for their workouts.

All the while, Avila and Reyna promised their clientele a wellness center, a one-stop shop for all their body’s needs.

On July 24, they delivered, re-opening an 1,800-square-foot location that once belonged to Fit Factory, Yoga Soul and Jiu-Jitsu and the Christian Bookstore.

Inspired by a similar movement in Los Angeles, and introduced to Avila and Reyna by another former Sierra High classmate, Leila Jelloule, Active Nutrition hopes to change downtown Manteca’s DNA.

There are plenty of niche shops and salons in and around that stretch of Yosemite Avenue, Avila says, but very few places that encourage residents to stay and play in the downtown area.

Active Nutrition combines the atmosphere of a juice/coffee shop with the intensity and focus of a fitness center.

It can’t be classified as a gym only.

“We want to take over downtown and be the ones you go to for nutrition and wellness,” Avila said. “We want to be your counselors, your trainers and your nutritionists – the ultimate triple threat.”

Shakes come in eight flavors and are $7 apiece – the price of a daily membership, which also includes a Herbalife tea. Clients and customers are welcome to hang out.

“Working out is, to me, it’s only 25-30 percent of it. A lot of your weight loss is what you eat. If you eat terrible, it won’t do anything for you,” said Cornish, who began her transformation with a Herbalife trial and now takes her queues from a “dos and don’ts” grocery list fashioned by Avila.

“What you eat is as important as working out.”

Active Nutrition offers its clients a variety of programs and classes, all of which are tailored to their specific goals.

There are four morning and four even classes offered Monday through Friday, with the possibility of weekend classes, too. Those will be determined by demand, Avila said.

Classes include Hip-Hop Abs, Insanity and yoga.

Avila coaches an extreme bootcamp-style workout and Olympic weight lifting.

“I’ve sacrificed and I’ve struggled, but at the end of the day I’ve always known what I wanted,” Avila said, “and I’ve worked my butt off to get it.”

To contact James Burns, e-mail

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