The View Park gym features strength and cardio training, yoga, dance, boxing, and meditation.
By Blake Carter
LaNiecia Vicknair used to drive long distances outside of the South Los Angeles communities that she’s from to get in a good workout.
“I was one of those people who would drive 30 minutes to get to a workout class on the Westside, and then pay $10 for parking and see people who don’t look like me or don’t understand my body type,” she said.
Vicknair wasn’t the only person in her community who was dealing with this inconvenience, but to her it was worth the long drives.
“I come from an obese family,” she said. “I lost my father who was morbidly obese. He had a heart attack.”
Vicknair was conscious about her own health, and she also saw a need in communities of color that needed to be filled. Her vision was not only to improve the health of her family, but also to help people who live around her. That led her to opening Thrive Health Lab in View Park, where the majority of the trainers come from the same communities as the clients.
“We need it taught by us,” she said. “At other gyms where it is not taught by us, they don’t understand what we go through day to day or the type of weight that we have on our shoulders because of the color of our skin.”
Thrive Health Lab has small group classes and personal training. There are classes for strength and cardio training, yoga, stretch therapy, dance, and boxing. One of the more popular classes uses TRX suspension training, which uses body weight exercises to develop strength, balance, flexibility and core stability simultaneously.
Thrive Health Lab has a lot of open space inside the gym, as opposed to free weights and exercise machines.
“Most men are like, ‘where’s the weights, bro?’” Vicknair said. “We focus on functional movement here. Anything that you do in this gym, you can do with your own bodyweight. Especially with the TRX suspension trainer. For heavier people who may not be able to squat, we’ll put them on that so that they can do a good squat. And there’s people who are good at doing a plank, so we’ll put them in the TRX and have them elevated to give them more of a challenge. You don’t need all of those machines.”
Vicknair also promotes the benefits of yoga to her clients.
“When we first started out, people were super hesitant to do yoga, and we really had to push them into it,” she said. “Now it’s a part of their routine.”
Classes are 50 minutes long, and Vicknair has created a welcoming environment that encourages people to improve their health.
“We’re not going to yell at you, or act like you have to do 500 burpees,” she said. “We’re going to meet you where you are, and take you where you want be at your pace.”
The trainers at Thrive Health Lab are all certified and people of color.
“I don’t feel like we have a trainer/client relationship here,” Vicknair said. “I feel like we have a family relationship here, and I know that’s what keeps people interested in coming here. They don’t feel intimidated. They feel welcomed. We have personal relationships with our clients, and our clients form relationships with each other. So they have accountability.”
The personal relationships that this gym has created have helped people make physical and mental transformations.
“Of course there has been a lot of weight loss, but to me that’s not the important part,” Vicknair said. “To me the important part is that the introverts are now extroverts, the people that used to frown all the time and you could tell that they had something heavy weighing in them, and now they’re smiling and happy when they’re going to meditation and yoga. I can see people coming out of their shell, and being comfortable with who they are and where they are in their journey.”
It was important for Vicknair to bring a gym to South Los Angeles because she grew up in Baldwin Hills and Ladera Heights, and she is a homeowner in Windsor Hills. She attended Palisades High School, and then Howard University, where she became a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.
Thrive Health Lab is located at 3701 West 54th Street, which is a few blocks west of Crenshaw Boulevard. Contact them at (323) 207-8083. Visit their website at www.thrivehealthlab.com, and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.