For far too long, the concept of health and wellness was regarded as a privileged perk for the affluent and a burden for the poor. Unsurprisingly, the consequences of this access gap disproportionately affects Black people and our communities. But there are a few people in this space who seek to fill this chasm by offering quality, high-impact fitness sessions and deliver these services right to the heart of the people who need it the most. Irving “Zeus” Hyppolite is one of those people. As a highly sought-after trainer in the New York area for over a decade, Zeus’ Quantum Leap Fitness business provides not only personal training lessons, but also a weekly inner U Bootcamp class infused with high energy hip-hop music in a familial atmosphere. It’s considered a fitness fav among writers, creators, and media personalities in the Tri-state area, and some of MN’s own staff attends the classes weekly. We caught up with Zeus about the core ethics of his business, the importance of mental health and fitness, and why he thinks wellness should be available for all.
MN: What inspired you to start weekly bootcamp sessions?
I wanted to create a space for fitness and altruism, two of the most important things on the planet to me. I was doing free classes in random parks back in 2015. Then, I started the inner U Bootcamp in 2017 as a way to connect culture and fitness together in a day and age where a lot of this industry is built off of gimmicks and overpriced classes. Why not put an affordable class in the middle of the city for people of color and use this class as a way to change the world through our initiatives?
How does bootcamp differ from personal one-on-one training sessions?
I think the biggest difference is “community.” You get a class that starts off as strangers, but through sweating, laughing, and even feeling pain together, a family is created. And while that happens in training sessions, it’s different because you’re working out with a group of people who look like you and want to get in shape just like you… a tribe is formed in that context.
Your attendees are primarily people of color. Why do you think it’s important that black and brown people participate in fitness activities together?
I think when you look at the numbers and see that people of color lead every statistical category from diabetes to hypertension, it’s important that we take control of our health. A lot of these systemic issues with our health stems from the social economics of America–so nobody understands our plight like we do. Fitness is one of them. So creating a space for us to exist and change the generational health of our families now creates a lasting effect that can change the world.
You periodically do flash sales so people can attend. Can you speak to why it’s important to make health and fitness affordable/accessible?
A lot of fitness classes in the city typically cost $30-$50 dollars because capitalism is real, but money can’t be more important than helping your own. So we do flash sales pretty often to give everyone a chance to experience the magic here, create a bond for life, and at least say they’ve attempted to take a step in the right direction at least once.
How do you prep for bootcamp (mentally)? How do you determine if you had a good class or not?
Good question, a lot of people don’t know this but I get nervous before every class so to prep I have conversations with myself 5 minutes before class in which I promise myself to give the people what they came to see, and I also chant before class (Buddhism). Knowing if a class is good is understanding that a good workout isn’t about how much you made someone sweat, throw up, or feel like they’ve failed, it’s about being able to see a smile on their face after because that says this is something they’ll come back to.
Music is an essential part of the workout. How do you curate the playlist for each class/where can we find more fitness playlists from you?
Outside of themed classes like “Drake night” or “Jay-Z night,” I typically spend hours playing that force a reaction on my way to class and pick from there. Music is so powerful and I know where to place a specific song during class to get the right energy from the people there.
Workout with Zeus (and some of your MN favs!) every Monday. Click here to purchase.