Fit in my 40s

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The 411 on Ivan Black and Next Step Performance and how I stay fit in my 40s post-baby.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Sara Bozich talks with Ivan Black, owner and lead trainer at Next Step Performance.

Frequently Asked Questions about my workouts

Where/how are you working out?

I’ve been working out 2-4x a week since Memorial Day weekend 2020. I started after a 2 1/2 year break after having Bo.

How’s this work?

One of the perks of quarantine, for me, was having live workouts in my home. While there are a million online workout apps, channels, and programs, I like the interaction of a live trainer and the camaraderie of fellow clients — even if it’s via a screen. I really really hope virtual training lasts beyond covid because it works for my lifestyle.

How long are your workouts in real time?

Ivan at Next Step Performance creates challenging, full-body HIIT workouts — High-Intensity Interval Training. He’s purposeful in selecting moves that challenge the whole body, and I never know what’s next. I love that!

Each class goes something like this: 5 min warm-up followed by 2 circuits, each of which has about 5 moves. Work for 45 sec, rest for 15; repeat 3x. Then … the finisher. These are either Tabata style (2 moves, work 20 sec; rest 10; repeat 4x), AMRAP (as many reps as possible) for 6 minutes, or god help us, a ladder, where we build up to 4 continuous moves, working each for 30 sec. Occasionally he’ll mix that up, too.

I answered a few other FAQs here – check ’em out.

Ivan Black | Next Step Performance

I’m not 100% sure who first introduced me to Ivan Black and Next Step Performance, but I do know I started punctuating my weekends with his Saturday mornings group fitness classes and was quickly hooked.

There is something about HIIT workouts that totally do it for me, and I worked out at NSP at least once weekly until about eight months into my pregnancy with Bo (2017), when it became just too difficult to breathe.

I thought for sure I’d dive back into physical activity after childbirth (once cleared by my doc, of course), as I also was doing yoga one-to-two times per week, too. Alas, that did not happen. In fact, it took until the pandemic for me to make my fitness a priority and find a way to eke it back into my schedule (see above).

A few weeks ago, I *finally* FaceTimed with Ivan to talk with him about his fitness philosophy, motivation, and what’s next for him.

Ivan started as a personal trainer, though he told me he created fitness workouts even before his training career took off.

“Program design is what inspires me and what I would spend my time doing,” Ivan said. “I focused on program design because that’s what’s sexy to me.”

Ivan’s interpersonal skills come naturally — if you’ve had the pleasure of meeting or training with him, you know that’s true — and that’s why his clients love working with him.

The combination makes Ivan a great trainer — someone who feels like your friend but who also kicks your butt.

Group Training – Full Body Focus

There’s no “leg day” or “arms day” — Every class Ivan offers focuses on the full body.

Once he started working heavily on group training, Ivan acknowledged that people’s schedules and commitments were different, so he spends time building out full-body workouts.

“So not matter what day you come in, you’re getting a full training,” Ivan said.

I asked Ivan how he chooses each day’s workout, joking about whether he purposefully incorporates moves he knows we hate.

“I add variety, and break up the workout based on movements and what plan we’re working on,” Ivan said. “We do what we need to do — science first, whether we hate it later.”

Ivan now is working on building out workout plans in 4-week stages, providing an outline for each, and laying out an entire week in advance.

“I wasn’t always the most efficient — I could remember the week but couldn’t remember the [rest of the] month,” Ivan said.

Designing a monthlong plan, Ivan said, will help him staying on point for all members.


One of the top questions I’m asked is about motivation, and even for someone who has made fitness his career, it is still a key component to success.

Ivan said he draws motivation from individual clients and knowing people are relying on him.

“When I’m at my best, I’m drawing from members of my community, looking to set an example for my daughter to see me working out,” Ivan said. “My family did this in the gym, in the living room, in the backyard, in the park. It’s a special thing that came from within, and it’s shown results.”

For Ivan personally, he’s motivated to attain pain-free movement.

“If I’m not focused on my mobility, it gets difficult to do anything,” he said. “My body can still perform [the way it was] when I was 17 — not really but kind of [laughs] — but I gotta get service on a weekly basis.

“Workouts have to be centered around my wellness. When those things are working, I’m at my best.”

Next Steps for Next Step

Like most companies, last year when the world shut down, Next Step Performance went online. In fact, it was ultimately how I got back into working out, carving out morning time — without having to drive anywhere.

“Once the virtual [training] started, I knew I wanted to keep it,” Ivan said. “All these clients who were committed, who I trust, figured out how to make it work.”

This year, in-person training returned to the studio, which is located at the 1500 Condominiums. Meanwhile, Ivan and his family recently relocated to Kansas.

Before he left, however, Ivan completed construction on the studio to add pull-up bars with ladders. These allow clients of any fitness level to try pull-ups, as well as provide a basis for other exercises. Ivan also hired an additional trainer, Heavenly (who you might know from her other business, Pennsylvania Picnic Co.).

Virtual Training

Ivan’s goal is to continue virtual training (I’m still there every morning), learn how to incorporate some equipment, like the Clench bands we’ve been using, and creating that 4-week plan and overview.

Essentially, Ivan wants to move toward accountability and goal tracking. He may offer text check-ins and encourage “before” and “progress” photos.

“[I want to] let people feel they are part of a community that has committed to improving their health,” he said.

The ideal client

“Busy people, moms.”

Ivan’s workouts are hard. There’s no two ways about it. But that’s also why I love it. Ivan said he sees more women than men as clients. He thinks moms are more comfortable being uncomfortable.

(My own personal observation is similar — my first experience with HIIT was with a group of moms at another gym. We stuck with it — the camaraderie helped — and had noticeable results. A few guys would drop in for a class but rarely returned.)

That said, plenty of men also train with Ivan (though moreso in-studio than online, again, my personal observation), so that’s certainly not to say that High-Intensity Interval Training or Next Step Performance is *for* one person or another.

Goal Setting

Ivan aims for the virtual component of his business to not just last but thrive, ultimately benefiting all clients, including those who prefer to train in-studio.

He hopes to provide a live track class, plus access to an on-demand library, including a mobility curriculum.

“I’m working on [a program] that is 80 percent mobility, 20 percent strength — think yoga with weights,” Ivan said.

Other tracks may be strictly mobility-based but focus on specific joints or areas of the body.

Train with me

Ivan is offering a week of free training to my readers (that’s you). Send me a message if you want to give it a try, and I’ll connect you with Ivan and Next Step Performance!

Sara Bozich
Author: Sara Bozich

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