Energy boost


December 31, 2020

Workout instructor Lem Houston shares gym alternatives for getting and staying fit.

by Michelle Boudin

Perhaps this year more than ever, we’re anxious for the fresh start January brings — and for many of us, that means a New Year’s resolution to get healthy (or health-ier.) While fitness routines have been anything but normal, there are still lots of safe ways to work up a good sweat. We chatted with popular cardio funk and boot camp instructor and personal trainer Lem Houston, 47, about packing on the pounds during the pandemic, alternatives to gym workouts and how to stay in shape even in the dead of winter during a worldwide pandemic. 

Comments have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Pre-Covid, you taught cardio funk classes six days a week, twice a day across Charlotte. Why do people love it so much?

It’s fun and energetic, and it’s current music that people know and love. Cardio funk is different from Zumba because the music is hip-hop and R&B, and there’s always such a great atmosphere and energy. The hour goes by so quickly — before you know it, you have more than 10,000 steps, which is equal to about a 3-mile run and 500-600 calories burned. The best part is, you don’t have to struggle with the boring stuff at the gym.

What are the benefits of this kind of workout?

It’s a really good cardio workout. We do some muscle work with legs (squats and lunges) but it’s primarily a dance class. We make it fun so people want to do it more. I’ve been doing it for 10 years, and I’m still not tired of it.

You lost 40 pounds when you became a fitness trainer. What’s your best advice for losing weight and keeping it off?

I started running around the neighborhood, and then it got cold so I got a gym membership. Then I went to a cardio funk class and loved it. Cardio gets the weight off the fastest, and, mentally, most people want to see the number go down on the scale. Get a good nutrition plan — find whatever works for you — and do high cardio workouts. Leave the weights alone at first, then add muscle workouts. Once you build muscle, the scale won’t matter as much. Abs are made in the kitchen, so the eating part of it is just as important.

Not everyone is comfortable taking in-person fitness classes right now. What other options are there?

There are lots of online options. I have a library of cardio funk classes, some boot camp and other workouts on my website that you can mix and match. Find whatever is fun for you, whatever inspires you to move — make sure you do some sort of movement every day. Peleton is motivating for a lot of people — they enjoy the interaction with an instructor. We gained the Covid 19 [pounds], then there were the holidays, and we hibernate in the winter. It’s all compounding, so if we don’t do something now, that Covid 19 is going to turn into 25. Do something now, and make it something you can stick with. SP

Follow Houston’s online workouts at

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