Let’s Get Physical!

Part One

People Jogging at the beach in Rio de Janeiro

People Jogging at the beach in Rio de Janeiro

Those of us who work around food— in any particular segment of the culinary field—while we don’t want to give up on the subject we love the most in the world, there is a constant feeling of keeping our health and physical in shape.

Bringing recipes from Brazil to the Unites States requires a lot of testing (and tasting) in my American kitchen. Bowls of chocolate and coconut brigadeiros waiting to be rolled, three different kids of pão de queijo baking in the oven, bags of manioc starch being examined for an article…that’s just a typical day in my kitchen- office. Multiply that by 5 days a week, and you have an idea of what my life is like.

For most of the years when I couldn’t admit my passion for food, all the conflict was shown in me. There was more of me, by a good 20 pounds at times.

In this picture, I was at least 10 heavier than now. Circa 1997

In this picture, I was at least 10 heavier than now. Circa 1997

This may seem like an unorthodox parallel, but it was only when I decided to place food and cooking into my life, rather than out, and embrace life as a food professional, that my own weight came to stabilize.

The thing is that cooking is viewed by many as a chore. Any recipe that takes more than 30 minutes is stealing time from the other things you need to do. But to me, cooking is one of life’s greatest pleasures. And I feel it’s a privilege to be able to do cook almost every day of the week. How else can I try the hundreds of recipes from my beloved cookbooks?

Ah-ha! Exercising! I have been asked how do I keep a reasonably healthy figure. And the answer is that I am one of those lucky people who really loves to exercise. The sweating, the effort, the feeling of accomplishment—it’s pure elation! And the fact that is good for you, is just icing on the cake. It also when I get my best ideas!

That doesn’t mean that I don’t struggle. The truth is, I am just like anybody else in search of a healthy balanced lifestyle. But I am here to help you feel better. So let’s get physical! Come one, sing with me! I wanna get physical, let’s get into physical!

Remember this?

Remember this?

Well, I have been jogging for over 10 years, but recently I have discovered another type of exercise that I simply adore: spinning.

Oh yeah baby, let’s get physical!

Oh yeah baby, let’s get physical!

On the next post, I will introduce you to someone who has the gift of making exercising another great pleasure in life.

Let’s get Physical – Part Two

Marcelo Oliveira

Marcelo Oliveira

Meet Marcelo Oliveira, a 32 year-old Carioca (born in Rio) who teaches spinning classes at Body Tech, a health club in Rio de Janeiro. He started studying physical education, later moved to business and finance studies, and then completed a full circle coming back to the health field bringing holistic living to a whole new level.

My father, Salomon Benzaquen is addicted to Marcelo’s class, along with hundreds of other people.

My father spinning

My father spinning

It was only after my father invited me to spin with him in Marcelo’s class, that I realized the difference that a teacher’s personality can make in a spinning, or exercising class.

Marcelo is not your typical trainer. He impersonates what joy really is— through spinning. He spins with you, dances with you, sings with you, turn your weight to spin harder. He brings the animal in you and really makes your body talk! Let’s get physical!

Let’s get animal!

Let’s get animal!

He is, in my opinion, an asset to Rio. I am sure there are many other wonderful spinning teachers in Rio, New York, and around the world, but doesn’t it feel so good when you find the one that makes a difference in your life?

Marcelo’s spinning class

Marcelo’s spinning class

I took a class with Marcelo during a recent visit to Rio and sweat was still dripping from my forehead, when I sat down to chat with him.

I hope you’ll enjoy this interview. If you are in Rio, be sure to try his class (see info at the bottom), and let’s get physical!

Part Three- Interview with Marcelo Oliveira

I can feel the heat!

I can feel the heat!

 How did you start teaching spinning, and what were you doing before that?

 I was an officer in the Brazilian Navy for almost 10 years, but I always dreamed of working with something related to sports, which is my real passion. When I was studying physical education, I asked to be released from the Navy and got deeply into this world. I started as an intern at Estação do Corpo (a health club in Rio); it was there that I found spinning. It was love at first sight. I was introduced to Giseli Bazin, a teacher at Estação, who offered to be my tutor. I was hooked. Besides spinning, I also interned as a personal trainer.

What is your source of inspiration?

 The student. Making sure he/she reaches their goals and have fun. That’s what really matters to me the most.

What’s your biggest challenge teaching spinning classes?

 To make sure each person gets out of class with a smile on their face, and ready to face a day at work. I want them to have at least one hour without thinking of their problems. It’s all about having fun, singing, and spinning.


What’s the most rewarding part of your job?

 To hear: “ Thanks Marcelo, you made my day.” This phrase is a constant in my life, and each day I make the effort to improve myself, to teach a better class, to reach and please even more people.

How do you select the music? Do you mix the music yourself?

I have been teaching spinning classes for 5 years and I have never once repeated a music mix. I always prepare a different mix for each class. It takes about 90 minutes  the day before to prepare the mix. I choose the music based on each person that spins with me. Each song is dedicated to them. I observe the age of the group, I ask people’s tastes, and I select about 40 songs. This way, I am sure to please everybody. At last one, out of those 40 songs will somewhat relate to you, make you spin faster and harder. These songs add up to about 3 hours of spinning. Each class in only 50 minutes, but I teach several a day. I mix, edit, delete, and add different parts of the song, sometimes leaving the main beat, or erasing a certain part of the song that might be boring or may last too long. I try to catch the best part of each song. To do this, I use a special mixing software, which is the same I use in the classroom.

What are your favorite songs to spin? I know you have thousands of songs, so could you list your current favorite five?

That’s is such a hard question, each day I play so many different songs, so many new songs… Ok I will try:

It’s my life, from Jon Jovi

Mr. Jones, Counting Crows

Tempo Perdido, Legião Urbana

Shining Star

Alem do Horizonte – J Quest

Your classes are so more crowded than the other teacher’s. What is your secret?

I love what I do! I think that’s the secret. Every class that I teach, I feel the energy of each student, I give my heart and soul to the class, and I really feel extremely relaxed and confortable with them. If this feeling ever ends one day, then I’ll know it’s time to stop.

Where does spinning fall in the ranking of physical activities?

I think today, spinning is one the most looked for activity in fitness centers in Rio. It might be slightly behind jogging, but those who jog, usually prefer to do it outdoors.  So if we are talking about indoor exercising, spinning is on the top of the list.

Is there anyone who should not spin?

 Spinning is a group exercise, with individual goals. It’s very important for both the person and for me to respect each person’s physical and biological capabilities. If anyone has a restriction, they should tell the teacher and I will be happy to adapt the class to that’s person’s needs.

Any tips for a person who would like to start spinning?

Try to have fun before even thinking about how much better you’ll look. First, you need to enjoy what you’re doing. Then you may think about results such as loosing weight. Look for an exciting class, with nice music, nice energy, and a nice group of people.


What do you like to eat the most? And is there something you just can’t resist?

 I eat very well balanced meals, and I really take good care of myself because I need to be an example for my students. I really don’t have any temptations. I pretty much resist to the most indulgent things without huge efforts. My concern is really a healthy life-style.

If a reader of this blog would like to try your class, can they get in touch with you?

Anyone can reach me at [email protected]

My classes are at the Baixo Leblon unit

Body Tech

Av. Ataulfo de Paiva, 1100


Rio de Janeiro, RJ 22440

tel (55 21) 2512-5332

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *