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TRX & Tabata with McKenzie Hayes

VPL has been obsessed with McKenzie for years. We've been following her. She's been following us. Finally, we are not only introducing her in our "workout with" section & our own Instagram, but also we reworked on the bra she wore years ago (see above adorable picture of McKenzie in our old bra in yellow) by completely correcting the fit, substituting with performance fabric, and making changes on the construction, now appropriate for even TRX and Tabata McKenzie has been practicing recently. We cannot wait to see her again in this style next spring!

Can you tell us about your favorite getaway?

My parents’ lakehouse back home in Missouri. It sits on a remote branch of the lake, far from the major boat traffic. I’ll get up early and jet ski or paddleboard to what we call “the river” which is just the narrowest branch of the lake too shallow for a motorboat. In the morning, the water is like a steamy mirror reflecting the massive, leaning trees creating a tunnel above you. Unbeatable.

Best trip you ever had for your health and fitness and what did you do?

I went solo to Iceland in 2015. It had been a difficult year for me emotionally and I was having trouble addressing the sadness with so much going on in NYC. I stayed in a Hafnarfjörður AirBnB listed as “The Tiny House” which was not a joke. The infinitesimal cabin was adjascent to the landlord family’s home and on the days I spent inside, I’d leave the window cracked and their cat would hop onto the sill and come hang out on the sofa while I watched movies on my laptop. Really, the best thing for my health during the week was listening to my body telling me to rest and allow myself to sort of grieve in solitude. I’d rented a car and would jump in and drive a few hours from the house, pull over, hike, do some simple stretches, lay barefoot in the moss, try to pet wild sheep (they weren’t having it), take self portraits etc. I couldn’t really tell you where I went because I wasn’t keeping track, I’d just pull over any place that caught my eye (which, if you know Iceland, is like the entire island). I made one official plan to hike to the island’s highest waterfall, Glymur. It’s an easy 5k trek although the terrain isn’t exactly accommodating to hikers, especially while raining which happened to be my situation. As with all rewarding experiences, the five minutes preceeding my arrival at the top had me so pissed off and exhausted, prompting the instant euphoric release and ugly-cry as soon as I climbed over the final hurdle to the breathtaking falls. There’s no way to describe how gorgeous it is without sounding basic and cliche. Whatever, it was incredible, believe me.

Playlist go-tos?

Marvin Gaye’s performance of “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” is my latest favorite. If you’ve seen Lawrence Kasdan’s “The Big Chill”, you can’t unsee Meg Tilly’s character practicing ballet stretches on the floor to the soul song during opening credits. I’m not a dancer but I try and channel her grace while deadlifting to the same track. Now and then I’ll throw in a faster tempo like La Bouche’s “Be My Lover”, but even during cardio I typically prefer working with slower tempos.

I Heard It Through The Grapevine


What kind of workout do you do?

I think it’s super important to vary, so I’ll jump across barre, Crossfit, yoga, etc. My two babies are TRX and tabata.

Why do you like it?

It’s impossible to cheat your core with TRX. Even if you perform the same sequence of movements every day, it’s going to target slightly different muscles depending on your proximity to the anchor point, the imbalance forced by the straps’ instability and even the way you carry your body throughout the day, leaning more to one side than the other etc. It’s really hard for the body to acclimate to the movements - your form will improve and the exercises will become more effective but it doesn’t get easier.

I love tabata because I really don’t like steady state cardio. Knowing that all I have to do is go balls to the wall for twenty seconds, rest for ten then repeat sixty-four times is much easier to get my head around than running even one mile.

What kind of strength is important to have in order to be successful for the workout you do?

Here’s the big selling point for TRX. The difficulty of each exercise is modifiable based on your incline which is adjusted by your distance from the anchor point. Basically, take one big step forward and the chest press just became a lot lighter. You can come at it with zero experience and, with a careful instructor, build strength very quickly through high-rep / low intensity movements. 

What should someone who is unfamiliar with the workout you do be prepared for when trying it for the first time? Also any suggestion as to what you should wear?

Be prepared to engage your core the entire time. Establishing a really solid plank is a great way to ensure once you’re working with the TRX, you’ll maximize each movement and more importantly, not injure yourself. Find a plank with wrists below your shoulders, distribute your weight evenly throughout your fingers, shoulders away from your ears, neutral neck, ribcage knitted together, tailbone tucking up towards your navel, squeeze your glutes, engage your hamstrings and quads, press your heels away from your head to lengthen the plank and attempt to create as much space as possible between each vertebra while maintaining a tucked lower abdomen. Master that, and you’ll crush it with TRX (or anything else). Wear what makes you feel badass! My only input would be avoid anything overly baggy — you don’t want to get caught on the straps. Barring plyometric movements, TRX can be done barefoot or with those grippy wrap shoes, but sneakers are ideal.

How has the fitness scene in your area change these past few years?

I’ve definitely observed a shift from aesthetically-driven marketing to wellness promotion. Slowly but surely, it’s becoming about exercise for the sake of mental health, spiritual health, confidence and just feeling better. Like I said, SLOWLY — we still have Victoria’s Secret models dictating the ideal and there’s not a thing wrong with those women’s bodies. They work hard, they look strong and sexy, but no amount of exercise and diet will facilitate all the bodies in the world transforming to that ideal, so I hope to see more of this seemingly novel idea that we should be happy with our personal best and embrace our uniqueness. I think we’re getting there.

What’s a typical workout week like for you?

Sometimes it’s seven days a week, sometimes it’s taking the week off. I’ll do tabata or TRX in my apartment building gym two days a week, then jump in 3-4 classes a week at Equinox. Lately I’ve been enjoying alternating sauna and cold showers, or when I can afford it, hitting up the Aire Ancient Bath in Tribeca and dunking in the ice bath. It’s addicting and I’ve noticed it improve my recovery time.

What are your go-to workout shoes? Accessories? Gym bags?

I’m still on the hunt for the perfect training sneakers. I have some two or three-year-old Nike flyknits that do the trick but they have multiple holes at this point. I adore Spalwart sneakers for gentle exercise though they’re not really for training, they just look so chic. I’m really not an accessories person. Or a gym bag person, ha. My car is my gym bag.

Favorite healthy eatery in your city?

Hampton Chutney!

Favorite healthy snack?

They require some prep so I don’t know if they qualify as a “snack”, but roasted brussels sprouts are the best. I’ll chop them into quarters, douse them in coconut oil and Real Salt® then roast until they taste like popcorn. They’re excellent cold so I’ll make a ton and keep them in the fridge.

Guilty pleasure?

Cigarettes. I know. I know, I know, I know, I know...

Favorite pre and post workout snack?

I prefer to do fasted workouts but I usually smash a plant protein powder / frozen banana / hemp milk smoothie afterwards.

What’s a fitness myth that drives you crazy?

Eating fats makes you fat, lifting heavy makes you bulky, and drinking fruit juice with 2% kale is somehow “detoxing” your organs.

If we looked in your fridge, what would we always find?

Olives and pickles.

If we looked in your gym bag, what would we always find?

Aēsop B Triple C Balancing Gel. It has this alien texture before you warm it in your palms and when you press it into your skin it’s pretty shiny, then in the time it takes to get dressed it absorbs beautifully. The aloe and lavender are cooling after a workout and the floral ingredients packed with vitamins make you feel like you’re tending to your face like a batch of baby orchids. If if came out that this product was JELL- O and it’d been a placebo all along, I would still use it.

How does maintaining a healthy lifestyle affect your everyday life in a positive way?

Like many people, I’m sure, the lifelong struggle has been learning to demand respect from others. If I go three weeks skipping the gym and eating garbage, I’m guaranteed to let people walk all over me. If I take a boxing class, suddenly negative treatment sticks out to me and I won’t tolerate it. Not because “I just took a boxing class and I could kick your ass”, but because I feel taken care of recognize that I deserve better.

The most rewarding transformation has been aquiring an ability to love more wholly because I’ve learned to love myself enough to drag my body to the gym when I don’t feel like it and strengthen my heart, my lungs, muscles and bones because I know I’ll feel better for it. When you do that for you, your capacity to help others is unleashed.

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