Health & Fitness

Fitness studio offers classes for cancer survivors

DEFYING GRAVITY: Ganapati Rios of Miami Beach, relaxes in a ‘Harrison Hammock’ at SMB Fitness in Sunny Isles Beach during an exercise demonstration.
DEFYING GRAVITY: Ganapati Rios of Miami Beach, relaxes in a ‘Harrison Hammock’ at SMB Fitness in Sunny Isles Beach during an exercise demonstration. Caitlin Granfield

Inside a women’s fitness studio in Sunny Isles Beach, fitness instructors bend and swing on red bands that hang from the ceiling. What looks like a rehearsal for Cirque du Soleil is actually an “anti-gravity yoga” classroom inside SMB Fitness, where members entrust their bodies to the silky arms of Harrison — “Harrison Hammocks,” that is.

Suspended like acrobats, the women hang upside down only a few feet off the floor, building abdominal strength while elongating their necks and backs. The studio aims to help women transform their souls, minds and bodies, hence the SMB acronym, through a variety of fitness classes. Among the highlights: prenatal workouts, “after-baby slimdown” and a free class for cancer survivors.

The after-baby class consists of strength and core training, focusing on the lower back and abs (to build strength for carrying a child) while the prenatal class focuses on light cardio, stretching and yoga (the studio also offers facials and stretch-mark treatments and massages).

For cancer survivors, low to moderate intensity classes help survivors regain strength and increase their energy and stamina. The studio offers four monthly personal fitness classes and a tailored nutrition plan created by a dietitian.

“We want to help women build muscle and regain strength after chemo,” says Edwin Sanchez, who co-owns the studio with two other associates. He says he wants cancer survivors to be able “to feel normal again” by working out with other survivors in a supportive setting.

To train SMB's instructors and personal trainers on how to work with cancer survivors, Kristen Farr, SMB's marketing director, has brought in community outreach trainers from the University of Miami's Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. Stacy Cutrono, an oncology exercise physiologist at the center who specializes in exercise for cancer survivors, is training SMB's staff.

“Some of the staff have worked with cancer survivors in the past but none have had any formal education in it,” says Cutrono. “During the in-service training we’ll go over guidelines and cautions related to recovery, engagement in fitness programs and what to focus on in training for survivors.”

As part of a promotion to give back to the community, any woman who signs up for an SMB program (Total Effect, Relax, Fit Pregnancy, Slim Down After Baby) and mentions they heard about it through the Women’s Fund of Miami-Dade, will receive 20 percent off the class fee. In addition, SMB Fitness will donate 30 percent of sales to the Women’s Fund, which empowers women and girls through education and provides grassroots solutions to difficult problems such as domestic abuse.

SMB has four main rooms where different exercise classes take place: the “anti-gravity yoga” room, a room for spinning classes, a personal training room with various exercise equipment and a “fit-camp” room for boxing, kickboxing and cardio exercises, which also has treadmills and free weights. Polar heart rate monitors, small devices that secures under a sports bra, track how many calories one has burned in their sessions and measure heart rates.

Inside the cycling room, flecks of neon green laser lights dance along the floors and walls. Spin classes are taught in dim light with upbeat music and laser lights so that women can be more focused on the exercise instead of worrying about their sweaty appearances, says Farr. She says cycling is one of the more intense classes that offers a total body work-out, and demonstrates what she means by grabbing onto resistance bands, which hang overhead each bike, creating a muscle-pull during the work-outs.

"I've never looked forward to going to a gym until I joined SMB Fitness — and the enthusiasm is showing in my physique,” says Lara Orlanis, who works as a broker associate for a realty company.

If You Go

What: Fitness classes for women at SMB Fitness, 200 Sunny Isles Blvd., Sunny Isles

When: Daily, check website for details:

Cost: Unlimited “Prenatal” and “After Baby Slim Down” classes are $160 per month. Cancer survivor workshops are free; inquire for details of membership and other program costs. Free three-day pass is also available.

Call: (786) 528-8322 or email:

Ana’s Column

Ana Veciana-Suarez’s column will resume next Tuesday in Tropical Life