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In Conversation with Fitness Master Mahri Relin: Part 1

In Conversation with Fitness Master Mahri Relin: Part 1

Mahri Relin leading a fitness session.

A beloved trainer, wellness coach, and in-demand Zeel Virtual Wellness instructor, Mahri Relin provides her clients with intelligent, personalized, and joyful fitness experiences that support them through the most important phases of their lives. Zeel Co-founder Alison Harmelin sits down with Mahri for a chat about her fitness philosophies and maintaining wellness and positivity while at home.

Alison Harmelin: You were a professional dancer and even won the role of Anita in the iconic broadway hit “West Side Story.” I think you lived every little girl’s dream, but I can only imagine the wear and tear on one’s body. How did that experience lead you to helping others get fit and stay fit? 

Mahri Relin: I loved my performing career, and West Side Story is my favorite musical. I was lucky to be able to play several different roles in that musical all over the world!

I have always been very aware of my body and how to take care of it. When you perform in big productions, you feel lots of pressure to do an excellent job every time, and that means that you need to make sure you get enough sleep, eat well, and keep yourself in the best shape possible. This awareness led me to seek new health and wellness information all the time to keep myself educated. And it also made me very sensitive to the needs of others.  

I grew up in a helping environment and always wanted to be helpful to others, so it felt natural to gravitate towards starting a private training business when I transitioned into the fitness world. I feel for women and men who are hard on themselves and their bodies, and I get so much fulfillment out of helping them feel better about themselves and also achieve greater strength, positivity and balance in their lives.

AH: So many of us continue to shelter in place and that makes working out particularly challenging. What are your top tips for indoor fitness, even if that means a small New York apartment or anywhere without out-door space?

MR: I know, this has been such a challenging time! Routine is the key word, since it’s very hard to keep it up unless you establish a schedule that remains as consistent as possible. If possible, try mapping out your fitness sessions at the beginning of the week, and keep that schedule as much as you can. Consider working out at the same time of day consistently, and even develop rituals around that schedule—like eating or doing certain things constantly before and afterwards.

In terms of the exercises you choose, the key is finding something you love. Choose something that feels the best for your body and that you WANT to do consistently. Notice how you feel afterwards and choose exercise that energizes you instead of depleting you, so you don’t burn out. There are so many online classes that you can do in your living room, even in a small space, so spend some time doing some research on what you like the best. This also includes finding instructors you love that truly lift you up and make you want to come back again and again.

Finally, I might consider recruiting other people to help you stay accountable. This could include asking friends to take a class at the same time as you so you feel like you’re connected, even if you’re in different apartments. Another great idea is to look for live-streamed or virtual live training opportunities, instead of watching a video you can stop halfway. Live-streaming and virtual personal training has a greater chance of keeping you engaged, working harder, and coming back again and again. 

AH: We’ve known each other for a very long time and you have J-Lo level abs. What are your top three ab exercises that work for people of all ages, stages and fitness levels?

MR: Haha, thanks for such a sweet comment! I definitely focus my energy on engaging my abs the entire time I exercise, no matter what I am doing. And I also have a particularly strong obsession with core work because our company does a lot of pre- and post-natal fitness with a huge focus on healing the core.  

Here are my top 3 favorite core exercises:


Plank exercises are so complete because they involve the whole body from your feet to the top of your head.

  • “You can do a plank on your forearms or on your hands. You can also choose to elevate your plank on a bench, chair, or even against a wall if you find that working on the ground is too intense.”
  • “You can hold your plank in one place, or you can do some movement in this position, like rocking forward and back, moving your hips from side to side, or pulling each knee into your chest, among other ideas.”

Oblique side crunches

I love this exercise because it feels great to so many people and does not overly stress your body.

  • “There are so many positions you can use, but try them from a standing position. Stand straight with your feet hip-distance apart or slightly wider, and lean your whole body to the side with a reach of your arm.”
  • “Repeat to the other side, and even consider holding a weight in each hand to intensify the exercise. Make sure you face straight ahead as you lean, and do not bend forward at all.”
  • “You should feel the engagement of your oblique abdominal muscles on each side of your body every time you lean over.”

Leg marches on the ground

I love strengthening the lower, deep abdominal muscles, which don’t get enough attention.

  • “Lay on your back, either flat on the ground or with a pillow or block under your pelvis, and march your legs off the ground one at a time. You can lift your head slightly off the ground with your hands, for extra core engagement, or keep your head on the ground.”
  • “Exhale as you lift each leg, and focus on pulling your abs into the spine rather than allowing them to push out.”
  • “For more intensity, add small ankle weights!”

Look for part two of our conversation with Mahri next week!

About Mahri Relin

An in-demand Zeel Virtual Wellness instructor, Mahri Relin has used her extensive research and experience as a professional dancer, personal trainer, and expert in wellness and nutrition to provide clients with the most intelligent, personalized, and joyful fitness experience possible.

Mahri’s passion for fitness was born out of a 12-year international dance career. This led her to work as a trainer for the Tracy Anderson Studio, later becoming Creative Director for FlyBarre at Flywheel Sports. Through this experience Mahri discovered major gaps in fitness solutions for women going through their most significant life events and changes, so she founded Body Conceptions by Mahri to offer expert support and personalized fitness.

Mahri is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer, Corrective Exercise Specialist, AFPA Pre and Postnatal Exercise Specialist, Certified Postnatal Corrective exercise Specialist, Certified Wellness and Nutrition Consultant, and fitness enthusiast.

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