With over 19 years of martial arts training under her (black, FYI) belt, Layla Luciano isn’t just a fitness instructor, but a full-on fighter. Having opened her own kickboxing gym focused on full-body functional training, we caught up with Layla to hear about the road to entrepreneurship in the fitness space.

Superr Fitness Instructor Layla Luciano

How long has fitness been a part of your life?

Fitness has been a part of my life pretty much forever, since I was a little girl. I had always taken part in sports – basketball, baseball, and martial arts, which I began studying when I was five, and had stuck with for the next 20 years or so. It’s always been a part of my lifestyle.

How long have you been a fitness instructor?

I’ve been a fitness instructor for 7 years, and before that I taught elementary school children for about three years. Prior to that, I had been creating curriculums for after-school programs and summer school focused on fitness, Latin dance and martial arts.

What inspired you to pursue fitness as a career?

Before I made the full transition to fitness, I was an elementary school teacher – I’d gone to college majoring in elementary school education, and I loved teaching, I loved the kids, but I did not like the restrictions of the curriculum and the school system. One of the things that I saw the most was how – kids being kids – they don’t have the attention span to stay seated between 8AM to 3PM with only an hour break. They need to move, they need to stay active – it’s their nature. That’s why I started creating after-school and summer school programs for them, to enable the kids to get that energy out. I loved what fitness did for me and how I felt after working out – how you feel happier, like you let a load off after a workout. That’s what led me to get my certification, and then I started training adults.

What is your specialty/style as a fitness instructor?

I specialize in kickboxing, and I own a kickboxing gym – that’s the way I love to work out, and I always try to incorporate with my private clients a little bit of kickboxing or boxing with weights and resistance training. My preference and style is definitely cardio with resistance training or strength training.

What is PACT PARK?

PACT PARK is my kickboxing gym that I created with my partner and boyfriend, Jay. PACT is a fancy scientific acronym that stands for “Proprioceptive Aerobic Cross Training”, and Park represents the place to kick it and have fun. What that really means is that proprioception is learning how to move your body without looking at yourself – a lot of times in boxing, for instance, your hands and your feet are both moving, and your mind has to tell your body what to do. Aerobics works your body through cross-training – we do kickboxing but we also incorporate foot work through ladder drills, using Bosu balls for balance. We use many different methods for training with the goal of getting your entire body moving.

Superr Fitness Instructor Layla Luciano

What’s the proudest moment/milestone in your career so far?

Opening up my gym – right now it’s still very much in the pop-up stage, which is both frustrating and exciting at the same time, to own something and watch it grow, putting your energy and resources into it, and watching out success build from there. We’ve only been open for a year – we’re still in our initial pop-up space while we look for our permanent location. It’s interesting to see how just in a year things have come full-circle, and a very exciting time in my life.

What is one tip you’d give someone who’s just starting a career in the fitness industry?

I’d advise them to really hone in on what makes them special. In fitness – as with every other  industry – everybody want to do it all, no matter what. My advice would be to instead focus on what differentiates you, and hone in on that.

Who is one of your favorite fitness instructors? Someone you look up to or admire?

My top inspiration would be my mom, Lauretta Luciano – she was an instructor of Jane Fonda’s era, like heavily into aerobics, with the high-waisted shiny leggings and all. I saw her teaching aerobics when I was little, and that always stuck with me – her energy. We both have very loud voices and a really high energy about us, and she is someone I very much looked up to as a fitness professional.

What are your top three favorite workout moves?

I love to do a full-body exercise when I’m at the gym – whether it’s leg day or arm day or ab day, I love to throw in some full-body moves to keep my heartrate up and keep things interesting. So anything with dumbbells or a straight bar – like a squat with a curl and a press. Anything that incorporates more than just one move is a go-to.

When times get tough as an entrepreneur, how do you keep yourself going?

The tough points are definitely tough and they constantly challenge you and make you evaluate whether this is something you truly want or not. If this is something you truly want, you will go after it even during those tough moments. If it’s not, it’s easier to give up during those tough moments, like, wait, why am I really doing this? I know that this is my passion because I’ve been faced with those tough points, and I want to push through them to see my success.

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Superr Fitness Instructor Layla Luciano