The Inside Story of How The Assembly’s Fitness Program Came to Be

What makes The Assembly’s fitness program different.

Come Plum Photography

“It’s not about how you look, or how much you weigh. It’s how you feel.” That’s the message The Assembly’s founding instructor and fitness advisor Tony Forte wants you to embrace. After taking my first Stronger 101 workout class with Tony recently, I can tell you how I felt: spent, and also high on the feeling of accomplishment. I could barely lift my arms during the cool-down stretches, but Tony’s encouragement and sheer belief that yes, I could do another squat, had me feeling good.

It’s not about how you look, or how much you weigh. It’s how you feel.

Tony Forte / Come Plum Photography

Stronger 101 is the intro class for The Assembly’s strength training offerings. If you’re a new member deciding what class to take first — or dragging your feet for months, like I was — this is where you want to start. Not just because Tony turns down the music and gives extra attention during the 101 class, but because strength training is at the heart of The Assembly’s fitness program. Before I subjected myself to his Stronger class, I caught up with Tony during a sunny afternoon in The Assembly’s backyard. When he’s not teaching at The Assembly, Tony has a full-time job as a lawyer. He’s also an instructor at Barry’s Bootcamp, a program he credits with helping him lose 150 pounds. During our chat, Tony told me how his involvement with The Assembly came to be: “Molly (Goodson) approached me and asked if I would help build out the fitness program,” Tony recalled. “In a lot of fitness spaces you sweat together and have that camaraderie, but then you leave the space to have your coffee, lunch, or catch up.” Molly didn’t want you to leave, he explained.

Tony loved that idea, but he had one requirement. He would do it if they created a strength program. Tony felt that The Assembly could make strength training less intimidating and more accessible for women. “We decided we would move forward with strength and it would be the center of our space focused toward women,” he said. Tony believes strength is critical to longevity and able-bodiedness. He wanted to help women achieve these goals, rather than a number on a scale. 

Fitness Is Joy

“We’ll never reinforce the concept that you’re working out now so you can indulge later,” Tony told me, as we continued to discuss The Assembly’s fitness philosophy. It was an attitude I appreciated. I had shunned “the gym” since college, when I would feel guilty if I didn’t put in at least 30 minutes on the treadmill before a night out. Working out felt like a chore or an opportunity for failure. It seemed easier to just drop the expectation all together than deal with feelings of inadequacy. Now that I was older and just had a baby, I wanted a new relationship with fitness. It wasn’t about needing a pass to indulge. Today, I wanted to work out in order to re-engage muscles. I wanted to take a break from life’s responsibilities. I needed a natural energy boost. 

We don’t want to separate fitness from the joys of life. It should be a joy of life.

“We don’t want to separate fitness from the joys of life. It should be a joy of life,” Tony assured me. After my first class, I was feeling a little more joyful hanging around the clubhouse. Sure, I could feel the heavy muscles in my arms as a typed, and my quads already hurt when I got up to refill my water. But my endorphins were up. I did it. 

The Assembly’s fitness studio. / Come Plum Photography

A Different Kind of Community 

“A community built around fitness is a different kid of community,” Tony asserted. During the first months of my membership, I had enjoyed working in the clubhouse and attending workshops, but I hadn’t made the jump to taking a fitness class. I’m so glad I did. I felt like I had unlocked a new level of the community here. Tony has an idea why I felt that way: “The bonds between women cannot be replaced by just having a networking space or wine happy hours. You’ll never get that same level of intimacy until you go through an intense workout together. It’s critical to the mission here because we’re trying to build that deep community.”

In this space, members can put themselves outside their comfort zone.

Members hang out in the backyard at lunchtime. / Ashley Batz Photography

Because The Assembly offers fitness, members are able to to take their connections further. It doesn’t matter if you’re an experienced athlete or new to it, as Tony explained to me: “I’ll ask members what their fitness journey is, and they’ll say: ‘Oh I’ve never done anything like this.’ And I’ll say, ‘That is incredible!’ We want to totally affirm that.” According to Tony, the mission of The Assembly’s fitness program is this: in this space, members can put themselves outside their comfort zone and do something they’ve never done. “It gives me pride,” he admitted, “but also a ton of responsibility because you need to actually help them learn to do this.” I can confirm: Tony and the fitness team are living up to their responsibilities. 

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