Professional Hairdresser to Gym Owner, Peter talks with Chris & Leigh Cortinaz and Aime Estes of Level Interval Training

Good Morning this is Peter Keller from Fringe Sport and I am privileged today to be talking with Chris Cortinaz, his wife Leigh Cortinaz, and Aimee Estes, and they're with Level Interval Training here in Austin, Texas. How are you guys doing this morning?

Chris Cortinaz: Very good, thank you.

Aimee Estes: Good.

Leigh Cortinaz: Good, thank you.

Yeah we've had some fantastic weather in Austin, one of those just beautiful late spring days, over the past few days. So, why don't you guys tell us a little bit more about yourselves and tell us a little bit about Level.

Chris Cortinaz: We are a gym located downtown Austin, Texas. We're founded on the idea of interval training because it's something we strongly believe in and trying to change the body physique. If you're gonna get some results or have some type of weight training or running, or what have you, plyometrics, isometrics. We're designed to be a personal, professional, personal gym that can have trainers come in, utilize the space according to the time that they have, whether it be on a daily basis, or on a weekly basis, or even on a monthly basis.

I love it. So a couple of quick questions and then we'll get back a little bit into Aimee and Leigh and Chris talking about your background. So, you're actually running the gym in the studio, the facility. Do you actually have trainers who work for you or are you providing more the area where trainers come in, and then would work for themselves?

Chris Cortinaz: We are an outlet that's open to any trainer that is trying to either establish themselves as a trainer or an unestablished trainer. But they come in here and they can lease the space, they can either create it as a home-based gym for themselves, or a lot of trainers go to and from, either from home to a park or to different areas. But we're trying to establish ourselves as a gym that you can come in and utilize according to whatever needs they have.

I love it. And, why interval training? Are we talking about HIIT? Or are we talking about maybe a more generic type of interval training?

Chris Cortinaz: Well the idea was definitely on HIIT, and even on the HIIT type of workout and the frequency and intervals and timing, the idea was to come up with something toward introducing the trainers about even on the nutrition side. But the idea had come to me because of having a friend that is a neuro psychologist, was the idea of working on your nervous system and/or muscular system. Anything that an interval can involve in the body itself. Not necessarily the workout itself, but definitely designed around the HIIT workouts. We introduced running, the assault bike, the rowers, and obviously the weights, plyometrics and isometrics as well.

Awesome. So let's take a couple of steps back and then we'll dive into this I think a little bit further down the interview. Why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself Chris, and then we'll go to Leigh and then Aimee. I want to know who are you guys, and why are you doing this.

Chris Cortinaz: My name is Chris Cortinaz. I am a professional hairdresser. I have been doing hair for roughly 30 some odd years, and that's my background. I've been doing hair in larger markets, like LA and Vegas and Houston, Mexico City. I'm bilingual. So I had the opportunity to travel with certain companies that would send me to and from, and would do what's called "platform work", and you do conventions in front of a 100 people, 1,500 people, and to educate people a lot in the hair world. The idea of fitness is because I am a marathoner. I love the idea of running and having the freedom to put on a pair of sneakers and a pair of shorts and go running anywhere. I like the idea of running outdoors and nature, it's a very healing process for me. But the fitness side was something that I've always loved and it's always been a part of me, and that's why I have found Level.

Awesome, I love it. And actually, it's interesting knowing your hairdresser background. Now, a little bit of what you were telling me about providing the location and then having trainers come in, it reminds me a lot of what I know from some of my hairdresser friends, of how the salons were. So that's really interesting.

Chris Cortinaz: Oh yeah. It's the same model that we basically implemented here, the same model that we have and have had as a proven model in the hair salon, now transferring over to the fitness studio.

Got it, got it. So, Aimee, tell us a little bit about yourself and then we'll head to Leigh.

Aimee Estes: Hi, I'm Aimee Estes, and I have been an athlete my whole life, so I'm really passionate about fitness and helping other people. So, this is the perfect environment to build a relationship and a community with these trainers and help them inspire their clients. I think we want to create a community here at Level that allows the trainers to be successful and allows their clients to be successful. So it's a great environment, and it's something I'm really passionate about.

I love it. So you mentioned being an athlete your whole life. Tell us a little bit about your athletic background.

Aimee Estes: My parents put me in sport probably at aged five, back when that was not what parents really did, and I've been running track or playing soccer. In high school I played volleyball. All the way through college I played rec leagues and just kept up with volleyball in general. Now I really enjoy lifting weights and doing interval training. My husband's an athlete and our kids ... we like doing athletics with the kids and doing things outdoors.

I love it. Leigh, tell us a little bit about your story.

Leigh Cortinaz: Okay. Hi my name is Leigh Cortinaz, and I too am a professional hairdresser. I've been a hairdresser now for about 18 years, and after being a hairdresser for so many years, you certainly begin to understand the importance of being fit and staying active, because standing in one position all day long can be kind of painful. But, my background of fitness is a little all over the place and hasn't been very consistent until this last two and half years.

My perspective on it and my interest in this project, my angle on this, was that growing up in the 80s, in college I taught aerobics at a women's fitness club. I don't know how effective that was but, I did play around with that. I've done some boot camps. I exercise off and on for years. But really, I think what resonates with me the strongest is watching my mom, her entire life, struggle with weight, struggle with eating, struggle with diet plans. She's tried every diet under the sun, and eventually ended up having a gastric bypass because she ruined her metabolism trying to find the secret. You know, the magic key, the magic pill, the magic diet. After watching her struggle and go through that, what's resonated with me the most is just knowing that there is no secret. It's just as simple as move your body and eat smart and staying active. And so, about two, two and half years ago, I started doing indoor spin class on a very regular basis and became highly addicted to it, and still love it to this day. But the most addictive part to it for me, was the community that it's created, and when Chris and I began to do research and figure out what we wanted to do was a side project, something that was really gonna pull our passions together. It kept turning towards fitness, and when we started really honing in on exactly what we wanted to do, a certain angle we wanted to take with it, this is where we landed. And the biggest thing that we want to do from this, is create that community that Aimee spoke about. It's the community that drives us, because the community is what keeps you strong, but it also again, just goes back to that base line. There's no secret. It's just be active, eat smart, stay strong in your community, and keep encouraging everybody. And that's what we want to create here, and that's what resonates with me the strongest, is just staying active and keeping that community strong.

I love it. So I'm hearing community, I'm hearing a lot of interval, intensity. I'm hearing a lot of talk of being an athlete. So one thing that I'd like to dig into a little bit, and I alluded to this earlier, is sell me a little bit on interval training. So, my background, these days, athletically, is very cross fitty and that sort of thing. I actually train at Atomic Athlete here in Austin, which is not a cross fit, but it's a functional fitness. Not really an interval type shop. So sell me a little bit on intervals if you will.

Chris Cortinaz: Well, touching a little bit more on my background. In high school, I'm about to be 51 years old in about three months, which is kind of crazy, but it is going back to the 80s in my high school years. Running short distance or long distance, you were all over the place as a high school athlete. And, as you move on to college and trying to figure out what you're gonna do with your fitness and how you're gonna stay fit or if you're gonna stay active. I went on to do marathons and even aerobics.

I'm part of Jack LaLanne and Richard Simmons and Jane Fonda. I also taught aerobics in the 80s. I'm dialing you back to about 1985/1986, and I am a proud 3.31 marathon runner. It is something that I wear a merit badge - it's one of my proudest moments. As I was throughout my life, and trying to find something that was a little bit different other than running, where I could find myself having knee problems or hip problems because of a lot of running, I got involved in these workouts called 'Navy SEAL Conditioning Courses.' They're designed like a boot camp led by an ex Navy SEAL here in Austin. I don't know if you're familiar with them. But Tom Nixon used to run these boot camps, and it's super amazing how he would train you on a daily basis. They were done three weeks on and one week off. So, everything was done on intervals, and I didn't understand that, the process of the intervals, because when I trained in my youth, we were trained ... it was a different word, it was called medley training. It would be the same thing. It was interval training, you would do one thing, the next process was a little different, the next one's a little different, but it was referred to as 'medley training.'

The new word now when it comes to intervals is HIIT. A lot of it, from my background on the HIIT type of workouts, I wasn't familiar with that until probably six to eight years ago, where I was introduced to this type of workout, and having some type of variety of workouts in your regime on a daily basis or weekly basis. So it just seemed to be more effective, being that genetically I'm Hispanic, and genetically I have to take cholesterol and high blood pressure is in my genes, there's nothing I can do about it other than just to monitor it. But being active is what helps me the most to stay even, even flow, level headed, being fit and it's the interval part of my workouts just seems to be the healthiest part for the type of person that I am and the type of foods I have to eat, the type of activity I have to keep on a regular basis. Essentially, the interval has taught me a lot more about myself and what type of goals I can meet or cannot meet.

I love it, well thank you very much for helping me out with that. Now, we're gonna head into the lightning portion of the podcast and of the interview. So, what's one amazing tactical business tip that's helped you in the last 30 days?

Chris Cortinaz: I'll touch on that. This is Chris. In the last 60 to 90 days, what it's taught me, it's not necessarily tactile but it was patience, if anything. This type of business everybody wants immediate results, including the trainers that want to have something that is provided from us immediately. But patience, take it stride for stride. It is not an immediate gratification.

Awesome, I love it. Thank you. What's the best business book you've ever read?

Chris Cortinaz: I'm gonna take you back to the 80's. It's a Zig Ziglar book. In the 80's, it's See You at the Top. One of my favorite business books.

Zig Ziglar, I love it. I have to say that I don't get a lot of people recommending Zig Ziglar in these talks these days. No, I love Zig Ziglar, but definitely little old school, but it's definitely super valuable.

Chris Cortinaz: Napoleon Hill is also a very good one, Think and Grow Rich is probably one of my favorites.

Yeah if you're gonna say Zig Ziglar, Napoleon Hill has got to be the next one. Maybe some Dale Carnegie in there as well.

Chris Cortinaz: Yes, exactly.

Awesome. So how about one amazing personal tip that's helped you in the last 30 days?

Chris Cortinaz: I'm fortunate to have a certain client that comes to my chair. It is Kristin Armstrong, which hopefully she's okay with, she was Lance Armstrong's ex wife. She is one of the people that I, because of her experience and the work she does, who she is, it's bouncing back ideas, throwing ideas back and forth. She just is a very grounded individual and fate based, and it's something that I just tend to gravitate to.

I love it. So, what's your favorite single piece of fitness gear? It's a desert island question. You're on a desert island, you can only have one piece of fitness gear, however improbable, there.

Leigh Cortinaz: I know I would have a spin bike. I just love them. (laughter) And some decent hand weights too probably.

Yeah in the desert, you can't go anywhere but you'd be on a spin bike, I love it. So what about, how about we do one each from the three of you guys, what's your favorite single session exercise?

Aimee Estes: Just lifting heavy weights. All weights.

Yeah, a girl after my own heart.

Leigh Cortinaz: Yeah, I would definitely say a good lift. Because it's something that surprised me after I went through a session of doing some lifting that I never thought I could do. So it was very exhilarating and gave me a huge streak of confidence after being able to do it. So lifting is something that surprised me that I liked very much.

Chris Cortinaz: Mine would be using your body weight the best you can. Jumping, push ups, pull ups, learning to use your body to be able to get in shape. The plyometrics, isometrics, would be definitely my favorite.

Awesome, I love that as well. So, I found you guys online at, and I also found you guys on Facebook. You guys are on South Congress in Austin, is that correct?

Chris Cortinaz: We're between Barton Springs and Congress. Our physical address is 210 West Riverside Drive. We are at 78704 area. We are on the south side of the Congress bridge, south side of Downtown on Riverside.

Awesome, and many of our listeners are not in Austin, Texas. That's actually in Austin. Super white hot location in Austin.

Leigh Cortinaz: Yeah.

So a very cool place. You guys must be right near the new Yeti flagship location.

Chris Cortinaz: We are actually, yeah that's definitely right on our back door.

Leigh Cortinaz: We're a kettlebell throw away literally.

Well they better watch out then. Cool.

Leigh Cortinaz: That's right.

So this has been Peter Keller from Fringe Sport, speaking with Chris Cortinaz, Leigh Cortinaz and Aimee Estes of Level Interval Training. Is there anything you guys would like to say?

Chris Cortinaz: Thank you for this opportunity, and hopefully we can offer you some type of input on fitness and nutrition that will make you want to motivate yourself to get out there.

Hell yeah, love it. Lift heavy, have a great day. Cheers.

Aimee Estes: Thanks.

Leigh Cortinaz: Bye.

Chris Cortinaz: Thanks so much.


Level Interval Training
210 West Riverside Drive
Austin, TX, 78704

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