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Kra-Z with Kristi

Cory Fisher
Staff Writer
Photo for The Union by John Hart
John Hart | The Union

When it comes to getting in shape, Kristi Merten’s students say she’s that perfect combination of tough and supportive. A life-long fitness enthusiast, the Long Beach native and former firefighter has long enjoyed physically challenging herself. A fun weekend for Merten might include a triathlon or an organized obstacle course, such as Rugged Maniac, Warrior Dash or the grueling 12-mile Tough Mudder.

But it was her love for Zumba that completely changed the course of her life.

“Years ago, I got bored of just going to the gym to lift weights and work out on the elliptical and treadmill,” she said. “So I started taking Zumba classes. They lived up to their motto of, ‘Ditch the workout, join the party.’”

A mixture of Latin and international music and dance moves, Zumba is a fitness program that mixes body sculpting movements and choreography to create a full aerobic and fitness interval training workout.

Merten became such a Zumba enthusiast that her friends encouraged her to become an instructor. In August 2009, a newly certified Merten began teaching classes at a local gym. As her classes grew, she moved to the Nevada City Veterans Hall, then to a studio off Idaho-Maryland Road. Finally, in July 2011, she opened the doors of her very own studio, Kra-Z Fitness on Joerschke Drive in Grass Valley.

After Merten brought in an interior designer, the former car showroom was transformed into a state-of-the art studio with wall-to-wall mirrors with a bright green background, hardwood floors and new ceiling fans. Old wall siding was knocked down and sound board installed to reduce the echo of the large room.

“I opened an all-inclusive work out studio with everything you could want for all ages,” she said.

In addition to teaching two levels of Zumba classes and training for two more, Merten is now certified in R.I.P.P.E.D., a “plateau-proof fitness formula workout, utilizing resistance and cardio training,” which stands for Resistance, Intervals, Power, Plyometrics, Endurance and Diet.

Merten’s husband, Mark, decided to try one of his wife’s R.I.P.P.E.D. classes not long after the studio opened.

“I’m a local business owner, and I never had time to exercise, but I ended up getting hooked on it,” he said. “I lost 22 pounds, my blood pressure dropped, and my energy level is up.”

Mark has since become a certified R.I.P.P.E.D. instructor, along with two more instructors at Kra-Z Fitness: Brian Childers and Brenna Vossmeyer-Harvey. The studio now offers roughly 20 classes a week, including a fitness “Bootcamp Class” and “Abs and Glutes.” Childcare is available if students call ahead to reserve space.

“We’ve got a wonderful team of certified instructors, and we’re all practicing to improve and stay up on our certifications,” said Kristi Merten. “This studio has evolved into something wonderful. It’s rewarding to see students losing weight loss and getting in shape. It’ feels good to know I’ve inspired and empowered them.”

To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at cfisher@theunion.com, or call 530-477-4203.

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