Equinox Trainer Profile of Ian Culbertson by E.B. GO Vision Media: The Equinox Fitness Clubs are in a class by themselves in terms of providing an environment of allowing members to get the most of out the training experience, and this starts with the Trainers and Fitness Class Teachers who transmit their knowledge, experience and expertise in a manner which translates into positive results. This is one in a series on Trainers and Fitness Class Teachers in the Southern California area.  

Shockwave Class at Equinox Pounds One in to Shape: Ian Culbertson Rules Multi-Station Cross Training Class with Iron Fist

Photo of Ian Culbertson.

To properly rule a domain with multiple moving parts and lots of activity, the leader needs to have eyes up, head swiveling, develop an instinct for trouble and know when to praise and punish. Ian Culbertson, a Trainer at various Equinox Fitness locations, teaches the Shockwave Rowing-Cross Training group class which requires such skills to assure participants work hard, with correct technique, and don’t slack-off if others try to mail-in portions of the workout. With Equinox for about five years, he also teaches the Ropes & Rowers and Precision Running group classes. Shockwave combines total body circuit challenge using the WaterRower machines for high-intensity calorie burn with dynamic, functional exercises using ViPR, Body Bars, BOSUs and Kettlebells to sculpt and transform the body. Held twice a week at the Equinox in Marina Del Rey, Shockwave was one of the first group cross-training classes I took and one I endeavor not to miss.

Enlargeable photo of Shockwave Rowers at Equinox in action. Set up around eight-rowing machines in the middle of the main studio, there are six additional workout stations encircling the rowers that have a different set of exercises for every class. The Cardinal Rule is to never stop exercising at the stations till everyone finishes rowing and the rotate instructions are issued. The reasoning is sound, for when someone stops beforehand others might as well and that disrupts the flow and robs participants of getting the full benefits of grinding out. Once I was caught committing the Cardinal Sin and this elicited a stern lecture with the intense eyes up close and personal drill sergeant style, that was the last time I made that mistake. I have seen him call out someone from across the room who immediately got back in the game. What I have learned in the group classes is that if one modifies an exercise, because of injury or mobility issues, as long as “you’re doing something productive and working hard” then all is fine 

Enlargeable pic of Ian Culbertson in cycling competition. Culbertson, a native of Los Angeles who also teaches physical fitness classes at USC, is a swarthy Latin type with an easy-going smile, dark eyes that quickly go from friendly to fierce, a trim goatee and full-head of jet black hair combed back. A fitness buff at heart, Ian attended UC Santa Cruz where he majored in Marine Biology and worked as a surfing instructor, lifeguard and backpacking guide.

Music selections for Shockwave range from hard rock to hip-hop with an eye towards intensity for a class requiring max-effort for 45-minutes with a 15-minute Ab Lab to finish off the brutality. My first class was disastrous as I fumbled the rowing machine strap-in procedures getting in-and-out, rowed with poor form and was unable to push hard enough. Culbertson was patient, schooled me in proper form and kept tabs as I moved thru the workout stations.     

Taking the Shockwave Class, 16 times over 9-weeks from Sept. 15 to Nov. 17, has yielded terrific results and made me highly appreciative of Culbertson’s work ethic and desire that all his “Shockwavers” get the most from every exercise without let up. An example of the exercises, other than rowing, would be a sit ups with a sand bag twist station; followed by a push-up with cross-over knee-to-elbow station; followed by a multi-movement ViPR station; followed by a forearm plank with multiple movements station; followed by a standing rowing, bicep curls and overhead press with dumb bells station; followed by lunging with sliders and medicine ball station. While the stations are only visited once in a circuit, the rowing machine is visited twice with descending distances going from 350 or 300 to 250 or 200 to 150 or 100 meters. Specific distances are adjusted according to mood or other outside influences.  

Ian Culbertson in Action with His Shockwavers: After explaining all the stations, the Shockwave class starts with a 30-second warm-up circuit and then the Fun Zone commences as times expand at each station while rowers push through. After making sure the rowers are ready, since it requires getting strapped in and “hitting the middle button” to set the timer, he gives the GO signal and starts making the rounds checking for good form, intensity and safety. Little escapes his roving eyes and swiveling head and he sometimes will join in at a station, or for rowing, so that the “victim” will pick up the pace and “Git ‘er Dun.” For the last go around, Culbertson yells for everyone to “put the spurs to her and give it all you got.”

On the rowing time screen is a large number that indicates your pace and, if he walks by and sees it below the optimum level, this warrants him to stop and whisper loudly in your ear to push harder with further verbal encouragement to ensure compliance. For weeks I was unable to break through, but then I began to hit the magic number and beyond with regularity and earned some praise from the Shockwave Professor.

Combinations of PilatesBarre Fit Cardio and Shockwave classes, which collectively represent 55 of the 100 group classes I have taken in 9-weeks from Sept 14 to Nov. 19, have done their work and put a terrific finishing touch on a quixotic 13-month fitness journey I previously couldn’t have dreamed of beginning or surviving.

I have learned a tremendous amount from Ian Culbertson and truly appreciate all he has done in pushing me harder, honing my techniques and showing patience and confidence that I could “Git ‘er Dun.” Indeed, all the Shockwavers benefit from all he brings to every class.

Whether he views himself as one or not, this gruff, caring, tyrannical taskmaster is a Healer in His Own Right.