“First of all, when I created Lifted, I really wanted to use what I learned as a pro athlete,” said Holly Rilinger, a former professional basketball player turned trainer and all-around inspiration to a largely middle-aged female crowd aspiring to get, and stay, in shape.
Lifted, the workout and wellness studio that Rilinger created with her life partner and business partner, Jennifer Ford, occupies the space on Montauk Highway in East Hampton Village that was home to Flywheel for more than a decade. It’s a full-circle feeling for Rilinger, who taught spin classes at Flywheel for many years.
“It’s nostalgic, and a big coming home for me, to be in this studio,” she said in a recent interview. “It felt like a very natural place” to be.
The energetic Rilinger, who was once the top-ranked point guard in Division I collegiate women’s basketball, playing for James Madison University before going on to an international pro hoops career and a short stint in the WNBA, creates fitness programs around metabolic conditioning, high-intensity interval training, and strength training. Her method, which spans both group classes and individual sessions, in person and online, also incorporates meditation, yoga, and nutrition coaching.
When it comes to Rilinger’s programs, “the proof is in the pudding,” said Ford, the founder of a nonprofit called Bent on Learning, which trains yoga teachers to serve children in impoverished schools in New York City, where they also have a residence and studio space. Ford, a mother of two, is also a breast cancer survivor who teaches yoga, trains yoga teachers, practices reiki and therapeutic aromatherapy, and works as a positive psychology coach. “You can use it to build muscle and feel better about the way you look, but it’s like a bank account. You’re adding and adding to your personal bank account for the future.”
Arriving at the Lifted method was not an easy journey. It goes all the way back to when Rilinger was 15 years old. “I had no role models,” she said, noting that back then, women’s attitudes were more along the lines of “I don’t want to get bulky.”
After retiring from professional basketball, she moved to New York City and began selling real estate, which she did not enjoy.
“I was miserable . . . then someone suggested I go to a Tony Robbins seminar,” she said, referring to the life coach and author of books including “Unlimited Power” and “Awaken the Giant Within.” “That was the moment I realized I have to use everything I learned as an athlete. I shouldn’t be selling real estate. I have so many tools that I can use to help people change their lives. I took my literal last few dollars and reinstated my personal training certification.”
She started with spinning, which “made me feel like a point guard leading my team again,” she said. Strength training and metabolic conditioning came into play later. “I’m able to use that part of myself, that deep, vast amount of experience and knowledge that you can’t just learn from a certification. When I learned how to tap into that, people responded.”
As their three rambunctious Chihuahuas, Mini, Luna, and Rocco, scampered about the studio, Ford explained that the space also incorporates wellness workshops and events and functional body-work services by sports-injury specialists.
“We just said, ‘Let’s fill it,’ ” she said. “Let’s fill it with things we would want in a wellness center. We’re trying to create something that’s much more than a gym.”
Lifted currently offers classes seven mornings a week, and the plan is to stay open to some degree here in East Hampton year round.
“What’s rewarding for me is having a home base,” Rilinger said. “Opening that door, walking in and looking around, and making sure everything is the way I want it to look and feel and smell and be. That is so rewarding.”
“Rewarding for me is we’re doing it together,” Ford said, “and we’re doing it from the ground up.”