Strong, Green, Empowering

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One local entrepreneur’s two businesses develop healthy culture in Harlingen

A “for sale” sign on a commercial building inspires countless potential businesses, but few people take the risk to plunge into their passion. Renea Perez is one RGV local who felt that inspiration hit when driving through downtown Harlingen over five years ago.

“The space looked perfect for a studio,” she said. After hard work developed the space into the Bod Squad Training studio, she was inspired once again when the building next door became available. She went into yet another business venture with her sister and brother-in-law. “We’re a small ‘mom-and-pop’ trying to do something good for the community,” said Perez, whose two businesses do more than stimulate the economy of the Rio Grande Valley. The Bod Squad Training and Juiceology Juicebar serve healthy food, physical fitness, and nutrition information to help the RGV develop a culture of fitness. “It turned into something bigger than I thought,” she said.

 

the bod squadSquad Support!

The Bod Squad is an appointment-based personal training gym for women. “We train you according to your body type and what your goals are,” said Perez, who is in great shape herself. Individuals with no fitness background may be intimidated to start training with her, but she is quick to tell you that the reason so many of her clients work so well with her is that she relates to them, and they feel the connection as well. She lets them know that she used to be a person who never paid much attention to fitness at all. “I wasn’t watching my weight; I wasn’t very healthy. So when I got pregnant, I gained so much weight,” she said. “My body just does that.”

She decided that she didn’t want to let her pregnancy dictate her body forever. “I started to go to Curves, an all-women circuit-style gym,” she said. “I fell in love with it and they asked me to start teaching their nutrition challenges, and it all started from there. It was a struggle but I lost all my weight and then some.”

Since then, it’s been her passion to help other women and moms to feel empowered, strong and healthy, says Perez. “I just fell so in love with personal training.” She wanted to share the way she felt after putting on muscle and working off over 70 pounds of post-pregnancy weight. She began to dedicate herself solely to personal training, leaving the dental field for a career she found more rewarding.

After training women for about six years in other studios, Perez wanted to open up a private space of her own where her clients would feel comfortable coming in to train hard.  

“Sometimes women are intimidated to go into a big gym setting because of all the people, and not knowing what to do there,” Perez said. The Bod Squad provides that space, as well as a support network. “What I love about the Bod Squad is that it’s all women of different ages and sizes, and we’re all there to support and encourage each other. In our environment we’re all about positivity.”

 

Screen Shot 2017-05-03 at 10.52.53 AMJuiceology for All  

With the venture nextdoor, Perez was inspired by her travels around the country for different athletic competitions. She frequented a wide variety of healthy shops in bigger cities, and wanted the Valley to have a place of its own, providing desired services to propel a culture of health. “You used to only see this concept in places like Hawaii and New York,” Perez said, “but we have it here in little Harlingen!”

Juiceology is completely distinct from Bod Squad, though many of Perez’s training clients tend to stop by after their workout for their cold-pressed juice or acai bowl. “Juiceology is something everybody can enjoy. I wanted it to appeal to people of all ages — we even have kids who come in,” Perez said. “People who aren’t hardcore about working out won’t feel intimidated coming in and getting something to drink or eat. There are so many fast food places out there but this is one place where you know you can get something pure.” Juiceology tries to use as much local produce as possible, including grapefruits from local groves and organic wheatgrass from a grower in Mission.

Information is displayed throughout the juice bar to educate on the benefits of each ingredient. “We really try to help people learn what they’re putting into their body, and then we can juice it right in front of you.” Perez says that juices made with turmeric, ginger, wheatgrass are especially good for your health and can be ingested daily, though she never encourages people to replace all their food with juice. “Juicing daily can better your health by simply providing natural energy,” she explains.  

 

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Perez’s husband, who is certified in performance nutrition, also offers nutritional consultations and customized meal plans. “We all have different lives and different tastes,” Perez said. “Performance nutrition goes hand-in-hand with exercise and what we’re doing here so he gives them guidance according to their goals and what they will follow through on.”

Additionally, the Bod Squad offers a 30-minute, high-intensity, interval training circuit that is open to the public. “It’s really awesome, and you don’t have to be a client to go to that class. It’s good for people who don’t have a lot of time,” Perez said. Having reinvented herself three times (once after each pregnancy), Perez understands that turning one’s habits around takes a lot of work, consistency, and dedication, but her two businesses aim to help anyone who wants to take the first step. “It’s worth it,” she said.