In a building at Brooks on San Antonio’s South Side, you will find battle ropes, steel maces, steel clubs, sand bags and ballistic med balls.

It’s not a medieval castle under siege, though. It’s a gym — Mix Fit SA — with a focus on hybrid training methods.

The steel maces are used in yoga classes, with attendees lifting them while standing or laying in various positions to improve strength and stability. The steel clubs help build mobility, increasing the range of movement for various joints, said Giselle Calvillo, the gym’s founder and CEO.

Credit: Carlos Javier Sanchez/pixelreflex Media

The gym also offers classes in boxing, stretching and Zumba. It operates corporate wellness programs to help companies with team building and employee health.

Calvillo has run the business at Brooks for six years; before that, she had a small training studio downtown. She developed a passion for fitness while growing up on the South Side. At age 19, she left for Los Angeles to pursue an acting and modeling career. Meanwhile, she worked at four gyms, developing a roster of clients and learning more about the business.

She recently sat with the Express-News to discuss her passion for fitness, hybrid training methods and how the fitness industry has changed during her career. The following has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Credit: Carlos Javier Sanchez/pixelreflex Media

Q: The rope you were just using is called a battle rope, right?

A: Yes. Each one of the battle ropes that I have back here on the wall has a different length and size to it, and that determines how strong the resistance is. So because it was a photo shoot, I grabbed, of course, the heaviest one.

Q: Which muscles do you exercise when you use it?

A: It’s more of a calisthenics workout. The great thing about the type of training that we do here is we consider it hybrid, when we utilize unconventional training tools — the battle rope, the kettlebells, steel mace, steel club. These kinds of tools allow you to use fast-twitch muscle fibers. We’ve got these large muscles — quads, biceps, right? — and then around those large muscles, we have smaller muscle fibers. Those are our kind of adrenaline, fast-kicking-in muscle fibers that make us more lean, faster, more durable, if you will. And it gets the heart rate up really fast.

Q: Do you get lots of members of the military in here?

A: Of course. Being in San Antonio, there’s a big handful. But the great thing about Mix Fit is we’re kind of a mixed fitness gym, or a training facility, if you will. We like to consider ourselves more than a gym. So we have training systems and techniques for all fitness levels. We can take somebody 65 or older and hand them a five or 10-pound steel mace, and they can now move weights around. We can take someone who’s a CrossFitter and introduce them into some battle rope work and more small muscle activation work to help them strengthen those larger muscles that they’re training throughout the year, for maybe a CrossFit competition or powerlifting competition. And then we have the people who, “I cannot touch my toes. I have no flexibility.” We’re not just hitting the martial arts crazy people who like swinging it around, these awesome medieval tools — like myself. They make you feel really empowered because it’s a sword or it’s a weapon.

Q: How did you become interested in fitness?

A: When I was in high school, I didn’t want to work in food or at the mall or anything. So I went over to the local gym. Within months of working there, I was at the front desk; then I was getting certified to do aerobics; then I was getting certified to be a trainer. Unfortunately, a year after working at that gym, while I was graduating high school, the owner fell sick of cancer. I ended up managing that gym for two years before moving to L.A.

Q: What do you like about fitness?

A: Besides feeling great, having energy, fitness for myself has just been a life-changing thing. But my passion comes from helping other people — somebody that doesn’t maybe have the motivation or inspiration to just get moving. What I’ve learned is that if you actually spend the time with somebody and make them aware, share your resources, you can change their life. Some of my clients would say that I am the type of person that likes to inflict pain on other people, because I make them work out so hard. But I know in the end, they’re thanking me because they have a lot more energy. Their doctors thank me.

Q: How did you come to locate the business at Brooks?

A: Being downtown, I was kind of outgrowing my space. I had gotten a notification that Brooks had put a notice out and I thought, “Wow, what a great opportunity.” I was a little scared because it was my first time. I considered myself quite the plumber, if you will, not necessarily the owner of the plumbing company. It was a dream that I always had. So I finally put it together. I surrounded myself with accounting people, with business development people. Brooks was very nice to offer assistance. Six years later, here we are. I’ve learned a lot along the way. To be a small-business woman, a Hispanic woman from this community who grew up and had a vision to come back and make a difference — to be able to do that is quite something. I’m very proud of where Mix Fit is and where we’re going to go.

Q: There aren’t many gyms on the South Side compared to other parts of San Antonio, right? What are your thoughts on that?

A: I think for this end of our community, it’s huge. With the development that Brooks is doing, and all of the up-and-coming businesses and jobs, it’s important that we have more health and wellness opportunities. We have a high expectation for health and fitness here at Mix Fit, and bringing the best to this community — doing community walks, where we have our local doctors and physiologists come out where our members can ask questions. It’s important that we have more places like this. I know with the development of Brooks, more will come.

Q: What portion of your business is corporate wellness?

A: I would say part of the business would be about 15 percent, at this point. More recently, our corporate wellness has been the team-building, health fairs and things like that. Since COVID, we haven’t been able to put our bodies back in the facilities; I think people are still coming back to work. And with the schools, they’re very strict, who comes in and out. So that’s been somewhat of a hit to the business.

Q: How has the fitness industry changed during your career?

A: Well, me being 43 years old and being in this business almost half my life, it’s changed a lot — because of social media, mainly. I would consider myself old-fashioned, as I like to stick to the conventional way, but adding a little spunk to it. A lot of the fads of dieting, the fads of different exercises, are all great and exciting at times, but we learn over the years that they’re not always the answer and they can hurt us in some ways. So I think what’s great that has happened is more regulations on certain supplements, more regulations on what doctors are prescribing and being able to have physicians working on exercise prescription. We want to get away from all of that other stuff and do more exercise prescription.

Q: Do people have different expectations for gyms after COVID?

A: I would say a year ago, yes. Now it’s almost back. I think everyone’s a little bit more excited. I think everybody really wants to get back to normal. It really feels good here in the facility and at places I’ve been personally, in training gyms in Austin and Dallas. It’s getting comfortable again.

Q: Apart from physical health, what does fitness do for us?

A: I would say if it’s not weight loss, it’s really mental health. One thing that has changed is a lot of people used to come in and say, “I want to lose this weight. I want to get this.” Now it’s like, “You know what? I just want to be healthy. I want to feel better, I want to feel stronger. I want to get my mental health back.” In conversations that we have here with our members, a lot of it is mental health. We try to keep it fun and do different things. We have such a great fitness family here. It’s a beautiful thing to see in this community, that we have that kind of support. And I know that’s where the mental health comes from, because for that long period of time, we were not connected to anyone.

Q: I’ve heard women say they feel uncomfortable in male-dominated gyms. Is that something you keep in mind?

A: Up until a couple of years ago, I would say right before COVID, we had more of a woman-dominated membership. Not for any particular reason, I don’t think. Being woman-owned, perhaps, maybe made more women feel comfortable. Once the guys realized that the workouts are legit and that some of the women might be a little bit stronger than them …

We’ve got just about enough men now that are right beside us. The steel mace and tactical stuff that we do, some of the unconventional work — for some of the guys it looks a little like, “What is that? What are they doing over there?” We asked for the opportunity to open their minds, and once it was done, they were all in. It’s nice to humble those who need a little bit more mobility, but then also be able to match that with some strength. I’d say over the last six years, we’ve definitely proven ourselves to be dominant in both areas. But we definitely started with the women, for sure.