The Fitness Asylum: Boutique gym focuses on a fitter body and a healthier lifestyle


By Nancy Brumback, Contributing Writer

The Fitness Asylum: Boutique gym focuses on a fitter body and a healthier lifestyle
Bonnie Lefrak, owner of The Fitness Asylum. Photo/Nancy Brumback

Shrewsbury??”Is one of your resolutions to be happier when you look in the mirror?

The Fitness Asylum, a small independent gym just off Main Street in Shrewsbury, concentrates on results – weight loss, a toned body, and developing a healthy lifestyle to reinforce those first two.

Bonnie Lefrak opened the gym in January 2011 after a career in the corporate fitness industry, in positions such as regional director of fitness and director of education. She has also been a personal trainer and a professional bodybuilder. She teaches many of the Fitness Asylum classes, with a staff of seven other instructors on board.

The name, she noted with a laugh, has a double meaning, because her approach is a bit off-beat, and the gym, with its urban motif, has an edgy look. But she also likes the definition of “asylum” as a “refuge,” where people can let go, be themselves and do something just for themselves.

Almost all of the Fitness Asylum's customers are women, generally ages 35 to 55, busy women who need to schedule exercise to make it happen.

The Fitness Asylum offers classes in boxing, kickboxing, kettle bell workouts, and more but the focus is on its 12-week Ultimate Body Challenge program. The next round of Challenge classes starts Jan. 12. The Body Challenge is held at 15 different class times each week, so participants can pick a time that is convenient for them, but can also join classes at other times for additional workouts each week or to make up a class. A full schedule of the Body Challenge classes, as well as the gym's other classes, is on its website,

The Body Challenge “is all about results,” Lefrak said.

“While working out is important and is clearly what we do at the Fitness Asylum, the more critical component is eating the right food at the right time. Nutrition is 80 percent of your success. That's why many women have been working out for hours and hours a week but not making the progress they had hoped. We change that.”

The 12-week program includes one bootcamp workout each week, plus the chance to attend additional bootcamp sessions for $5 per session. Lefrak recommends people try to do the workout twice a week.

It also includes a detailed diet and nutrition plan focusing on “eating real food,” as Lefrak put it, and lifestyle over dieting. Participants keep a log of exactly what they eat for the 12 weeks to help them understand and change their eating habits. They form teams for reinforcement and encouragement, and the weekly weigh-ins focus on weight lost, not weight remaining.

While Lefrak teaches many of the bootcamp sessions, the gym has other instructors as well and people are encouraged to work with the instructor they best relate to.

“People will tell you I's a lot of personality,” Lefrak laughed. She insists the programs push people a bit harder than they think is possible.

The Fitness Asylum also offers boxing classes, taught by a former professional boxer, that are popular with many women. The former pro “wasn's sure about women doing real boxing at first, but found women more responsive than men. The guys didn's want to work that hard,” Lefrak said.

“The women in the boxing classes can take out their frustrations. It's a chance to hit something.”

The Fitness Asylum is “a reality-based gym,” as Lefrak describes it. “If you work hard and end up swearing, that's okay. And this isn's a fashion show with matching workout clothes. Wear what's comfortable and be ready to sweat it out.”

The Fitness Asylum is located at 56 Summer St. in Shrewsbury. For additional information, call 617-967-0042 or visit the website,

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