X-Fit Victoria provides free fitness sessions (w/video)

Julie Garcia By Julie Garcia

July 29, 2014 at 2:29 a.m.

Nico Esparza, of Victoria, does a side plank during X-Fit Victoria's Tuesday workout at Riverside Park Special Events Area.

Nico Esparza, of Victoria, does a side plank during X-Fit Victoria's Tuesday workout at Riverside Park Special Events Area.

With late-day sunlight streaming through the trees in Riverside Park, Nico Esparza started the 6 o'clock hour with a series of stretches and squats.

But Esparza wasn't alone.

The 24-year-old and more than 30 others were taking advantage of the free X-Fit Victoria workout session that is hosted at 6 p.m. Monday through Friday near Riverside Stadium.

Attendees gather in a wide circle with Dr. Armando Diaz, a local physician, in the center with a microphone and speakers blaring.

Esparza began a three-month journey to shed weight in April. By July 15, he had lost 28 pounds.

X-Fit has been a major part of his progress, he said.

In only a few months, Esparza's stamina has increased. Whereas he had to take multiple breaks in the beginning, he's now toward the middle of the workout circle, encouraging others to keep going.

"Workout-wise, this is mainly what I did," Esparza said. "I do it four times a week. You feed off everyone's energy - here, it's a big family, and it grows every day."

The class started at the YMCA of the Golden Crescent in Victoria but moved to the park when the Y's summer camps started up in June.

"It's going back to the basics," Esparza said about working out in the grass. "There's no air conditioning; you're in nature and in the grass. It's nice to get a little dirty with no machines around."

Tuesday's X-Fit session was a hard one, Diaz said. As a doctor, he tries to stay conscious of the humidity and heat index.

Rather than charge a fee, Diaz asks classgoers to bring a case of water for the next day or week.

"Training in this environment is not unhealthy," Diaz, who has an internal medicine practice at Citizens Medical Center, said. "You just have to make sure they adapt to it."

Diaz has multiple definitions for X-Fit.

"It's (E)Xtreme Free Intense Training," he said. "Or it is (E)Xtreme Friends and Family in Transformation. It's a combination of high intensity interval training, tabatas, cross-training and functional compound movements."

The hourlong class focuses on movements that people perform all day - sitting, squatting and push-up movements. Diaz also concentrates on stability and core strength, especially with senior citizens.

"Our workout is unpredictable because that's how life goes - it's unpredictable," Diaz said.

The X-Fit crew also provides most of the weighted plates, but many have started to bring their own, he said. The plates range from 5- to 55-pounds.

"I used to know everyone's name, but there are so many now," Diaz said, smiling.

Reuben Ybarra, who has lost 120 pounds since 2012, initially learned about leading a healthy lifestyle through the H-E-B Slim Down Showdown in 2012, in which he was awarded the "Healthy Hero" prize.

But through X-Fit, a membership at the Y and biweekly Zumba classes (also at Riverside), Ybarra continues to lose weight.

"It's work, but since it's a group thing, it's not a chore. I can't wait to get off work and go work out," Ybarra said. "Dr. Diaz does this to get the community healthy, and it just keeps getting bigger each week."

Now that he has experienced fitness in nature, Diaz can't imagine going back to a room with four walls to work out.

On July 26, Diaz submitted a proposal to the Victoria Parks and Recreation Department to build an outdoor gym. He said it will still be outside but have a raised platform with artificial turf, multifunctional training stations and other equipment.

"People have been very receptive to (being outside)," he said. "It's the best stress reliever, antidepressant, and it's the best a doctor can do in an hour," Diaz said. "There's much more benefit in the hour I spend here than in 12 hours at the office."



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