Local couple develops fitness routine that combines MMA and dance

Erin Mansour (left) and Chris McNally developed STRYKE, a new fitness workout that combines dancing and mixed martial arts. (Photo provided)

Erin Mansour was a professional dancer and fitness instructor. Her husband, Chris McNally, was a former professional mixed martial arts fighter.

The parents of four children, Mansour and McNally were finding it difficult to balance their busy lifestyles, while at the same time trying to stay in shape and spend time together.

“We’ve got four kids and three under the age of 10, so getting to spend time just with each other was next to impossible,” McNally said. “When we did get a chance to work out, we really worked out separately. I’m a MMA guy, she’s a dancer, so it was hard to find something that we both liked to do that we could do together.”

What the couple decided to do was develop their own fitness routine that would combine both their passions. After some research, planning, a lot of experimenting and tons of sweat, STRYKE Fight Dance Fitness was born.

STRYKE combines moves from the mixed martial arts with dancing. The result is a workout that is simple enough for a beginner to learn and intense enough to make a professional athlete declare no mas.

Mansour and McNally will offer a free STRYKE class Thursday at 6 p.m. at ECO Fitness in Mount Pleasant. Classes normally last 45 minutes to an hour and can burn up to 1,000 calories.

“It incorporates all the strikes of mixed martial arts,” said McNally, who earned degrees in Exercise Science and Chemistry from The Citadel. “The punches, kicks, elbows, all the strikes that fans of MMA are familiar with and then Erin brought in the dance fitness aspect of the workout. Dance fitness is huge right now and it’s not just hip hop. It’s other dance moves as well.”

Mansour, who earned a master’s degree in Business from the College of Charleston, figured out how to mesh the choreograph of MMA and dance together.

“We wanted to make the workout in perfect rhythm with the music, so we came up with eight-count moves,” Mansour said. “If you’re dancing or on the floor pounding on a bag, everything is to the beat of the music. It breaks down that intimidation factor for men and women. There’s a little bit of everything for everyone.”

At first, Mansour understood that the workout was targeted more to women, but the routine has started to attract more men as word about the concept has spread.

“I would say it was 70 percent women for the first few months,” said Mansour, who first started teaching classes locally in August. “I think the dance part of it kind of scared off some men, but as they started to show up for the classes and started to understand it, we started to get more and more men. I think over the next year, it’ll be closer to a 50-50 split, which is encouraging. I think it’s a gender-neutral workout. It doesn’t have gender bias or age limit. You can be a man or women and 18 or 80, you’ll get something out of it.”

This past summer, Mansour, 38, took part in Spike TV’s reality show Sweat Inc., which pitted 27 aspiring fitness entrepreneurs competing to see who has the next great exercise craze. Fitness guru Jillian Michaels, of The Biggest Loser, was host of the show.

Mansour appeared on one episode that aired this past November and lost to kick boxer Kyle Coletti, a Louisville based fitness trainer, who eventually took home the top prize of $100,000 on the show.

“It was an amazing experience and I learned so much,” Mansour said. “To have someone like Jillian Michaels critique the workout and offer advice was an experience I’ll never forget.”