Top 10 Fitness Trainers in San Francisco

In the past five years, boutique fitness has become big business in the Bay Area. Barry’s Bootcamp has opened two wildly popular locations in the city and a third is on the way. SoulCycle and Flywheel set up shop in the Marina, the Castro, and downtown. Fitness fusion classes that combine multiple techniques, such as Matbox (a Pilates, yoga, and boxing class that’s taught at Pilates ProWorks) and Barre Fight (a fusion of barre work and cardio-kickboxing at Salt on Divisadero), have popped up everywhere. Whether you’re trying to lose weight or increase stamina, there are plenty of ways to do so in San Francisco right now. And thanks to Class Pass, an app that allows users to participate in classes at different studios for a flat affordable fee, being fit has never been easier. The boutique fitness craze, combined with the local passion for a healthy mind-set and wholesome eating habits, has turned the Bay into a hot spot for amazing trainers. There’s no better time to get fit than now. If you’re looking to do so, the following 10 trainers and teachers (listed in alphabetical order) are the best of the best. These are the city’s powerful and fitness-motivating men and women, and they will guide you to your best mind and body.

Alvin Holden, Barry’s Bootcamp

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“I never know when I’m going to need to perform, so I always have to be ready.” 

There is one trainer who is consistently recommended as one of the best trainers in San Francisco: Alvin Holden. The self-proclaimed “jock of all trades” has a background in boxing, track and field, and sports performance enhancement. Holden had a thriving personal training business when he was tapped by Barry’s owner, Adam Shane, to join the founding SF team of the intense workout studio that combines treadmill running sprints with heavy weight training. Holden is one of the most popular instructors at Barry’s Bootcamp and his classes almost always sell out. How does he stay fit? “My own workout routine consists of heavy lifting on my own, trail running, and Barry’s at the moment,” he says. “San Francisco is amazing because there is so much variety, like trails, beach, and hills.”

Amira Mourad, Healthafied


“To stay motivated, I think about how great I feel when I get a workout in. The saying ‘You never regret a workout’ is so true.” 

For the past three years, Amira Mourad has served as captain of the Warrior Girls, the dance team that cheers on the Golden State Warriors professional basketball team. She has a degree in nutrition and a private training service called Healthafied, where she provides clients with customized fitness workouts and eating tips. She recently launched a meal plan, the Healthafied Meal Guide, that will help busy individuals make more mindful diet decisions. Mourad believes that finding balance is the key to a fit life: “Ate too many Hail Merry cookie dough bites last night? Spend an extra 10 minutes on the treadmill with a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) routine. Too sore from your workout to move off the couch? Make sure that you eat clean throughout the day,” she told Haute Living. “We don’t have to be perfect all the time. It’s a balancing act that evens us out and helps us live our lives while choosing a healthy lifestyle.” Her personal workout routine involves three dance practices a week with two additional days of weight training, a yoga class, and a stretching session. Add Warriors games to this and she is constantly on the move.

Billy Polson, Diakadi

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“One of my goals for 2017 is to catch a sunrise surf session here, then, on the same day, hop in the car and bolt up to Tahoe to catch an afternoon snowboard session.”

Billy Polson is one of the city’s most sought-after private trainers. He is the founder and co-owner of Diakadi, a cutting-edge facility with independent coaches and trainers. Diakadi is an acronym for his motto: ​“Do It All. Kick Ass Doing It!” He’s certified in strength and conditioning, personal training, posturology, holistic lifestyle coaching, and he practices living life to the fullest and always giving one hundred percent. His clients include members of the Olympic swim team, women’s lacrosse team, women’s rowing team, and professional skateboarders. How does he keep elite athletes like this motivated? “​I think it’s very important to have specific goals that you work toward. Every six weeks we reassess [each athlete’s] body and goals in order to keep the workouts focused on exactly what they’re looking to achieve,” he explains. “​These goals are listed at the top of every one of their workout programs and homework sheets so that we keep our eyes on the prize at all times.” For the past 20 years, he’s been making San Franciscans fitter, but he admits that now is a particularly good time for wellness. “We are incredibly fortunate to live right in the middle of so many premium active-life and sports opportunities. ​From Bay Area hiking and mountain biking, to some of the best surfing and snowboarding in the world, how can we not enjoy partaking of these activities?” he wonders.

Clarence Hairston, Bay Club SF

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 “Fitness is a lifestyle choice, but make it fit into your life–not the other way around.”

Clarence Hairston is the fitness manager at the Bay Club, San Francisco. A former member of the U.S. Air Force, Hairston oversees all of the trainers—personal and group—at the upscale club. He has his own clients, manages the fitness studios and cardio rooms at the club, and is in charge of promotion and development of new programs and classes. Hairston is a champion of diversity when it comes to workouts. “I’m a big fan of variety so I challenge myself [and clients] by consistently changing things,” he says. “I’ll do everything from a solo workout in the weight room to CrossFit, high-intensity interval training, group exercise classes and indoor cycling. It’s all about having fun and switching it up—gotta fight that muscle memory!” The key to a successful client-trainer relationship? “Establishing a connection with clients is essential; it helps me reinforce their goals,” he explains. “I find that my clients are most successful when I put them first and remind them that they are getting in shape for themselves.”

Erica Stenz, Barry’s Bootcamp

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“I try to make our workouts so much more than just a workout—by creating a whole mind-body experience so they feel truly inspired.”

Although she is petite, Erica Stenz is a firecracker. The leading female instructor at Barry’s Bootcamp has been teaching fitness and nutrition to loyal followers for the past 10 years. She has a passion for making a difference in people’s lives and tries to keep them “accountable. That’s my job,” she says. “Everyone is always interested in losing a little weight or getting more toned and building muscle, but I’d say most just need someone to keep them on the right track—so they can continue to kick ass in life.” She’s a huge fan of the weight and cardio training at Barry’s, so much that she does it at least four times a week. “It’s truly the best workout in the world,” she says. “I practice with all of my classes because I like to feel what my clients are going to feel. It builds confidence in my programming and it’s a great workout at the same time! I also take another trainer’s class at Barry’s about four to five times a week, and I try to cross-train with spin and yoga.” This spring, Stenz and her boyfriend and fellow Barry’s teacher, Tommy Stracke, are hosting a warrior wellness retreat in Costa Rica. The eight-day adventure involves exercise activities, plenty of ocean time, and healthy gourmet-quality meals.

Jakki Flaherty, FlahertyFit

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“The feeling of being strong is something I truly, truly love. This passion motivates me.”

Jakki Flaherty is the founder of FlahertyFit, a Presidio-based personal training service that specializes in building strength with kettlebells, battle ropes, medicine balls, and free weights. “Most of my clients are looking to get lean, improve performance in the activities they compete in, and fix movement patterns so they can build strength on top of properly functioning movement patterns,” she says. “A lot of times my clients and I will joke that when people ask what we are training for, we reply, ‘Life.’ You never know when you are going to have to lift a heavy suitcase overhead or pick a child up off the ground. All of these daily activities require proper movement patterns so that we don’t hurt ourselves.” Flaherty enjoys working out because it gives her time to think, clear her mind, and release emotion. She motivates her clients with a monthly newsletter and by always keeping herself available. “I will send them a workout while they are on the road or an encouraging text or email if they have an event,” she says. “I like to push even when clients push back. Sometimes, they don’t know that they can handle a few extra pounds on a lift or try a new move that is outside of their comfort zone. But once they successfully complete the lift or achieve the physical movement, motivation spikes to do it again and to do it better!”

Lisa Corsello, Burn Pilates

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“That feeling when you think you can’t do one more rep or minute, and then you dig deeper and do it—that’s everything to me.”  

When new moms are looking to shed the baby weight, they know they can count on Lisa Corsello to help them do so. The founder and owner of Burn Pilates is a specialist in pre- and post-natal fitness. The fitness program she created is a 55-minute heart-pumping, body-sculpting combination of pilates, cardio, and strength training. The class increases endurance and agility and improves balance. “Something I’m really proud of is that we don’t focus on becoming anything other than stronger and healthier,” Corsello clarifies. “We never say things like, ‘Hey! Let’s work our triceps because tank top season is coming.’ We talk about how to work triceps, what we should or shouldn’t be feeling during different movements, and how to make the movements more intense as you get stronger. Our clients own their strength. Looking better in a bikini is cool, but we can do better.”

Lisa Tompkins, Flywheel Sports


“It didn’t happen overnight, so don’t expect to change overnight.”

When it comes to cycling, you can’t beat one of Flywheel Sports‘ fast-paced, competitive classes. Lisa Tompkins is one of the Bay Area’s top cycling gurus. She teaches eight classes a week and in her down time she’s taking other instructors’ classes. “It’s a good way to stay inspired and motivated when you see fellow instructors up on the podium,” she says of Flywheel’s stadium-like arena setup that puts teachers on a small stage. “Additionally, I’m a big ‘megaformer’ fan because the combination of [two types of workout can] complement each other nicely. I also try to take my workouts outdoors whenever possible; living in the Bay Area, I am spoiled with the number of places to do this. Stair workouts are one of my favorites.” Tompkins encourages clients to emphasize community while still making time for themselves. “Clients are looking to become stronger, both physically and mentally. It’s crazy how hard it is to dedicate 45 minutes of your day to yourself,” she says. “They want a space where they can focus on themselves, and you won’t get stronger as a person until you’re able to build that mental strength. I remind them not to take it too seriously though and that we are in this together.”

Melissa Boyd, Salt SF


“Fitness is all about failing, stepping back, training hard, and eventually mastering something.”

Melissa Boyd was one of San Francisco’s innovative female bartenders—until she got injured on the job. “I’ve always been very much into fitness,” explains Boyd, “and then when I blew out my rotator cuff from the repetitive act of shaking cocktails, I became even more passionate about mobility, functional fitness, strengthening joints, and how people cope with injuries.” In fall 2015, she opened Salt SF with her cleverly titled workout, Barre Fight, a mash-up of barre workouts, mobility training, cardio, warm-up, core, and activation of the glutes—which was an instant hit. Boyd is inspired by challenges and stresses the importance of listening to your body. “I’m motivated by the things I’m not good at. I’ve always been very competitive with myself, and I love to take on new challenges. I do a little bit of everything depending on how my body is feeling.” She mostly teaches packed group fitness classes where it can be tough to connect with clients on a personal level. So how does she do it? “I try to always say out loud what people are thinking, so they realize they are not alone. Everyone is struggling, everyone feels tired, everyone needs a push. Using people’s names and really watching and complementing their growth is a huge motivator for me and seems to be for my clients as well.”

Stephanie Snyder, Love Story Yoga

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“Daily yoga burns up my inner critic, helps me make better choices and feel great in my body.”

No SF-based top 10 trainer list is complete without a yoga instructor, and when it comes to yoga in the Bay Area, there is no one more beloved than Stephanie Snyder. For the past 20 years, Snyder has taught at yoga studios all over the world. But in November she finally opened her own, much-anticipated studio, Love Story Yoga. “Yoga has been the greatest love story of my life,” Snyder says. “I believe it can be that for everyone.” Her teaching style is inspirational and inclusive, and she has a warm charisma that makes her naturally welcoming. “I think my main message is that you can be seen and loved for who you are and that stepping into that with enthusiasm is the greatest motivator. I’m always cheering for my clients; I’m always in their corner,” she says. Snyder teaches several packed classes a week as well as special workshops and teacher training programs. Her motto is “live reverently, love ridiculously, and laugh often.” And she lives what she teaches, practicing yoga every day. With clients, her practice sessions are “an experience that helps people release stress and fatigue; it heals the body while nourishing them spiritually—that’s our thing here at Love Story Yoga.”