This Les Mills Devotee Makes the Most Amazing Home-Cooked Meals

Abby Behrends is a group fitness instructor, but we think she could make it as a chef.

Abby Behrends teaches Les Mills group fitness classes at two gyms and makes a mean crock pot dinner. / Photograph courtesy Abby Behrends

Who I am: Abby Behrends (@abby_behrends), 27

Where I live: Northern Liberties

What I do: By day, I’m an events and marketing coordinator for the Materials Science and Engineering department at the University of Pennsylvania. By early mornings, nights, weekends, and a few lunch hours, I am a Les Mills BodyPump, BodyCombat, and Grit instructor at Penn Recreation’s Pottruck Health and Fitness Center and City Fitness.

What role healthy living plays in my life: At this point I cannot imagine my life without group fitness, specifically Les Mills. When I discovered these classes, it was the first time I can specifically remember having fun in a gym, and I became completely hooked. These classes have ignited a passion and confidence I had no idea was inside me and have completely transformed the way I look at fitness. I aim to create the same feeling of community and empowerment.

Health memberships (and what they cost): With the two gyms I work for, I’m fortunate enough to have eight locations throughout the city where I can work out and take classes at at no cost. I work with an online trainer (shout out to Sydnee Weinberg of Vicious Fit), who writes my training and macronutrient plans for $280 a month. I also use MyFitnessPal to track my macros and pay $50 a year for the premium version.


les mills

Abby Behrends teaches Les Mills group fitness classes such as BodyPump. / Photograph courtesy Abby Behrends

5:40 a.m. — My alarm goes off way too quickly. It’s the first Monday after Daylight Savings Time, and I AM TIRED. I pop out of bed and grab a 10-ounce glass of water to drink while I get ready. This is my routine every morning; I don’t leave the house without finishing the glass. I grab my work/gym bag that I packed from the night before and head out the door.

6:30 a.m. — I catch the MFL to University City to coach a Grit Strength class at Pottruck. I do one last mental runthrough of today’s workout on the train.

7:15 a.m. — Music on, barbells up. There’s nothing easy about Grit, but I love seeing my peeps improve every class (as well as roll their eyes at me when I tell them there’s one more round). Today’s lineup includes AMRAPs (as many reps as possible), pyramids, and Tabatas.

7:45 a.m. — Torture’s over, and everyone leaves with a smile. I clean up the room and head to the locker room to shower and get ready for work.

8:25 a.m. — On to my full-time gig. I take the short four-block walk to my office and stop at CVS on the way to pick up some snacks to keep at the office for the week (or the day…) I grab some Oikos greek yogurt, a Perfect Bar, two sticks of string cheese, a box of Nature Valley almond butter biscuits, and a Powerful Drink protein shake ($16.43 total).

les mills

Snacks for the week. / Photograph courtesy Abby Behrends

8:35 a.m. — I’m a total sucker for earning rewards through the Starbucks app. I mobile order a venti blonde roast coffee with almond milk and two pumps of sugar-free vanilla syrup as well as an order of sous vide egg white bites for breakfast. I have some cash already loaded onto my mobile app so it feels like this one’s free.

8:45 a.m. — Arrive at my desk. Devour breakfast and coffee, answer emails, and map out my work to-do list for the week.

10:30 a.m. — Check-in call with my trainer! Sydnee is a delight to work with. We discuss my past week of training, my energy levels on my current plan, and what to do for next week.

11:15 a.m. — I eat a Belvita protein bar I brought from home for a little energy before teaching my next class of the day. I take my gummy multivitamins I keep at my desk, chug eight ounces of water from my Nalgene, and do one last listen through my playlist.

11:40 a.m. — Costume change in my office — back to gym clothes. I make the quick trek back up to Pottruck to teach my noon BodyCombat class.

1:15 p.m. — Back at my desk. I change; freshen up with baby wipes, perfume, and dry shampoo; and do a quick retouch of my makeup. I keep all of these products on hand in my office, so I’m able to work out over lunch and get back to work quickly.

2 p.m. — While doing some prep for a work event next week, I eat my lunch I packed from home: a big salad of arugula, spinach, canned tuna, avocado oil mayo, red bell pepper, and cremini mushrooms, topped with Trader Joe’s Everything but the Bagel seasoning.

3:45 p.m. — Fill up my Nalgene bottle and add a blueberry-açai-flavored Emergen-C energy+ packet. These are my latest obsession. I was plagued with a few nasty colds this winter and picked them up in an effort to stay healthy for the rest of the season. I munch on string cheese while wrapping up work for the day.

4:30 p.m. — One more stop before the day is done. I change into gym clothes for the last time today and grab the trolley to City Fitness Logan Square to teach the 5:15 p.m. BodyPump Express class. It’s completely packed.

6:05 p.m. — MONDAY. IS. DONE. I grab the El back to Fishtown, review my class playlist for the morning, and eat a Perfect Bar to keep from getting hangry.

7 p.m. — Home. Shower. Snuggle cats and boyfriend.

7:30 p.m. — Simple dinner on the menu tonight: pan-fried chicken breast with rosemary and thyme, jasmine rice, and Brussels sprouts fried in my Air Fryer and tossed in some olive oil and maple syrup for sweetness. I cook up two extra chicken breasts for lunches and munch on strawberries with a tangerine La Croix while the food cooks.

9 p.m. — This is such an integral part of my week: Vanderpump Rules. I crack open a  Golden Road Brewing Mango Cart Ale because life is short, and Mondays are long.

10 p.m. — Nightly skincare routine: Differin gel, the Ordinary hyaluronic acid, Aveeno Absolutely Ageless night cream. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to finally tame my hormonal acne, and this current cocktail has been working nicely.

10:30 p.m. — I take two droplets of CBD oil and pull my sleep mask over my eyes. Lights out.

Daily total: $16.43


les mills

Mussels and linguine for dinner. / Photograph courtesy Abby Behrends

6:15 a.m. — Alarm goes off. I drink 10 ounces of water while prepping coffee to go in my Yeti with almond milk and a little Stevia.

6:40 a.m. — Out the door to walk down to City Fitness Fishtown to coach Grit Cardio. The crew’s going to love this two-minute AMRAP featuring push-ups with rows, squat jumps, and power lunges. *evil grin*

8 a.m. — My turn! I head to the weight room to hit one of my prescribed upper body workouts. On the menu: a bunch of supersets featuring movements like chest presses, pull-ups, leg raises, Russian twists, and my new personal fave for the upper back, Pendlay rows.

8:45 a.m. — Training done. I head to the locker room to shower, change, and take the El to the office.

9:25 a.m. — Arrive at work. I settle in to check emails while sipping the last of the coffee in my Yeti and a shake in my Blender Bottle I brought from home: two scoops of Orgain chocolate protein powder with a cup of almond milk.

10:15 a.m. — I want to get the bulk of my work that requires brain power out of the way early today, so I set a timer, close all my tabs, and turn my phone around for no distractions.

10:45 a.m. — I eat a Belvita protein bar while scrolling Instagram. Five-minute break timer goes off, and it’s back to work.

12:10 p.m. — I’ve got plans to meet up with a friend who also works at Penn for a coffee and walk around campus over lunch. Of course, we are meeting at Starbucks. I mobile order a grande blonde roast with nonfat milk and Stevia. The coffee’s $3, but I add $10 to my mobile card to have loaded for next time. ($10)

les mills

Behrends’ regular Starbucks order. / Photograph courtesy Abby Behrends

2 p.m. — Nalgene needs a refill. I walk one floor down to our water cooler, chat with some coworkers who sit nearby, and grab the rest of my food for the day from the fridge. I eat the lunch I packed from home back in my office: chopped chicken breast from last night, leftover Brussels sprouts, spinach, arugula, and organic Thousand Island dressing.

3:45 p.m. — After dealing with a few unforeseen work tasks, I need a break and a snack: a string cheese stick and a mixed berry Oikos yogurt. I answer a few emails pertaining to both gyms before diving into a mindless Excel project for the rest of the day.

4:45 p.m. — My brain is telling me it’s had enough for the day. I leave the office and stop at the bank before heading home to grab a roll of quarters ($10) for laundry.

6:15 p.m. — Drive to Old City to pick up my boyfriend, Mike, at his office. We need to grocery shop, but, luckily, it’s a task we truly enjoy doing together. We head to Acme out of convenience; I don’t feel like dealing with the line at Trader Joe’s. We pick up some staple produce, meats, and snacks for the week, plus a bottle of wine for dinner ($72.66, but Mike and I split it via Venmo).

7:45 p.m. — Back home, unpack groceries, and cook dinner. We’re making mussels and linguine with a garlic butter broth and garlic bread from a leftover baguette. I snack on a half serving of pretzel rods while we cook. We eat dinner with glasses of pinot grigio.

10:30 p.m. — Kitchen cleaned, laundry done, bag packed for tomorrow. I do my skincare regimen, grab water, and head to bed. Two droplets of CBD and an episode of Below Deck to end the night.

Daily total: $56.33


les mills

A delectable-looking crock pot meal. / Photograph courtesy Abby Behrends

1 a.m. — Awoken by my cats. -____-

5:30 a.m. —  Cats again. Please, I beg. It’s my day to sleep in.

6:45 a.m. — Alarm goes off. I scroll Instagram and Twitter in bed for 10 minutes.

7 a.m. — I head to the kitchen. Mike and I both have late nights tonight, so I prep a crock pot meal to cook throughout the day: two 10-ounce bone-in pork chops with baby potatoes and a head of broccoli. I make coffee to have while getting ready.

7:30 a.m. — It’s a day I don’t have to get ready in a locker room, so I take some extra time doing my makeup and hair.

9:10 a.m. — I arrive at work after taking the subway with Mike. Already struggling to get into the grind today.

9:45 a.m. — HUNGRY! I eat a whole wheat bagel I brought from home with veggie cream cheese and take my gummy multivitamins.

Noon — I have a committee meeting where lunch is served. Today there’s Mediterranean catering. I stuff half a pita with falafel, tahini, and a few spoonfuls of Greek salad.

1 p.m. — After the meeting, I catch up with a colleague I haven’t seen in awhile. We walk to Starbucks, and I order a grande misto with nonfat milk and Stevia. Coffee is $3.29 but is paid for by money already on my mobile card.

4 p.m. — How is it already 4 p.m.? I eat a peach yogurt and drink a tangerine La Croix while finishing some admin work at the office. Then I review the playlist for my BodyPump class at Pottruck tonight.

5:15 p.m. — PACKED HOUSE. So many old friends in the room for a workout, and my heart is bursting. Barbells up, and we begin.

6:25 p.m. — I stay at Pottruck to participate in back-to-back Les Mills classes taught by two of my close friends. I truly believe you stop growing as an instructor when you stop taking classes, and I love sweating next to my friends.

8 p.m. — I call an Uber home ($6.53).

8:30 p.m. — Hoooome. I desperately need to shower.

9 p.m. — Dig into my crockpot pork chops. They fall off the bone!

9:30 p.m. — I make a “dessert quesadilla” by warming up a honey wheat wrap on the stove and spreading some almond butter on one side with a few sprinkles of cinnamon. Fold, flip, and enjoy.

9:45 p.m. — Skincare routine; pack up food and my bag for the next day. In bed, I review the workout plan for my Grit Strength class on my laptop. I usually keep the same playlist for two weeks in my classes, and tomorrow we need to switch it up. Mike and the cats come to bed by 11:30, and it’s lights out.

Daily total: $6.53


les mills

Lower body workout at City Fitness. / Photograph courtesy Abby Behrends

6:15 a.m. — Alarm goes off. Drink water while prepping coffee with almond milk in my Yeti, change, and walk to City Fitness Fishtown.

7 a.m. — Arrive at City Fitness to coach Grit Strength. I am running late and feeling a bit flustered, but as soon as my people start to trickle in, the nerves fade away.

8:25 a.m. — On the El. We have a speaker visiting our department today, so I head to their hotel to greet them and walk them to campus.

9:15 a.m. — Arrive at my desk. I heat up a frozen Healthy Choice pesto and egg white bowl in the microwave for breakfast.

10:30 a.m. — The department seminars always include coffee and cookies, so I stop by.

11:30 a.m. — Time for a costume change in my office — back to gym clothes to teach BodyPump at Pottruck at noon.

1:15 p.m. — Change and freshen up quickly back in my office. I prep for a meeting with my boss. No time for a full lunch yet, so I snack on a Nature Valley almond butter biscuit and a tangerine La Croix.

2:45 p.m. —  Lunch time! Salad packed from home: spinach, half of a sweet bell pepper, chicken cooked on Monday night, and organic Thousand Island dressing. Neeeeed hydration. I drink half of my Nalgene bottle.

4 p.m. — Work is making my head buzz today. I grab a vanilla yogurt and push through some emails.

4:45 p.m. —  Head out of the office to catch the El. I’m stopping by City Fitness Fishtown on the way home. Today is lower body training with simple exercises: squats, deadlifts, hamstring curls, hip thrusts, and a Tabata finisher with power lunges and ball slams. I’m usually not in the weight room at peak time, and I’m not looking forward to waiting for a squat rack.

7 p.m. — Home and showered, I make one of my favorite protein shakes in my Nutribullet: protein powder, almond milk, PB2, ice, frozen spinach, and half of an avocado for creaminess.

8 p.m. — Dinner time. Mike’s heading out to a work event, so I cook for myself: fusilli pasta with pan-fried sirloin steak tips, some green bell pepper, and a dash of Adobo.

9:30 p.m. — I’ve saved macros for a dessert tonight: a half pint of Scandal-less salted caramel ice cream! Spoon goes into the container, and Bravo goes on the TV.

10:30 p.m. — Somewhere around this time, I fall asleep on the couch.

Midnight — Move to bed and instantly fall back asleep.

Daily total: $0


les mills

Dinner and drinks at La Cabra Brewing. / Photograph courtesy Abby Behrends

7 a.m. — Alarm goes off. Besides work, Fridays are for ME! No classes. I pack up my lunch, do my hair and makeup, and head to the subway with Michael.

9 a.m. — It’s 60 degrees outside in March, which calls for an iced coffee. I mobile order a grande iced coffee with almond milk and Stevia, paid for by cash already on my Starbucks card.

9:15 a.m. — Score some free breakfast from a recruitment event in our building. I grab scrambled eggs, two sausage links, and a mini corn muffin. Friday is good already.

10 a.m. — Fill up my Nalgene to force myself to drink more water.

12:15 p.m. — I’ve been working all morning putting together an event schedule for next week. Hunger strikes, and I eat a Nature Valley almond butter biscuit while going through emails.

1:30 p.m. — I need a break from my desk, so I head up to Pottruck to hit my last training session for the week. Today is full body.

2:45 p.m. —  Quickly freshen up at my desk and drink a Powerful Drink protein shake.

3:30 p.m. — The office building seems empty. I get the sense that everyone is over the work week. I grab my lunch packed from home: a salad of spinach, green bell pepper, chicken breast, avocado oil mayo, and Everything but the Bagel seasoning. Bang out the rest of the work day.

4:45 p.m. — Packing up and heading home to flop on the couch.

7 p.m. — Michael and I are heading to La Cabra Brewing for a date night! Our first time checking this brewery out, and it’s lovely. We each get two pints and split an order of charred octopus and chorizo hash. It’s my turn to treat ($50).

11 p.m. — Arrive home and fill up a bowl with one serving of Special K Protein cereal and almond milk.

11:45 p.m. — Skincare and lights out! I teach BodyPump and BodyCombat back to back in the morning. *evil grin*

Daily total: $50

Weekly Totals

Money spent: $129.29

Meals cooked: 4

Cups of coffee drank: $8

Tangerine La Croixs drank: 3

Classes taught: 6

Workouts done: 5

Bravo TV shows watched: 3


Let’s get social! Join Be Well Philly at: