It’s 9:59 a.m. Two dozen Cal Poly students bustle through the Recreation Center to claim a spot in Studio 1. Their running shoes are tightly laced, and they wear ear-to-ear grins of anticipation. The instructor enters the room. With a strut of enthusiasm and a smile to match, she lays down her mat and greets her class with a warm, eager welcome in a thick, Italian accent.
“Good morning! And a good morning it is! Everybody on your feet!”
Meet Doriana Pirolo.
Standing five foot, two inches in a cherry-red tank top and yoga pants, Pirolo commences her Fusion Pilates class with an upbeat remix of “Don’t Let Me Down” by The Chainsmokers.
Pirolo is Cal Poly’s highest rated fitness instructor, according to quarterly student surveys issued by the Recreation Center.
“No matter how I tweak the questions, on a scale of 1-5, she always gets a five,” Assistant Program Coordinator of Fitness Programs Eric Alexander said.
Pirolo moved to California from Naples, Italy at the age of 20, finding her niche in the world of fitness. Her passion for instructing classes spans across three separate gymnasiums in San Luis Obispo, one of them being Cal Poly’s Recreation Center. She teaches a variety of classes such as Body Pump, Six-pack Abs and her own creation, Fusion Pilates.
Blending elements of Tai Chi, yoga, pilates and plyometrics (also known as “jump training”) Pirolo designed Fusion Pilates, one of Cal Poly’s newest classes offered at the Recreation Center.
“It’s a high intensity class with lots of contrast,” Pirolo said. “I created it from scratch. I felt like the students wanted more and I wanted to switch it up, so I decided to make my own format.”
Prior to her life in San Luis Obispo, Pirolo grew up as in the city, sharing a roof with her parents and three older brothers.
She said she has always been an active child, playing sports and racing other kids around the neighborhood block. In middle school, she outran everybody in the 200 meter dash.
But Pirolo’s biggest dream was to dance ballet.
At the age of six, tragedy crushed her childhood aspirations when she was hit by a car while crossing the street.
“My dreams were shattered,” Pirolo said.
After breaking her femur, nose and shoulder and spending 20 days in a coma, Pirolo was told dancing was no longer in her future. With the care of health professionals and years of physical therapy, Doriana recovered and gradually continued to exercise.
“I grew up feeling like a miracle child,” she said.
Despite her traumatic injury at a young age, Pirolo remains an active, healthy person. On Mondays she teaches up to six classes in one day, putting her own physical fitness to the test.
Pirolo spends most of her free time creating new exercises and compiling playlists of songs to accompany routines. She also finds time to relax on the weekends, playing frisbee at the park with her golden retriever Izzy.
“My job requires me to be on 100 percent of the time,” Pirolo said, “It’s important to relax and unwind when I have the time.”
As popular as Pirolo has become among Cal Poly students, instructing fitness classes wasn’t originally in her career plans.
Pirolo began as a member of the Recreation Center, attending classes in her free time. People around her began to comment on her technique and form and said she looked more natural than the instructor. So, Pirolo decided to get certified to teach.
Pirolo said her job as a fitness instructor flourished into an enriching and rewarding career. She said the most rewarding moments of her career stem from the relationships she’s built with students.
“A group of girls who graduated years ago still call me on my birthday,” Pirolo said. “They are my family. I tell them they are the future; they can turn this world upside down. For them, there is no limit.”
Alumnus Jane Markham attended Pirolo’s classes while she was attending Cal Poly, and is now one of Pirolo’s closest friends. She recalled attending Pirolo’s classes since her sophomore year.
“She’s a spark. Her personality simply shines,” Markham said. “What started with casual chatting after class, quickly developed into a deeper friendship.”
After five years, Pirolo is now an integral part of the university’s fitness culture, providing innovative instruction and meaningful support.