Ways to transform your body and mind this winter.
New Year’s resolutions about fitness are inevitable. But why wait until then to renew your gym membership yet again? If you complement your current routine with something that will keep your interest over the coming months, you might just keep off those winter pounds. Fitness classes abound in Philadelphia in every neighborhood, so there’s really no excuse not to get out there and try something new. Want to strengthen your core while you sharpen your strategy skills? Try fencing or rock climbing. Don’t want to feel as though you’re working out? Try dance fitness or a new kind of yoga. Whatever you’re looking for, Grid’s got you covered with cool specialty workouts all over town that offer flexible schedules and payment options.
En Garde!: Shakamaxon Fencing Club
We recently checked out this low-key, beginner-and-kid-friendly fencing club, and there’s a lot to love here. First, you’re going to get a core-centric workout that will also give you killer glutes while you pretend to kill people: Fencing is equal parts aerobic stamina and Shaolin strategy, with plenty of plyometrics thrown in. If you like yoga or martial arts for the melding of body and mind, or CrossFit for its competitive, mind-over-matter ethos, fencing may be an option for you. The intro classes at Shakamaxon Fencing Club mix teens, adults, men and women, and if you get your head in the game you can go from tripping over your footwork to winning practice bouts in four weeks. It’s truly an all-ages sport—national competitions offer age groups for the little ones as well as fencers who are over 70. The brand-new club is based in Queen Village and run by Chris Spencer, with help from Dan Korschun. The pair were nationally-ranked fencers and teammates at Brandeis who narrowly missed qualifying for the U.S. Olympic team; Spencer is the current head coach at Haverford College. He’s not going to take it easy on you, so expect that if you or your kids are signing up, there will be discipline and required manners all around, even if you’re playing fun games: Spencer will channel his inner Mr. Miyagi as you play fencing-centric rock, paper, scissors or do relay races without a fencing foil in sight. Don’t think too hard about this one. It’s a great workout, all of the equipment is provided at each class, it’s really fun. And, if for some reason you’re ever challenged to a duel, you may actually be able to defend yourself, or even win. En garde!
Various times and locations, Queen Village; shakamaxonfc.com
Master the Mountain: Go Vertical Indoor Rock Climbing
Rock climbing is one of those workouts that feels a little too pro to just pop into a gym and try out for a day. You need special shoes and equipment, and then there is the whole issue of falling if you’re not secured properly, so it can feel a little intimidating. But it’s also a great low-impact, full-body workout that requires you to center yourself mentally—while you’re up there on the wall, you have to make strategic decisions about your route and solve problems under duress. So what’s a girl to do? Head to Go Vertical rock climbing gym and take advantage of two-hour lessons that will show you the ropes. You’ll learn technique and safety procedures for the two main styles of rock climbing, bouldering and rope climbing, the latter of which requires you to learn how to safely rope yourself to another climber. Go Vertical also offers advanced classes and private instruction; and a special youth certification is available for teens who want to get into the sport. The gym’s owners will tell you that climbing is 50 percent strength and 50 percent strategy, and that forming good habits early on is key. Rock climbing can be an all-ages sport, where women often compete equally with men. The trust factor inherent to climbing is why Go Vertical sometimes hosts corporate retreats: If you can trust someone on the wall, the staff meeting should be a walk in the park. Showers and locker rooms are available, and during the week the gym is open until 10 p.m., so if you’re pulling late nights at the office, there’s still time to hit the wall and give it your all.
950 N. Penn St.; 215.928.1800; govertical.com
Sweat It Out: HotBox Yoga
Yoga classes are everywhere in Philadelphia, and you can take your pick of traditions that might suit your needs, from vinyasa or hatha techniques that focus on uninterrupted motion and breathing to traditions such as ashtanga that attract practitioners who want something more muscular and physically demanding. People at Hotbox Yoga, started in 2011 by Brad Young, practice Bikram (“hot”) yoga: Rooms are heated to about 95 degrees, which increases your heart rate while you’re practicing and helps your muscles and joints warm up more quickly. You’re going to sweat—a lot—so be sure to hydrate before and after class. Any kind of yoga or fitness class can get expensive, and Hotbox has two options if you’re trying to keep an eye on your budget. At both the Manayunk and West Philadelphia locations you can take $10 community classes, and there’s also a quasi-co-op option: joining the Energy Exchange program. You can practice for free if you’re willing to spend some time keeping the studio in shape and pitching in with light administrative duties such as checking students in for class. The only catch is that before applying to do the work exchange, you must put in 30 days of practice at the studio. If you’re really ready to join the team, Hotbox also offers a 200-hour Yoga Alliance-approved program for teacher training. The weekend program is intense, and you can expect to be at the studio for 12-hour days while you’re training. And if you want your yoga with a bit of a beat, the Hotbox Power Beats classes will keep you going. The hip-hop-based Namaslay class is probably a good indication that this is a studio where you don’t have to take yourself too seriously, even if you have a serious practice.
West Philadelphia: 3527 Lancaster Ave.
Manyaunk: 4163 Main St.; 267.275.8441; hotboxyoga.com
So You Think You Can Dance?: Philly Dance Fitness
It never fails: You haven’t been out dancing in a while and then you hit the floor at your cousin’s wedding, only to realize that keeping it going for more than two songs is a lot harder than it used to be. Dancing is fun, hard work, and choreographer Deborah Hirsch, owner of Philly Dance Fitness, wants to make sure you have a good time while you’re getting down. The classes are held at various studios in Center City, South Philadelphia and Fairmount, and dancers 14 and older of all skill levels are encouraged to sweat it out. You can drop in on classes or make a reservation to secure your spot. While most gyms offer a few dance-related fitness classes, the sheer number of styles offered by Philly Dance Fitness really stands out. They have a diverse team of instructors steeped in their particular traditions, whether it’s styles like Zumba that were born in a gym or the more traditional performance-oriented traditions such as ballet. You can check out hip-hop-inspired House Party Fitness classes, or, when you’re feeling like throwing some jazz hands, sign up for Jazz Cardio Fusion. But it doesn’t end there, and there will definitely be something that turns your head: Been meaning to learn how to work a pole? Try the striptease class. Always wanted to be in the movies? Bollywood dance classes might be for you. There’s also tap, African dance, cardio belly dancing, swing classes and—when you’ve got to pull out all the stops at your own wedding—a ballroom dancing class that has your name on it.
Various times and locations; 215.645.2717; phillydancefitness.com
Uphill, Both Ways: Incline Running
No one really likes running on hills, but it’s a great way to up your running game. Ev
en if you run at a slower pace, the extra effort of running on an incline activates your muscles almost 10 percent more than when running on a flat surface. Incline Running in Haverford, Pennsylvania, boasts a cadre of state-of-the-art treadmills that mimic running outside, are kind to your joints and don’t require you to change your running mechanics. If you’re a serious runner looking for next-level fitness or to smash your personal best at the next half-marathon, this could be the workout you’re looking for, and you won’t have to go it alone with a fitness watch as your only encouragement: A coach is there to lead each session (think spin class for runners), and you’ll be training alongside other overachievers. Some classes also include core work and yoga for a more holistic workout, and you’ll have choices when you’re ready to work specifically on aspects of your running, such as strength or endurance. Workouts run from 30 to 60 minutes, and if feeling better in your own skin rather than training for a serious race is your goal, you can still take advantage of the classes here: Power walkers and joggers are also welcome. The state-of-the art studio is also equipped with fully stocked locker rooms and an in-house café to fuel you up after you’ve given it your best. 519 W. Lancaster Ave., Haverford, Pa.
Go Hard or Go Home: The Wall Cycling Studio
Cycling is a great low-impact, all-ages exercise that also allows you explore the city. But the winter months can put a damper on training. Even if you’re willing to brave the cold, black ice is no one’s friend. Enter The Wall Cycling Studio, named for the killer incline that’s part of the late, great Philadelphia International Cycling Championship. It was started by self-proclaimed “indoor cycling junkies,” and they put their own spin on spin: You can find barre fitness and yoga classes, as well as interesting cross-training combinations such as Power Barre Asana and Baradio Sculpt, which focuses on interval training; and, to round out the mash-ups, there’s a Spin and Barre Fusion workout. Another option, the Spin + Strech, allows you split your time between a cycling workout and guided stretching. Classes are generally offered in the morning (some start as early as 5:15 a.m.) and in the late afternoon to early evening. If you can’t commit just yet, The Wall offers packages in class bundles as few as three, so there’s plenty of time to sample what works for you and then sign up for a larger package, a monthly unlimited option or commit to a full year.
107 Cotton St.; 267.336.7928; thewallcycling.com