When Joseph Pilates developed his exercise regime in the early 20th century, he used resistance-training apparatus to help guide the body. Today, most Pilates classes work primarily on the mat, but a few Richmond studios still teach the classic edition. "The equipment offers support to the body through resistance so you can do the exercises without straining or endangering your spine," says Leigh Rose, an instructor at Balance Pilates Training Center (340-1203 or pilatesrichmond.com ) . A 50-minute private session that includes an introduction to the five basic principles of Pilates costs $40. The Pilates Fitness Studio (355-5010 or thepilatesfitnessstudio.com ) and CORE Pilates of Richmond (422-2673 or corepilatesrichmond.com ) also offer equipment-based classes, and you can find mat classes at gyms around town, including the Weinstein JCC (285-6500 or weinsteinjcc.org ) .
Active Isolated Stretching
Patrick Burns was in a coma for 25 days following a rollover automobile accident, and it wasn't until discovering Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) that he felt relief from his chronic muscle stiffness and back pain. "In a static stretch, there is no motivation for blood flow," Burns says. "Specifically, range of motion was what wasn't changing with other static stretching." During AIS, the stretch is made active when a facilitator isolates and stretches individual muscles two to three degrees beyond the normal range of motion for two seconds and then repeats the motion eight to 10 times. Burns offers individual sessions on AIS at his Richmond studio, Motion Momentum (873-1215 or motionmomentum.com ) . You can also find sessions at Muscle Mechanix (833-8759 or mymusclemechanix.com ) and Integrative Massage Therapy (283-3409) .
Trade the treadmill for sand pits, agility ladders and cones at Elkin Sports Performance (321-3777 or elkinsportsperformance.com ) . "We break the monotony of training," says owner Jason Elkin. The fitness center offers hour-long group exercise classes almost every day of the week, ranging from $125 to $150 per month, and Elkin says the instructors take an individual interest in each client. "If they don't show up for a couple weeks, we're contacting them." Velocity Sports Performance (266-2500 or velocitysp.com ) incorporates sports-specific gear in their athletic training programs — think small parachutes that attach at the waist to add wind resistance during sprint drills — and American Family Fitness ( amfamfit.com ) now offers sport performance training at its West End and Midlothian locations.
John McGuire started SEAL TEAM Physical Training (262-1894 or sealteampt.com ) at Bryan Park in 1998. "We're not training people to be soldiers," says the former Navy SEAL, who prefers the name "basic fitness class" to "boot camp." Almost 200 people show up for the weekday classes to paddle boats, climb ropes and navigate obstacle courses. The two-week introductory program costs $250, and it's $90 a month after that.
Jennifer Hunt, who started the women-only KYA Boot Camp (357-8789 or kyabootcamp.com ) almost four years ago, finds boot camps more time-efficient than a gym workout. Glatter Fitness Boot Camp (420-2440 or glatterfitness.com ) in Henrico is another option, and the Richmond Balance ( 343-1234 or richmondbalance.com ) boot camp meets three days a week at Libby Hill Park.
Low-impact water-fitness classes are making a splash with exercisers of all ages, says Brittney Popelier, aquatic director at the Short Pump location of American Family Fitness (364-1200 or amfamfit.com ) . She notes that working out in the water adds resistance at the front and back of the body and makes exercise easier on the joints. Aqua Kick Boxing and H2O Bootcamp, a muscle-conditioning class that involves interval and foam dumbbell training, are some of their most popular options.
The Zacharias Ganey Health Institute (358-1000 or zghealthinstitute.com ) offers water ballet and pool Pilates in a heated pool. "The warm water allows you to stretch your muscles even more to really reap the benefits," says group-exercise director Ashley Simpson.
Bikram Yoga, a modern twist on standard yoga, involves a series of 26 poses for 90 minutes in a room heated to about 105 degrees. "It allows you to be more flexible," says Jackie Wallace, instructor at Bikram Yoga Richmond (249-3355 or bikramyogarichmond.com ) . "It's also a cardio workout because your heart rate goes up."
Richmond also has a wealth of traditional yoga classes. At Yoga Source (359-9642 or yogarichmond.com ) , novice yogis can try the introductory sampler series for $30, which includes four one-hour classes in separate yoga styles, while Glenmore Yoga & Wellness Center (741-5267 or glenmoreyoga.com ) offers individualized yoga consultations for $75.
If that all feels a little too vanilla, Illumination: Khalima Dance Studio and Workshop (549-3982 or illuminationkhalimadancestudioandwork.blogspot.com ) offers skyclad — that is, nude — yoga classes for men. "It takes you back to that kind of primordial origin of yoga, which is definitely a sort of shamanistic, nature-based practice," says LeVar, the class instructor.
At the newly renovated Richmond Alternative Center for Health (355-4311 or rac4health.com ) , one of many local fitness centers that offer indoor group cycling classes, the popular workout comes in a variety of flavors, from a class that only plays '80s music to "night rides" during which instructors turn off the lights. At the Willow Lawn location of Gold's Gym (285-4653 or goldsgym.com ) , riders can catch a flick in the health club's dimmed cardio cinema, where a different movie is shown on repetition every day. You can find the movie schedule on the website.
Anyone who's watched even a single episode of Dancing With the Stars knows that moving to the music can be a great calorie burner. That's old news to health clubs with popular classes such as Salsa aerobics and Zumba, but why not work up a sweat outside the gym, too? On the second and fourth Saturday of the month, grab a partner and do-si-do at the Lewis Ginter Recreation Association for four hours of dancing for $8. "We've got young and old, big and little," laughs Herschel Nelson, board member of the Traditional American Dance and Music Society (748-6602 or home.comcast.net/~richmondva/TADAMS/home.htm ) . The partnered folk dance — better known as contra dancing — supplies a great aerobic workout and the caller teaches the choreography before the music begins.
Richmond has plenty of other opportunities to get your dance on. At The Dance Space (673-3326 or thedancespace.com ) , students work up a sweat in the six-week introductory course for $7 per class. The Dance Space also holds a public ballroom dance every Friday night for just $8 per session.
And for the prima ballerina in all of us, the Richmond Ballet (344-0906 or richmondballet.com ) offers beginner to advanced ballet (plus jazz and Pilates) classes for adults.
Murrieal Orendorff is not one to go to the gym. Yet in the past six months, she's worked out regularly, dropping weight, losing inches and feeling better than ever, all under the direction of a personal trainer — no gym required.
"I didn't feel like I was competing with anyone," says Orendorff, who practices yoga in her Richmond home twice weekly with Tracey Brooks of Fitness in Motion.
Brooks says people choose in-home trainers because "it becomes a bigger commitment." When you know a trainer's going to be knocking on your door, avoiding exercise becomes a little harder.
Brooks provides dumbbells, mats, and additional equipment, but she can also work with clients' personal equipment. Prices vary, but a package of five hour-long sessions costs $175.
Just because in-home training takes place away from the varied options available at a health club, that doesn't mean the workouts are boring. In addition to her regular in-home services, FitInYourBody owner and trainer Allison Andrews can connect clients with trainers offering more eclectic options like kickboxing and martial arts, for a change of pace or as a supplement to their usual routine.
There are certain things you should consider when hiring any personal trainer, especially when it's for in-home sessions.
"Check their credentials, just like you would a plumber," says Ed Acevedo, the head of VCU's Department of Health and Human Performance. Look for certifications by a professional fitness organization: Reputable certifying groups include NSCA, ACSM, NASM and AFAA.
Finally, Acevedo suggests holding your first meeting outside your home, at a fitness center, for example. "You're hiring somebody, and you're inviting them into your home," he says. "That's two circumstances that I think you ought to feel really comfortable about." —Christine Erickson
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