Before Lycra, Spandex and a health club on every corner, gyms were gritty, dingy facilities where men went to lift weights and spar in the boxing ring. In 1935, bodybuilder Vic Tanny opened a brighter, more welcoming "health club" in New York, followed by one in California. By the 1950s, Vic Tanny Centers numbered more than 100 across the United States.
The following decades saw new gyms popping up as Arnold Schwarzenegger inspired a bodybuilding craze. Women began to feel more comfortable in gyms with the advent of dance aerobics and group fitness classes. Personal training was the rage in the 1980s, while over the past 30 years, spin classes, Tae Bo, kickboxing and yoga intrigued those more interested in communal workouts. Today the fitness industry encompasses an astounding array of options and equipment and generates $21.8 billion in revenue nationwide.
Along with that has come a plethora of fitness health advice, scientific studies on the ways to get fit and stay fit. None of that matters, however, if you don't find the workout that fits your personality, health needs, lifestyle and goals. There's a lot to choose from. And with research showing that exercise benefits nearly every aspect of physical and even emotional health, there's not a lot of reason to say "no" to working out.
Whether you're just starting out, or looking for something to spice up your fitness regimen, here's the lowdown on five trendy options.
"Designed for Success" • Orangetheory Fitness
WHAT TO EXPECT High-intensity group interval training that's a zig and a zag from conventional group gym classes. In a typical group class, the instructor performs the routine while calling out instructions from the front of the room. In an Orangetheory class, the certified trainer doesn't do the workout, but is constantly moving through the group, correcting students' form and encouraging and supervising each person's progress. You wear a heart-rate monitor that has been programmed with your age, weight and gender. Everyone's fitness output is transmitted to overhead screens in the form of colored bars (with the color orange signifying the anaerobic or interval training zone) so at a glance you know how you're doing (as well as how others in the class are doing, if you're curious). The science-based, 60-minute workouts produce 12 to 20 minutes of training at 84 percent or higher of your maximum heart rate, which creates an "afterburn" effect, meaning you continue to burn calories for 24 to 36 hours post-workout.
THE VIBE You'll zip through a high-energy, contemporary, fine-tuned and welcoming workout, bathed in the invigorating color of orange. Overhead lights are manhole-sized orange disks; even the rowing machines are orange. The music is jumpin' and loud, ranging from hip-hop to classic rock, depending on the instructor.
YOU'LL WORK OUT WITH Men and women, old and young, fitness fanatics and fitness hopefuls. Class size is never more than 28.
WHAT TO WEAR Standard gym clothes and cross-training shoes fit right in; a water bottle and towel are required.
FANS SAY "It's a fast-paced, full-body, no-messing-around workout," says Clint Buenconsejo, who has been at Orangetheory's South Hill facility since it opened in December. "If I go to a regular gym to lift weights, I'll do some reps, then send a text, do some reps, check my email. That's not possible here."
COST Costs vary depending on the program the client chooses; 774-0636, orangetheoryfitness.com
"You're stronger than you think" • Pure Barre
WHAT TO EXPECT Small is beautiful: small movements, that is. Pure Barre utilizes ballet barres, grapefruit-sized rubber balls, stretch bands, 2-to-3-pound weights and intense but isometric or small movements to sculpt and tone muscles and burn fat. Created 15 years ago in Michigan by dancer/choreographer Carrie Rezabek Dorr, Pure Barre has grown to more than 300 franchised studios across the country. Music is specifically chosen for each segment of the routine — deep tempos to match deep burn in an intense position, slower as the workout slows to encourage you to breathe deeper.
THE VIBE Friendly, professional and welcoming, Pure Barre also has a retail space in the check-in area that carries their brand of workout clothes (including a Barre Spokane shirt). The studio is carpeted and dimly lit, with barres on two sides. The upbeat workout playlist includes Beyoncé, Adele, David Guetta and more.
YOU'LL WORK OUT WITH Mostly women of all body shapes, ranging in age from teens to 70s. Few participants have actual ballet or dance training. Pure Barre holds occasional Date Nights, where ladies bring their male partners and introduce them to the strenuous total body workout.
WHAT TO WEAR Tights or exercise pants and fitted tanks are a must. Socks are mandatory (for sanitary reasons); sticky socks, available at the Pure Barre shop for $12, have rubber grippers on the bottom to help create traction.
FANS SAY "I've been pretty active my whole life — basketball, taekwondo, weight training, boot camp, cross country, track — and I definitely underestimated Pure Barre," says student Victoria Trott. "It's totally different from anything I've tried, and as you get more comfortable with the technique and form, it actually becomes more challenging. It forces you to make a mind-and-body connection."
COST Options range from single classes to monthly unlimited, $49 to $280. Details and class schedules at purebarre.com/wa-spokane or 509-315-4920.
"Rockout. Workout." • POUND Pro
WHAT TO EXPECT Searching for life balance, fitness and self-improvement, two California women, Kirsten Potenza and Cristina Peerenboom, created POUND; the franchise has spread across the country. POUND combines strength training, isometric/plyometrics, cardio and Pilates with constant simulated drumming against a backdrop of hard-hitting, rock-and-roll music. According to POUND Pro, studies have shown that rhythmic drumming provides stress-relieving and brain-boosting effects that improve focus, increase energy and help lower blood pressure. Participants use weighted drumsticks created specifically for this workout. The local POUND operation doesn't have its own studio, but utilizes space in the Wren Pierson Dance Studio and gyms at Westwood Middle School and Snowdon Elementary, all in Cheney.
THE VIBE Funky, fun and casual atmosphere in a small dance studio with one mirrored wall. Loud music (expect pop, rap, rock, a bit of AC/DC and Rage Against the Machine) and lots of choreographed snapping drumsticks all around you — overhead, to the right, to the left, in front and behind as well as vigorously striking the floor. The 45-minute workout is easily modified to suit beginner levels.
YOU'LL WORK OUT WITH Women of all ages and physical conditions, as well as guys who like the aggressive, music-driven routines.
WHAT TO WEAR Basic workout clothing is fine, but you might want to let your inner rocker loose and wear a cut-off T-shirt.
FANS SAY "POUND is fun, it's hard. I've done Pilates, circuit, Zumba and this — I know POUND works all of my muscles," says Kylie Gaard, POUND student and soon-to-be certified POUND instructor.
COST $4 per class with advance registration, or $6 per class for drop-ins. PoundFit.com or call 509-498-9250 to register.
"Why go to the gym when you can join the circus?" • Spokane Aerial Performance Arts
WHAT TO EXPECT If you've ever imagined gracefully swaying high above ground like a Cirque de Soleil performer, here's your chance to give aerial silks a try. Former gymnast Sherrie Martin opened Spokane Aerial Performance Arts with her husband Patrick in 2011 in a warehouse on Broadway Avenue. In addition to aerial silks, classes include aerial hoop, the Cyr wheel (a giant metal ring that turns the performer into a human gyroscope), clowning, fire eating and stilt walking. Most classes are open to all age groups. Aerial silks are a good introduction to circus arts and a tremendous workout for shoulders, back, core and arms. A basic aerial silks class is 60 minutes long. It starts with a warmup of burpees, planks and stretches, then moves on to the mats, where yards and yards of blue, yellow and red fabric hang from the 20-foot high ceiling. With an emphasis on safety and technique at the forefront, your instructor teaches you how to wrap, climb, dangle and dismount.
THE VIBE Circus, of course. Bright, brassy music plays in the background, trapezes and silks are suspended from the ceiling, mats line the floor and a few glittery costumes hang along the walls, as if waiting for performers to prance out and slip into them.
YOU'LL WORK OUT WITH Mostly women of all ages, shapes and sizes. Men generally consider aerial silks feminine, but male-only classes have been offered in the past with a reasonable degree of success.
WHAT TO WEAR Tights, close-fitting sleeved shirts, and no shoes. For safety reasons and to protect the fabric, students may not wear jewelry, piercings or body studs.
FANS SAY "I've been doing aerial silks for about a year. It's beautiful, fun and feels more like playing that working out," says Nicole Chapman as she heads to the Cyr wheel. "My upper body is definitely stronger."
COST A six-week basic aerial silk class is $65. Call 509-435-1576 or go to spokaneaerial.com
"Love your life or change it" • CrossFit Post Falls
WHAT TO EXPECT With more than 13,000 gyms worldwide, CrossFit is one of the fastest growing workout regimens around. More than a dozen CrossFit affiliates operate independently in the Spokane/Coeur d'Alene area. Founded in 2000 by gymnast Greg Glassman, the workout combines interval training with weight and power lifting and plyometric exercise, and even throws in a little gymnastics, using everything from barbells to gymnastic rings and jump ropes. With an average of 10 per class, members report they develop close bonds with each other and get lots of one-on-one coaching and tips from instructors. Trainers are certified by CrossFit.
THE VIBE No glitz, no glam. Surprisingly, CrossFit fuses the intensity of competitive, military-style workouts with a family-friendly, y'all-come atmosphere. At CrossFit Post Falls, kids temporarily relegated to the childcare center watch their parents from the balcony. Rogue and Achilles, owner Amy and Doug Jessup's dogs, offer a welcoming sniff. Walls are decorated with uplifting sayings and flags from all the armed services.
YOU'LL WORK OUT WITH A husband and wife, dad and son, assorted solo members of all ages. The male/female ratio is about 50/50. Beginners are grouped in the Unloaded class with lots of cardio, core strengthening and movements utilizing body weight. Weightlifting is incorporated in intermediate and advanced classes.
WHAT TO WEAR Gym clothes and good shoes. Your old USMC T-shirt would be right at home.
FANS SAY Chris Stewart, working out with his 13-year old son, also named Chris, says, "This gym isn't intimidating, the workouts feel personal. It fits my lifestyle, my budget, and I like working out with my son." Heidi Iverson, working out with her husband Justin, calls it a "fully loaded workout" and likes the variety and her small group.
COST A variety of classes and programs starting at $85 per month. Discounts offered to military, firefighters and law enforcement. 509-671-6893, crossfitpostfalls.com n
LET THE GAMES BEGIN
Know Your Body, Train Your Body, Heal Your Body is the theme of Providence Health Care's spring expo. You can expect a highly energized event, with lots of activities as well as booths to visit. Attendees will be able to participate in 60-second fitness challenges, like tire flips and wall climbs, designed for men, women and students. Elite local athletes will compete against each other, and area gyms and trainers will be on hand to describe their products and services. Check out a sporty fashion show hosted by Title IX and Goodwill, as well as panel discussions on health and fitness and displays of the latest in fitness clothing, gear and products. And $5,000 in prize drawings will sweeten the day's possibilities.
— Linda Hagen Miller
Providence Health & Fitness Experience • Fri, April 22, from 4-8 pm; Sat, April 23, from 10 am-6 pm; Sun, April 24, from 10 am-3 pm • Spokane Convention Center, 334 W. Spokane Falls Blvd. • $7 admission, good all weekend; children 12 and under free with an accompanying adult