Tired of the treadmill? Exasperated by the elliptical? Stuck in a workout rut?
Not to worry. In 2019, it’s a buyer’s market for fresh ways to get in shape. With a constant stream of health clubs and boutique fitness studios opening across New Jersey, gyms large and small are going beyond creative to offer unusual fitness options. The number of yoga options alone is mind blowing: hot yoga, cardio yoga, aerial yoga, yogalates. The list goes on.
Mash-up workouts are creating even more choices. Consider piloxing, a fusion of Pilates, dance and air boxing with weighted gloves. Then there’s bike-and-box, a routine that melds cycling and boxing. There’s also sweat-and-sculpt-in-heels, a workout aimed at building core strength. Those are just a few classes that Marina Shternfeld and her husband, William, offer at their his-and-her fitness studios, down the street from each other in Manalapan.
To stay competitive, says Marina Shternfeld, “you absolutely have to be unique.”
The number of health clubs nationwide has grown 26 percent since 2015, with much of that increase credited to new boutique studios, according to a 2017 report from the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, an industry trade group.
Here’s a look at nine outside-the-box workouts for 2019. Each is conceived to break you out of your comfort zone.
The 45-minute American Ninja Warrior classes at the Movement Lab in Hainesport are great for anyone who wants to get fit while learning to conquer the obstacles seen on the wildly popular TV show. The classes—offered at some 20 New Jersey locations—are also training grounds for the show’s real competitors. In every class, you tackle a new obstacle course built from elements seen on TV, including the salmon ladder, warp wall, cargo net, spider climb and rock wall. Be ready to swing across rings, jump-skip quad steps, navigate a peg board while dangling, and sprint up a curved wall.
The workout has become a passion for Collingswood dad Patrick Rodio, 46. It pushes him physically and mentally. “And it never gets old,” he says. “They’re moving the elements around all the time. I’ve never done the same course twice.”
Ninja fitness aims to increase muscle, improve endurance and shed pounds. Rodio says he’s also improved his hand-eye coordination, agility and balance. The class can be adapted for any fitness level because obstacles are broken down into mini challenges, says Clint Sarion, a trainer who, along with co-owner Chris Wilcvewski, has competed on the show.
“It’s all a progression,” Sarion says. “Everyone is compared to themselves. It’s all about personal best.”
Don’t let the name fool you; buti (pronounced boo-tee) is not focused on the glutes. With pumping music, show-some-skin attire, and plenty of hoots and hollers, buti turns traditional yoga on its head. Created by celebrity trainer Bizzie Gold, buti yoga is a blend of vinyasa yoga, primal-based movements, tribal dance and plyometric exercises designed to burn up to 900 calories in a 60-minute class. The workout includes yoga poses that transition to sexy, spiraling hip movements, plus planks, burpees, push-ups and lots of sweat.
While she gets a great workout, the emotional element is just as beneficial, says Marlboro resident Yana Katri, 48, who takes buti yoga at Fit by Marina in Manalapan. “You forget about life for that hour,” she says. “I feel elated after.” Buti is an Indian Marathi word that means “a cure that’s been hidden or kept secret.” Fitness goals like toning and flexibility are important, but feeling good about yourself—the “buti high”—is the end goal. The key is to let loose, maybe swap the T-shirt and leggings for a sports bra and skimpy “buti shorts,” Katri says. “There’s no judgment. It’s wonderful.”
An avid long-distance cyclist, Charl Kroeger, 56, has a new addiction. The Jersey City Heights resident discovered indoor rowing as the perfect way to strengthen his neck after a bike accident and stay fit for future rides. “You’d think it’s just an arm and leg workout, but it’s an overall body workout,” says Kroeger, a regular at GoRow Studios in Hoboken. “I can usually wring my shirt out at the end of class.”
The low-impact, 55-minute class is 75 percent rowing, 20 percent weight training and 5 percent stretching, all taught to upbeat music by exercise physiologist Garrett Roberts. Instead of the more common fan-based rowing machines, GoRow machines use a water tank to create resistance. The harder you push with your legs and pull with your arms, the more intense the workout, which is designed to burn more than 1,000 calories per session. Roberts is constantly changing the routine, calling for the small group to do left and right side rows, power curls and overhead presses. The class alternates rowing with floor work that includes lunges, squats and ab exercises. The class ends with distance sprints. That’s when Kroeger keeps his eye on the leader board. “This really helps me push myself,” he says. “I challenge myself every time I’m here.”
Check it out: GoRow Studios, 1422 Grand Street, Hoboken; gorowstudios.com; $30/session.
A dance-fitness class set to bollywood hits, BollyX is fast paced, with Indian dance styles melded into the choreography. That means lots of squats, jumps, twists and turns, while arms swing and sway. The dance sequences include high- and low-intensity intervals intended to build strength and endurance—and burn up to 850 calories per hour-long class. To give it that full Bollywood feel, each dance ends with a dramatic pose. “It gives me such a wonderful, youthful feeling,” says Manish Patel,
47, who finds the packed BollyX class at the Edison YMCA a refreshing change from the treadmill. “There’s no pressure. It’s about the music and the dance.” What’s more, every class uses different music and routines, so nobody hits a fitness plateau, says Sairah Qureshi, BollyX trainer and adjunct professor of fitness at New Jersey City University.
Pradeep Nigam, 56, and his wife Hema, 52, of Edison say BollyX relieves stress, motivates them to eat healthier and teaches them a critical skill. “We want to make sure we know how to dance at our children’s weddings,” says Pradeep. “This class has become a passion.”
Check it out: Find classes at bollyx.com.
ROPES GONE WILD
Waving ropes up and down doesn’t sound or look hard—until you try it. At a Ropes Gone Wild class, the challenge is holding a squat while creating a wavelike motion with a thick, weighted rope—known as a battle rope—in each hand. The motion of swinging the ropes up and down is meant to elevate your heart rate while building core, arm and shoulder strength.
At a Ropes Gone Wild class at the JCC in West Orange, once you get the basic swinging pattern down, hang on tight, because instructor Reggie Dale switches it up, calling out a variety of rope patterns: the criss-cross, alternating swings to the left or right, or slamming down the ropes after jumping. The class is just 30 minutes, but it’s a full-body workout. After a stint with the weighted ropes, the small group rotates among stations, including jumping rope and throwing a medicine ball, plus burpees and jumping jacks. “It’s the feeling of the muscles burning that I love,” says Ann Marie Schlesinger, 47, of Short Hills.
Check it out: JCC of Metrowest, 760 Northfield Avenue, West Orange; jccmetrowest.org; $50/four-week trial gym membership.
There may be music playing, but in a pound class, you create the beat by banging together weighted drumsticks as part of a cardio workout. The drumsticks, called Ripstix, add a quarter pound of extra weight to each movement, throwing the body off balance and forcing the core to stay tight. The class combines cardio and strength training with yoga and Pilates moves. At Kennedy Fitness Center in West Berlin, all ages are in constant motion—lunging, squatting, jumping and crunching while tapping their sticks to the beat. Letizia Gregorio, 45, of Berlin says the class is a stress reliever. “Holding and hitting those sticks, it gets frustration out,” she says.
Pound routines are easy to modify, making them low or high impact. Taking the class a few times a week can strengthen and sculpt your muscles while improving rhythm, timing, coordination and agility—and burning up to 900 calories in a 45-minute class. For Norine Melillo, 61, the drumsticks are a good distraction. “You don’t feel like you’re doing exercise,” says the Voorhees Township resident. “Until the next day.”
Check it out: Find pound classes at poundfit.com.
Students of nia pull no punches when describing their workout. “We stare at each other, we smile, you sweat, you scream,” says Gail Riela, 56, of Summit. “I feel like I’m in a Broadway show!” comments Ann Weiss, 74, of Westfield. “It’s so much more than physical. It’s mental, it’s emotional, it’s spiritual,” says Norma Kopf, 62, of Berkeley Heights.
They’re hooked on a blend of martial arts, dance and healing arts known as Nia, which stands for Neuromuscular Integrative Action to reflect the workout’s mind-body connection. But at the Benessere Wellness Center and Spa in Summit, instructor Lori Lynn Meader jokes that a better name is No Inhibitions Allowed. The goal is to get out of your head and exercise the way your body is designed to move, not to feel sore.
The hour-long class begins with the barefoot group in a circle. Meader encourages everyone to follow her directions in their own way. With music ranging from ethereal to tribal, simple choreography is based on 52 different moves designed to exercise all the joints and muscles. There’s freeform dance, with some spinning, others rocking and clapping. At certain moments, the participants are asked to call out “Yes!” while lifting their arms to the sky. Tae kwon do kicks and punches and childlike dance are thrown to the mix. Nia helps improve flexibility, agility, mobility, strength and balance. “I can come to class feeling tired, stressed,” Kopf says. “But I always leave calm and balanced.”
Remember the thrill you felt as a child jumping on a trampoline? Now it’s transformed into a full-body, high-cardio workout that’ll leave you drenched. About a foot off the ground on a mini trampoline called a rebounder, in a typical class you’re jumping, kicking and twisting, all synced to the beat of a great playlist.
“The most appealing thing is it doesn’t scream workout,” says Jomari Kaminski, 30, of Morris Plains, who rebounds up to four times a week at Precision Sports Performance in East Hanover. She’s lost weight, built muscle and strengthened her core as a result. “It’s so high energy. It’s fun the entire time. You get addicted.”
In rebounding, the trampoline absorbs much of the impact you’d feel doing the same moves on the ground, says Nomi Greenman, the facility’s director of squad training and massage. Unlike the treadmill or elliptical, where repetitive up-and-down motion puts pressure on the knees and ankles, rebounding is said to open up the joints because you’re doing three-dimensional moves like kicking in different directions. Besides bouncing, a typical 55-minute class includes toning exercises using light weights and other props.
An added benefit for mom Lauren Morse, 38, of Mendham, is that bouncing increases the body’s lymph flow, which helps ease the pain she feels from chronic Lyme disease. “I get my cardio fix, but it’s not too taxing on my joints,” Morse says. “It’s therapeutic, but it’s also a solid workout.”
Check it out: Precision Sports Performance, 51 Williams Parkway, East Hanover, precisionsportsperformance.com; $25/60 minute session, $15/30 minute session.
STRETCHING REACHES NEW HEIGHTS
Debbie steincolor was never able to hold the lotus meditation position. Then the Montclair resident, 62, started attending weekly private sessions at Kika Stretch Studios in her hometown. Now she maintains the pose for an hour with fewer aches. “I’ve never been this limber,” Steincolor says. “I can stretch and move in ways that I was never able to when I was younger. After a session, I feel so calm and peaceful.”
It’s no stretch to say that stretching to relax overworked muscles and increase flexibility is riding a wave of popularity. Indeed, a crop of studios dedicated solely to stretching has sprung up in New Jersey.
As people get more adventurous with their workouts, stretching is even more important for releasing muscle tension, says Kika Wise, Kika’s creator and owner. In a typical private-room session, clients are gently stretched on a mat from head to toe by a trained therapist who applies force to the muscles, getting a deep stretch without too much discomfort. Problem areas get extra attention. There are 35 different stretches, including the high five, meant to release tension between the fingers and to prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, and the posture-up, aimed at stretching the trapezoids. “The main benefit,” says Wise, “is there’s a release of tension from working out that’s trapped inside your body.”
Stretching is critical to preventing injuries, says Dave Weaving, who recently opened StretchLab in Livingston, where “flexologists” offer one-on-one stretching and small classes in a communal space with tables. Yes, it can be somewhat painful, but the more you get stretched, the more range of motion increases and the pain decreases. “There’s just some stretches you can’t do yourself, like the cross-body stuff to open hip flexors,” Weaving says. He recommends a weekly session.
Mario Alberti, 58, of Wayne, says stretch sessions have helped him stay pain-free at the gym and after lugging heavy equipment for his plumbing and heating business. “It absolutely works,” says Alberti, who gets stretched at Kika in Montclair once or twice a week. “It’s very, very relaxing and relieves a lot of stress,” says Alberti. “It’s my time.”
Check it out: Kika Stretch Studios, locations in Montclair, Morristown, Short Hills and Westfield, kikastretchstudios.com; $80/45 minutes, $90/60 minutes. StretchLab, 184 S. Livingston Avenue, Livingston, stretchlab.com; $49/25-minute private session, $95/50 minutes; $29/50-minute group class.Click here to leave a comment