Get Fit This Year

Fitness-centric New Year’s resolutions often fizzle, especially as Carnival beckons. But because there are so many ways to get fit, with programs tailored to a variety of interests and fitness levels, it’s easy to find a dynamic, even fun, workout that makes sticking to fitness attainable, even when decadence tempts.

CrossFit. CrossFit is sweeping the nation and New Orleans is certainly on board, with spartan gyms offering the program popping up around the city. The varied, intense workout focuses on functional movements – or skills that translate to the real world, such as standing, sitting and getting out of bed. “It teaches you how to do things safely,” says Mollie Pate, trainer and co-owner of CrossFit NOLA, located in Uptown’s Riverbend neighborhood. Classes typically include a dynamic mix of aerobic exercise, gymnastics and weight lifting. “It’s constantly varied movements so the body doesn’t get used to one thing and you can push yourself on a daily basis,” Pate says.

While many might associate CrossFit with the intimidatingly fit frequenters of national CrossFit competitions, Pate says it’s a workout for every body. She says although a class might include 10 to 20 people, two coaches teach a class and provide students individual attention. “Workouts are scaled based on the person, so you can push as little or as much as you can,” Pate says. The individual attention also ensures safety. “There’s never a time you would be doing something unsafely and no one would notice.”

For beginners, CrossFit NOLA offers fundamentals classes, as well as classes focusing on specific skills. Pate recommends beginners attend classes two to three times a week, even if it’s tough at first. “You will probably be sore in the beginning because you’ve never pushed your body that hard before,” she says. “It’s a misnomer that if the body is sore, it’s not ready. If you’re sore drink water, eat a lot of protein, come back and we’ll work it out.”

AcroYoga. For a more whimsical approach to developing strength and balance, AcroYoga “straddles the worlds of art and sport,” says Joseph Stein, instructor at Swan River Yoga. While acrobatics is associated with elite competition and training – and also peaking – at a very young age, AcroYoga incorporates yoga and Thai massage for a kinder, more accessible approach to the sport.

There are three roles in AcroYoga practice: base, flyer and spotter. Students learn all three roles and in the process develop coordination, balance, stability, sensitivity and “a well-developed, subtle sense of position and balance,” Stein says.

“Your sense of balance goes through the roof. You take your shoes off standing in the middle of the room on one foot – you don’t have to put your foot on a chair,” he says. “If I do knock something over, half of the time I catch it and I don’t even think about it. As a spotter, you develop a heightened snap reflex.”

While Swan River offers “therapeutics” levels for beginners, Stein says people with one of the following skills typically learn AcroYoga a lot faster: ability to do a cartwheel, hold a handstand or kick up to a handstand against a wall. But Stein says he’s constantly having to reevaluate what a “beginner” is able to do.

Students spend a lot of time upside down and engaging in seemingly dangerous positions, but Stein says safety is paramount in AcroYoga, a sport he says is low-impact – Stein is 41 and considers himself in the peak of his practice – and low-injury. “All sports have a risk of injury, but AcroYoga takes that risk so seriously that in a team of three, one person’s [the spotter’s] entire job is safety,” he says.

Dance. Also infusing art in fitness are dance-centric workouts, many of which can be found at Uptown’s Dance Quarter. Jess Leigh teaches Dance Trance, a fast-paced cardio workout of dance choreography set to pop music. Those with a good understanding of dance and music will have an easier time in the class, but Leigh offers “breakdowns” after her Thursday night classes to deconstruct choreography. She has also seen people improve their rhythm and coordination after multiple classes.

“It’s the only thing I’ve even been able to stick to. I’m not a strictly regimented person, but I don’t consider this work, I consider it fun,” she says. “You get really sweaty and burn lots of calories.”

 Also at the Dance Quarter is Marissa Joseph’s Bounce Fitness class, where “bounce” isn’t just a term to describe New Orleans bounce music, but as a term to “describe how black people around the world move,” she says. Besides local bounce and second-line music, music for this twerkout pulls from South Africa sounds, Dubstep, salsa and even Zydeco. Joseph says the “soul-centric” workout is less focused on nailing precise movements and more on feeling confident and having fun.

“The main thing is to trust yourself to let go and be free,” she says.

Barre Workouts. Dancers might also enjoy barre workouts, which use a ballet barre for stability in small, deceptively challenging, movements that tone certain parts of the body. Pure Barre, which is now at three locations in the Greater New Orleans area, started the local barre fitness trend, but Nola Pilates, Romney Pilates and Barre3 also offer similar classes.

Combining multiple fitness trends, Reyn Studios in the Warehouse District offers an Acro Barre class taught by aerialist Lorelei Ashe. The class combines barre techniques with floor and ab work, offering modifications for beginners. Reyn (named for owner Reyn Lambert) is most known for its power yoga classes, which use a heated room (90 degrees) to make for a workout combining the mind-body benefits of yoga with the satisfying sweat of a cardio workout.

Besides the Acro Barre class, Reyn offers other “lagniappe” classes of note, including the “killer cardio dance class” Make it Reyn, and the Abs, Arms and Ass class, focusing on those important parts of the body. Manager Jenn Rogers also points out the studio’s location in a beautiful old warehouse on Magazine Street, which could also help with motivation to attend classes.

“The light is always streaming in, lighting up the room, creating a pretty desirable environment to lay down a mat,” she says.

For More Information:

5235 Magazine St.; 301-3082

CrossFit NOLA
8422 Burthe St., 861-0610

Swan River Mid-City Mandir
2940 Canal St., 301-3134

Dance Quarter
1719 Toledano St., 897-0327

Pure Barre
3923 Magazine St., 342-2208; 701 Metairie Road, Suite 101, 324-9321; 1814 N. Causeway Blvd., (985) 674-7577

Nola Pilates
1410 W. Harrison Ave.,

Romney Pilates
5619 Magazine St., 895-1167

Reyn Studios
725 Magazine St.


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