Saphira, the matriarch and founder of Saffron Dance, didn?t even exist 20 years ago, much like ?I survived Y2K? bumper stickers. Saphira was known as Rachael Galoob-Ortega, a lawyer who practiced in DC and Florida for a decade. But her high-power career and hefty paycheck couldn?t extinguish her passion for dance. And so she became Saphira, an international belly-dance artist and instructor with numerous accolades, including being featured in American Belly Dancer, a documentary about belly dance in the United States.
Saphira opened Saffron Dance six years ago, and along with 18 fellow instructors, channels her years of expertise into dance courses that get progressively more challenging from week to week. Welcoming all levels, her classes teach both Egyptian-inspired belly dance and community-focused tribal belly dance. Regardless of the class type, Saphira and her teachers encourage pupils to express their unique voices through dance, all while keeping proper alignment, mastering precision, and having fun.
CEO Peter Harvey believes that a quality gym staff must demonstrate more than technical expertise. "Service doesn't only mean showing someone how to do an arm curl," he says. Certified personal trainers develop workouts that zero in on each person?s specific goals, giving clients the skills to pole-vault over impassable plateaus. By steadfastly refusing to hand out fish in favor of putting on master classes in fishing, they help clients become self-sufficient, educating them on fundamentals.
During these one-on-one sessions, and in solo workouts, guests set calories ablaze atop rows of continually updated equipment. Treadmills, recumbent bikes, and strength-training tools line the walls.
Members can also drop in for as many group classes as they can muster. Inside a separate studio, stationary cycles whir in time with galvanizing music, kickboxing strikes arc through the air, and barbells rise with each BodyPump rep. For more meditative practices, Pilates sessions and several types of yoga enhance flexibility and focus.
Rob LaPointe first met the martial arts in 1973 when he began taking tae kwon do lessons in a neighbor's backyard. Like a kudzu vine, his love for fighting forms could not be contained by a manicured lawn, and he began serious study of kenpo karate and kung fu. In 1989, he opened White Birch Kung Fu, Tai Chi, and Kettlebell Gym to pass his learning on to the next generation of fighters.
Rob's dedication led him to take the gold medal in Pushing Hands and Advanced Sparring at Wong's Traditional Kung Fu Tournament in 2000—a celebration of his 40th birthday—and his competitive career continues. His kung fu classes teach these practical combat skills in a cycle, sometimes focusing on perfecting certain kicks or the blocking, trapping, and footwork skills needed to engage an opponent up close. Students move slowly and purposefully through tai chi training regimens, focusing on meditative thought and fluid self-defense techniques. Kettlebell and sandbag courses condition bodies for explosive combat motions and hefting deadweight, such as a feral Santa hibernating in your chimney for the summer.
A 30-foot rock-climbing wall soars up through The Energy Fitness Club's two floors, towering over the 17,000 square feet of fitness facilities. Certified guides lead students up the custom-built routes during official climbing-certification classes. The presence of credentialed experts extends to private training studios, where nationally certified instructors lead a variety of innovative group fitness classes, along with boot camp, personal-training sessions, and nutrition consultations.
Below the climbing apparatus, rows of advanced cardio and strength-training equipment challenge guests. Once they retire from the club’s exercise arena, clients can revel in the elegant hardwood lockers that wrap the walls of the full-service changing rooms. Childcare facilities are also available. Throughout the month, the club hosts social events—from group hikes to happy hours with complimentary wine tastings—providing clients a chance to mingle and politely request permission to poke the bulging muscles of the buffest members.
After meeting the physical demands of army training and working for two decades in the fitness industry, president of Custom Fitness Concepts Tom Kalka channeled his health and fitness savvy into CFC's training programs. His expert team of personal trainers visits homes and corporate offices to lead patrons in custom workout routines. Furthering fat-burning efforts, educational seminars on conditioning, nutrition, and orchestrating funerals for annihilated calories prime attendees for a salubrious lifestyle shift. CFC instructors also chisel away unwanted fat with a boot-camp series, whose ever-shifting medley of calisthenics and strength training was deemed the country's second-best boot camp in 2008 by Exercise TV.
New York Sports Clubs, part of Town Sports International's network of fitness loci, opens up a number of equipment-stocked facilities across New York to exercisers. Strength-training gear, such as circuit machines, free weights, and medicine balls, molds muscles into chiseled depictions of physical might. Sessions on cardio machines, ranging from treadmills and ellipticals to upright and recumbent stationary bicycles, inspire burnt calories to pack up and move to cooler climates. Each club offers a schedule of group classes that draws from more than 100 fitness styles, including Pilates, yoga, and boxing, ensuring that no member has to jazzercise without a spotter. Each location rewards exercisers for sweating in its vicinity with special features such as babysitting, saunas, and steam rooms.