At each of its 31 area locations, the YMCA of Greater Houston pursues a mission to bring health, wellness, and personal growth to communities. Kids leap into activities ranging from swim lessons and youth sports to a teen Youth & Government program that stirs up confidence and leadership abilities in students, preparing them for mudslinging student-council campaigns.
Zumba, ballroom dance, and Les Mills group exercise classes shake up adult workout routines, as complimentary childcare frees up parents to pursue fitness goals. Meanwhile, adult sport leagues such as basketball and racquetball result in friendly competition and hyper-literate team names inspired by obscure philosophers.
A piece of metal and a ball of clay. They may seem completely different at first glance, but for Stephanne and John Martin those two basic materials represent the same thing: creative possibility. Stephanne has worked with clay for more than 20 years, and she sculpts and fires everything from functional dishes to abstract sculptures. For his part, John has spent nearly three decades turning steel and aluminum into furniture and fine art works—including metal saltwater gamefish, which are made out of plaster in real life.
The two artists formed Martin Galleries in 1997. In the studio, they work with clients to create commissioned sculptures along with masterpieces completely out of their own imaginations. They also host lighthearted educational sessions, including Corks 'n Clay classes in which people can throw clay on the wheel with one hand, sip wine with the other, and sculpt intricate designs into the clay with their teeth.
When the sun finally sets, Glow in the Park gives the green light to runners and walkers, setting them loose during 5K races that raise money for local non-profit organizations. Equipped with, and indeed wearing, an arsenal of glow-in-the-dark goodies, participants beam through the darkness, their bodies blank canvases for multitudes of bright colors. They wade through crests of foam, burst through plumes of neon powder, and splash through puddles of glowing water sprayed by volunteers or radioactive fire hydrants. At the finish line, groups gather in a glowing mass to show off their new neon and dance to the beats of a live DJ.
Facing the unknown can be as scary as it is invigorating. The course organizers at Mud Challenger pepper their 4- to 6-mile courses with a devious array of obstacles, many of which remain unknown to racers until they encounter them live in the mud-filled field of play. To this end, the only real guarantee at any given Mud Challenger is that participants will get a little muddy, and get as rowdy as they please at a post-race party complete with food, beer, music, and the chance to make many, many mud angels.
The Mud Dogs 5K/10K series challenges both average runners and dedicated athletes with a classic combination of mud and obstacles. Mud Dogs courses are not for the faint of heart. Participants can expect to face all kinds of challenges, from vertical walls and rope swings to tunnels and net crawls. Racers are greeted at the finish line by soil-kissed faces of their fellow Mud Dogs, as well as the cool liquid embrace of wash-off stations.
Renee and Jeff Battenberg, a 7th-degree and 6th-degree tae kwon do black belt, respectively, head up the coaching team at Battenberg's Black Belt Academy. The academy teaches tae kwon do, and tai chi to kids, teens, and adults. Fitness kickboxing courses utilize workout bags and shadow boxing to provide a dynamic non-contact workout. Their women's self-defense seminar teaches effective combat techniques in only two hours.