In 1947, on New York City's Park Avenue, the first Fred Astaire Dance Studio—cofounded by the eponymous toe tapper himself—opened its doors to the public. More than six decades later, now boasting schools across North America, the dancing institution still adheres to the legendary Mr. Astaire's curriculum and instruction techniques.
Specializing in social ballroom and competitive dances, the schools' current consortium of professional instructors shepherds students of all ages and skill levels through dance lessons that span from classic ballroom and foxtrot romps to the modern steps of salsa, swing, or mambo. In addition to classes, the studio hosts social practice parties where up to 40 students hone newly acquired rug-cutting capabilities. As foot-charming music blares from the speakers, instructors work to cultivate a lively social setting where each guest can dance, mingle, and surgically correct their second left foot without fear of embarrassment.
When 9Round founder and IKF Light Middleweight Kickboxing Champion Shannon "The Cannon" Hudson isn't dominating combat rings across North American and Europe, he is taking care of his two children. It was with his kids in mind that the seasoned black belt crafted his signature workout¬—a challenging professional fighter's training regime compacted into a hectic, schedule-friendly 30 minutes.
Today, certified trainers in 9Round gyms across the nation lead students in Shannon's workout, guiding classes through its nine rounds of aerobic, anaerobic, and resistance-training exercises. Instructors vary the rounds each day, supplementing body-weight exercises with jump ropes, punching bags, and free-weights. Coaches also encourage diets of fruits and lean meats and counsel students against common dieting pitfalls, such as skipping breakfast or storing smoothie surplus in unmarked laundry-detergent bottles.
At Axiom Health & Fitness, wellness experts fortify everyday routines with exercise, house-made health foods, and relaxation. The scent of house-made granola fills the 5,500-square-foot facility, where calories melt faster than a snowman at a chili cook-off. Treadmills and elliptical machines dare visitors to sprint, glide, and climb toward fitness goals, and plate-loaded weight machines replaces fat with lean muscle. For a more intense, focused regimen, boot camps throw guests into the ring with functional-training tools such as sandbags, kettlebells, and weighted chains, and personal and group training helps with everyday obstacles so that clients can lift a child without pain, or outrun a rollerblading cheetah. The gym's fitness experts also work hand-in-hand with clients who want to lose weight, offering tips on how to eat healthier and increase energy levels.
The techniques that Lauren Birkel imparts to her trainers are the same ones she used on herself while preparing for and completing the rigorous Ironman World Championships in 2005 and 2011, as well as the France-held International Triathlon Union Long Course World Championships in 2007. With this history of achieving difficult goals, Birkel knows how to inspire students without commissioning a band of rabid coyotes to chase them while they run.
She and her many cotrainers use these thoroughly tested methods of motivation to push students toward healthier lives in one-on-one, small-group, and large-group training sessions. She decks out her indoor studios with all the necessary equipment for personal-training sessions and isn't afraid to lead all-outdoor boot-camp academies in the heat or rain.
No matter the hour, the rhythmic beat of sneakers hitting treadmills resounds in Snap Fitness's 24-hour studio. The network of gyms stretches across the country, each housing state-of-the art cardio and strength-training equipment that scorches huge batches of calories, like an Easy-Bake Oven scorches cookies when it's souped up with nitrous oxide. IPod hookups and TVs turn treadmills and stair steppers into personal entertainment centers. Unlike impersonal big-box gyms, Snap Fitness's staff subtracts intimidation from the experience with free equipment orientations, custom workout plans, nutrition tips, and hand-crocheted workout shorts for all members. During staffed hours, peppy instructors lead fitness classes such as turbo kickboxing, plyometrics, and aerobic blast.
Absolute Pilates?s instructors are far from old-school. Though they each boast extensive training in traditional Pilates?and teach classic mat classes?they focus largely on incorporating modern equipment into the ancient practice. Pilates Reformers, Towers, chairs, and even the barre are used during classes, often in combination with each other to optimize workouts and results. The equipment helps students of all levels maintain their balance and target dormant muscles, transforming standard Pilates into a more effective workout. But teachers still maintain the welcoming, personal environment long attributed to Pilates studios and grandma?s doomsday bunker.