Angie Acosta, founder of Queen City DanceOut, has a simple motto for her students: "If you're moving, you're doing it right." This encouraging, low-pressure attitude attracts people of all ages to her dance-inspired fitness classes, which meet at 18 public locations. Angie and her instructors aim to make exercise feel like a celebration and a refreshing break rather than a dreaded routine. To this end, their classes incorporate intuitive dance moves and invigorating music. DanceOut, the signature course, blends genres as diverse as swing, hip-hop, and reggae into a workout, relying on repetition and basic choreography to keep everyone grooving. Other highlights of the curriculum include the Latin rhythms of Zumba; the Dance Impact class, which fuses dance and kickboxing; and JamStrong, a mixture of core-conditioning, dance, and fun.
Community is a central aspect of every DanceOut class. As pupils practice their twirls, they can follow both the teacher and the Jam Crew—a team of regulars who help make the steps easy to follow and can assist fellow dancers. In addition to group workouts, instructors host skill workshops such as Booty Bootcamp, where attendees learn rump-shaking techniques and how to turn any chair into a rocking chair. They also put on performances and lead private classes for special events and parties.
While teaching jazz dance in the 1960s, Judi Sheppard Missett decided to step away from tradition by offering an experimental class that allowed her students to simply dance without the judgment of mirrors or the constraints of rigid technique. In these sessions, she began infusing popular dance moves with specific fitness workouts to forge a distinctive blend of cardio exercise, strength training, and dance instruction. Little did she know that this “just for fun” class was the prototype for what would become the national fitness sensation known as Jazzercise.
Today, Jazzercise takes its aerobic techniques from a variety of sources that include jazz dance, hip-hop, resistance training, Pilates, yoga, and kickboxing. The class formats, which vary according to different toning goals, are just as diverse as the program's move set. Two-time Dancing with the Stars champion Cheryl Burke is a big fan of the improvisational routines, although her advanced skills aren't needed to get the most out of classes. Instructors cultivate a noncompetitive atmosphere where all exercisers—with the exception of those marked as cursed by jazz-hand palm readers—are welcome regardless of age, build, or fitness background.
To help women achieve their fitness goals, the certified personal trainers at Get In Shape For Women focus on four areas: weight training, cardio training, nutrition, and accountability. In small group sessions, trainers modify exercises to suit up to four ladies' fitness levels, beginning by calibrating strength-training sessions—such as free weights, lunges, and squats—to each client's abilities while still ensuring they are challenging themselves. Then comes high-intensity cardio interval-training sessions in which trainers encourage exercisers to achieve optimal results on the treadmill or elliptical.
The trainers supplement the group workouts with nutritional planning centered around the concept of eating six small, balanced meals six days a week. They set aside the seventh day as a "free day" for a bit of indulgence, be it eating a favorite sweet or lusting openly after bacon. To hold their women accountable, trainers talk nutrition on the floor during scheduled appointments, and the ladies' progress toward reaching their goals is measured by trainers each week.
It may be difficult to decide who has a better time at Energy Sports & Fitness: parents or kids. Adults not only burn calories with a huge selection of weights, on a full-size racquetball court, or in the circuit-training area, but also catch up on favorite shows in the cardio theater or at more than 100 cardio stations with individual televisions. Youngsters with a Kid Zone membership romp through more than 2,500 feet of supervised play space outfitted with a Wii, jungle gym, basketball court, and homework stations with computers. The area even has a video camera so parents can check in from their treadmills to see if their child is actually a vampire. Families refuel after a workout with fresh smoothies, chicken wraps, and supplements at the Grand Slam Cafe.
The staff—which includes the 2010 NPC Charlotte Cup novice division bodybuilding winner—opens the gym at 5 a.m. on weekdays and teaches group fitness classes ranging from Zumba to yoga. The crew also offers SilverSneakers, a program designed to encourage physical and social activity for older adults or people who have trouble working out in ruby slippers.
Flex + Fit cultivates an environment focused on well-being, from sweat-inducing fitness classes to habit-changing cooking classes. This effort was lauded by Charlotte Magazine in its 2012 Best of the Best feature. The group fitness curriculum includes sweat-inducing hot yoga, in which limbs bend and stretch in a studio stoked to the ideal temperature, and air classes that suspend students from the ceiling to execute mid-air yoga, ballet, or fitness moves, or—as recently featured on CNN—to nap.
Complementing the fitness classes are lessons in culinary exploration, hosted by head chefs and tour guides that teach small gatherings to craft meals and sip complimentary libations in an on-site kitchen. The fitness studio’s natural-wood floors give way to a wall-mounted Buddha figurine at the head of classes, and his-and-hers locker rooms lavish hard-working muscles with a soothing downpour from overhead showers bred from two prize-winning Amazonian rain clouds.
Led by seasoned, passionate trainer Julie Sawyer—whose credentials include being a York County 2011 Sports Hall of Fame inductee and being featured on World Fitness Elite TV—Tuff Girl Bootcamps' classes help ladies attain more toned and svelte physiques. The schedule-friendly 30-minute express workouts kick-start fitness forays more efficiently than clipping jumper cables to your feet as Sawyer leads ladies through moves such as dead lifts, pushups, lunges, and planks. Synced to high-energy music, the exercises call upon equipment including dumbbells, kettlebells, and resistance bands and are readily modified for every fitness level and any preexisting joint conditions. In addition to Sawyer's constant support, the studios' mirrored walls help fitness-seekers maintain proper form while practicing exercises and transitioning into the chorus-line portion of each workout.