After Brian Ayers earned his degree in fitness management and went to work in a corporate fitness setting, he discovered a new kind of training—one that involved challenges such as boxing, mud races, and obstacle courses. "I moved away from using machines and dumbbell exercises to exercises that will get people in shape for more athletic things," he says. In June 2011, he decided to open a studio dedicated to the philosophy of embracing challenge, and Rugged Fitness was born.
Traditional machines do not exist at Rugged Fitness. Instead, there's plenty of space for boot-camp workouts, a pull-up area with TRX bands, and 11 heavy bags for boxing classes, which never exceed 11 pupils. Outside, giant tires patiently wait to be lifted and flipped, and an obstacle course with monkey bars, army-crawl netting, and a climbing wall dares visitors to push themselves to their limit. During the interval-based boot camps, students might heft sledgehammers one minute and drop for pushups the next. Because activities focus on increments of time, rather than specific weights or numbers of reps, everyone can calibrate the exercises to their ability level. And the students do have a range of abilities—some are fitness aficionados, whereas others are complete beginners, and one student dropped more than 100 pounds.
To challenge and encourage students, Brian gathered a staff of experienced coaches, which includes a former professional boxer and an amateur mixed-martial-arts fighter. "Our coaches are all very hands-on," he says, "Everything they they're putting you through, they've done. It's not just someone sitting back with a cheeseburger telling you to do pushups." That spirit of camaraderie extends throughout Rugged Fitness's clientele. "You're all struggling through these crazy workouts we're going to put you through," Brian says. Even outside the gym, members frequently band together to complete mud runs, obstacle courses, and marathon Macarena sessions.
To supplement the classes—which include kickboxing, kettlebell conditioning, and the once-a-week Rugged Boot Camp challenge—the trainers offer one-on-one nutrition counseling. An online nutrition program helps steer guests toward healthier diets, analyzing what they're eating based on the calories, nutritional components, and number of Flintstone vitamins hiding in foods.
The technicians at Cheshire Cycle know bikes inside and out, not only because they repair them on a daily basis, but also because they spend hours and hours riding them. The adventuresome crew even sponsors a road-racing team that took home more than 50 top finishes in 2012 alone. They couple this insider knowledge with advanced technology to perform like-a-glove fittings and offer services that range from basic tune-ups to total overhauls. Their shop stocks reputable brands, including bikes by Scott, Jamis Bicycles, and Stolen BMX and clothing by designers such as Louis Garneau, Fox, and Pearl Izumi. Whatever bikes or equipment the staff don't have on the shelves they can order from a catalog supplier or have the elves in the backroom make from scratch.
Cheshire Pilates Studio's diamond-sculpted fitness experts employ the principles of stability to tighten torsos on both mat and machine. During five one-hour core-strength Pilates classes, core constructors will harness their own body weight in a series of slow-moving posture changes designed to center the body and tone muscles. Props, such as the arc barrel, flex band, Joseph Pilates's hairpiece, and more, enhance the midriff manipulations by increasing the solidity and exactitude of the movements.
Western-style boxing. Thai boxing. Wrestling. These are just a few of the fighting techniques that make up krav maga, an Israeli self-defense system. At Alpha Krav Maga Connecticut, whose owner has been training in the martial arts for more than 30 years, instructors teach these skills and demonstrate how to use them in real-world situations. In addition to self-defense, krav maga can also help students lose weight and build muscle.