Before founding Elements Yoga and Wellness Center, Bruce Bassock and Donna Kuebler practiced poses and breathing exercises to battle the stress of careers in stock trading and event planning. They left behind the daily grind to found the studio and since then, their award-winning studio has been featured in Yoga Journal and the New York Times.
Students of all levels participate in Align and Musical Flow classes, where they stretch and bend to a mix of popular tunes that help dissolve anxiety. Seasoned instructors also lead one-on-one yoga training and a 10-week prenatal course that shows moms how to pose while holding a baby or chasing a runaway Radio Flyer. After a challenging mind-body workout, students can soothe their muscles with massage therapy and reflexology, which are available by appointment.
Years before he would teach hand-to-hand combat to Special Forces candidates or have his studio voted the best of 2011 and 2012 by CT.com, Andrew Scala was stuck in traffic. As he inched down a clogged I-95 on his way back from New York and his job as a sales representative, he made a decision that changed his life. The next day, he quit his job, sold his car, and bought a plane ticket to Japan, where a friend was studying martial arts. He arrived three days later, beginning an eight-year stay in Hokkaido, where he eventually trained daily beneath the great-grandson of a samurai. At one point, he and two of his colleagues were invited to demonstrate their skills in front of more than 300 high-ranking Japanese military officials. Andrew not only mastered styles such as aikido, karate, and iaido, but also immersed himself in Japanese culture and learned to speak fluently, opening the door for the lifelong bond he shares with his teacher. Today, Andrew runs Darien Martial Arts Academy based on a philosophy that values integrity, honor, and self-discipline alongside physical skill. He lavishes his rich depth of knowledge upon students, teaching them the basics of Japanese with each lesson. As they grow curious, he relates the modern practice of martial arts to tales about the "truly intelligent and also fierce" nature of the samurai, erasing misconceptions along the way. "All those things are useful tools for helping children get motivated, not just for martial arts, but to become good students, good musicians, good athletes, good people," Andrew said, noting that as they train their minds with martial arts, the benefits spill into other aspects of life. His students bring in their report cards to show him their successes—and they also know that "if a student is good [at the academy] but he's starting to be disrespectful at home, he comes here and he pays for it here." He trains all ages of students, who typically begin with karate and then train in other styles or master weapons—the long and short staff, sword, and chain. He periodically brings his best students on trips to train at his old dojo in Japan, watching them develop a lifelong love of Japanese culture as they see him integrate easily into his old home. But though he takes martial arts seriously, Andrew makes classes fun and encourages each of his students. He's known for telling jokes and keeping the sessions lighthearted. "You don't have to be mean to be strong," he said. "The strongest guys I know are also the funniest guys I know."
In 1976, educator, musician, and kinesiologist Robin Wes longed for a children's gym that prioritized personal growth over competition. Unveiled at a time when physical-education classes pushed students to focus almost exclusively on winning, Robin's program was swiftly adopted and is now used in more than 300 Little Gyms worldwide. Robin still pens original music to accompany lessons, which engage whippersnappers 4 months old?12 years old with gymnastics, dance, karate, and parent and child activities.
Each of The Little Gym's classes introduces simple movements that sharpen motor skills and set brains whirring, allowing kids to progress at their own pace until they can finally build a computer out of macaroni and glitter. Staff members strive to build a base for lifelong social skills and self-assurance with each exercise, including activities rooted purely in fun, such as summer camps or birthday parties, which helped The Little Gym to earn title of #1 Birthday Chain in Parents magazine.
The supportive staff of personal trainers, boot-camp instructors, and nutrition coaches at Infinity Fitness may be quick to give clients technical tips regarding exercise, but they’re even quicker to give words of encouragement. This kind of engagement helps exercisers get the most out of the gym’s offerings, which include boot-camp workouts as well as private and semiprivate personal-training sessions that track results five different ways. As noted on the website, staff members view clients as “walking billboards” for their programs' effectiveness. In return, the staff asks only that clients work hard and stand for weeks at a time by the highway.
Whereas most fitness classes simply require you show up, the CrossFit classes at Dynamic Athletics require you try out first. After completing an introductory on-ramp class, which teaches the basics of CrossFit in a two-week span, aspiring CrossFitters must be accepted for training by coaches Bill and Chris. Lucky for novices, acceptance is not based entirely on aptitude; coaches mostly look for commitment, drive, and humble attitudes. Those who possess all three are welcomed back for daily rounds of CrossFit.
Koko FitClub is a radically different kind of fitness center. Members come in, have their fitness levels checked on the Koko Smartrainer, and then receive a custom, computerized key fob that stores all fitness information. The key fob, programmed with data to help clients achieve individual fitness goals, stores the day’s prescribed 30-minute workout and guides clients expertly around the workout of the day. With this fitness technology on hand, members move seamlessly from exercise to exercise, burning fat and building lean muscle while minimizing gym time.