Shihan Mike Downs, head of Defensive Arts Dojo, isn't just a sixth-degree karate champ and active member of the Isshin-Ryu World Karate Association. He's also a chiropractor, and that double life as a doctor and a sensei adds richness to his instruction. Like Mike, there's more to Defensive Arts Dojo than mastering kicks and punches. It's a discipline of the mind and the body, and a boosting of self-confidence that permeates their gregarious, yet challenging, lessons. Fighting classes include the defensive techniques of Brazilian jujitsu, kendo and iaido swordsmanship, and Ground Zero courses for thwarting domestic foes. Physical fitness seekers can let their inner warrior loose in Warrior Fitness programs that meld core exercises and cardio training with MMA techniques, and yoga classes enhance flexibility and strength while vanquishing stress through exercise and relaxing meditation.
Galaxy 2000 Health Studio's personal trainers encourage guests from all points on the fitness spectrum as they work out on advanced gym equipment. Cardio and strength-boosting machines kindle a wholesome burn within lifting or striding limbs, and group fitness classes motivate attendees to shed surplus calories. The studio's accepting atmosphere builds a support network around visitors, whether they're busy sprinting through boot-camp drills or moving in time with aerobics routines.
When Rick Rugg and Bob Schiffhauer founded the first Buffalo Athletic Club in 1980, they chartered their gym around three values: service, cleanliness, and having owners operate their own facilities. True to the founders' original vision, each location's employees strive to keep their cardio and resistance equipment spic and span as they care for facilities that range from 20,000 to 48,000 square feet. In addition to personal training, instructors lead a schedule of more than 400 group fitness classes—including cycling, Kardio Kick, and Zumba—offered each week across their eight locations. At the Eastern Hills, Union Road, Downtown, and Boulevard clubs, trainers also help guests master CrossFit functional equipment and use TRX suspension training systems to help them connect with their vine-savvy pet orangutans. And, at the five-floor downtown facility, guests swim laps in the pool. After workouts, guests can slip into saunas and private showers; most locations also have steam rooms.
Zumba's dance-infused workouts were a natural progression for certified instructor Jayme Smith, who has been dancing since the age of 2. She began teaching at her mother's studio when she was just a teen, continuing to helm her own hour-long classes at Miss Barbara's School of Dance and Erie Community College today. The easy-to-follow steps set to upbeat Latin rhythms help students of all fitness levels burn calories, tone muscles, and prepare for impromptu dance parties in the grocery-store line.
The instructors at Evolation Yoga help their students achieve greater health and centeredness with a unique blend of hot yoga and meditation. Rather than subscribing entirely to the tenets of Bikram yoga, they incorporate other yogic styles for a more fluid approach that’s accessible to all students. To achieve the best results, they lead classes in studios heated to keep the mug of tea balanced on each student’s head piping hot. They also organize regular workshops and events at each of the studio's eight locations throughout the United States, Costa Rica, Colombia, and Australia.
The Pilates Loft's owner, Beth Elkins, is not only a Core Dynamics–certified instructor, but also the creator of her own version of Pilates dubbed the Elkins Method Pilates technique. Between the exposed brick walls of her boutique studio, Beth and her two instructors teach her core-strengthening method to students of all levels during mat and tower equipment classes. By keeping each class in a private, two-person, or small group format, instructors can give one-on-one attention to each student to ensure every stomach curl, leg lift, and arm detachment exercise is performed safely.