Extreme athletes banded together to design Spartan Races' intense courses orchestrated over standardized distances, each strewn with natural and man-made obstacles to test mind-body fitness, resilience, stamina, and strength, designed to leave participants exhausted and exhilarated. In waves of 200, runners collect smudges and stains as they perform box jumps, haul heavy sandbags, and juke feral linebackers. Depending on where in the world they're participating, the course may be as short as 3 miles or, for extremely practiced athletes, as long as a full marathon.
Big Wheel USA doesn't kid around when it comes to bikes. Its storefront showcases more than 300, each from top brands such as CamelBak and Crankbrothers. Far from limited to adult-sized bikes, Big Wheel USA stocks plenty other wheeled rides, including Trikkes, exercise bikes, and skateboards.
Don't fret if nothing in the store strikes your fancy—Big Wheel's certified mechanics can customize your very own bike, complete with as many training wheels as it takes to make you feel safe. The technicians also conduct bike fittings and repair malfunctioning parts. Big Wheel also sells plenty of bike-related shoes and apparel, and keeps patrons abreast of the latest local rides and events.
At Born Warriors Mixed Martial Arts, the instructors might be training cage-fighters one hour and 2-year-olds the next. They believe in the power of martial-arts training not just as a competitive tool, but as an agent of social change—one that's able to prevent bullying and increase anyone's knowledge of self-defense. Though they teach many disciplines—muay thai, tae kwon do, kickboxing, and jujitsu among them, with the head instructor obtaining a 1st dan tae kwon do black belt and 4th dan kempo black belt—their supportive attitudes remain constant across every class. They also keep their classes small, ensuring that students receive personalized, encouraging feedback.
The two founders of Aquachild Swim School—Scott Launer and Brian Lilburn—came to embrace aquatic education through disparate means. When Scott took his then 2-year-old daughter, Jaya, to swim lessons, he was amazed to see 10-month-old babies floating on their own and began his journey to becoming a youth swim instructor. Brian, who nearly drowned in a backyard pool as a toddler, learned to love the water rather than fear it after his mom enrolled him in swim lessons. Scotty and Brian now share their life-saving knowledge alongside a staff of instructors that are all certified in water safety, first aid, and CPR.
Through Aquachild Swim School’s specially designed lessons, infants as young as 10 months learn to roll from facedown positions to back floats where they can breathe easily, and 1-year-old students begin to swim with their heads down, then twist onto their backs for air. As kids progress, they learn the four major strokes (front crawl, backstroke, breaststroke, and butterfly), brush up on the basics to keep them confident, or start snorkeling. The instructors lead adult lessons to help older students learn how to paddle at pool parties or triumphantly retrieve their boss’s golf ball from a green’s lagoon during corporate outings.
The seasoned instructors of Universal Dance Studios instill students of any age with the skills to pull off a panoply of forms ranging from ballet and acro dance to jazz and hip-hop. Kids 5–7 years old can harness Creative Movement classes to find self-expression through free-form choreography in various dance styles, or take a more structured approach through the French traditions taught in Pre-Ballet sessions. Swing-dance, salsa, and ballroom lessons equip older children and adults with the steps to commandeer any dance floor or spontaneous public musical number, and students looking for more heart-pumping excitement can also bust moves in dance-inspired Zumba fitness classes.
The consortium of professional instructors at Fred Astaire Dance Studios, which was cofounded by the legendary toe tapper himself, shepherds students of all ages and skill levels through lessons that span the style spectrum. Low-pressure private sessions allow enthusiastic teachers to fine-tune individual students' techniques and form, using their expert eyes and mechanical dancing shoes preprogrammed to do the Charleston. Patrons can learn how to cavort through classic waltz and fox-trot romps or swivel through the modern steps of salsa, swing, or samba. For dancers hoping to hoof it up in a social setting, the group practice parties provide a one-night extravaganza of instruction, demonstrations, and amateur firewalking.