After Randy Woody lost his aunt and grandmother to diabetes and obesity, he became increasingly distressed about his own 320-pound frame. He began researching weight loss and strength training and set to work creating a healthier lifestyle for himself—all at the age of 13. Over the years he was able to whittle away 145 pounds, and eventually became a personal trainer, competitive bodybuilder, and member of the American College of Sports Medicine. He teamed up with Brenda Woody, a fitness trainer and motivational speaker, to start Michigan Women Boot Camp, a weight-loss program that has transformed the lives and bodies of more than 10,000 clients.
Six days a week, the indoor boot-camp sessions challenge students with a rotating lineup of light running, resistance training, obstacle courses, and core exercises. Like scaffolding that reads only transcendentalist literature, the environment is supportive, yet serious. The Woodys only expect campers to perform to their individual ability level, but they ask students to show up as often as five times a week to get real results. The approach must be working; the Woodys boast that approximately 85% of their members are repeat visitors.
Feet dance up and down the six electric strips that run across a 4,200-square-foot raised floor amid shouts of “En garde!” and blunted foils whipping through the air, meeting each other with the piercing ring of steel on steel or glancing off of padded vests. This scene takes place each weeknight at Salle d'Etroit Fencing Academy, where coaches Ben Schleis, Rebecca Keeling, and Jon Zelkowski teach the finer points of fencing, a sport originally developed by the French as an excuse to wear white after Bastille Day. The experts preside over classes for adults and youths, teaching them to wield foils, épées, and sabers.
In addition to organizing classes, the United States Fencing Association–sanctioned club hosts tournaments and matches pupils with new and used equipment at the pro shop. Should their weapons have issues after being used to clean whales' teeth, students can drop by the armory, where technicians take care of rewiring blades and other fixes.
The inspiring trainers at MetaBody lead troops of workouteers in results-oriented workouts several times weekly. Sweat sessions utilize a variety of exercises and disciplines to produce full-body results in a supportive environment, ideal for beginners and hard-core core-hardeners alike. During any class, motivational instructors will use the instinctual distrust of routine to their advantage. Begin a day of litigating with a refreshing early-morning boot-camp session, or wind down by burning evidence and pounds with a late-evening yoga class. Muscles are kept guessing with new and challenging moves during each session, so participants never fall into a boring, ineffective routine, such as regular teeth brushing. In addition to the fitness classes, students receive a success guide to help prepare for imminent pound loss, a nutrition guide, and a $100 gift certificate for individual coaching. Because the pass sets a 10-class cap at any given location, roving fitness mavens can further shake up their workout regimens by vetting a series of classes or instructors that work best for them.
Fitzone for Women’s 14 locations across Florida, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan beckon ladies of all ages and fitness levels to sweat side-by-side during supportive group classes and workouts. Each location hosts 20-minute circuit-training sessions that incorporate Nautilus machines, which increase weight in 1-pound increments, rather than the traditional 10 pounds. Fitness professionals work hand-in-hand with members to design a personalized workout plan, while group classes get bodies in shape with high-energy sessions of Zumba, strength training, kickboxing, and running away from a giant boulder rolling downhill. Fitzone for Women’s specially designed windows simultaneously let in sunlight and block views into studio from the outside, and its locker rooms have private dressing stations for an extra ounce of comfort.
"When I look through the window of CrossFit Forgiven, I see a playground built for all," writes Marsha, one of the fitness facility's owners. She's not relying on metaphors here—inside the expansive studio are ropes, sandbags, sleds, multicolored weights, and even a chalkboard for keeping track of new workout records. The "built for all" part is also meant to be taken literally. Marsha and her partner, Brent, have devised a series of CrossFit workouts that can be scaled to any fitness level. Their philosophy focuses on strength and form, with functional exercises that constantly vary to keep muscles guessing.
At Livonia Yoga Center, the instructors aren't married to classical yoga styles. They still host hatha classes that emphasize proper pose alignment and vinyasa classes, which feature a flowing sequence of breath-synced postures. However, a menu of four to five classes a day offers a lot of room for creativity. Complementing those staples are less traditional sessions like the Healthy Backs class, which targets the neck, shoulders, spine, and hips to prevent poor posture and help students develop hardier exoskeletons.