With nothing but their legs, a launch pad, and a little wind, paragliders achieve mankind's ancient dream of flight without the help of motors or fancypants pilots. A dedicated revolutionary against the tyranny of gravity, paragliding instructor Jon Potter invites one and all to join him atop the hills of Pittsburgh for a flying lesson that can be tailored for students of any experience level. Potter gladly hurls himself from virtually any flyable hill in and around the city. Beginners start by taking wing from bunny hills, and more advanced gliders tackle the more challenging courses.
HappyFeet founder Andy Barney boasts a lengthy resumé: the Oxford, England, native was a semipro soccer player by the age of 16, studied physical education in college, and coached youth soccer for 10 years before moving to the U.S. In America, he coached at Avila University and wrote the book Training Soccer Legends, but one day he found his extensive experience challenged by an unlikely group—preschoolers. He had agreed to spend what he thought would be an easy afternoon leading tots in a soccer workshop, only to end up exhausted yet inspired to design a curriculum specifically for younger kids.
His research eventually led to HappyFeet, where instructors play with kids aged 2–6 using a proprietary lesson plan the company dubbed “story time with a soccer ball.” Each kid receives a ball, and beyond practicing basic skills such as dribbling, striking, and autograph signing in a noncompetitive setting, the incorporation of stories, nursery rhymes, and songs enables kids to exercise both physical and mental faculties. The 45-minute indoor classes, which were reviewed by the Pittsburgh Tribune, are held onsite at preschools and sports facilities such as PISA. Little ones can also be enrolled in HappyFeet’s leagues, where a 15- to 20-minute mini class precedes a 30-minute game.
At Lakevue Athletic Club, a staff of seasoned competitors breeds a love of fitness through tennis, group exercise classes, and personal training. Atop eight indoor courts and three outdoor courts, a fleet of tennis pros enacts lessons anchored in players' strengths. They specialize in QuickStart tennis, a recently minted method of play that emphasizes building the skills and confidence of child athletes without serving them trophy-shaped pancakes for breakfast. Within the walls of an 11,000-square-foot fitness center, personal trainer Kyle Waters shepherds clients through two downstairs cardio rooms with Star Trac treadmills and several weight rooms loaded with Cybex Eagle and Hammer Strength machines. Inside two studios upstairs, health gurus conduct classes in everything from yoga to step aerobics to kickboxing.
Dominique Ponko sits at the head of the class, leading yogis through muscle-lengthening postures with the steady flow of her deep, rhythmic inhales and exhales. It’s been a long journey for Dominique. She first sought out yoga at the age of 26 to help her cope with life-threatening seizures and a slow-growing brain tumor. Yoga comforted her through three difficult years, welcoming her into a space for healing spiritually before she was able to find the proper medicine to help her heal physically. Though still a little shaky, Dominique has triumphed and opened four yoga studios—voted Best of the ‘Burgh in 2010—to inspire her students to ease their ailments, build strength, and find inner peace.
During her studio's heated Vinyasa-flow classes, an enthusiastic and supportive instructor guides students through a series of strengthening postures that work to increase flexibility and build muscles. Warm, balmy air courses through the studio, pricking beads of sweat on brows to help detox bodies and loosen stiff muscles into deep, soothing stretches.
At Deer Lakes Bowl and Lounge, balls rumble down the lane before they send pins a-clatter. Between frames, bowlers munch on delicious food from the lounge. Whether they just want to snack on breaded banana peppers or zucchini fries, share a pizza, or wipe their hands on a hoagie, the food makes for better fuel than just drinking a whole bunch of cola. For those interested in rolling with a crowd, but who don't want to join a league, Deer Lakes also offers group rates that can support up to 40 people.
Though they welcome clients of all ages into their fitness facility, Fouad “Fred” Jaroudi and his staff at Community Health Center specialize in exercise for ages 35 and older using the second floor’s passive workout machines. Downstairs, younger visitors hook up their music while using more-intensive weight machines, treadmills, and free weights along with a punching bag and speed bag.