21 years ago, Ellie Herman worked as a professional dancer and choreographer, running her own company in San Francisco. She loved her work, but she had bills to pay. So, naturally, she took on a side job; she became the professional wrestler known as "Ruth Less." As soon as she began tossing fellow wrestlers around, she incurred a serious knee injury that threatened to end both of her careers. Luckily for her, the nearby St. Francis Hospital of Dance Medicine offered surgery-free rehabilitation through Pilates. Ellie did the workouts for months, and returned to her company an even better dancer than she'd been before her injuries. Later, as a masters student at NYU, Pilates once again helped her recover from hip pain. She discovered an ability to innovate within the bounds of Pilates, and resolved to become a teacher.
She opened the aptly named Ellie Herman Studio, where she continues to teach today. True to her inspiration, she uses Pilates as a basis on which to innovate better forms of corrective movement. So far, she's written nine books on the subject. She invented her own piece of equipment, the Pilates Springboard, which compresses the size and cost of the more traditional Pilates wall unit. She also developed a blend of Pilates and gait training, to help people stave of injury by becoming conscious of the way they move their legs in every day life, which helps to prevent things such as rolling ankles or randomly kicking strangers.
Argentina–born soccer enthusiast Gustavo Szulansky opened Super Soccer Stars to provide the boroughs with a program that championed the personal development of youngsters rather than solely a skill-based focus. Since its debut in 2000, it's grown throughout the city, helping countless youngsters learn teamwork, boost confidence, and decrease arguments during home games played on the dining-room table. This rapid growth is due in part to the positive values Gustavo instilled from the first class. His coaches are carefully selected for their ability to cultivate a noncompetitive, sensitive approach to learning the game, and they dole out their knowledge in both classes and camps.
Super Soccer Star's Kick & Play program features family-friendly classes that help tots 12–24 months old develop pre-soccer skills and physical skill sets simultaneously. During classes, a team of talented and enthusiastic instructors and an athletic duo of puppet friends named Mimi and Pepe buoy budding soccer players with positive reinforcement, individual attention, and the merry clickety-clack of cleated tap dances. Designed with the help of early-childhood specialists, each age-specific class helps players build skills at their own pace with positive reinforcement, individual attention, and engaging original music.
With its military-style obstacles and exercises, Warrior Fitness Boot Camp is not for the faint of heart. As Vanity Fair writer Tarik Fayad said, "My legs burned ... my arms hung like lead at my sides. ... I was drenched in sweat." But instead of feeling exhausted and discourage, Fayad was "the happiest I had been in years"—and immediately signed up for three months of unlimited classes.
The boot camp, which was founded by two former marines, won't mollycoddle participants, but because it doesn't, it gets results and has garnered extensive amounts of press, including appearances on The Dr. Oz Show and CBS's The Early Show.
During its one-hour indoor classes, campers do everything from hoist free weights to run through an obstacle course complete with jungle-gym bars, balance beams, real dirt, and a pool full of sharks carrying switchblades. Kids can also get in on the action—special classes for them help build motor skills and teamwork.
Nicole Damaris knows what it means to battle with weight. She started modeling as a child and struggled to keep her body slim through excessive diet and exercise plans. At the young age of 19, she began suffering from health problems, leading her to research healthier ways that she, along with others, could maintain a sleek frame. The result of her efforts is NDG Fit, a ladies-only fitness studio that pairs aerobic exercise and strength training with a fun, sexy atmosphere. With the motto "health is beauty," Nicole's well-trained staff helps students feel beautiful from the inside out by working to whittle their bodies into healthy shape—which isn't always a size 2.
In the open, sunny studio, groups of 4–15 ladies torch calories and build muscle while wearing 3- to 5-inch heels. During this 45-minute Stiletto Workout class, high-heeled students strut through exercises that leverage body weight to build core strength, increase balance, and build conditioning for business-casual Olympics. Other sexy fitness classes such as pole dancing and one-on-one personal-training sessions send exercisers hurtling through a full-body workout that leaves pulses tap-dancing.
Not every exercise is created equally. That's why Moving Strength's instructors cater to the diverse needs and capabilities of their students with a full schedule of fitness classes held throughout the week. Their yoga sessions mainly utilize the Vinyasa, Power Vinyasa, and Hatha styles, providing a gentle and mindful practice or a physically demanding sequence of seamlessly flowing postures and deep stretches. Pilates workouts improve posture and tone muscles with exercises held on the mat, as well as apparatuses including the Reformer, the Tower, and the Chair.
Similarly, TRX suspension training develops lean, toned muscles by using the resistance caused by gravity and body weight to help students develop flexibility, balance, and muscle tone. For a more aerobic outing, Zumba sessions set their fast-stepping, yet easy-to-follow dance choreography to pulse-raising Latin-inspired music. This diverse selection of classes ensures that students of all skill levels will be able to find a regimen that complements their particular fitness goals.
In his early teens, Mario Godiva Green was overweight. At school, kids bullied him daily, and he was tired of their incessant mockery. At 16, his mother died, providing the catalyst to the dramatic life change that Mario was about to embark on. Over the next 11 years, his rise to prominence in the fitness circles of New York and Chicago was nothing short of meteoric. From modeling for Calvin Klein to pioneering Kangoo workouts in the United States, Mario has been at the forefront of physical fitness. His work has been featured on the New York Times, The Steve Harvey Show, and ABC Nightline.
Today he jet-sets around the world to promote and teach Kangoo to throngs of eager exercisers and underachieving gravity forces, and his Kangoo classes have become one of the trendiest, most exclusive workouts in the city. A firm believer in having fun while exercising, his hip-hop classes are half dance, half fitness class, and he also leads hoppers throughout Manhattan during outdoor boot camps and jogs. The springy shoes reduce the impact on the joints and spine, harnessing the 33 health benefits associated with rebounding without danger to joint cartilage.