Fitness Together isn't your usual gym. The locally owned franchise doesn't boast ultra-chic titles, avant-garde workout rooms, or elitist trainers. What it does do is help each exerciser achieve sustainable results via its goal-oriented philosophy and proprietary triple threat of resistance training, cardiovascular exercises, and nutritional knowledge. The Aspire 8 resistance program sculpts clients' physiques over the course of eight progressive phases through a one-year period dotted with individual goals. Cardio Together presents personalized programs designed and tracked by a certified trainer, and Nutrition Together crafts a plan for healthy living that doesn't involve water imported from Canada’s fountain of youth and includes the help of one-on-one meetings with a nutritionist.
Before founding Elements Yoga and Wellness Center, Bruce Bassock and Donna Kuebler practiced poses and breathing exercises to battle the stress of careers in stock trading and event planning. They left behind the daily grind to found the studio and since then, their award-winning studio has been featured in Yoga Journal and the New York Times.
Students of all levels participate in Align and Musical Flow classes, where they stretch and bend to a mix of popular tunes that help dissolve anxiety. Seasoned instructors also lead one-on-one yoga training and a 10-week prenatal course that shows moms how to pose while holding a baby or chasing a runaway Radio Flyer. After a challenging mind-body workout, students can soothe their muscles with massage therapy and reflexology, which are available by appointment.
Years before he would teach hand-to-hand combat to Special Forces candidates or have his studio voted the best of 2011 and 2012 by CT.com, Andrew Scala was stuck in traffic. As he inched down a clogged I-95 on his way back from New York and his job as a sales representative, he made a decision that changed his life. The next day, he quit his job, sold his car, and bought a plane ticket to Japan, where a friend was studying martial arts. He arrived three days later, beginning an eight-year stay in Hokkaido, where he eventually trained daily beneath the great-grandson of a samurai. At one point, he and two of his colleagues were invited to demonstrate their skills in front of more than 300 high-ranking Japanese military officials. Andrew not only mastered styles such as aikido, karate, and iaido, but also immersed himself in Japanese culture and learned to speak fluently, opening the door for the lifelong bond he shares with his teacher. Today, Andrew runs Darien Martial Arts Academy based on a philosophy that values integrity, honor, and self-discipline alongside physical skill. He lavishes his rich depth of knowledge upon students, teaching them the basics of Japanese with each lesson. As they grow curious, he relates the modern practice of martial arts to tales about the "truly intelligent and also fierce" nature of the samurai, erasing misconceptions along the way. "All those things are useful tools for helping children get motivated, not just for martial arts, but to become good students, good musicians, good athletes, good people," Andrew said, noting that as they train their minds with martial arts, the benefits spill into other aspects of life. His students bring in their report cards to show him their successes—and they also know that "if a student is good [at the academy] but he's starting to be disrespectful at home, he comes here and he pays for it here." He trains all ages of students, who typically begin with karate and then train in other styles or master weapons—the long and short staff, sword, and chain. He periodically brings his best students on trips to train at his old dojo in Japan, watching them develop a lifelong love of Japanese culture as they see him integrate easily into his old home. But though he takes martial arts seriously, Andrew makes classes fun and encourages each of his students. He's known for telling jokes and keeping the sessions lighthearted. "You don't have to be mean to be strong," he said. "The strongest guys I know are also the funniest guys I know."
The supportive staff of personal trainers, boot-camp instructors, and nutrition coaches at Infinity Fitness may be quick to give clients technical tips regarding exercise, but they’re even quicker to give words of encouragement. This kind of engagement helps exercisers get the most out of the gym’s offerings, which include boot-camp workouts as well as private and semiprivate personal-training sessions that track results five different ways. As noted on the website, staff members view clients as “walking billboards” for their programs' effectiveness. In return, the staff asks only that clients work hard and stand for weeks at a time by the highway.
New York Sports Clubs, part of Town Sports International's network of fitness loci, opens up a number of equipment-stocked facilities across New York to exercisers. Strength-training gear, such as circuit machines, free weights, and medicine balls, molds muscles into chiseled depictions of physical might. Sessions on cardio machines, ranging from treadmills and ellipticals to upright and recumbent stationary bicycles, inspire burnt calories to pack up and move to cooler climates. Each club offers a schedule of group classes that draws from more than 100 fitness styles, including Pilates, yoga, and boxing, ensuring that no member has to jazzercise without a spotter. Each location rewards exercisers for sweating in its vicinity with special features such as babysitting, saunas, and steam rooms.
At Sportsplex, lines of gleaming strength and conditioning machines stand ready to help exercisers transform their bodies. When clients aren't lifting dumbbells and bars or swimming in a pool that uses the chlorine-free SaltPure system, they can work out with personal trainers or in small-group Group Jamz sessions, or play squash on the on-site courts.