Fitness World West has been trimming Iowa's waistlines since 1986. Its three modern, fully equipped facilities hold more than 75 weekly fitness classes, an aquatic program accredited by the Arthritis Foundation, and advanced strength equipment from Hammer, Cybex, and Paramount. During the diverse lineup of fitness classes, the gym's trainers pump up their students' motivation with rigorous, varying workouts that include Zumba, yoga, cross training, and Greco-Roman spelling bees. For one-on-one instruction, personal trainers work with clients to design fitness plans that optimize results, taking advantage of the center’s cushioned track and the cardio theater's elliptical machines, cross trainers, bikes, and treadmills. When working out solo, clients can set brainwaves to one of 80 channels broadcasting from the cardio machines' personal flat-screen TVs, jogging or biking along to motivational music videos, athletic competitions, or home-shopping auctions. The gym’s selection of Olympic free weights stands ready to fatigue muscles before the whirlpool, sauna, or steam room relieves and relaxes deep-rooted aches.
In addition to increasing clients’ physical prowess, Fitness World West's knowledgeable staff help overhaul the unhealthy habits of their clients through computerized fitness assessments and personalized nutrition consultations. And, during workouts, they welcome parents to entrust their children to the kids' gym and nursery, where an eagle-eyed staff member watches over little ones as they romp around or lead troops of G.I. Joe figurines in taxing pushup regimens.
Studio owner Ryan Esdohr approaches power yoga with a background in sports medicine, leading invigorating and rejuvenating classes for all skill levels. As early as 5:30 a.m. on select mornings, Ryan gathers students in the heated studio space and guides them through a flowing sequence of powerful poses and invigorating transitions. The therapeutic heat loosens tightly wound limbs and spurs increased sweat, and the challenging workout leaves muscles feeling strong enough to squeeze magma out of a pumice stone.
R Studio’s six-week detox program fights fatigue and unhealthy habits by coupling vigorous workouts with customized nutrition plans and guided sessions of meditation. The program encourages participants to attend four to six fitness classes per week, including circuit-style workouts and multilevel yoga, all led by certified personal trainers. The studio’s signature Kraline classes combine yoga-esque stretching and breathing techniques with strength training to elongate muscles, build core strength, and increase mechanical-bull riding times. Half-hour sessions of meditation teach breathing exercises and strategies to mentally cleanse daily stressors. The program’s nutrition counselor and holistic health expert, Sheree Clark, designs meal plans for each week using recipes that remove preservatives, artificial additives, and holograms in favor of fresh, whole ingredients. Sheree also sends inspirational emails each Friday and hosts special events throughout the program that highlight nutritious recipes and healthy lifestyle tips.
Having taught high school band for well over 20 years, Roxianne Classen knows the importance of rhythm. She doesn't always need an instrument to explore the concept, however—at Harmony Yoga + Wellness, she showcases a type of music and movement that comes entirely from the human body. She and her staff lead yoga classes that encourage strength, flexibility, and self-awareness, regardless of your experience level. Some sessions, including Vinyasa and yoga for endurance athletes, embrace an intensive practice. Others move more slowly, incorporating elements of meditation or helping beginners to master the basic poses without giving them an extra leg to balance with. There are also courses that take the idea of rhythm more literally, such as Barre 85, which is held in a heated room and combines exercises from ballet, yoga, and Pilates.
The studio helps visitors to achieve calm outside of class, as well. Their resident massage therapist blends eastern and western modalities into muscle-soothing treatments, and a reiki master works to optimize clients' energy flow. Even if you simply feel like relaxing in the space, you can sip on some complimentary tea and browse the lounge's lending library, or peruse the apparel and locally made jewelry in the boutique.
Glaza Studio courses with movement. Live percussionists strike drums during Afro-Brazilian dance classes, hastening the tempo as students transition from warm-ups to folkloric dances. In capoeira sessions, teachers blend acrobatic and fight movements into a workout that makes the heart pound like Thumper's left hind foot. Some classes have a quieter personality. Vinyasa yoga, for instance, strings together a fluid sequence of movements. As participants transition from one pose to the next, they bridge the transition with calm, purposeful inhalations or exhalations. All classes take place in an expansive room that resembles a warehouse. Narrow planks of wood stretch across the floor, and rectangular beams brace the ceiling. Coating the walls, naturally distressed paint gives the space a historical vibe.
Led by more than 1,000 wellness experts at locations in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, and Tennessee, the more than 30,000 members of Prairie Life Fitness have discovered why the company slogan is "Fitness for the Entire Family." The certified trainers and instructors cater to exercisers of various ages and abilities, all within an upscale, welcoming atmosphere. Kids take advantage of engaging childcare activities and youth programs, including swimming lessons, martial arts, and story time. Meanwhile, parents can workout on the latest equipment, including stationary cycles and Pilates machines. Guests can also relax with amenities such as massage therapy, tanning beds, and a whirlpool powered by wholesale bags of Pop Rocks.
Kris Larrison has been teaching fitness classes for more than 20 years, in addition to being an avid runner. "After years of running, and running competitively, your body starts breaking down a little bit," she says. "Yoga was good for me to get into."
And though there were only a few yoga studios in the area, there wasn't a single hot-yoga studio around—so she opened the first. Classes started out in the basement of a building, and often there were only one or two people. Kris didn't mind; she was doing it for fun. But, as she says, "word got out" and the business grew. As classes swelled to 30 people packed into the small space, she decided to open a larger storefront studio.
Today, she has a crew of certified instructors who lead classes in the hot-yoga studio, which runs from 95 to 104 degrees. Why the heat? In addition to increasing flexibility, helping detoxify the body through sweat, and helping home-brought dragon eggs to hatch, heat increases yoga's cardiovascular benefits. "You get that oxygen into the blood a lot better with the heat," Kris says. In addition to hot yoga, Kris has a studio dedicated to hot barre classes. Using a ballet barre to help everyone go higher and lower, classes do motions such as lunges and squats. The heat, she says, "kicks it up a little bit."
For Kris, the most rewarding thing has been seeing her studio foster relationships; because it's more of a boutique studio, rather than a large health club, people get to know one another. "It's very rewarding to see people come in after a year or so of practicing, and see how much they've accomplished, and how much stronger they are," she says.