The perception of pole dancing is changing. When Maureen Metzger and her business partner DJ Hamilton started Blush Pole Fitness & Dance six years ago, Maureen says, "people thought [the instructors] were strippers." Since then, she's seen attitudes adjust as pole dancing went from taboo to a possible Olympic sport. Maureen equates pole dancing with aerial arts, on par with performances seen in shows such as Cirque du Soleil. She leads a series of classes and workshops that focus on upper-body and core strength or hone in sensual spins and dances. "You can be sexy and sensual," Maureen says, "and it doesn’t have to be tasteless . . . I watch Dancing with the Stars, and I think that is way more sexual than anything we do."
Occasionally, she still has to spend some time fighting inaccurate stereotypes, including an episode in early 2012 that involved inviting Jim Stingl of the Journal Sentinel to studio for a fact-finding mission. But mostly, Maureen and DJ concern themselves with empowering women to be "strong physically and emotionally." There comes a time, she says, when "you stop feeling sexy, you age, you gain weight, you get so busy with other parts of your life. . . I think we lose [that] and [pole dancing] reminds us to be women." She credits pole dancing as a vital ally in boosting her self-esteem during a double mastectomy in her battle against breast cancer.
And though Maureen is the first to tout the power of pole dancing, she is also one of the first to undercut some of its weightier connotations, much like a doctor who uses a stethoscope that squeaks. "[We're] totally willing to laugh at ourselves," she says. "Nobody is taking this too seriously." The lighter mood, in particular, helps welcome shy students, who Maureen and DJ witness transform into "strong, confident, sexy, and feminine [women]."
The instructors at Kaivalya Yoga believe that, like yoga practitioners themselves, the rules of yoga should be highly flexible. They pioneer fresh approaches to Vinyasa techniques inside their University Square studio with the aim of inducing kaivalya—a state of freeing personal enlightenment. Heated and nonheated classes cover fluid posture transitions that synchronize breath with stretching rather than having students take one long breathing break halfway through class. Each session aims to eradicate the body's toxins and boost mental clarity, whether students are attending a free beginners workshop or hefting small weights during Power Sculpt.
Many of the teaching staff joined the yoga movement to combat physical ailments, such as slipped disks or chronic migraines, and now they deepen their practice through Kaivalya's inventive curriculum. They inject posing sequences with pieces of individual flair—Hally Marlino's classes embrace freestyle Vinyasa set to music, and director of teacher training Alex Pfeiffer leads groups through spiritually focused, dance-like routines. Certified massage therapists are also on hand to work muscles into an even noodlier state with Swedish, deep-tissue, and sports modalities.
Kaivalya Yoga's central location is no accident. Owners Dave and Tim met at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1998 and maintain ties with the school as an employee and a graduate student, respectively. They've engineered their venue and schedule to suit the student population: classes provide a meditative escape close to home, scheduling never interferes with Wisconsin Badgers games, and the boutique carries chic headbands, T-shirts, and hoodies from their exclusive Mad Yogi clothing line, ideal for moving from dorm to dining hall to yoga studio in comfort.
In 1976, educator, musician, and kinesiologist Robin Wes opened The Little Gym based on his new take on physical education. His curriculum emphasized motivating children to achieve instead of pressuring them to win. As a result, The Little Gym became a noncompetitive, positive, nurturing environment where young ones could develop physically, socially, emotionally, and intellectually. Since then, The Little Gyms have sprouted up across the country. The programs and classes aim to help kids develop skills such as rhythm and coordination, and kids camps during winter, spring, and summer breaks prevent children from creating finger paintings that express the existential ennui they feel when school is out of session.
At CrossFit Kenosha, workouts transform exercisers of all levels into fit and confident champions. Encouraging coaches rally groups during functional fitness drills that build speed, power, and stamina with tools such as jump ropes, kettlebells, and gymnastics rings. A team-like bond forms as exercisers cheers one another through challenging routines that can be scaled to different levels of strength and endurance.
Weightlifting moves and body-weight exercises cultivate lean muscle mass, which helps the body to burn calories as efficiently as possible. Filled with cardiovascular challenges such as sprinting and rowing, the workouts can also shrink waistlines and bolster heart health. Like a snowman's fingerprints, no two workouts are alike, which helps to keep exercisers engaged and motivated.
Anytime Fitness, which boasts 2,398 clubs in North America, makes it easier for average folks to etch out time for exercise by doing one simple thing: staying open 24 hours a day for 365 days a year. As fitness seekers challenge themselves on cardio and Hammer Strength machines and hoist Iron Grip free weights in clean, well-stocked facilities, security monitoring ensures they’re safe and producing enough sweat to meet official government standards. Members can also ramp up their exercise regimens with the help of Anytime Fitness’s staff of personal trainers, who demonstrate moves and sling motivating tips. After workouts, guests can shower in the private restrooms or hop into one of the tanning booths available 24 hours a day.
The stone accent wall and cherry-wood counter in Agea Spa's lobby form a barrier against the stresses of the outside world. Upon entering, clients are encouraged to cast aside their cell phones and laptops before enjoying a relaxing shower in one of the private changing areas. This is only the first step, though—within the spa proper, a team of aestheticians and stylists stands ready to pamper visitors from crown to ankle.
The aestheticians' facial treatments incorporate organically sourced skincare ingredients—including anti-inflammatory plant extracts, natural fruit acids, and aromatic steam—formulated to hydrate the skin and imbue it with a healthy glow. The massage therapists target knotted muscles with Swedish, deep-tissue, or hot-stone modalities, and they can also use reflexology or reiki techniques to promote holistic balance. The stylists pamper clients' tresses, designing flattering new looks with a combination of well-placed snips, coloring products, and texturizing treatments.