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    Kirk Dewaele lifts a medicine ball during a workout at Fight Gone Mad.
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    Owner Alicia Roskind at the tea and coffee bar at Okra.
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    Participants do yoga at Okra.
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    Marianna Jackson hits a punching bag during her workout at Fight Gone Mad.

Top Ten in Fitness

By Jesse Blount, Michelle Boudin, Sarah Crosland and Cristina Wilson | Photography by Jason E. Miczek

Posted: Friday, Dec. 21, 2012

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Making resolutions is easy. Keeping them is usually not. But who says that a work out has to be work? This year you can skip the treadmill and cue the beats because boutique gyms and studios all over town are offering new—and fun—classes for getting fit. From a gravity-defying aerial workout in NoDa to the hippest spinning in Myers Park, we’ve found the city’s ten hottest classes for getting you toned and trim in the new year.

Tiger’s Eye

Just a mile south of uptown, this 6,000-square-foot South End family-owned gym is the hottest studio in town—literally. The yoga studio section is kept at more than one hundred degrees with 60 percent humidity so getting a workout that makes you sweat is practically guaranteed. While you may be drenched before you do one downward dog, the one-hour Tiger’s Eye class ensures you’re getting a serious workout whatever the temperature. The class, which is split into circuit training and yoga, typically draws crowds of around 70 people most nights searching for a high-energy, group workout. Young professionals flock here post-work, streaming into the circuit training gym, thumping with top forty hits, or the adjacent yoga studio where a more calming playlist beckons. You don’t choose where you start the workout, but the hybrid non-stop class means that you’re getting all the stretching and toning benefits of an athletic yoga session, along side the calorie burning of circuit training. Classes start at $15, Arrichion, 125 Winona St., 704-201-4586, www.arrichion.com

Relevé 3

Deep stretches, ballet exercises similar to barre technique and breathing instruction merge to form a ballet/yoga fusion that delivers in this new class at Flex + Fit. Bring your mat, a towel and a huge bottle of water—the 105-degree room will keep you sweating, though a cool-down period at the end of class will ease the transition to the outside world when you’re finished. You may also want to bring your Lululemon gear as this sleek uptown gym caters to a trendy crowd. The class, which plays tunes laid back tunes like Florence + the Machine, is suited for all levels, but some barre, yoga or “hot” experience helps. Instructor and curriculum creator Colton Southworth, who believes in a holistic—“not pound-to-the-ground gym mentality”—approach, notes that newcomers should be patient with themselves during the first few classes. “Listen to your body,” he says. “‘I’m tired’ and ‘I’m lazy’ are two very different things. The heat is an adjustment, so try it a second time before making a decision.” Classes start at $20. 550 S. Tryon St., 980-219-8425, www.flexandfit.com

Fight Gone Mad

Former Checkers players, Kirk Dewaele and Brandon Cullen, are the fit duo behind this South End studio, which more than doubled its size last fall. The gym, which offers an interval training class infamous for its ability to leave even the strongest athletic breathless, is a favorite for those looking to supplement other workouts like yoga or running with something a little more intense. And this is seriously intense. As a clock counts down the thirty minute core of the workout on the wall and a large fan cools the room, upbeat music blares and the group of men and women jump into a workout that incorporates a little of everything and a lot of rigorous cardio. From punching a bag to lifting barbells to sit ups, this is a full body workout the second it begins. This is precisely what Dewaele and Cullen, who are more coaches than trainers, say makes it so popular for many of their clientele, who lead busy lives and prefer the get in, get fit, get out method. There’s even a Custom Fit Meals machine against the wall where the busiest of the group can grab a health-centric post-workout meal on their way out. “It complements a fast-paced lifestyle,” says Cullen. Plus, with workouts that change daily and activities that only last for a few minutes, this is a perfect solution in the age of short attention spans. And being this on top of the current trends has paid off. “We’re going national in the first quarter of 2013,” says Cullen, who says to look for new franchise locations around the U.S. opening this year. Single classes start at $20. 2610 South Blvd., 980-949-7263, www.fightgonemad.com

Thai Yoga

It may be called the lazy man’s yoga, but there’s no shame in getting all the flexibility benefits of yoga as someone else stretches and manipulates your muscles. After all, Emily Breeze Ross at Moga Yoga in Atherton Lofts counts plenty of athletes, including two Bobcats players, among her clients. “This is for people who are very into their health and fitness,” says yogi-masseuse Ross, who studied the massage in Thailand and is so enthusiastic about it that she’ll begin teaching workshops on it this month. For this class you’ll spend one hour one-on-one in a dimly lit space with softly playing music as you engage in a healing and rejuvenating massage. Sound like a spa treatment? Not quite. There are no lotions or oils, you’re wearing comfortable athletic clothing, and you’re deeply stretching and flexing muscles you didn’t even know you had for this full body treatment. Like yoga though, breathing is a big part of the uber physical class, as your therapist instructs you to inhale and exhale while applying deep pressure. “It’s the best of both worlds,” says Ross. “You’re getting all the benefits of yoga and massage.” Thai Yoga sessions start at $85, 2108 South Blvd., Ste 202, 980-224-7172, mogacharlotte.comwww.

Skype Pilates

Because there are days when you can’t find a babysitter, or you’re on the road for work, or you just don’t feel like leaving your home, there is Skype Pilates. This class, offered at South End’s Iron Butterfly Pilates, uses the technology of Skype to get you up close and personal with a pilates workout in one of the city’s top studios. The class is scheduled and run like any other in this contemporary studio set in Atherton Lofts. Inside, tall windows set into exposed brick walls offer sunset views in evening classes as upbeat music plays and participants breathe deeply on the gleaming hardwood floors. And from your home computer screen you can participate on your own mat as the well-trained instructor indicates your next move. (Don’t worry though, they can’t see you—or those old clothes you prefer for home workouts.) Wondering what the benefit of this is over video? To participate you must show up and there’s no pause button, which is all the extra motivation you need some days. Skype classes start at $6 per session. 2108 South Blvd., Ste 105, 704-373-1990, www.ironbutterflypilates.com

Circuit Training

When Myers Park’s Metro Fitness Club launched this class last fall, they didn’t get particularly creative with the name. But the 50-minute class itself is full of surprises and plenty of creative options for the cardio-lover. Inside the 8,000-square-foot club, this class begins with a dynamic stretch session—from deep lunges as you move up and down the green turf to low squats in place. But then the clock on the wall counts down, the music cranks up, and for 30 minutes straight your heart is racing as you run, jump, lift and pull your way to being fit. “A lot of our members say they like it more than CrossFit,” says general manager Jen DeCurtins. Despite being a large facility, the class sizes here are small—especially midday options, which often only have one or two people and feel more like personal training sessions. And expect to get creative on what you’re using. PVC pipes and kettlebells get their time, while rowing machines facing out the large windows onto Selwyn Avenue play their part. Don’t let the row of window-front machines fool you though. With locker rooms featuring chic modern décor and a zen massage room incorporating a waterfall fountain, this is more luxe studio than busy gym. “You’re definitely not getting a Y experience here,” says DeCurtins. Classes start at $18. 2820 Selwyn Ave., Ste 200, 704-365-6555, www.metrofitnessclub.com

Aerial CLT

Just getting to this class requires a sense of adventure. Set inside NoDa’s Ultimate Gym, it’s located in an old warehouse adjacent to the railroad tracks. Inside, you’ll weave through the old space with exposed brick walls and concrete floors, until you’re in a large room hosting an impressive Muay Thai ring in the middle and colorful scarves dangling from the ceiling in one corner. Here, Amy Tynan teaches the art of aerial. The space may be a little rough around the edges—no heat or air conditioning makes for challenging conditions some months—but the workout is languid and gorgeous. The classes begin with a light warm up and stretching before launching into moves that look like something straight from a Cirque performance (Tynan warns to wear tight fitting clothing as you’ll likely be upside down). And while it may look intimidating, Tynan notes that 80 percent of her new students don’t have a current fitness routine. “It’s a good routine to get you motivated,” she says, pointing out that you’ll be working your core and strength training as you contort, twist, and flip. “It building self confidence because you can complete it and look beautiful doing.” Single classes start at $20. 401 E. 35th St., 704-333-0071, www.facebook.com/AerialCLT

FlyBarre

With two new Charlotte locations in Myers Park and Ballantyne, the New York City-based studio FlyWheel may be the chicest workout in town. The upscale studio keeps it simple, only offering two classes—the original spinning class and Flybarre, which combines the two workouts at the top of the fitness fashion world: barre and spinning. After a quick warm up, you’re off on 55 minutes of intense cycling and core workout. The spinning part of the class features RPM tracking bikes, stadium seating, and flat screens showing off your performance, keeping a friendly competition among classmates. But the real challenges are the free weights, squats, and time at the barre. You’ll be wishing for time back on the bike after a few of these ab and glute reps, but luckily the class moves fast enough between them that just as your muscles wear out on one, you’re on to another. Set to a stellar soundtrack of 90s pop, you—and those pesky last five pounds—are in for a double threat. Be sure to make reservations because the secret is out on this sleek sculpting workout. And first-timers? Be prepared to feel this workout for a few days after it’s finished. Classes start at $18. 2907 Providence Rd., 980-819-8501 and 9852 Rea Rd., 704-209-7612, north-carolina.flywheelsports.com

Morning Cup O’ Yoga

The new Okra Charlotte yoga studio in Plaza Midwood goes beyond tighter abs and table pose. The plush studio offers tea, coffee, and massages alongside some of the city’s best yoga classes. This makes it the perfect spot to rise early for the studio’s 7 a.m. Morning Cup O’ Yoga class. While the class, which is often taught by the studio’s owner Alicia Roskind, is the studio’s typical vinyasa flow yoga, easing into it is easy in this cozy space where candles flicker on locally carved wooden tables and gray and taupe tones set the relaxation vibe. Inside the yoga studio the walls are a cheery yellow and the class is set to soft music as you bend and stretch to start your day. Post class, make a stop by the studio’s tea and coffee bar. The small bar offers loose-leaf teas from Tea Rex as well as the locally roasted Pure Intentions Coffee Roasting Co. Grab a mug and curl up in one of their barside chairs for a chat or take one for the road on a busy morning. Classes start at $15. 1912 Commonwealth Ave., 828-773-4765, www.okracharlotte.com

AIRobics

Your inner kid can literally bounce off the walls at the SkyHigh Pineville trampoline center. Sure, it may seem a little like an 80’s aerobics video, but once you’re comfortable jumping around, you’ll understand why this low-impact, high-intensity cardio workout is bouncing back. After a quick warm-up and stretching session, you’re taken through turns, jumps and heart-rate-increasing moves in a high-flying environment. When you’re feeling a little more comfortable on the surface and energized, you have the chance for some high bouncy jumps (because who wants to take all of the fun out of your time on a trampoline?). Playful moves and fun routines make the time pass quickly, but those in search of a great core workout with a side of cardio will want to get in on this springing action. Single classes are $7. 601 N. Polk, Pineville, 704-889-5867, www.cha.jumpskyhigh.com

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