Busy professionals like to work fast and hard, quickly accomplishing as much as possible. That work ethic doesn’t just apply to the business world but to health and fitness activities as well.
Increasingly, Kentucky professionals are turning to instructor-lead, group exercise classes that focus on “functional fitness.” These classes rely less on fancy machinery and more on good old-fashioned muscle work.
What’s old is new again. In these fitness programs you’re more likely to throw a medicine ball or flip a tire than sweat through an aerobics class. Functional fitness focuses on increasing strength and flexibility – shoring up a weak back or bum knee – through tough exercises done in short two- to three-minute bursts.
These newer gyms are typically smaller than the fitness centers that became popular in the 1980s, ’90s and early 2000s. You won’t find floors of confusing equipment, smoothie bars or even televisions. Instead you’ll find to find kettle bells, mats, ropes, free weights or even a ballet bar.
Clients don’t spend two hours a day on a treadmill, instructors say. In fact, instructors generally recommend their classes be taken three times a week, usually at one hour each.
These courses are pricier than a typical gym membership, but fitness trainers say it’s worth it for clients who are looking for quick results.
“Most people come here to lose fat, and I can run anyone into the ground to lose that fat. But they won’t keep it up; it could even cause pain. I give people movements that they can do to strengthen their bodies, and the fat will come off,” says Dave Randolph, who runs IronBody Fitness in Louisville.
Personalized attention in a group setting
Randolph, who opened IronBody Fitness in 2007, starts with an individual fitness assessment of every new client. His classes incorporate traditional kettle bell training, which requires squatting, swinging and lifting weights developed in Russia more than 200 years ago that look like cannonballs with handles. Another popular exercise is rope undulation, which requires users to manipulate heavy ropes, moving them in a wave formation. Kettle bell and rope work involve multiple muscle groups for full body workouts that develop core strength.
“Everyone goes through a movement screening to see what they need to work on during the workouts,” he says.
Randolph also helps clients modify their existing diets to boost weight loss. Proper diet, he says, is 80 percent of long-lasting weight loss. A members-only section of the Iron Body website is devoted to healthy meal plans.
Though weight loss is the No. 1 reason people come to IronBody, increasing strength and bone density through weight-bearing exercises keeps the body strong and able to remain active, Randolph says.
The workouts are tough but focused. The small-group setting creates community and accountability for clients, and the instruction keeps them on track.
IronBody caters to men and women, with the average client in their 40s or older.
“When people go to a regular gym, they don’t know what to do. When they come here, they just have to do what I tell them. Between the workouts and the dietary advice, they see results,” Randolph says.
Willie Ray, who owns Art of Strength Lexington, specializes in strength-building kettle bell workouts.
“My niche is the kettle bell,” said Ray, a certified instructor. “It’s a unique tool that you can use to burn calories.”
A professional athlete for years, Ray trains groups and one-on-one, building clients’ functional strength and helping them lose weight. The Kentucky State University physical education grad – and 2013 KSU Athletic Hall of Fame inductee – played professional football and tried out for the 2006 U.S. Olympic bobsled team.
“My philosophy is developing physical power by training all planes of the body,” Ray said. “What I mean by ‘planes’ is the way the body moves in regular motion. Strengthening all the planes of your body makes you more resilient and less prone to injury.”
Ray works with clients from two to four times a week. In addition to the kettle bell workouts, he also emphasizes nutrition and lifestyle changes that clients can use outside the training center.
Body by ballet
Another newer fitness trend beloved by the professional set is the barre workout, which is popular among women from their 20s into their 50s and beyond. The barre (pronounced bar) method was developed by an injured ballerina, and uses – what else? – a ballet bar to develop strength and balance. The barre is incorporated for balance during squats, lifts, bends and deep, long stretches that can become quite demanding.
B.You Fitness Boutique in Louisville offers several group barre classes. One of the most popular beginner classes, B.Barre Amped uses small isolated holds and repetitive movements to strengthen the body. For a more advanced workout B.BarreAmped Fire incorporates cardio into the strength training techniques.
“We don’t use heavy weights and rely mostly on body weight for strengthening,” said Stephanie Bristow, B.You co-founder.
“We use tiny movements and a tiny range of motion that really targets specific muscle groups. The muscle will be fatigued within a few minutes to the point of shaking. That’s how you build that new, stronger muscle,” Bristow said.
Group classes run 45 or 60 minutes. She recommends three sessions a week.
“To get the best benefit, you’ll need 24 to 48 hours to heal,” Bristow said.
B.You also teaches the Silque method. It uses a suspended aerial silk hammock that relies on body strength to hold a variety of poses.
The hammocks are steel reinforced, allowing for safety. It also allows clients to do things like aerial yoga, pushups and inverted poses.
B.You caters almost exclusively to women. In small groups they get the benefit of an instructor who can critique their form, without the solitary feeling of a private class or the do-it-yourself routine of a regular gym.
“Everyone comes into the studio, and it’s almost like its own little community. That motivates people to come and work out in a way that you don’t get in a gym,” Bristow said. “And a lot of women like coming here to be with other women because being in a gym with a lot of men is out of their comfort zone.”
Hitting the trails
Swim Bike Run of Kentucky specializes in type A personalities. The Lexington-based fitness/training center caters to triathletes, many of whom are in high-pressure jobs, said co-owner Noelle Dick.
“We have a lot of doctors, lawyers and type A-personalities. This is their release,” Noelle said.
The most popular offering among bikers is the center’s indoor CompuTrainer indoor cycling studio. Using their own bikes, cyclers connect to a computer trainer system that simulates actual courses. Up to eight riders can use the trainer at a time, tracking their speed, distance, heart rate and other vitals.
“It’s a way to use your own bike and ride any course. It actually adjusts the back tire to feel like you are riding outside,” Dick said.
In addition to the CompuTrainer, another popular Swim Bike Run program is individualized half-marathon training. Swim Bike Run offers both beginner and intermediate runner 16-week training programs.
Even the treadmills are super-sized, offering a gait analysis that can help improve running form. Like the other fitness centers, people come to Swim Bike Run for specific instruction, analysis and feedback for top results.
“Many clients need a goal to stay motivated. They need something to work toward. If they know they’re going to run this (certain) race in two months they want to be ready,” Dick said.