“My favorite way to spend a night is making a quick dinner, heading out for a sunset run through the city, and then straight home for a yoga session to cool down and relax before cuddling on the couch. That’s my OM: trying hard not to worry about work or chores, and just focusing on what makes my body sweat, stretch, bend and balance. And being appreciative of our home environment where I can do that.”
When my then-boyfriend lived in Queen Village, I would attend spinning classes at Sweat Fitness with friends on Saturday mornings. It’s quite a peculiar building, inside the bones of a former parking garage. I loved walking up the sharp, slick incline to get to the upstairs level, where rows of treadmills, stationary bikes and ellipticals face the front window (pictured above).
That same level holds a spinning room, bathrooms, a small massage parlor and an overlook to the downstairs weight room. In the first floor, you have free weights, areas for stretching and a group room for yoga instruction and other classes.
I enjoyed popping in at the QV location for classes, occasionally a session on the treadmill or elliptical. The gym has offered Groupons with great frequency over the past year and a half, so I bought one. The first time was no problem — I was able to purchase 10 gym passes, for use in any of their many locations.
One of the benefits is that there’s always a location nearby in the city, and your membership is valid at either one. I sampled Northern Liberties, and recently Old City, where I discovered the great disparity in quality depending on where you go. Northern Liberties location is small, dingy and feels a bit dirty; machines are older and the classes are few and far between. Old City has newer, cleaner equipment and facilities, with a bright and friendly staff. Queen Village is somewhere in between those two.
Above: Old City
For months, I kept seeing early morning foursquare check-ins to this place. “I’m at Fusion. Heart. Muscle. Mind.” it would say, taunting me as I struggled to crawl out of bed. Somewhere in the Gayborhood**, a horde of ambitiously fit people were already mounting stationary bikes or warming up the incline on their treadmills before I’d even managed to take off my pajama pants.
I’ve been to half a dozen classes at this studio at 12th and Sansom, which recently rebranded as Unite Fitness. Founded by (total hottie) Gavin McKay, the studio touts its philosophy of exercising the heart, muscles and mind, embracing a comprehensive fitness regimen that focuses on cardio intervals, functional strength training and yoga stretches all in one 75-minute class.
Positive messaging is all part of the brand, with additional coaching available in the form of nutrition info, personal coaching and even an intense multi-week boot camp. The classes here help motivate me during summer training, forcing me to push myself as hard as I could at each interval segment.
This week on Navel Gazing, I’m going to highlight several gyms and studios in Philadelphia and whether they’re worth your time.
We’ve all been there: a few weeks of a fitness regimen and suddenly you’re starting to get bored with the same old running routes or playing the same Zumba dvd over and over. What I’ve learned is that mixing it up is important, for your brain and your body. Using different muscle groups makes you stronger and more toned overall, while exercising your brain in different ways can lead to paths you never expected.
Maybe you’re a secret burlesque star and would never know until halfway through a dance class. Or perhaps a trip to a rock climbing gym will unlock hidden Spider-Man talents as you scale the walls with ease. You never know.
That’s why I tried out a bunch of classes and methods for you. From cheerleader-esque cardio fitness to an intimate dance class, I’ve been pretty busy lately. Every day this week will have dispatches from recent experiences, with info on expenses, cleanliness and “sore factor.”
P.S. If you own a gym and want me to check it out, or if you have suggestions for where I should sample next, let me know!!
Because I think I’ll look like this
But I’ll probably look like this
Marathon weekend. A gorgeous 13.1 mile course awaits me tomorrow. Have I mentioned how nervous I am right now? And excited?
Today is my dad’s 53rd birthday and tomorrow he’ll be racing with me, step by step. My mom is also joining, along with my cousin Casey and many many many friends (Ish, Brian, Jen, Jackie, Bianca, Kishwer and probably tons more that I haven’t named).
After picking up my bib this morning, buying way too much merchandise at the expo and then eating my weight in popcorn at the movies, I still had enough nervous energy to do many loads of laundry, clean the apartment and play around with my hair. Every inch of me is buzzing with nervous energy. Next year: Steamtown or bust?
But what about tonight? If you’re running tomorrow, try some of these short yoga-for-runners videos to stretch it all out. I love Gwen Lawrence’s instruction. It’s a great way to relax and stretch, without going overboard!
Good luck tomorrow, everyone!!