These fitness clubs give their members more than a maximum heart rate, they make a community
They say one of the greatest motivators to get up and moving is to find a group of like-minded people with whom to work out. They encourage you in the weight room or on the court and don’t let you lag behind when out on a jog, and the camaraderie they can provide might just be enough of an influence to keep you coming back for more.
But these fitness groups on the following pages go beyond the normal give-and-take of a typical exercise class, in the traditional sense. They offer more than a paid one-hour session at the gym once a week, and they don’t leave their pursuit for better health in the locker room. They keep in touch between meetings, sharing workout tips during the week on social media. They find fellowship after a sweaty bout in the studio as their heart rates comes back down, maybe with a frosty glass of beer. They provide a community.
If you’re looking to find a way to dedicate more time to your health and fitness this year, or re-energize your already neglected New Year’s resolution, you may consider giving one of these groups a visit – they might inspire you to come back.
Lexington Sports & Social Club
If you have been out and about in Lexington within the past few years, you may have spotted one of the vibrant shirts with the logo for The Lexington Sports and Social Club. Considering the shirt also has a graphic of a horse holding up a frothy glass of beer, you may have even looked twice.
“Anytime I’m out in public in Lexington, I try to wear one of the shirts and it’s always like, ‘Hey that’s really cool, what’s that about?’” said Josh Formont, the general manager of the Lexington Sports and Social Club (LexSSC).
The LexSSC is a co-ed sporting league and social club for the 21-and-over crowd that offers a wide variety of team activities, such as bowling, cornhole, dodgeball, flag football, kickball, softball, ultimate frisbee and volleyball. Plans are currently in the works to offer basketball, soccer and tennis in the spring.
“It’s all based on the demand of our members,” Formont said. “A lot of people have talked about what sports they want and what sports they don’t want, and that’s why we’ve decided to grow and add what we have.”
LexSSC is a part of the Sports and Social Company, a business that runs similar sports and social clubs in Knoxville, Tenn., Asheville, N.C., and Norfolk, Va. LexSSC has swiftly grown to become its largest branch. LexSSC first launched in 2010, and by 2013 the branch saw over 1,000 players sign up to play in a league.
Playing in a league involves the opportunity to participate in scheduled games in a particular sport, followed by the opportunity to socialize at a nearby venue.
“We always set up what we call a sponsor bar,” Formont said. “It’s not always a bar, but it’s a place where, if you go in wearing your LexSSC shirt, you’ll get some sort of special on their menu that’s only offered to LexSSC members.”
Typically, the locations are near the park or gym where the sport takes place. Some participating venues have been Village Host Pizza, Campus Pub, Southside Pub and O’Neill’s Irish Pub. This gives the players the opportunity to discuss team strategy after the game or network with other members.
Becoming a member of LexSSC is as simple as signing up to play in a league. This can be done with friends, through a corporate team, or individually. In fact, many members sign up for a sport in an individual capacity, regardless of whether or not a team affiliation is already in place.
“The free agent is what we call it,” Formont said. “The free agent aspect. You get this large group of single sign-ups that just want to get out and do something.”
The bonus is the opportunity for young professionals to “meet like-minded people” through sports.
“Recreation is a huge part of people’s lives,” Formont said. “Stress is so high with young professionals and to give them a chance to go out on a weeknight and to have a viable sports option to meet and network with other people, is a huge opportunity for not only young professionals, but people all the way up to 50-plus.”
Formont also sees the pricing structure of the leagues as a draw. Starting in the spring, LexSSC plans to lower their current price from $55 to $49 per league. Formont hopes that with this lower pricing even more people will be able to join the already active social club.
“It’s not a closed community,” Formont said. “It’s open to absolutely anyone who wants to join. All you have to do is choose what sport you want to play and come and hang out with us.”
More information on LexSSC can be found at www.lexssc.com.
– Cynthia Ellingsen
Barbells loaded with weights crash on the floor as members of The R3SISTance at Lexington Athletic Club completed a set of “bear complexes” with trainer Adam Adkins during a Sunday night boot camp.
The bear complex – a series of squats with overhead presses – was a portion of the grueling workout that “R3Z” participants have come to expect in a setting that looks more like a powerlifting team practice than a class at a local gym. The group was formed by Adkins and LAC gym manager Mark Dickinson last year to help people not only get stronger, but get better at what they do in the gym.
“The R3SISTance gives members a network of others dedicated to improving physical performance,” Adkins said. “We do programming for various goals and fitness levels, and I am proud of the programming, but ultimately it is secondary to the people. Mark and I just try to foster that community and help people as much as we can along their journey with whatever goal they have.”
A movement- and skill-based approach to fitness, his R3Z group (the “3” signifying kettlebell, barbell and bodyweight) now has about 50 people following daily programming on Adkins’ blog, and they are not your typical gym rats.
“For a lot of people the goal of the workout is the workout,” Adkins said. “They look at the workout as some sort of penance they have to pay for whatever poor decision they made last night at dinner. They want to show up, move some things around, get sweaty, tired and out of breath, but that’s it. They don’t want to measure what they did today versus what they did last week. They don’t want to practice movement efficiency. They don’t want to address weaknesses. We are looking for people that want to break out from that mediocrity and be active members of our community.”
He joked that the only downside of participating in the group, which includes free classes to Lexington Athletic Club members and a blog that anyone can follow, is that you might not be able to catch up on your magazines while parked on the elliptical.
“In order to get better we’ve eliminated all the mindlessness of modern fitness,” Adkins said. “But in doing so it places demands on those participating. It demands you be mentally present in every workout.”
At R3Z workouts, there are perhaps more women present than men.
“Perhaps the most insidious of (fitness industry) myths is that women shouldn’t lift heavy weight,” Adkins said. “People, and particularly women, usually end up coming to me because they failed elsewhere. They haven’t met a goal, or they’ve gotten injured, or they’re just bored. What I try to do from the very beginning is just get them to chase performance for one month. For the most part I’ve found that women love the challenge and feeling of accomplishment that comes along with heavy lifting. Plus, it is a heck of a lot more fun to try to add weight to the barbell than it is to subtract it from the scale.”
Kristin Ray, 30, is one of the women training with R3Z and can attest to the thrill.
“I think the mixture of competitiveness and camaraderie has been a huge driving force for me,” she said. “You’re all competing to get those high numbers on the barbell but you’re also competing against yourself and everyone is really encouraging.”
She said she enjoys the additional programming from Adkins that can be done on her own time with a smaller group of friends at the gym.
“I probably wouldn’t do it without the community,” she noted. “The community makes it fun, it makes it special to know you’re going to go somewhere and see people you’ve formed friendships with through it. It’s just fun to have that positive energy when you’re doing something hard and then to be able to give it back.”
Adkins said the easiest way for others to get in on the group is by joining the Facebook group The R3SISTance and get active with it. Participants can check out a free, detailed 20-day program at www.r3sistancetraining.tumblr.com.
– Abby Laub
West Sixth Yoga
Anne Dean Dotson steps over tightly packed bodies and negotiates her way through rows of outstretched arms as she leads the well-attended West Sixth Yoga club through a variety of poses.
Held every Wednesday night since the fall of 2012 in the beer garden at West Sixth Brewing, the free yoga class has become so popular floor space is always in short supply.
“We ‘Tetris’ people in there,” Dotson said. “I think the most we’ve ever fit in there is close to 70 people.”
Dotson, a senior acquisitions editor with University Press of Kentucky, became a certified yoga instructor in 2009, and the idea for the West Sixth Yoga group materialized after she saw a similar group in a brewery in Charleston, S.C. She thought a group yoga class would go over well at West Sixth Brewing.
“I just love the community there,” she said. “I found myself hanging out there all the time. I had no idea how it would turn out though. I knew the crowd would be big because it’s free yoga and people are always looking for free yoga.”