Pittsburgh offers hundreds of different fitness classes designed to take participants out of their comfort zone | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Pittsburgh offers hundreds of different fitness classes designed to take participants out of their comfort zone

New exercise trends seemingly emerge weekly across the city

Aerial silk at Pittsburgh Dance Center
Aerial silk at Pittsburgh Dance Center

Aerial-silk riggings are weight-tested to hold a Volkswagen Beetle. That’s what I tried to focus on as I found myself hanging upside down at my first aerial-yoga class at Verve360 two years ago.

During the class — which is part gymnastics, part circus performance — participants use Lycra or nylon fabric to perform traditional yoga postures. You’ll do tree pose — standing in mid air with one foot wedged in the silk— or a pigeon stretch, but hanging upside down. 

Individual experiences vary, but it was performing the upside-down poses — with nothing but my locked legs keeping me from tumbling to the ground — that gave me the greatest adrenaline rush. 

I’m not what you’d call athletic, and mostly lack the coordination to master activities like ice-skating or rollerblading. So a fitness class where I frequently found myself suspended upside-down a few feet above the ground was definitely out of my comfort zone. 

Like that aerial-yoga class, there are hundreds of different fitness classes across the city which are designed to take participants out of their comfort zones. Verve no longer offers group classes, but during the four years I took classes there, I sampled many popular fitness-class trends. (Verve still has private sessions; check out our list of other venues offering a wide variety of classes.)

My first class at Verve was the traditional Pilates mat class. Pilates builds strength, flexibility and lean muscle tone through controlled, repetitive movements designed to put your body, particularly your spine, in alignment. 

Think crunches — lots of crunching — but not Jane Fonda or Richard Simmons crunches. Pilates is all about your core: that area below your shoulders and above your pelvis, and not just your stomach. 

During any Pilates exercise, whether it’s a rollup (kind of like a sit-up) or a bridge (a beginner’s backbend), your core should be engaged. It taught me the importance of engaging the core in any situation, even waiting for the bus or sitting at my desk.

Yoga was another component of Verve’s schedule. Usually, I went to the session during my lunch break when, because of the time, I often found myself practicing with just one other person. Our instructor often took the opportunity provided by the small class size to give us more individualized instruction, and he spent much of the class adjusting my posture. My hips have never been squarer during warrior pose, my triangle pose never more triangular. 

Yoga is one of the more popular fitness classes available in Pittsburgh. There’s power yoga, hot yoga and even PIYO, a yoga/Pilates hybrid. By trying a range of classes, you can find what works for you. 

One morning, I had the opportunity to take a Zumba class taught by KDKA-TV anchor Jennifer Antkowiak. Zumba is a Latin-inspired dance workout that combines cardio, muscle conditioning, balance and flexibility. There’s also an accessories line of bangle bracelets and sashes that jingle as you move. 

After a few near-collisions with other dancers — I salsa-ed when I should’ve meringue-ed — I quickly learned Zumba wasn’t for me. 

Barre was another trend at the studio during my final months there, and it’s becoming popular throughout the city. The ballet-inspired workout combines dance, Pilates and yoga moves done at a ballet barre. At Verve, it was called Booty Barre, but most variations include plies, an outward bending of the knees with your feet either flat on the floor or up on your toes. I enjoyed the calorie-burning effect of Barre and that wobbly-leg sensation I felt at the end of classes. 

Barre, yoga, Pilates and Zumba are just a few of the many fitness classes around the city, and new trends emerge every week. You’ve just got to get out there and give them a try.

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