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Physique Fitness Jacob's Ladder
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Chattanooga Jiu Jitsu Academy Kid's class
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Healthy Glow Spray Tan
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New Image Laser
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Hair a Go-Go Salon
Like Elvis at 40—when “fat and forty” was the catch phrase of the day back in 1975—I considered my New Year’s resolutions, the ones to stop abusing my body, once again this year. I was not fat, was way past 40, but feeling the effects of a Presley-esque lifestyle that had left me a little soft in the middle and, like The King, unwilling to do much about it until vanity or the next gig coaxed a reaction. And, of course, the Elvis Way didn’t work out too well for him.
Elvis, who died at 42 in 1977 and was considered “middle-aged” at the time, would have been 78 this year. I’m 30 years younger than Presley would have been, but his own daughter, Lisa Marie, is now 42. So is Rachael Ray, LL Cool J, Thom Yorke and Tony Hawk, among other celebrities. None of them is exactly washed up, out of shape or what you’d call “middle-aged” today. I perked up at that revelation.
Unlike Elvis, I did not use bennies to keep me awake or lose weight—but I nevertheless pondered a healthier, less chemically and fast food-dependent lifestyle. I was not on death’s doorstep by any means, but I could use a tune-up.
Fortunately, Chattanooga is a mushrooming hotbed of fitness and there’s no shortage of studios and gyms around town. But my direction was not only focused on getting “fit,” but also feeling and looking good once the heavy lifting was done. Calls were made, appointments were set, the time—and my deadline—approached. What follows are my personal adventures and observations. And while I did not sign-up, suit-up and show-up at every stop, I enjoyed the process more than I thought. So tag along for a day-trip on The Pulse Fitness Trail ...
My first priority was to check out a fitness studio—but not necessarily a gym, which I often found cold and utilitarian. Working downtown, I wanted a quick fitness fix in a nearby, hip center that I could visit frequently and feel comfortable with. Thrive Studio in Coolidge Park met all those requirements and more.
I met owner Kim Gavin, who launched Thrive last summer, in the warm, welcoming and spacious studio to learn more.
“Thrive is based on the idea that fitness is not one size fits all,” Gavin said, immediately striking my interest. “We’re tailored to the individual. People need different things at different times—not just fitness, but nutrition and attitude adjustments.”
Thrive is a holistic environment combining exercise with nutrition (from their excellent vegetarian cafe). Here, trainers customize the entire fitness experience to your needs, and on the way out you can enjoy a snack or a full healthy and nutritious meal.
All the usual high-end exercise equipment abounds—indoor cycling, fitness and strength-training machines—but Thrive also offers yoga. Connecting the triad of fitness, nutrition and the healing powers of yoga, the studio truly earns its slogan, providing a “healthy body and a happy mind.”
As many know, it’s often not enough to just go sign up. My best efforts succeeded with the encouragement and prodding of a like-minded buddy. Thrive offered classes or training buddies in a group or personal session that provided that support system.
Since opening in July 2012, class offerings have shifted, Gavin said. “We’ve added some new classes and moved times to accommodate the busy schedules of our clients. We’ve also added kickboxing and cardio-kickboxing, and we’re listening to what people want in terms of times and types of workout. “
Thrive is also a thriving social setting. The studio’s two-hour fitness classes carry fun and revealing names like “The Nutcracker” and “Jingle Your Balls,” which they hosted during the holiday season. “Fun names,” Gavin said, “but it’s a hard-core workout.” That same adjective can be applied to Thrive’s Boot Camp, which meets every morning at 6 a.m. for a “butt-kicking, rain or shine” exercise fest not for the weak of heart.
Next up is the Chattanooga Upchuck Challenge on Groundhog Day on Saturday, Feb. 2, a special two-hour class that sounds like Thrive’s version of an Iron Man competition and offers cycling, yoga and circuit training.
Another popular class is the Raunchy Ryde, held every Friday at 5:15 p.m., where stressed out professionals climb aboard one of their Ryde cycles to sweat off the pressures of the week. The lights go down, a disco ball begins to spin and the instructor eggs on riders by “talking dirt,” Gavin said with a wink, all set to pounding music that would not be out of place in Alan Gold’s.
I asked Gavin about the rise of fitness-related businesses in Chattanooga: Why now?
“If you think about it, you’ve got aging baby boomers out there,” she said. “That fuels a lot, but we’re all in various stages of losing our youth. The new generation is amazingly fit and intends to stay that way.”
Thrive is located at 191 River Street in Coolidge Park. For more information, call (423) 800-0676 or visit thrivestudio.net.
After spending time at Thrive, I reasoned I might want to repeat some of this training at home. But I’d rejected most home workout machines I’d considered in the past—you know the machines of which I speak, the Ab-Masters, Thigh-Masters and other such equipment advertised ad nauseam on late-night infomercials that practically seem designed to injure you before you can begin to see results.
Heading over to Hamilton Place, I found Physique Fitness, Chattanooga’s largest high-end fitness equipment retailer. Physique has been in business for six years and opened their Shallowford Road location about a year ago, but they’ve been servicing health-club level exercise equipment for more than a decade. When the company recognized the need for a specialty fitness store that offered both sales and service, Physique stocked its showroom with the kind of quality exercise machines you’d find only in a health club or gym, but designed for home use.
“We sell higher end, health-club-level equipment you see in clubs made by the same manufacturers for home use and we service all models, even ones we don’t sell,” Physique’s Jay Jackson said.
These machines aren’t cheap, but are designed for the home workout enthusiast who wants to mimic a fitness studio-style workout on the same quality equipment.
Not surprisingly, treadmills dominate, because “it’s something anyone can do,” Jackson said. But Jackson said he sees a trend in the development of cross-training products and a huge emphasis on quality ellipticals.
“We’ve sold more in the past year,” he said. “There’s such a nice variety and people are hearing better things about them. They weren’t reviewed in the past but now such reviewers as Consumer Reports are including them.”
One such popular item is the Elliptigo, Jackson said. “It’s a lot of fun. There are three different models, but the eight-speed will help conquer Chattanooga hills—not Lookout Mountain, but it’s a great overall workout that engages all your senses.”
Physique Fitness is located at 7200 Shallowford Road. Call (423) 499-0842 for more information or visit physiquefitnessequipment.com.
My fitness trail veered north from Hamilton Place to Hixson, to the Chattanooga Jiu-Jitsu Academy. Like many, I’d always been attracted to the martial arts thanks to the fast feet and fists I’d witnessed in TV shows and movies starring Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris. I’d even been exposed to some training in the military, but that was years ago and I wanted to see what was new.
Hixson, I curiously observed, has more than its share of martial arts studios for a community its size, but only one jiu-jitsu academy. CJA is the largest in the region teaching self-defense techniques with the added benefit of a fun, high-energy workout.
Black belt owner and instructor Mickey Swafford found his calling early in life, has trained Gracie Jiu-Jitsu for more than 15 years and is a certified instructor under both Eddie Camden and Professor Pedro Sauer, a sixth-degree black belt under Helio Gracie.
“When I was younger, I sort of had a chip on my shoulder,” Swafford said. “I was big, played football and sports in college, but I always felt a need to prove myself. Once I discovered jiu-jitsu, I found I didn’t need to do that—it gave me a confidence I had never had and changed my life.”
To hear Swafford tell it, his experience is not exclusive; his wife and children are devotees, and he said his clients frequently repeat to him the same feelings he discovered after practicing the art. “That’s just a priceless feeling,” Swafford said, “but it’s not me. I just train. Somewhere the art takes over and fills that void.”
Because of this, Swafford said he views his academy—which moved into a 6,000-square-foot space last year previously occupied by Blockbuster Video—as not just a martial arts studio, but a self-defense program and a fitness studio where the added benefits of self-confidence and maturity develop alongside the training.
It’s a fun, high-energy martial art and a proven self-defense technique, emphasizing ground position. Studies show, Swafford said, that 95 percent of all violent attacks end up with one or both subjects on the ground. “If you end up on the ground and only have kicking and punching in your toolbox,” Swafford said, “you are in for a long day.”
Swafford offers classes for men, women and children—with an emphasis on women’s self-defense. “You can carry a gun or cans of mace,” he said, “but sooner or later you’re going to find yourself in a situation without them and you need to know how to defend yourself.”
And, he added, the first 10 calendar days of training are free to new students—take as many as you can or want. “There’s no sales pressure,” he said. “I’ve had students come up to me 15 or 20 days in and say, ‘Hey, I need to pay you!’”
Chattanooga Jiu-Jitsu Academy is located at 3901 Hixson Pike (in the old Blockbuster Video). For more information, call (423) 874-0222 or visit chattanoogajiujitsu.com.
My day wasn’t half over and I was already working up a sweat without even working out. Heading back downtown, however, I wanted to stop by the new Pure Barre studio on the North Shore. The local franchise, young and thriving and owned and operated here by Amanda Holmes, was expanding from its East Brainerd outpost and I wanted to check it out.
Pure Barre is, for the record, not a women-only fitness studio, but it’s barre-focused method (the only one in town) is a safe, low-impact workout that appeals to a largely female clientele—especially, Holmes told me, a growing (pardon the pun) group of pregnant women seeking just that.
Any woman—or man, for that matter—who has taken ballet classes will be familiar with the movements, but that’s where the comparison ends, said Holmes.
“You’re not hearing those commands, the terminology. It’s not jumping up and down, but it’s safe—and very effective if you commit. You’ll see the results we promise—flatter abs, a lifted seat, more toning.”
Like every worthwhile endeavor, one attempt won’t work. But, Holmes said, those who do investigate and sample the method are quickly hooked. For those who can’t commit to a four- or five-day-per-week schedule, Pure Barre offers “Barre Light,” a three days-per-week, less intense, slower-paced workout. “The pace shouldn’t be intimidating,” Holmes said, “and we do the best we can to eliminate intimidation.”
That formula has obviously worked for Holmes and Pure Barre. She opened the first location in August 2010, her second in September of last year. And she was introduced to the method only briefly before opening her own studio here.
“I was introduced by a friend who opened a studio in Birmingham,” said Holmes. “She had the first franchise at the beginning of 2010. I went down, took a class and found it’s not just a great workout, but addictive. I love the feeling you get. It really creates that ‘runner’s high’ without the joint impact.”
Because class sizes max out at 20 people, the group is smaller, the feeling more intimate and there’s an undercurrent of collective enthusiasm, Holmes said.
A typical class begins with a basic warm-up, followed by weight work, then moves to the barre. Stretching ensures, back to the barre, working the “seat,” stretching again, and finishing with an intense ab workout on the floor. That’s about an hour, three or more times a week and, Holmes said, results are quick and encouraging.
Pure Barre has two locations: 1414 Jenkins Road in East Brainerd and 214 Manufacturers Road on the North Shore. Call (423) 468-4960 for the former; (423) 580-1162 for the latter, or visit purebarre.com.
After a quick lunch, I was ready for the “looking hot” portion of my tour. Yes, it’s winter—such as it is, what with global warming adjusting the temperature every other day from icy to downright spring-like—but that roller-coaster makes it all the easier to justify a savage tan. Well, not “savage,” but a little less pasty would work just fine for me.
So I entered Sophia Bridger’s new Healthy Glow Studio on Manufacturer’s Road, which opened just before the holidays and brings a new, organic and healthy method of tanning to Chattanooga. No tanning beds here—just an eye-opening, in the “why didn’t they think of that sooner”sense.
Bridger, a Polish native who spent 30 years as an interior designer before moving to Chattanooga and opening the salon, said she wanted to do something fun to complement her daughter’s thriving North Shore business (that would be hairstylist Elizabeth Tate, who owns and operates Hair a Go-Go) and share her “healthy glow” with the Scenic City.
“My daughter, who used to live in L.A., brought Infinity Sun to my attention,” Bridger said. “Then I visited a salon in Ashville (N.C.) and I grinned from ear to ear. I knew Chattanoogans would love this approach to tanning. Who wouldn’t?”
Indeed, the art of airbrush tanning is hot—in L.A., New York and in progressive Southern cities such as Asheville—bringing a touch of Beverly Hills (where Bridger and her staff received intensive training) to Chattanooga.
The method is, like most brilliant ideas, surprisingly simple. Technicians confer with clients, assess their tanning needs and desires, work with them to achieve the perfect matching skin tone, assist them in exfoliating and then literally spray them all over with a bronzing solution that also moisturizes the skin with pure botanicals, aloe and anti-oxidants.
The result? “The bronzers are fabulous,” Bridger, who is both owner and a client, said. “It’s natural, shimmering and rejuvenating—there’s no chemicals or UV rays and you’ll never leave with that ‘orange’ glow, just a healthy glow.”
After a consultation, clients shave, exfoliate—at home or in the studio, which also offers a shower and disposable garments—arrive in comfy clothes, change (into a bathing suit or naked, if they feel comfortable) and a technicians applies the perfect tan—in five minutes. After a short drying period, you’re out the door with a super, natural-looking tan.
“And in the summer if you like to lay out in the sun to absorb its natural effects,” Bridger added, “a pre-outdoor tan with an airbrush tan will advance the process so you aren’t exposed to harmful rays for too long.”
I was sold. And with a grand-opening special that takes 50 percent off a full-body spray tan, I was on my home to exfoliate! I know—how “metrosexual” of me, but whatever works.
Healthy Glow Studio is located at 307 Manufacturers Road. For more information, call (423) 486-1700 or visit healthyglowstudio.com.
Before returning home and exfoliating, I decided to make a quick stop at Massage Envy on Frazier Avenue to visit with Christine Helms and her staff. I did very much envy a massage, perhaps even a facial while I was at this metrosexual thing.
I was, of course, well aware of Massage Envy’s relaxing allure and needed to book a massage—my first of the new year—to go ease the pain from my journey (if not actual exercise, so far) before hitting the home stretch of my tour.
Because it’s near Valentine’s Day, Massage Envy is offering a couples massage for $78. Food for thought in the upcoming weeks, but I needed relief prior to my big V-Day date.
Because I had not yet availed myself of the services it offers, I took advantage of Massage Envy’s introductory one-hour massage session and it’s companion introductory healthy skin facial treatment. Two full hours of pampered bliss for $39 and $49, respectively—a bargain any way you cut it.
The treatment is relaxing, performed in a soothing environment by professional therapists and estheticians, who customize massages, Murad facials and other body-centric treats to complement a healthy lifestyle. In my case, it was pure indulgence—which is reason enough.
Massage Envy is located at 345 Frazier Ave. Call (423) 757-2900 or visit massageenvy.com for more information or to schedule an appointment.
My penultimate visit was piqued more by a voyeuristic interest than personal needs. I’ve been tattoo-free all my life and while I consider it an artform if done well, no lover—or even my mother—was so influential that I wanted to “brand” myself with their names. It’s a personal thing, but plenty of people have tattoos they’d rather forget. And if they don’t exactly want to erase the memory, ridding themselves of the indelible ink would be nice.
Enter Jerry Manning and New Image Laser, whose website, erasemytattoo.com, says it all.
Manning is a certified laser operator, having mentored in the technique with Lorenzo Kunze Jr., whose father founded the world-renowned Rocky Mountain Laser College and spent 35 years developing and teaching laser technology.
Turns out lasers are the perfect antidote to removing the permanent pigments used by tattoo artists. Today, lasers are the standard treatment for tattoo removal, Manning said, and offer an effective, low-risk procedure with minimal side effects.
“Most tattoos can be removed completely,” Manning said, but results vary. “Some colors are harder to remove than others. Darker colors are the easiest, but we’ve had great success with many clients.”
The size of the tattoo determines the cost per treatment, Manning said, but most cost between $125 and $200 per treatment, generally the equivalent of having them applied in the first place. But if you’ve got an embarrassing or increasingly irrelevant tattoo—say, “I Heart Ruby,” and you’re now married to Jane—well worth the price.
New Image Laser is located at 6250 Ringgold Road, but call (423) 463-9547 for a consultation appointment first or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit erasemytattoo.com for more information.
Educated, enlightened and inspired, I finished my day with a fresh new look by way of a haircut. After all, what else offers such instant gratification—if done professionally—so quickly and has the added bonus of boosting one’s self-esteem?
“I think one great way to stay inspired is to look good while you’re doing it,” Elizabeth Tate, owner of Hair a Go-Go on the North Shore, said. “Looking good helps keep you motivated, it’s a cool reward and a finishing touch for all the hard work you put in at the gym.”
Hair a Go-Go is beginning it’s 10th year as the go-to salon for “rockin’ hair for real people,” in a twist on her slogan. It’s a full-service salon that’s not only about creating great-looking hairstyles, but also teaching clients to maintain their hair. “It’s not enough that you look great when you leave,” Tate said, “but it’s awesome to look good all the time. Our stylists teach you how, with prescriptions for keeping you looking great all the time.”
With a new renovation completed just last year, Tate and her staff are literally on the “go-go,” following trends and improving their techniques. The service is personalized, the salon intimate and the vibe? In one word: Cool.
Tate returned to Chattanooga at the dawn of the city’s renaissance, surveyed the burgeoning North Shore and wanted to be part of the culture.
“I was studying in L.A., taking classes in period films, trying to make a decision about staying and doing movie star’s hair or joining a bunch of cool new businesses just developing on the North Shore. I chose the latter, obviously, and it’s been great being part of that unifying momentum here.”
And that is very happy ending indeed.
Hair a Go-Go is located at 307 Manufacturers Road. For more information, call (423) 752-0500 or visit hairagogo.com.