Amidst the sub-zero temperatures and scalding winds that have descended on the Blue Ridge, it might seem as though you have to risk frostbite to stay fit. Fortunately, when it comes to creative ways to staying active indoors, Asheville packs a punch. The winter months, when the lure of familiar rocks and running trails reaches its yearly low, are an ideal time to work some muscle groups you never knew existed. Here are three fresh ways to maintain strength and keep you moving through the season.
You will be amazed at how quickly the small, isometric movements of this deceptively simple workout will shake you to the core—literally. The goal of Pure Barre is to bring each targeted muscle group to the 'shaking point' of exhaustion, immediately followed with specialized stretches to lengthen and tone. Imagine the rapid-fire vigor of aerobics, complete with club beats and a lithe, mic-clad instructor, staggered with soothing moments of yoga-like extension, and you'll have a taste of what you're in for in a typical 55 minute class. Somehow, the combination of repetition and ultra-precise motion (a 'lift' entails flexing a specific muscle) amounts to a grinding full body workout.
Pure Barre can be a great option for anyone recovering from an injury, or, perhaps, a jarring season of mountain biking. "It builds you up, it doesn't break you down," says Alyson Gary, an instructor at Asheville Pure Barre. "But don't mistake low impact for easy! The whole point is to get your muscles shaking."
The Hendersonville Road studio has been open since September 2013 and offers classes throughout the day. Gary recommends jumping into a class, then following it up with a free "Breaking Down the Barre" session where an instructor will demonstrate technique and explain their concepts. "It's better to go after you've attended a class, so you can have some context about the movements."
If you're a climber, then chances are you're happy with heights, but how about dangling in mid-air, supported only by a ribbon of fabric? At Aerial Space , a circus arts studio on Leicester highway, you can learn to do just that. Learn how to wrap and climb a swathe of silk, then unravel in a variety of tricks and poses, each one a graceful display of power.
Aerial Silks blends strength and self expression with the acrobatic thrill of flipping and spinning mid air, creating an utterly unique exercise experience. "Doing knee hook climbs to the ceiling is a lot more fun than running on a treadmill," says Silks instructor Andrew Hartnagel. "Aerial is fun by its very nature."
Silks may be the most creative way possible to maintain and increase the muscles needed for climbing. "It builds a great deal of upper body endurance, balance, and a tremendous amount of hand strength," says Hartnagel. "And it works the lats like no other sport. You can tell an aerialist by their lats—we don't fit into airplane seats."
With flexibility and control at its core, Silks can benefit any type of outdoor athlete. But be warned: with that indelible charm of the circus, this blend of art and sport can be addicting; you may not want to give it up when the weather warms. New students are welcomed and encouraged to attend the 'All Level' Silk classes. Aerial Space also offers classes in aerial yoga, lyra, sling, and trapeze.
You can get your daily fix of lactic acid by heading to Climbmax , Asheville's indoor climbing gym. From beginner to expert, climbing provides a powerhouse workout while feeling like play. The rock gym is a great space to move, stretch, and hone technique in a friendly and social environment. Its downtown location provides an optimal way to get some exercise after work, then step next door for a post-climb cocktail at MG Road.
Outdoor enthusiasts use the climbing gym as a resource not just to keep fit, but also to stay connected and beat the isolation that can accompany dark winter days. "It's more than a place to work out, it’s a great place to meet other like minded people," says gym manager and climbing coach William Black. "It’s a hub of the climbing community in Asheville."
Climbmax prides itself on creating an atmosphere of welcoming and support to climbers of all skill levels. If you're new to the sport, take advantage of their private instruction, or rent some shoes and boulder unroped through the cave. Work your way up the set routes, from big holds and smooth movements to finger crimps and tricky sequences. All of the time you spend on the wall (or on the ceiling!) will boost your core, shape your shoulders, leave your forearms burning, and prepare you for real rock... whenever that slightly warmer time may come.