“Fitness.” For some, it’s a four-letter word; for others, it’s nearly a religion. Some of us want to get into shape but are completely intimidated by the thought of walking into a gym, whereas some of us can’t imagine not hitting the gym for at least two hours each day. And if you’re one of the people who hasn’t set foot into a gym ever or for a long while, you may still be under the impression that all gyms are the same ~ tons of barbells, overly-muscular men and women, scary-looking machines, and lots of grunting. Fortunately, you’d be wrong. Gyms and fitness centers have evolved and these days, no matter your fitness level, schedule, finances, exercise preference, physical limitations, or level of discipline, there is a place ~ and a workout ~ that’s perfect for you. From martial arts to rock climbing to yoga to boot camps and more, we have it all right here in Worcester County ~ and to give you just a sample of what’s out there, we’ll introduce you to six very different gyms that are all at the top of their game. So ditch the notion of the stereotypical gym, look at all the great workouts available, decide what kind of exercise sounds like it might work for you, and give it a try. And if you’re already in shape but feel like shaking things up a bit or meeting some new people, do it!
By Linnea Sheldon
Endless hours on the elliptical not working for you? Tired of toiling away on the treadmill? Fed up with not getting the results you want? What’s the solution? How about high intensity workouts in a team atmosphere full of energy and enthusiasm?!
Sounds like fun, right? So where do you sign up?
You can find this amazing workout and everything that comes with it at CrossFit CenterMass ~ their new location is at 333 Shrewsbury Street in Worcester. CrossFit isn’t just any old gym routine. “In general CrossFit is constant, varied functional movements,” said Tim Segur, co-owner, manager, and trainer at the center. “It’s not your usual workout.”
The workouts include all kinds of strength and conditioning moves designed to improve power, strength, endurance, flexibility, stamina, coordination, and balance. Many stars ~ including Madonna, Matt Damon, and Jessica Biel.~ swear by the power of CrossFit including
At CrossFit CenterMass, they take the idea of CrossFit and bring it to members of all different fitness levels. The programs are tailored for each individual member. The trainers are there to guide the members and provide encouragement. “You get your own personal experience with a team atmosphere,” Segur explained. “And the best thing is the motivation from the other people, it’s what helps to get you through the intense workouts.”
Beginners start out with what is called the On Ramp Program. “It’s similar to a CrossFit 101,” explains Segur. “It runs Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for one month, and teaches the exercises, equipment, and lifts.”
The members then graduate to the regular group classes. These classes run in the morning, at mid-day, and then in the evening. The classes change daily, so you never get the same workout twice.
The five owners of Crossfit Center Mass are all true believers. Not only do they practice what they preach, but they all regularly coach you through your workouts and bring the CrossFit discipline into other facets of their lives:
Tim Segur is a member of the Worcester Police Department, a former Marine, and a black belt in Tang Soo Do.
Nathan Reando is also a member of the Worcester Police Department, plus a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. He is also the founder of “Give Kids a Fighting Chance,” which has raised over $500,000 for the Worcester Boys & Girls Club.
Michael Spalatro, the programming director at CrossFit CenterMass, is another member of the Worcester Police Department.
Josh Bennett is a paramedic, and as well as the competition team director for the Center. He also lost 65 lbs. with his CrossFit workouts.
Michael Higgins is a member of the Worcester Police S.W.A.T. Team and has 15 years of law enforcement training.
CrossFit CenterMass offers discounted rates for police officers, fire fighters, paramedics/EMTs, active and reserve military, as well as students.
Still unsure? There is a free class every Saturday at 1:00 p.m. where you can try it out.
For more information visit the CrossFit CenterMass website at
or call (508) 796-5566.
Climb Every Mountain at Central Rock Gym
By Kim Dunbar
This winter, take your workout to the edge…of a cliff. Though the rock may be artificial, the workout is very real.
Founded in 2009 by brothers Joe and Ed Hardy, Central Rock Gym filled the void in Central Massachusetts, which didn’t have any climbing gyms at the time. Now, the gym offers a unique opportunity to take workouts to greater heights, literally and physically.
“The sport offers a cardio workout as well as a strength workout,” Kangas said. “You’re working your heart with the consistent movement climbing up 40-foot walls and your muscles are being strengthened by the constant pushing with legs, pulling with arms, and clenching with your core.”
Kangas added that rock climbing ~ which can be done year round, rain or shine ~ offers a social atmosphere. “It’s a fitness activity that can be shared with friends,” she said. “Going to a regular gym to run on the treadmill or ride on a bike that stays still can be mundane and lonely … Central Rock Gym is a place to hang out with friends, make new friends, and feel like you’re part of a niche community.”
While breaking from your normal workout can be a challenge, Central Rock Gym makes it easy for newcomers to learn the ropes, literally; the gym offers classes tailored to skill levels, including beginner classes for the first-time climber looking to learn to belay. “A belay class will teach how to tie in to the ropes to climb and to manage them for your partner so your group can be self-sufficient in the facility,” explained Kangas.
And for the more advanced, Central Rock Gym teaches technique classes “…for those seeking tips on how to improve technique and climbing efficiency,” she added.
“We have walls for all ability levels,” said Kangas. “So there is something for everyone.”
If rock climbing isn’t your thing, the gym also offers yoga, Pilates, and strength and conditioning classes. But Kangas believes that once you give rock climbing a try, you’ll be hooked. “It’s a workout that will be addicting,” she said.
For more information, including the gym’s weekly specials (College Night on Thursdays, Ladies’ Night on Mondays, and Family Night on Fridays), visit www.centralrockgym.com.
X CORE Fitness
By Linnea Sheldon
If you have a TV, no doubt you’ve heard that all it takes to get in shape is three workouts a week for about 30 minutes. But if you’ve just been doing cardio, chances are you aren’t seeing the results you’ve been looking for. “If you’re just doing a workout on the treadmill, you’re just burning calories,” said Kris Crepeau, CPT and owner of X Core Fitness. “One you stop doing the workout, your body won’t continue to lose weight.”
Here’s where Crepeau’s 30 Minute Boot Camp class comes in. His program helps build muscle, raising the metabolic rate, while also improving flexibility, strength, and endurance. The class is geared towards people of all fitness levels, and is based on timed intervals. You just have to get through 50 seconds of work, then you get a ten minute rest before you start something new.
“You do what you can in the amount of time that you have,” explained Crepeau. “You have to learn to pace yourself, and then progress yourself as you get better.”
This progression is what keeps the results coming, and why 30 minutes is definitely enough. It is recommended that you do three boot camps a week with a day of rest in between, and one extra day to really recover.
“So far over 500 people have tried the workout,” Crepeau said. “There is a wide variety of people doing the workouts, and so far only two have come more than three times a week.”
The 30 Minute Boot Camp uses all different tools to constantly change up the routine ~ body weight, weights, kettlebells, medicine balls, TRX trainers, and boxing moves. The constant changes are what keep the body adapting and keep the results coming.
Crepeau is an International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) Certified Personal Trainer and majored in Sports Fitness at Dean College. He started the 30 Minute Boot Camp to give people a chance to fit in a great workout despite their busy lives.
X Core Fitness offers several other classes, including a One Hour Power Boot Camp, and a Bridal Boot Camp, as well as personal training and corporate fitness programs. The X Core Fitness Studio is located at 5 Pleasant Street 1R in Worcester, but classes are held at other locations as well.
Check out their website at www.xcorefitness.com for more information and a complete schedule.
Photos courtesy of Scott Erb of Erb Photography
America’s Best Defense Martial Arts Academy
By Tine Roycroft
Before opening America’s Best Defense Martial Arts Academy in Spencer, Corey and Alexandria Buzzell thoroughly researched what people were looking for in a martial arts studio and how they could create that experience for them.
“People want to be in the best shape of their lives, they want to learn self defense,” Corey says. “We have Muay Thai (think awesome kickboxing), which is probably the best physical martial art for getting into the best shape of your life. And we have Krav Maga, which is without a doubt the most sought-after defense system.”
If you’ve never heard of Krav Maga, pay attention: this form of martial arts is not only guaranteed to kick your butt back into shape, but it can help you “kick some butt” should you ever need to defend yourself.
Krav Maga was originally developed and used by the Israeli military defense forces (and still is, in some regions of the Middle East). According to Buzzell, the practice is the perfect hybrid ~ taking the best of Muay Thai, Western Boxing, Kempo and Aikido. In addition, Krav Maga is built on the principles of instincts.
“If a person goes to grab you around the neck, your natural reaction is that your hands will go to your throat,” explains Buzzell. “This is a system that you can learn very quickly and it’s very effective. When it came to the US, it was first taught to the US Special Forces. It was so popular, it was leaked and then it got out to the civilians.”
And to say that students are changed by Krav Maga is an understatement. Buzzell reports that they have more confidence, are more physically fit, and have an inner calmness and focus that carries them through stressful situations. Some students have lost as much as 100 pounds with the combination of Krav Maga and Muay Thai. Others have found an incredible resource in the practice of Krav Maga during what could be extremely dangerous situations.
“I had a student two weeks ago,” says Buzzell,”who is a restaurant manager and someone had come in, with a knife, to rob the restaurant. He said he was nervous, but because of the teaching he had received and his level of fitness, he was able to keep himself calm, collected and focused. He said that he was planning the steps he was going to take, had the situation turned into a physical altercation. He said he never would have had that mindset without Krav Maga.”
For more information, go to abdspencer.com.
Stepp’n Up Aerobic and Fitness Studio for Women
By Tine Roycroft
Losing weight and staying in shape can be difficult. Maybe you’re exercising regularly, but then bingeing on fatty foods. Or maybe you hit the treadmill so hard and so frequently that you find yourself overworked and prone to injury. Not all of us grabbed that Nutritional Science degree or became personal trainers, but thankfully, we can seek guidance at gyms like Stepp’n Up.
Stepp’n Up first opened its studio doors 1997 and since then, it’s been movin’ on up in the Central MA fitness scene. The original location was a modest 600 square foot room in Shrewsbury. Then it moved to a larger space in Grafton and today Stepp’n Up can be found in a glorious 4000 square foot facility in Worcester.
The aerobic and fitness studio for women offers a terrific approach to health with their Pump’n Up Fitness Systems, which combines physical activity, nutritional fortification, rest and relaxation, and a cleansed body and clean home environment.
“Women do everything for everyone and when they come to Stepp’n Up, they can focus on themselves for awhile and their health as a whole,” owner Kelly Greenwood says. “The healthier they are, the better they can help everyone in their lives.”
The Pump’n Up Fitness Systems focuses on many important aspects of each person. For physical activity, sign up for Pump’n Up Muscle Conditioning. This hour-long class focuses on just about every body part from the neck down, according to Greenwood. Say good-bye to fat and unwanted calories and say hello to a leaner you.
Stepp’n Up offers individual nutritional counseling and incorporates it into their personal training so that members are properly fueling their bodies. When you need a little R&R, Greenwood has a number of great massage therapists she can refer you to as well.
“We also try to teach people if they have a clean home, a clean environment, they’ll be healthier,” says Greenwood. “We use many ecologically-friendly products at the gym that won’t aggravate people who asthma. We also have some cleansing products for internal cleanses.”
Stepp’n Up has a variety of cardio and weight training equipment, classes and amenities to keep anyone ~ even the biggest Ms. Couch Potato ~ interested and motivated. Try their “Firm and Tone” class for 30-45 minutes of conditioning, sculpting and stretching. Or try the “On a Ball” class for muscle conditioning, using exercise balls for improvement in balance and strength. Finally, if you need to get into super shape, try their Best Body Boot Camp and run, walk, conquer obstacle courses, weight train, circuit train, and hike into the best shape of your life.
For more information, go to www.steppnup.com/index.html.
By Tine Roycroft
After the holidays comes the mental, physical and spiritual hangovers. You ate too much cheese and now you feel gross. You spent too much time with your crazy aunt and now you feel gross. You feel that somehow the true meaning of the holidays has escaped society and now you feel… gross. It happens. So grab your mat and Yogitoes for the ultimate cleansing, strengthening and happy-making yoga experience at Metrowest Yoga in Worcester.
The studio, owned by Shawn Shaw, takes your meditative practice to the next level. Shaw and her teachers turn up the power of poses by turning up the heat ~ in some cases, to as toasty warm as 95 degrees.
“One of the greatest things about the heat is that it’s a source of elimination,” Shaw, who has practiced yoga for over 35 years, explains. “When you sweat, you’re cleansing and flushing toxins out of your body. The heat also protects the muscles as you go through the various movements and it helps you go a little deeper into the stretch.”
MYoga Hot Hatha is an exciting new series that Shaw herself developed. The class, which is open to all levels of experience, incorporates strengthening through various yoga postures while also emphasizing stillness and focus. According to Shaw, some postures are held for a minute or more, which promises to challenge the experienced student while still being a good fit for a newer student. If you have a minute to check a thermometer in between Downward Dog and Upward Facing Dog, you’ll see that the temp is between 93 and 95 degrees ~ the perfect way to sweat the holiday blues (or pounds) away!
Now it’s true that some like it hot, but for those who enjoy a slightly cooler environment in which to get their yoga on, Shaw has got you covered toward the middle of the thermometer too. The studio offers classes in Asthanga, which helps realign the spine, detoxify the body, and build strength, stability and stamina. Or attend an Open Meditation class and combine the powers of deep breathing and keeping the body still to develop an inner sense of calm and clarity.
Whether you’re a hot yoga tamale, or a cool meditation cucumber, Shaw says that if you commit to your practice, you will undoubtedly see changes in both your body and mind.
“Some of the changes are just amazing. I think there’s a calmness that comes over you,” Shaw believes. “The controlled breathing, the movements all help to calm you. It teaches us to pause before we react, which always helps in difficult situations. Physically, I’ve seen people lose weight. I’ve also seen people who were once very closed off become warm and more peaceful and happy. “
For more information about Metrowest Yoga, go to metrowestyoga.net.