Most Oklahomans are probably aware of our capital city’s reputation as one of the least-fit cities in the nation.
The American College of Sports Medicine releases an annual Fitness Index that lists the 50 major metropolitan areas in the U.S., and ranks them according to their population’s overall fitness levels. Oklahoma City has been either dead last, or hovering around the bottom of the list, every year since 2008.
Granted, certain community factors figure into the score, such as walkability, and access to parks and public recreation areas, and although there’s a push to improve those conditions through initiatives like MAPS 3, Oklahoma City is still challenged in those areas. But personal health indicators in a city’s population (such as physical activity and the number of fruits and vegetables eaten) are also measured, and those have brought down our score as well.
For a lot of people, exercise is just a necessary evil. There are those who seem to thrive on long runs and weight lifting, and while there’s something to be said for simply knowing what needs to be done and doing it, a simple truth about exercise is that if you find something you really enjoy doing … it won’t be such a chore.
If you’ve never found that one activity that gets you excited about raising your heart rate — or if you’re a regular exerciser who is looking for a change of pace — the good news is that you don’t have to wait for Oklahoma City to be transformed into a pedestrian-friendly fit-topia to amp up your personal fitness level. Opportunities for fun fitness already abound in the metro and surrounding areas, and we’ve put together a list of a few — and categorized them — to help you find a good fit.
What's Your Fitness Personality?
Not sure where to begin your investigation of the metro’s fitness offerings? While all of the suggested activities would be great for anyone to try, finding a pursuit that fits your lifestyle is a good way to ensure that it’s something you’re excited to do on a regular basis, says Stephanie Tolson, personal trainer and co-owner of Roughhouse Boxing. (It also goes without saying that you should check with your doctor before engaging in a new physical activity.)
Stephanie has a B.S. in Kinesiology/Exercise, certification from the American College of Sports Medicine and over ten years of experience in personal training. She believes that enjoying what you’re doing is key in maintaining the habit of exercise.
While some fitness-seekers might be content with the more Traditional exercise standards like pumping iron, taking a boot camp class at a gym or running, Stephanie maintains that searching for different ways to get and stay in shape is a good idea if you struggle with consistency.
“I definitely think the best policy is to find something you like that is also effective for you,” Stephanie says. “It’s also important to know what your goals are, and communicate those with the instructor or coach, if your activity has one.”
“Things like rock climbing, boxing or paddleboarding would probably appeal to the more Adventurous or thrill-seeking individual,” Stephanie says. “Someone who appreciates Functional activities would probably like jiu jitsu or Krav Maga. Martial arts training is also a great learning experience.”
“Creative types might gravitate towards dance-related exercise, like the classes at Teaze or barre3, but these would also be good for people who are open-minded, or looking to develop more body-awareness. They’re generally good pursuits for people who are new to exercise, too, because they’re usually slow-paced and taught in a step-by-step fashion.”
► Park Harvey Athletic Club
Oklahoma City, parkharveyathletic.com, 405.606.7100
Located in the heart of downtown, the Park Harvey Athletic Club is a convenient option for the individual who wants access to typical gym activities (group classes like spin, or tabata workouts) and weights and cardio machines … with a few perks.
A smoothie bar, on-site massage therapist and personal trainer and dressing rooms that put many elite spas to shame set Park Harvey apart. High-powered (15 minute) tanning beds and dry saunas round out the list of amenities, and everything that a professional on his/her lunch break would need to freshen up before heading back to the to the office is supplied.
The Club is a members-only establishment, but the smoothie bar and massage and personal training services are open to the public. (And both are stellar. If you’ve ever thought that it would be a version of heaven to have a personal trainer and massage therapist that can communicate about your specific needs and work together to iron them out … this is the place where that dream can come true.)
If membership seems like too much of a commitment, day passes are available for a reasonable price, and would be a good way to get a workout in after a long day at work downtown, before the long drive home talks you out of a visit to your regular gym.
► Red Coyote
Oklahoma City, redcoyoterunning.com, 405.840.0033
Discussions of getting in shape usually involve running at some point. And for good reason; running remains one of the most popular means of fitness around. It can be done at almost any time, and requires no complicated equipment and little experience.
But you do need good shoes.
Burke and Jon Beck started Red Coyote after Burke went shopping for running shoes and realized that there was an untapped market for runners who not only needed quality gear, but a little guidance and camaraderie, too.
While running might best be known as a solo activity, the conviviality of a group can raise the fun level for some, and Red Coyote’s organized “Pack Pint Runs” and group trail runs are intended to do just that. (Info about these free group runs can be found on their website)
The store also sponsors introductory running programs, and these, along with the group runs, help get newbies started on the right foot (pun intended) and create community between runners of all abilities who just want a pack to run with.
“I think people get hurt when starting out because they do too much too soon,” Burke says. “They think they should be able to go out and run a mile, right off the bat. Your body’s not used to it yet.
Our program helps you start slow and prevent injuries.”
Even if you’re an experienced runner who prefers to go solo, the service and products available at Red Coyote are unmatched. They carry a wide range of gear for running and offer personalized counseling about the footwear that is most appropriate for your specific gait — a service well
worth a visit, if you’re a serious runner.
► Roughhouse Boxing and Fitness
Edmond, facebook.com/roughhousefitness, 405.586.8655
When the boxing gym where Stephanie Tolson and Joe Garcia worked closed down, it wasn’t just the chance to fill a market that made them decide to open their own.
“I’ve achieved results for myself by doing this that I never thought I would,” Stephanie says.
“Nothing compares to it.”
Regular participants range from college students to older adults, and the consensus is that in addition to being an eye-popping workout … it’s an enormous amount of fun to lace up a pair of gloves and punch something.
“No matter what shape you think you are in,” Stephanie says, “Everyone gets a great workout.
We offer many different ways to modify — beginners are welcome.”
In addition to getting the chance to feel like Rocky when you pound the heavy bag or step out to train with focus mitts, Roughhouse workouts incorporate circuit training, and Joe and Stephanie are both experienced personal trainers who offer one-on-one sessions as well.
If boxing for exercise sounds like too much fun to be a productive workout, don’t worry. This is one
of those rare situations where something that sounds too good to be true is actually on the money.
“Our workouts are 100 percent based on science, not trend,” Stephanie says. “We offer safe, effective workouts that will get you results.”
► Flat Tide Stand Up Paddleboarding
A mobile SUP shop based at the Route 66 bridge at Lake Overholser (with the occasional move to Lake Hefner and other locales), Flat Tide also offers classes in paddleboarding and SUP yoga and a place to rent or buy boards, and serves as a connection station for those in love with paddling.
Owners Jason Smiley and Eric Pappas say that the SUP movement is only growing in Oklahoma … despite the extra challenge that our wind poses.
“This will be our third summer,” says Eric. “And I’d say our business has quadrupled from
the first year.”
The (somewhat fluid) Flat Tide season runs from approximately Memorial Day to September, but website and social media checks are always advised before visiting, thanks to Oklahoma’s famously fickle weather. (Although Jason maintains that the wind here is great for building SUP athletes).
Paddleboarding is suited for a variety of ages and gives a chance to enjoy nature while working out, and even if you’re an established pro, the group paddles that Flat Tide organizes (again, monitor their social media sites for dates and times) are a fantastic way to connect with fellow SUPers.
(And if you’re a yoga enthusiast looking for a new challenge … doing warrior pose while balanced on a board floating on a lake brings a whole new meaning to the word “focus”.)
Norman, climbupgym.com, 405.310.4648
Avid rock climbers themselves, Lisa and Aaron Gibson had always toyed with the idea of having their own gym, and when the opportunity presented itself, they jumped (or, climbed) right in.
ClimbUP has a definite family-friendly atmosphere; the couple’s young son and the family dog are often around, and there’s a toddler-sized climbing room and several camps and options for kids.
The Mom-and-Pop feel is great for making climbing newcomers feel welcome, but seasoned climbers can rest assured that ClimbUP provides serious, high-level climbing opportunities. The gym’s walls were constructed by Walltopia, one of the world’s leading climbing wall builders, and routesetting is done by USA Climbing Certified Routesetters. The building is climate-controlled, allowing for comfortable climbing during all seasons, and the helpful, engaged staff — all accomplished climbers themselves — are a big part of the draw for ClimbUP’s clientele.
Rock climbing in a gym can be its own individual pursuit, or it can lead to (or help train for) outdoor rock climbing; ClimbUP also organizes outdoor climbing trips with an experienced guide.
Lisa maintains that they love introducing people to climbing, and believes that it poses a great workout, as well as a fairly safe one, since it’s self-limiting.
“You can begin where you’re at,” Lisa says. “You can get as high as you can get yourself.”
► Redline Jiu Jitsu
Edmond, redlinebjj.com, 405.506.7445
Brothers Carlos and Helio Gracie created their form of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu in the early 20th century, adapting techniques learned from judo and jujutsu. Helio’s version came to be called Gracie Jiu Jitsu, and focused on pragmatic ground moves, meant to allow a much smaller person to overcome a larger opponent.
Redline Brazilian Jiu Jitsu owner (and Gracie Jiu Jitsu black belt) Ty Gay believes that Brazilian Jiu Jitsu is the most practical martial art there is, and waves off the idea that its practice is something only Ultimate Fighting Champions can do.
“Helio Gracie’s original intent was to empower the weak against the strong,” Ty says. “The woman against the man, the child against the bully. The UFC is great — you have two athletes competing against each other, it’s fun to watch — but that’s not what it was created for. Helio wasn’t a big guy;
it was created for self-defense.”
Self defense is definitely the priority at Redline, but fun is important, too. Kids’ classes are light-hearted and include games — no stern sensei or penalties for losing matches — and beginners can walk into the basic class and be brought up to speed and paired with a helpful partner right off the bat. Women wanting to learn self-defense with other ladies have that option (although the basic classes are co-ed, and female-friendly), and adult classes often follow right after the kids, allowing families to coordinate their schedules.
Yoga is also offered, and advanced classes for those who want to progress beyond basics. For those who might wonder if you can get into shape by doing something like jiu jitsu, Ty has one bit of advice: try it.
“It’s deceptive, how intense of a workout it is,” Ty says. “There’s really nothing like it— swimming might come close, as a full body workout — but it’s a challenge.”
Editor’s note: Contributor Jill Hardy also writes for Redline’s website but she received neither compensation nor perks from them to be included in this article.
► Titan Martial Arts
Norman, titanmartialarts.com, 405.401.1879
Self-defense is also the main name of the game at Titan Martial Arts, where Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, grappling, kickboxing and Krav Maga are taught under the direction of owner and head coach Scott Hewitt.
With over 40 years of martial arts experience, Scott brings a wealth of knowledge to his school, and attendees can be sure that they’re getting top-notch instruction.
Scott believes that the grappling and striking combination found in Krav Maga — a fighting system created and utilized by the Israeli military — provides not only efficient self-defense, but an exhaustive means of exercise that incorporates the whole body.
“Krav Maga was born out of the necessity to survive,” Scott says. “It takes things from several different martial arts and the combination you get gives you real world self-defense as well as functional, survival fitness.”
Beginners are welcome, and options exist for taking part in one of the classes offered, or paying a membership fee for unlimited access to all of Titan’s programs.
Oklahoma City, Edmond, barre3.com, 405.463.3343
For the fitness-seeker who loves the grace of ballet, the toning properties of Pilates and the warm-fuzzy encouragement of yoga, barre3 is the ultimate exercise opportunity. If you’ve never considered how all of those things would fit together, and are looking for a stretch/strength/stabilize experience, then it should be on your list of things to try.
Andrea Mason owns and operates the three metro barre3 locations (see the background of the national chain at barre3.com) and co-owns the Tulsa studio. A Portland native (where barre3 originated), Andrea loved barre3 as a client, and believed in the method and company so much, she didn’t hesitate at the chance to help bring them to Oklahoma.
“I love that it’s challenging, but also very mindful,” Andrea says. “It’s going to target your entire body from head to toe, every class. When you go into a gym you’re concentrating on specific muscle groups — upper body, lower body. But what if you miss? This looks at a workout as a whole.”
Childcare on site is another plus, and the low-impact nature makes it a great choice for beginners.
“Modifications are easy to incorporate,” Andrea says. “The great thing about barre3 is that you can truly make it your own.”
Oklahoma City, teazedance.com, 405.232.7653
Lynn Crowe is a former dance major who always leaned towards cabaret and other “sultry” styles. In 2008 she decided that Oklahoma City needed a burlesque and pole dancing studio, and by the following year, Teaze Dance and Fitness was operational in Automobile Alley.
If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to grab a pole and take a spin, or just learn some moves that might help you channel your inner siren, Teaze offers a private (all classes are closed-door — no gawkers allowed) means of exploring options for that. Classes start at beginner level, and cover everything from pole basics and hoop tricks, to chair dancing and floorwork.
The workout that dancing of this sort provides is unique, to say the least.
“It hits a lot of different muscle groups,” Lynn says. “Even more than you might get by working out in a gym. It’s going to do a lot for your chest, your obliques … even in the beginner class, you’re going to get a fitness experience that you’ve never had before.”
Lynn explains that the benefits go beyond the physical ones, for women who find themselves enjoying the various offerings at Teaze.
“Part of what’s so fun,” Lynn says, “is that what we offer is different from just walking on a treadmill; you’re learning beautiful poses, spins, moves. It becomes a whole other realm beyond ‘I’m unhappy with how my body looks.’ You may be a former dancer who can’t find a studio for adults, you might just be wanting to step out of the box and do something you’ve never done. And just like a dance class at a kids’ studio, this gives you a chance to meet people, have fun in a group atmosphere and interact with each other.”