“What’s your favorite fitness studio in town?”
As a certified yoga instructor, I’m asked this question a lot. Although a membership at a fitness center certainly isn’t necessary to achieve your wellness goals, many people (such as myself) enjoy the accountability and sense of community of working out in a group setting. And since membership fees can be expensive, it’s important to find a place that is a good fit before you make the investment.
Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to both teach and take a variety of classes at many of the studios, gyms, and fitness centers in the Iowa City area. My experiences, combined with the work I’ve done with beginning students, have helped shape my fitness studio preferences. As such, my favorite places have a few things in common.
First and foremost, I look for an inclusive, welcoming atmosphere. Starting a fitness regimen can be very intimidating, and my favorite studios are all very supportive of beginners. This goes beyond offering basic-level classes, and extends into the attitude of the management and staff.
I also look for a holistic approach to wellness. For me, fitness isn’t about gaining a “bikini body” or trying to lose weight or fixing my perceived flaws. I exercise because it boosts my energy level, elevates my mood, and provides the strength and stamina I need to get through the day. The benefits of exercise go far beyond the physical, and my favorite local studios incorporate a well-rounded approach to general wellness. This includes a variety of classes, nutritional support, and promoting connection and community between members.
With that in mind, here’s my list of favorite local fitness studios. (A quick note: although I no longer teach regular yoga classes, I have taught at many of these places in the past, and occasionally sub at some of these studios.)
I absolutely love the joyful, supportive atmosphere at this studio. Body Moves offers a variety of classes for all levels, including yoga, Pilates, Zumba, and my personal favorite, Nia.
Are you a beginner who doesn’t feel ready for a group class? Or, do you have a history of injuries/health problems? If you answered yes to either one of these questions, you’ll love the private sessions offered at Rivercity Pilates. Private sessions are a great way to build strength and confidence. After a few weeks, you may find you’re ready to try some of the great group classes offered by the highly trained staff at this warm, welcoming studio.
For a long time, my primary source of exercise was yoga and I never thought of trying anything else. Things changed when Pro-Fit Gym added hot yoga and indoor cycling to their class schedule last year. I showed up for the yoga, but surprisingly, I stayed for the CrossFit. Now I’m stronger and in better shape than I ever have been, and I’m doing things I never thought I would be able to do.
There’s no doubt that Cross-Fit can be intimidating at first. I know I felt that way, but one of the things I love about Pro-Fit is that they offer varied programming. When I first started, I enrolled in a small group session and spent the first 10 weeks learning the basics. Once I felt a bit more confident, I joined the regular classes. And even the main CrossFit classes are scalable. The trainers are extremely helpful, and they always include variations to the WOD.
My fitness regimen includes a variety of things now, but when I do want to take a yoga class my go-to studio is Downward Dog Yoga and Fitness. They offer a wide variety of classes for all skill levels, and the vibe at the studio is playful, fun and welcoming.
In addition, one of my favorite things about Downward Dog is that they offer FREE yoga classes on Tuesday and Thursday mornings.
Sweet Feet Yoga offers classes for the whole family, including prenatal, babies, kids, teens, and adults. Teaching prenatal and children’s classes in a safe and effective way requires special training, and the instructors at Sweet Feet have all been certified in these areas. This is a great place for the whole family to learn about wellness and health together.
It should be noted that like all things, fitness preferences are subjective. If you’re looking to invest in a studio or gym membership, the most important thing is to find a space that is a good fit for you and your unique fitness goals.