Confess, BT reader! You’ve spent the past two months stuffing your face with junk, swilling alcoholic beverages like a pirate, and sitting on your duff watching football and sappy holiday specials.
And only now, as we enter 2018, are you overcome with guilt as you gaze into the mirror, where your pear-shaped reflection reinforces a slug-like sensation, which leads to the inevitable New Year’s resolution to get fit and healthy.
But there’s a more serious issue than our ego. Our modern sedentary lifestyle, coupled with the overconsumption of crappy food, is a public health concern that grows with our waistline. More than a quarter of a million Americans die yearly of complications related to obesity, the second most preventable cause of death after smoking. And with a full third of us being obese (versus just 12 percent in 1960), this is as much a societal as personal challenge.
Bottom line, we eat more, eat worse, and move less. We’ll drive to Publix a mere few blocks away to buy a box of Twinkies rather than walk, or at least jump on that available LimeBike. Fitness trainer Aaron Fruitstone says he needed to share with his child how once, way back in the 1970s, you actually had to get off the couch to change television channels. “Fitness is in a constant struggle against modern society,” he says.
Watching a driver in Biscayne Park walk the dog alongside the moving car, window down and leash hanging out, it’s hard to deny that we’re in need of an intervention. Fortunately, the Miami Shores area has a multitude of fitness facilities and opportunities at almost every price point for you to get moving and atone for those holiday sins.
The fitness gold standard of the Greater Miami Shores is arguably Primal Fit 360. It was founded by Matt Pack who, in 2008, birthed his army of fitness fanatics out of his garage when he was confined to a wheelchair, recovering from a basketball injury. The injury turned out to be a blessing in that it honed his verbal coaching abilities, creating the critical mass for the official 2011 opening of Primal Fit in the Bennet Building on NE 2nd Avenue.
A short three years later, the business evolved into Primal Fit 360, upgrading to a larger space, replete with the expected bodyweight equipment, free weights, a juice bar, an infrared spa, compression sleeves, massage, and cryotherapy (freezing).
Pack, an infectiously gregarious person in his own right, approaches wellness with trainer-to-client ratio of one to four, and builds from his “Six Pillar” approach: mindset, coaching, nutrition, strength, conditioning, and recovery.
A personal call from Pack after one of my initial workouts showed a keen eye toward hyper-customer service. Primal Fit also conducted a preliminary in-depth interview and physical, pegging me at 15 pounds overweight and 15 percent in excess body fat, then engaged me on my diet, lifestyle, and stress. Abiding by the adage that what isn’t consistently measured doesn’t improve, Primal Fit members are tracked on these metrics every few months.
Meanwhile, an Orangetheory franchise landed in Miami Shores about 18 months ago. Illuminated in sleek neon, classes are routinized with the use of rowing machines, treadmills, and free weights, plus heart-rate monitors that track progress. For Orangetheory, cardio-centric exercises are all about elevating your heart rate into their “Orange Zone,” which will result in burning between 500 and 1000 calories over the one-hour course.
The 5:00 a.m. jam-packed class I attended was led by an affable instructor backed by thumping house music, and was an exhausting but almost jovial experience. I wobbled on the treadmill, struggled with the physics of the rowing machine, and performed the free-weights portion with notably poor form. For the next two days, I had the sensation of battery acid injected into my thighs with a blow-torch. North Bay Village’s Jamie Adams attests to real-life results, stating that the bonds she’s developed with her Orangetheory “family” have helped her physical and mental transformation.
If neon and splash are not your thing and you prefer a more straightforward meat-and-potatoes gym experience, then the 20-year neighborhood institution of MPower Project fits the bill. Affordable, open to outside trainers, a bevy of free classes for members, and one of the village’s very first fitness facilities, MPower claims close to 1000 members. Started in 1996 by resident Christopher Russo in the Shores Square mall and relocated to its current NE 6th Avenue location, MPower has outlasted most every fitness facility and fad.
A recent addition to Miami Shores is 305 Yoga. For years I thought yoga was little more than stretching, coupled with some meditative practices. That preconception came to crashing halt as my face slammed against the floor when attempting the Crow pose (seeking to balance my inverted body weight with my forearms), eliciting un-Zen snickering from fellow students. Alas, my physique is more Yogi the Bear than svelte yogi.
Thankfully, my 305 session was gentler, ending with an almost angelic serenade by instructor Jessica Fein. The real benefits of yoga are hard to deny, particularly as we age. Flexibility, balance, and mental acuity degrade as we get older, and yoga directly counteracts these changes.
Renegade Fitness thinks outside the box, as in no walls or building. Founded by the affable Aaron Fruitstone of El Portal, Renegade hosts small-group fitness classes at a variety of outdoor venues on a daily basis, with an emphasis on bodyweight and stretching exercises.
These places just scratch the surface of fitness opportunities. A semi-professional boxer hosts a great weekly TRX suspension training class at the racquetball courts that left me breathless and writhing.
The Miami Shores Village Recreation Department hosts a variety of dance and martial arts classes, as well as opportunities for lap swimming and water-based fitness classes at the Aquatic Center.
The Pilates Miami that was on NE 2nd Avenue has relocated to Biscayne Boulevard across from Aldi.
Then there’s a plethora of impromptu workout groups throughout the village.
If exercise seems overwhelming or intimidating, then default to the KISS approach: Keep-it-simple-stupid. Establishing a routine neighborhood stroll and a tweak of the diet may be enough to do the trick. A century ago Americans averaged three miles of daily walking, compared to today’s quarter of a mile.
Daily walking and making a conscious effort to limit bread and sugar products, and you’re well on your way to a healthier New Year. Remember, no matter how slow, sluggish, or slovenly your exercise routine may seem, you’re lapping every other person who’s surfing the couch.