It’s no secret that for most of us, health and happiness are intrinsically connected. It is difficult to be truly happy when you’re unhealthy, and vice versa.
My own training log is a case in point. Am I pushing myself to go to the gym or go out and pound the pavement several times a week? Am I facing my fears and taking on new challenges in my fitness, like training for a marathon? If so, then chances are I am also working to improve myself in other areas of my life.
Here are three local gyms and fitness spaces where you can make the connection between mental and physical health — and the happiness that will inevitably result.
If there is any one workout that challenges people mentally just as much as physically, it’s CrossFit. With tasks like climbing 15-foot ropes, flipping tires and jumping on top of boxes, CrossFit is grueling.
It is also incredibly rewarding. Burg CrossFit has a reputation as the best CrossFit gym in the Tampa Bay area for two reasons: The workouts are superior (increased mobility and range of motion are a big part of the focus), and the sense of community is unparalleled. When I first walked into Burg, I was intimidated beyond belief. You want me to do what? was a question I asked for my first several classes. But now that I’ve been attending regularly, I am excited to take on the challenge of each new workout — and I know if I’m feeling a lack of motivation, all I need to do is head to the gym and I will be surrounded by support and encouragement.
Burg works to break the “CrossFit causes injury” stereotype that many CrossFit gyms get a bad rap for. Coaches at Burg focus heavily on using proper form and never grow impatient when helping members with questions on how to perform a movement correctly, or how to modify something in the workout that may feel too intense for an individual.
Pushing past mental and physical limits is one of the most empowering parts of CrossFit. It is also what solidifies a special bond between members. I am a first-year teacher going through the shock and heartbreak of a divorce: My stress level is high, to say the least. I have had some extremely challenging days where the last thing I feel like doing is working out; there have even been days where I get stuck in my head and have to walk away mid-workout because I know I’m about to cry. But as long as I show up, I know I’m in good hands. 1900 13th Ave. N., St. Petersburg, 727-220-3070, burgcrossfit.com.
Orange Theory Fitness
Orange Theory gets its name from the theory behind the exercise. In an hour-long workout, your goal is to get your heart rate in the “orange zone” for a certain number of minutes in order to burn fat for up to 36 hours afterwards. About 30 minutes of the workout is spent on the treadmill doing sprint intervals, and the other half is spent using dumbbells and a step-up box for strength training. Participants wear a heart rate monitor; your name and heart rate are displayed on TV monitors around the room. With loud music pumping and a trainer yelling encouragement over the microphone, OTF is a great way to get your body into gear.
On my recent visit to OTF, I couldn’t help but compare it to CrossFit. The space is smaller but cleaner at Orange Theory; I was taken aback by how good it smelled when I walked in. The lights are dim, which is great for getting your sweat sesh on without feeling so self-conscious. Members and visitors alike are welcomed by a friendly face behind the front desk as soon as they enter the building. I filled out my consent form as the trainer went through her spiel, and soon it was time for class to begin.
There were a few spots open in our class, but the long and narrow room felt crowded with our group of 25. Our trainer was a fit young female with a feisty personality and a great playlist to accompany our workout. Mia gave a brief overview of the workout expectations, and we launched into our hour of working toward the “orange zone” (84-91 percent of our maximum heart rates).
The hour did feel a bit long, and I had trouble getting my heart rate to stay up in the orange zone for very long (thanks, CrossFit!) so I had significantly less “points” on the board than the rest of the class. I also felt it was a bit difficult to understand the trainer several times throughout the hour — although she did a great job of circulating the room, I had trouble following some of her cues because I couldn’t tell whether she was talking to the group on the treadmills or the group with the dumbbells.
But overall, Orange Theory is a great workout for those looking to combine strength and cardio. I recommend it to anyone who loves group fitness with dim lights and loud music to help you get in the “zone.” Multiple locations throughout Tampa Bay, orangetheoryfitness.com.
Fitroom Express Fitness Therapy
Don’t let the name fool you: Fitroom Express Fitness Therapy may be a mouthful, but it is actually a fairly simple fitness program. Small and large businesses alike can transform an unused office or spare space into a Fitroom — a small room with basic exercise equipment such as a stationary bike, medicine ball and stretch table to help employees incorporate fitness into their workday. Workout routines are simple and short, leaving employees happier and healthier. Many of the regular excuses such as a lack of time or energy go out the door when your “gym” is just a few doors down. If sitting is the new smoking, a fit break is the new smoke break — and owner Pete Chapman is working to transform office spaces one Fitroom at a time.
When I walked into the Fitroom Express suite in downtown St. Pete, I had no idea what to expect. A 5-minute workout that won’t make me sweat but will somehow get me in great shape? Sounded unrealistic. I tried to keep an open mind, though, and owner Pete Chapman is one of those people you can’t help but like right away — he is passionate about health and fitness, and reels you in with his English accent and easy laugh.
The Fitroom is simpler than I had anticipated, and less gimmicky: It really is just a room — one that business owners can replicate in their own office space (it can also be installed in classrooms and even homes). Chapman explains that the system is modifiable to anyone anywhere. A 5-minute water cooler break can be replaced with a 5-minute fit break; Chapman provides businesses with the equipment and tutorials for employees to follow the program. Fitroom Express has even created planner-style food logs and an app to go with them. For me, the Fitroom Express is not enough of a workout to really get me going, but I do think it’s a great concept for people who sit at a desk for several hours a day and don’t have much motivation or time to exercise. 200 Central Ave. Suite 280, St. Petersburg, 727-599-5405, fitroomexpress.com.
The Tampa Bay area is full of a wide assortment of gyms and fitness spaces. We are lucky to live in a beautiful place surrounded by opportunities to better ourselves, both physically and mentally. So get out there. Try a new routine. Push yourself outside of your comfort zone. After all, that’s where the magic happens.