Fun fact: Research shows that you push yourself harder when working out in a group setting. I’m not surprised by this finding at all, are you? I know firsthand that when I’m working out at home (usually half-dressed, hoping no one creeps past my window), I push myself to a “meh” level, a comfortable place I can plateau and idle for the rest of my workout. But what kind of workout is that even? We’ll just go with “low impact” for dignity’s sake.
After working out at this pace for the past year, I’ve concluded that expanding my fitness repertoire is imperative to my physical and mental health. During my yoga teacher training, I learned about neuroplasticity and its importance as we age. And although I’ve put my teaching on hold, the concept is still applicable — mainly because I have a brain. And because you do, too, you should also give a shit about neuroplasticity.
But what is neuroplasticity, you ask? In short, the ability of the brain to change and adapt due to learning something new. Got it? Great, we’ll circle back to this concept.
As a yogi and former yoga teacher, I firmly believe in accessible health and fitness (group workout classes should not cost twenty-something dollars, for example). I’m constantly seeking the best of the best around town regarding free workout classes, and currently at the top of my list is Optimist Hall, the food hall in Optimist Park near NoDa.
Their OH Well fitness program has featured some incredible, free workout opportunities provided by local fitness studios like Eat the Frog Fitness, CorePower Yoga, and most recently, AKT. I recommend signing up for their newsletter and following them on Eventbrite because registration slots fill up quickly.
Not familiar with AKT yet? That’s because their SouthPark studio hasn’t opened. Still, their recent Saturday morning event at Optimist Hall provided a sneak peek into what Charlotte fitness enthusiasts can expect. AKT features group dance-class formats that deliver an effective total-body workout focused on low impact. These high-intensity movements lift your booty and tone muscles and improve strength, agility and flexibility. This is where neuroplasticity comes in.
I am not a dancer — never was one, and never plan to be. But sticking with my yoga, running and HITT routine can be limiting. The idea of dancing, especially in front of people, intimidates me. Still, I was welcomed by the instructors and wasn’t made to feel like a bumbling idiot once! I reiterate that I am not a dancer, so I don’t foresee myself as an AKT regular once their studio opens. Still, it was fun, I made some new neural connections, and I burned a shit ton of calories.
Another free workout class on the top of my list is CorePower Yoga at Southern Strain Brewing’s new location in Plaza Midwood. It’s a recurring event on the last Saturday of each month. The event I checked out was an all-level 60-minute yoga flow led by a CorePower instructor in their taproom. Technically, it was a Yoga Sculpt Bodyweight class, which means we used gravity and our body weight to break a (very intense) sweat.
With my husband, yoga mats, and water bottles in tow, it was the perfect Saturday morning; the taproom garage windows were rolled up, and a summer breeze ruffled through to wick the sweat away. It concluded with a post-practice brew for some weekend warrior vibes that say, “I came to sweat but stayed to party.”
First was the stretch, then was the socialization. Sipping our beer, we hung around the taproom while chatting with the bartender, a fellow fitness enthusiast. I learned Southern Strain’s “sip and stretch” isn’t their only recurring event.
If you haven’t already, give them a follow to stay updated on their events calendar, which includes group activities like the Southern Strain Run Club and TuesdayTrivia. They even offer a Yappy Hour & Adult Game Night for all of you dog lovers.
So, after bopping around to all of these free events like a broke bitch, I can’t help but ponder the age old question: Does free hold value? In the marketing world, they say if you provide services, products, or events for free (like a workout class), you signal to your customers that you have no value. But I challenge this mindset as antiquated. When the offering is free, like community events, people enjoy it, tell their friends about it, come back for more, and maybe even sign up for a class package. That means spending money, thus contradicting the concept of offering little to no value.
Until next month, stay sweaty, friends.