try something new

Five fitness classes to explore and where to find them on the southside
By Christa Shephard  //  Photography by Jana Jones

As the world, the nation, the state and, of course, Indy’s southside stretch and stir from their prolonged hibernation, some may find themselves desperate to clamber out of a quarantine-related fitness rut. Summer is the season of renewal, and there aren’t many better ways to refresh and unlock joy and creativity than by trying something new in fitness.

Movement is by and large one of the best ways to keep healthy and sane when all else has come to a halt. As the state reopens, fitness classes have reconvened, welcoming faces old and new. Experimenting with exercises you may not have heard of might just be the sweetest breath of fresh air to invigorate and inspire. Here, five unique fitness classes to try, all available on the southside or very close by.

Kangoo Jumps, Greenwood Community Center,
No, that’s not a typo; the class is called Kangoo. Available at the Greenwood Community Center, Kangoo Jumps is a first-of-its-kind workout taught by the affable Becky Munger, whose passion for the exercise is as limitless as the workout makes her feel.

“It’s just fun; it’s different. You know, some people are looking for something that’s different that’s not just your same old thing,” says Munger.

Kangoo Jumps employs special boots with rebound technology called spring arcs attached to the sole, which absorb shock and boost the body with adjustable tension bands to fit a student’s weight and usage. The non-slip tread on the rounded arcs allows for indoor and outdoor use while bouncing and dancing to music.

Becky Munger found her passion for Kangoo Jumps right away, asking in one of her first sessions how she could teach the exercise to others. Its shock absorbency makes it accessible for all ages and fitness levels, but especially for those with joint pain.

“Not only does it hurt less as far as being sore,” she says. “But you burn 25% more calories because you’re working against gravity.”
For those looking to try Kangoo Jumps for the first time, Munger has a plan in place.

“I’ll have [new students] come about 10 minutes early, and we get them in the boots,” she says. “We just have them walk around first, just to get kind of get a feel for what it feels like to walk around in them. I show them how to put them on; I show them some safety things.”

At first, the Kangoo Jumps boots will feel alien to beginners, and that’s OK. Munger highlights the importance of understanding that the first session is all about exploration.

“I’ll tell them, ‘Do not have any expectations.’ First of all, you’re going to kind of feel like a baby giraffe. … You’re just kind of learning.”

As far as the benefits of this unique workout, one might be surprised at how impactful such a fun exercise can be, whether students are working at a faster or slower pace.

“Besides it just being something fresh and fun, it is a full-body workout. So you get lots of benefit from that,” she says. “You burn more calories than you would in tennis shoes.”

Silver Sneakers, Greenwood Community Center,
Although geared toward senior citizens and often covered by their insurance, Silver Sneakers classes at the Greenwood Community Center are open to people of all ages. It can be particularly beneficial for those with mobility differences and other physical or cognitive impairments.

For those looking for a very light, accessible workout, Silver Sneakers is a great opportunity.

“On Mondays, we do what’s called classic,” Munger says. “We have resistance bands with handles, we have weights, and then we have a squeezy ball. We do different routines using those. And then we do some cognitive drills.”

Munger asked her Silver Sneakers students what they wanted to impart about the classes.

“They were like, ‘Well, first of all, it’s fun.’ And they were talking about how it has helped them to build endurance; it’s helped them to be stronger,” she says.

The class also focuses on sharpening the mind and improving equilibrium.

“One of the things we work on a lot is fall prevention,” she explains, “because obviously as they get older, people fall more. We work on balance, we work on fall prevention, we work on cognitive drills. We’ll have [students] have to do one thing with one arm, and they’re doing something totally different with the other. We do lots of patterns, so they have to memorize the patterns, and it just helps with brain function.”

The class is offered in two formats. Along with the classic option described above, there is also a circuit training option, which includes accessible yoga.

“Thursdays, we have circuit training and yoga,” Munger says, “but it’s yoga using a chair. We don’t get on the ground at all. It’s either done in the chair or standing near the chair so that you’ve got it for balance.”

While students of the Silver Sneakers class reap the physical and cognitive benefits of these biweekly classes, they also praise the community they have built through exercise. “They’ve got friends; they’ve got a group,” Munger says. “That’s what drives them.”

Step Interval Training, Greenwood Community Center,
Another class Munger teaches at the Greenwood Community Center is Step Interval Training. This workout was popular in the 1990s but has lost momentum more recently, so it came as a surprise to Community Center leaders when her students showed great excitement at the idea of taking that class. Munger, however, was just as thrilled.

Step Interval workouts include the use of polyethylene benches that stand at about 4 inches tall by themselves. However, students can use plastic risers to heighten the bench and the intensity of their workout as they see fit.

Says Munger, “[The class is] for anybody and everybody. So you have the option with the bench if you want to put risers under your bench. I have some people that don’t. I don’t. But then I have some people who go one level or some who go two levels [up]. Again, they’re able to work at their own pace.”

The class itself alternates between Step Interval routines and a weight routine, giving students a mix of options with the help of fun music to keep them moving.

“I teach a routine; we do a block of that,” Munger explains. “Then we stop with the step, they pick up their weights, we do some interval training with the weights, put those down, then we’re back on the bench. And then we rotate back and forth. So we’re constantly moving, but we’re getting the benefits of the strength training as well as the cardio.”

Step Interval isn’t limited to any one fitness level, gender or age. Students choose their own challenges throughout the class.

Munger says, “They pick what size weights they want. I have resistance loops, and sometimes we’ll pull those, and we’ll do things with those. I have sliders that we will put under our feet and do some different moves with those. I just try to mix it up and keep it fresh, keep it fun.”

Essentrics, Greenwood Community Center,
For those looking for something low impact but a little more challenging, Essentrics might be the answer. Karen Feitl of the Greenwood Community Center teaches the class with immeasurable enthusiasm, taking her students through the flowing movements.

Says Feitl, “Essentrics is a dynamic, full-body, rebalancing workout that simultaneously combines strengthening and stretching while engaging all 650 muscles and working all 360 joints.”
The sequences are unprecedented, combining multiple different practices and theories to achieve results just as unique.

“What makes it unique is [that] it is an original workout, and it draws on the flowing movements of Tai Chi, which create health and balance; the strengthening theories behind ballet, which create long, lean, flexible muscles; and the healing principles of physiotherapy, which create a pain-free body,” she says.

The purpose of Essentrics is to move the body through different planes to rejuvenate the feeling of youth: healthy joints, muscles and spirit.

“There are three primary planes our body can move in: forward and backward, side to side, and a rotational plane. We are constantly moving in Essentrics, not just in one plane, but Essentrics works and engages all planes of motion in every workout,” Feitl says.

If it sounds intimidating, trust that this workout is for all ages and fitness levels, too. Essentrics uses only the student’s body — no weights or gimmicks necessary.

“Everything in Essentrics is weight-free,” Feitl explains. “We use the weight of our own body and resistance, strengthening those muscles in that elongated position.”

Anyone can take part in an Essentrics workout. That, Feitl says, is one of its most beautiful qualities. “It is designed for men and women of all ages and all fitness levels.”

Yoga Trapeze at Indy House of Pilates,
Yoga trapeze might sound scary — even exhilarating — to those who have never heard of it. One may picture flying through the air, dangling by the hands while moving through acrobatics.

However, yoga trapeze instructor Jessie Inabnitt of Indy House of Pilates wants to stress that it’s not at all a high-impact, fast-paced workout. In fact, she describes it as slow, safe and meditative.

“It can be very relaxing in that we do some stuff where we’re meditating, and we’re just inside the sling. You get like a nice, little, gentle rock of the sling; it kind of follows your breath, which is super nice,” she says.

“The yoga trapeze, the way we have it set up is a four-week workshop for beginners,” Inabnitt says. “It’s very much broken down bit by bit in the workshop, and prior to the workshop, everybody gets a free, 30-minute introduction.”

It takes beginners of any fitness level through basic safety training first, allowing new students to learn the anatomy of the slings with which they’ll be working.

“There’s handles, and there’s the sling and all of that. And then we also make sure people know how to safely get in and out of the trapeze and all sorts of things,” says Inabnitt.

The workshop is designed to build on itself; students need to attend each week to fully master yoga trapeze. The pace of the class is slow to ease the effect on the joints and create a gentle flow of motion.

“Everything will be nice, slow, controlled, deliberate movement,” Inabnitt says. “Also, it’s not going to be high impact as much on the shoulders and wrists for the inversions as it would be in a regular yoga class because you’re not bearing all of your weight. The sling is carrying the majority of the weight.”

As for those who are curious but uncertain how well-suited yoga trapeze is for their routines, Inabnitt recommends at least giving it a shot.

“We encourage them to try the 30-minute intro session. And after that, if they’re like, ‘Yeah, I don’t know if this is a good fit for me,’ then we’ll suggest a different class that’s a better fit,” she says.
Inabnitt says, “I think that it’s unique in that you can get some decompression in the spine, which is super nice and something that people often times need and aren’t able to achieve on their own through most forms of exercise because you have to get that hanging sensation.”

Because yoga trapeze is so gentle yet so rewarding, Inabnitt asserts that it works best as a supplemental exercise done in the name of branching out and trying something new.

“We really recommend for people to constantly change and switch up their exercise routine,” she says. “That’s why we offer a variety of classes so that people aren’t starting to feel like they’re in that rut of doing the same-old, same-old all the time.”