My fitness habits were formed decades ago, and they’re out of date. Still worse, as I’ve aged and every one of my old sports injuries has returned on a permanent basis, I’m simply unable to do a lot of my old routine. I can still work out with weights, for example, but I can no longer run five or six miles — my knees and ankles simply can’t take it.
Alison Galvan, owner of the EnergyX fitness studio in Hemisfair, has introduced me to some modern options, options that simply didn’t exist (or were rarely used) when I was forming my habits. Things like:
BOSU® exercise balls
I’ll talk more about each of these a bit further down the page.
Battle ropes offer a variety of exercises that build strength and endurance.
To me, with my history of weight machines and running, all this equipment was new. But, Alison told me, it’s all mainstream today.
Here’s what each piece of equipment is and what it offers.
Rowing machines definitely aren’t new, but they’ve really moved into the mainstream. When I was first going to gyms, they always had a rowing machine (exactly one, sitting in a corner, unused and poorly maintained). Today, gyms have rows of them, and they work smoothly and effectively, unlike that one I used to see sitting in the corner.
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, the big advantage to rowing machines is that they offer full-body workouts, and they challenge your muscles (a lot of them) while also giving you a cardiac workout.
Alison likes to emphasize the low-impact nature of rowing.
“It's really nice on the joints,” she said. “People with knee problems, back problems, shoulder problems, elbow problems, they can usually get on the rower and feel pretty good about it.”
The rowing machines used by EnergyX are ‘water rowers’ — resistance is provided by water, and the machines are designed to mimic the feel of rowing down a river. And, like real-world rowing, you get more resistance when you pull harder, so you can work at high or low intensity.
To some extent, kettlebells are like dumbbells — they’re weights with a handle. But, unlike dumbbells, they’re not designed to be balanced. They’re designed to make you work to keep them balanced. They’re used in a variety of exercises, some aimed at strength, some aimed at balance, and some aimed at cardio effects. In fact, many are aimed at combining all three. And, like everything EnergyX offers, they’re low-impact.
TRX SUSPENSION TRAINERS
Suspension trainers are essentially a system of straps and handles, dangling from the ceiling, that enable you to do body-weight-based exercises by partly suspending yourself from them. Like many other pieces of EnergyX workout equipment, they don’t provide built-in stability and require your muscles to not only support your weight but also to keep yourself balanced.
You’ve probably seen these in videos — they look like fun and they have a sort of medieval vibe. They’re essentially long, thick ropes attached to the wall. Your job is to move your arms in a coordinated way that produces a wave motion in the ropes. You use two of them, one for each arm. “I tell people to just think of the rope as an extension of their arm,’ Alison says. There are a lot of different exercises and patterns you can use with battle ropes and, again, the exercises are aimed to provide both strength and cardio workouts.
BOSU BALANCE TRAINERS
A BOSU® balance trainer looks like a beach ball cut in half. It’s intended that you use it as a platform for your exercises. It’s inherently unstable, so it makes you work on balance, and it makes your muscles work to keep you stable. (Alison mentions that sometimes, as people age, they have trouble with balance, and she points out that all the BOSU exercises can be done on the floor, without the trainer, if balance is difficult).
Trainer Danny Galvan demonstrates proper form on an EnergyX water rower.
Alison points to several advantages in using this equipment and following the routines she and her trainers use in their classes.
First, she says, is a focus on a full-body workout. Take rowing as an example. Alison says that a complete rowing stroke works something like eighty percent of your muscles. The stroke begins with your body leaned forward and your knees bent, and then, as you push with your legs, lean back with your core muscles, and pull with your arms, you end up reclined, almost parallel with the floor. It builds strength, and, at the same time, it gives you a cardio workout.
A second advantage, she says, is using equipment that doesn’t offer built-in stability. Weight machines that you might use at the YMCA gym are designed to isolate muscles. That has its benefits, Alison says, but it fails to work the smaller muscles that keep your joints stabilized — something that’s important to long-term health. Much of the equipment used in the EnergyX program requires you to work to keep yourself and the equipment stable, thus strengthening those muscles.
Third — and it’s closely related to the second point — a lot of the EnergyX exercises challenge your balance. As we age, balance is something that suffers, and these routines help you work on that.
Fourth, there’s variety. Instead of spending forty-five minutes on a stationery bike, watching the clock, you move from one exercise to another to another, giving you the benefits of the different routines, but also keeping boredom at bay.
And a final advantage, Alison says, is that all the exercises can be done at your own pace. Even though you’re in a class, you’re not required to keep up with a particular rhythm. You work at the level that feels right to you.
Early in our first conversation, I asked Alison about her target demographic. What kind of people use her programs?
A lot of her EnergyX members are people like me, she told me. People who grew up using weight machines and running on sidewalks and streets, and whose old injuries limit their ability to do high impact exercising today.
On the other hand, another big segment of her membership is younger people — people in their twenties, thirties and forties — who learned to use this equipment when they were in college, when the equipment was beginning to become mainstream and accepted in the fitness world.
About forty percent of the membership is men, Alison told me, which she said is unusual for studio fitness programs.
I can testify to that range of membership. I attended a pair of classes and saw that each class had at least two people in their twenties, three or four in their sixties, and then a mix of ages in between. About a third of the attendees were male.
I was also surprised to learn — when I spoke with people before the classes — how many of the attendees don’t live in the neighborhood and go to the trouble to drive to Hemisfair to attend. I spoke to a retired couple that lives near Jefferson High School and attends classes six days a week (on the seventh day they play soccer). I spoke to a young guy who lives near the Pearl; he told me that he attends classes both at Hemisfair and at the EnergyX location on Broadway in Alamo Heights. I guess I shouldn’t count the CNN reporter who lives in Manhattan and is here in San Antonio on assignment, since I suspect he’ll drop out once he returns home.
Alison told me that she doesn’t think her studio is as well known in the neighborhood as it could be. A lot of the Hemisfair foot traffic, she says, is from outside the neighborhood, so she doesn’t get the neighborhood drop-ins that she might get if the studio were located on South Alamo. On the other hand, neighbors who do join are really appreciative of the location.
"We get people all the time that say, oh, I can walk here from the house,” Alison told me. “This is so wonderful.”
A FREE CLASS FOR NEIGHBORS
Alison would like to encourage more neighbors to join, so she’s offering our readers a free 'Intro to PoweRow' class led by Danny Galvan. It will be held Saturday, July 23rd at 11:00 AM. Space is limited. You can sign up here.
If you can’t wait for that, EnergyX is offering a terrific ‘Ten Days for Ten Dollars’ promotion right now. This gives you a ten-day membership, during which you can try as many classes as you want. At the end of the ten days, if you want to continue, you can upgrade to a standard membership or purchase a class package. The ten day period starts with the first class you schedule. You can find that here.
Suspension trainers use your own body weight for resistance.
EnergyX offers a variety of studio classes, most of which mix in multiple exercise routines and multiple pieces of equipment. Each class has a different focus. You can see the full list of classes on the EnergyX website, but here are a few examples:
“This is a great first class,” Alison says, “because you’ll get a good amount of rowing done. You’ll do multiple stretches on the rower, plus strength work on the suspension trainers and with the kettlebells.”
Two popular acronyms get combined here — low impact training (LIT) and high intensity interval training (HIIT). Interval training is really popular these days because it’s a highly efficient and effective style of exercise. The EnergyX class delivers the high intensity with rowing sprints, and mixes in kettlebells and BOSU training.
This is a strength class, Alison says, using kettlebells and body weight exercise. “Like all our classes, this is full body. We don’t do upper body one day, lower body the next. Everything we do is aimed at working your whole body, including your core.”
The EnergyX Fitness Studio is located on the ground floor of The 68, the high-rise apartment building in Hemisfair Park. It’s on the east side of the building, very close to Re:Rooted. The street address is 623 Hemisfair Boulevard, Suite 102.
EnergyX also has a location (the original) in Alamo Heights, a bit north of Central Market at 5162 Broadway.
Classes are offered seven days per week.
EnergyX offers a lot of pricing options, including class packages for one, five, ten, or twenty classes, and recurring memberships that can be monthly, annual, or just about anything in between. Memberships can be used at both locations.
There is a big parking garage in The 68 building, and EnergyX validates for parking. The entrance is on the same side of the building as EnergyX. You can access it via the street / driveway from César Chávez (Hemisfair Boulevard).
Jim Feuerstein is co-editor of LNF Weekly; he also designs and manages the website.
From rowing to ropes, a full-body workout
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Kettlebells and BOSU trainers round out the equipment used in EnergyX classes.
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