Alternative gyms go beyond the treadmill

By Merritt Wuchina

We’ve come to that crucial point in the year, a week after the holiday gorging and just months… We’ve come to that crucial point in the year, a week after the holiday gorging and just months before swimsuit-clad spring breaks. For some, that means it’s slenderizing time.

“Research shows that weight gain after the holidays occurs,” said Pitt Health and Physical Activity professor Susan Gillis Kruman. “Students should get themselves into an activity that is fun to do and do it consistently. Exercising at least three times a week for an hour is recommended.”

So if you dread hitting the gym or get bored while running mindlessly on a treadmill, there are other options more suited to an adventurous workout appetite. Throughout Pittsburgh and in the surrounding areas are numerous alternative gyms.

Many students find themselves dancing on weekend nights at parties or clubs, but few realize that dance can also be an accessible form of exercise.

At Pittsburgh Heat Hip-Hop Dance Co., dancers of all ages and skill levels brush up on their moves while also getting an aerobic workout.

“Hip-hop makes your heart beat faster and will strengthen and condition your cardiac muscles. It will certainly make you burn calories,” Kruman said. “If you are burning off more than taking in, you are going to lose weight.”

Hip-hop dance started out as a nonviolent way for rival gangs to “battle” for territory, but in recent years has developed a more negative connotation within mainstream culture said Heat’s owner Brenna Jaworski. J

aworski wants to shake that notion and feels hip-hop is a positive form of expression. She plays songs from hip-hop artists that newcomers might not have heard before.

“A lot of what is on the radio is commercial rap, but hip-hop is more positive,” she said. “We try to show people the other side.”

All classes are walk-ins and run approximately one hour.

Every week, new moves are taught step-by-step and are repeated in short combinations, so that newcomers can catch on quickly.

“Hip-hop is so explosive, you get a good workout in an hour,” Jaworski said.

The studio offers breakdancing classes, private lessons and the opportunity to join its competitive team.

“I’ve seen people come with no experience and two years later be semi-professional,” she said.

Unlike other forms of dance, such as ballet, there is no ideal body type or skill level for a hip-hop dancer, Jaworski said.

“A person who is trying to lose weight will be able to groove and get a vibe that will motivate them to work harder,” she said. “Our instructors are very inspiring and do not judge.”

Yet another gym changing perceptions about certain styles of dance is Fitness With A Twist.

It’s an all-female studio, but unlike other gyms, students don’t don ratty sweat pants: They strap on high heels and slip into a pair of booty-shorts for their weekly workout.

Then, they learn pole dancing along with other sensual styles, like belly dancing.

The studio is run by women and instructors who strive to use what instructor Ebony Seskey calls “absolutely not your traditional form of exercise” to build self-confidence in students.

“Our favorite saying is ‘dance like no one is watching.’ It relaxes everything,” Seskey said.

She recommends newcomers come to the beginner classes or half-off college night drop-in sessions on Thursdays at 7 p.m.  for $10 with a college ID.

“Understanding their own body is the hardest part for new students” she said. “By the end of class they get to freestyle and show off their new moves.”

And in addition to showing off new moves, these women often show off the new muscles the workout helps to build.

“It is a low impact workout that cannot compare to anything else. Sounds funny, but the muscle you build is amazing,” Seskey said.

Kruman noted that building muscle is essential to overall fitness and that the scale is not always a direct reflection of health.

“Muscle weighs more than fat and helps you burn more calories,” she said. “It might not seem like you’re losing weight, but if your clothes are fitting better and you are looking better, you probably are burning fat.”

Ashleigh Powell, a student at Fitness With A Twist, found pole dancing to be an excellent way to lose weight, but notes that eating right is necessary as well.

“Along with the classes I kept a diet journal,” she said. “Making changes in diet to suit your exercise routines makes a huge difference. It’s not just in being able to stay fit, but it also helps mental health and well-being.”

Fitness With A Twist

70 S. 21st St., Pittsburgh, Pa. 15203


This all-female studio strives to teach women to love their bodies through pole dancing and belly dancing classes.

Pittsburgh Heat Hip-Hop Dance Co.

300 Camp Horne Road, Pittsburgh Pa. 15237 (In the back of the building)


This dance gym is changing people’s perceptions of hip-hop and changing bodies with its workouts.

Shadyside Spin

5932 Penn Circle South, Suite B-202, Pittsburgh, Pa. 15206

412-361-SPIN (7746)

Shadyside Spin is a place to work out with classes including spinning, yoga, Pilates, step/sculpt and boot camp.

Fit Fusion Group Fitness

400 Eden Park Blvd., McKeesport, Pa. 15132


The website boasts “Trash the treadmill … Come Join the Party!” to encourage exercisers to get down during the gym’s Zumba classes.

Amazing Yoga

5823 Ellsworth Ave., Pittsburgh, Pa.


Though the organization has many yoga studios in Pittsburgh, this one works on a donations basis, a system ideal for college students.