With Andre Miller, every workout is an adventure, mostly due to his own disdain for exercise as it exists in our society today. “Somewhere in the midst of giant gyms and power workouts, we’ve lost the romance and beauty and the magnificent coordination of our bodies in motion,” says Miller, a personal trainer for more than 20 years. “With all the prescribed ‘shoulds’ of today’s workouts— should do cardio for 60 minutes, should lift heavier each session, should incorporate stretching… blah, blah, blah— we’ve become jaded. I need variety and brevity.”
Enter Miller’s new Supernatural 23 program— a series of 23 different workouts, each with three stages, each lasting a total of 23 minutes. The three stages in each workout correspond to what Miller calls the trinity of force, friction and fluidity. Force is not the usual 10-minute warm-up on the treadmill. Instead Miller counsels slow and intentional motions similar to yoga poses, often with weights, to activate momentum and blood flow.
Without stopping, clients move right to friction, described by Miller as “agitation” or mixing of movement. Again, it’s not your average cardio, but rather controlled movement— deep lunges, moving side squat jumps, Russian Flair martial art sidekicks, high punches— done with weights to keep heart rates strong while all muscles are active. Fluidity then rounds out the workout with purposeful stretching and relaxing. “We mess with pace, weights, speed to add challenge,” says Miller. “I provide beginning workouts to incredibly advanced workouts— but all in 23 minutes!”
Miller aims to stimulate motivation from within so that you’re not always paying someone to motivate you. “It’s not always Andre cracking the whip—it’s about ownership and evolution of your own body,” says Miller, who is developing his Supernatural 23 program into a DVD he hopes to release in April. “I help my clients find the meaning and depth of why they want to exercise. We don’t just stretch, for example, we approach a stretch in terms of feeling good in the movement and in living— super and natural. We’re not chasing great abs here, we’re chasing health and the beauty of movement. And the great abs happen.”
Price: $80 per session.
Supernatural 23, 443-621-6015, supernatural23.com
Tim Bishop, a former strength and conditioning coach for the Orioles, is the owner and driving force behind PerformFit, a new sports performance and fitness facility in Lutherville. Bishop’s niche is offering hobby exercisers the chance to benefit from the elite training techniques and highly specialized equipment he’s used with pro athletes.
One piece of equipment, the Real Runner, looks like something you’d see in the Orioles’ training room. You adjust yourself into the machine to simulate the posture of a sprinter, engaging all of your sprinting muscles: hip flexors, hamstrings, gluteals and quadriceps. Using core strength to support your spine, you flex against resistance powered by hydraulic pistons. “There’s absolutely no impact— it’s all power and speed. You strengthen the leg and abdominal muscles and improve speed without risking injury from the continued high-impact foot strikes you’d get on an average treadmill,” explains Bishop, who adds that because the resistance is progressive, beginners can use it, too.
Noticeably absent at PerformFit are the large pieces of exercise equipment that are staples in most gyms. “We perform a lot of floor movement here,” says Bishop. “Floor work is about speed, acceleration, power and balance, and this is really where performance is mastered.” Reminiscent of spring training, Bishop’s clients do walking lunges, running shuffles, touch drills and lateral moves for agility both with and without weights. “We use every inch of this space. Some of my athletes get up to full sprints.”
Bishop also incorporates high-end dumbbells and barbells, medicine balls and balance and agility exercises into his clients’ workouts. “We help people gain an athletic competitive edge both professionally and recreationally,” says Bishop. “It’s very personal and very hands-on.”
Price: $24 to $34 per session.
PerformFit, 1212 York Road, Suite C301, Lutherville, 410-583-5775
John Smith sees himself as a de facto physical therapist. “After people have fallen through the medical cracks, not achieving results and still having pain, they stumble into me. And I help them,” says Smith, owner of Meridian Martial Arts Studio in Hampden. “People in their 40s, 50s and 60s suffer from so much back, neck and shoulder pain and this is due to failing joint health.” His interest lies in using the body through wide and full ranges of motion— not in the rigid, controlled and isolating manner of weight machines.
Smith isn’t motivated by vanity— he’s about functional body movement and health. “The extreme look of ripped muscle sinew has become this strange sort of ideal, and it’s the only look we’re shown in the media. But we don’t see the whole picture, the dangerous extent to which people are willing to go to achieve this look,” says Smith. “I’m educating my clients to be healthy and pain-free.”
At Smith’s Hampden studio, all training is done in bare feet. “All power comes from the ground, so how the feet contact the floor affects the ability to have strength and balance,” explains Smith, who refers to his clients as students. Balance, he says, is not an innate skill, but a learned strategy. “We tend to exercise, say run or walk, only in a sagittal plane, a straight line.”
To improve balance, coordination and agility, Smith teaches his students about angular force— side to side and zigzag motions often using unstable surfaces such as foam blocks or balance boards. To this force, he rotates in imbalanced weights— a 5-pound weight in one hand and a 10-pound weight in the other to work both the dominant and the non-dominant sides of the body. “These surfaces are a little shaky, which is what we want, but not out of bounds,” he says. “And utilizing them, plus the weights, translates to stronger health— better posture and balance, a stronger kinetic chain of hips, knees and ankles, vastly improved joint mobility, and naturally, endurance and strength.”
Smith is also a fan of plyometrics— explosive jump training— and his students learn to use and develop their skeletal system to initiate jumps and correctly stop the motion. “With proper education and knowledge, anyone of any age can incorporate these jumps. It’s all about the quality of form.”
Smith, who holds four black belts in martial arts, teaches Hapkido (meaning the way of harmonizing energy) self-defense at his center, along with yoga classes, which are open to all of his personal training students.
Price: $300 per month includes two personal training sessions per week plus unlimited yoga.
Meridian Martial Arts Studio, 3100 Falls Cliff Road, 443-742-0882.
Like a scene from “Extreme Fitness Makeover,” certified personal trainer Ellie Ciolfi flips a tractor tire weighing 150 pounds like one might toss a 10-pound weight. Then she power jumps into the tire hole and back out again several times a la Army boot camp. “Not all my clients are to this level,” explains Ciolfi, who owns Fitness Rx. “But I work to get them here.”
Some of her clients do tackle Ciolfi’s newest fitness tool, the battling ropes, which she brought to Baltimore last year and are “very cutting edge,” she says. A client takes one rope in each hand to initiate vibrations that cause the rope to move in waves. Upon acceleration, the ropes create resistance, providing a full-body workout that challenges anaerobic endurance and the cardiovascular system, as well as recruiting every muscle from legs to arms in just a few grueling moments. “It’s an incredible demand on grip strength and core stabilizer concentration,” says Ciolfi. “It’s constant movement.”
And movement is what Ciolfi is all about. “We don’t stand still in life and we shouldn’t stand still during our workouts,” she says. Her clients propel medicine balls above their heads or slam them to the floor. Carrying 20-pound weights, they bend, lunge, rotate from floor to ceiling to simulate karate, golf or combat moves, each move tailored to a client’s abilities and goals.
“I train bodies the way they were designed to move: through acceleration, deceleration, stops, turns and speed, with an insistence on quality of movement,” says Ciolfi. “We simply cannot make progress standing or sitting still on machines or with traditional nonmoving barbell exercises.”
Price: $75 per hour.
Fitness Rx, 443-375-0442.
Behind every gorgeous Hollywood physique is a devoted personal trainer. Now you can benefit from that same level of attention here in Baltimore.
Mark Dees, formally the fitness director at the Maryland Athletic Club, is opening his own location of the nationwide Fitness Together franchise just in time for New Year’s resolutions. “It’s all about being totally private. No distractions. Total focus,” says Dees, whose new studio is divided into three private training suites— mini-gyms complete with free weights, machines and various cables, balls, bands and even a stretching table— where each client works exclusively with his or her own trainer.
“It’s very upscale,” notes Dees, who believes that folks are tired of working out in super-sized gyms. “People now want, need and deserve personalized attention.” And that’s just what they get: their “own” gym within the studio and total focus with their trainer. Although new to Baltimore, Fitness Together began in 1996 and now has roughly 400 studios around the world.
“It’s a very structured workout, full of instruction and technique, tailored to each person’s needs and abilities. We have clients from ages 12 to 80 working with our trainers,” says Dees, who compares his private personal training services to the personal attention found at chic salons and spas.
Trainers help clients establish both fitness and nutrition goals, provide initial and ongoing fitness assessments and encourage the use of daily journal writing to affirm resolution and commitment. “Our trainers really hold their clients accountable, mainly to themselves,” says Dees.
Price: $60 per session.
Fitness Together, 1756 York Road, Timonium, 443-850-9262.
All about you
At Quest Sports Science Center in Annapolis, there’s a lot of testing going on— but it’s nothing you can cram for. As the most comprehensive exercise testing lab open to the public in the area, Quest’s sole mission is to answer the million-dollar question: where do you really exist along the fitness continuum?
“We’re not a health club and we don’t offer fitness classes or exercise equipment,” says owner Lilah Al-Masri, a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in sports nutrition. Instead, Quest performs a series of tests whose results offer a detailed report of a person’s aerobic and anaerobic capacities, maximal strength and endurance ability, body composition and ratio of lean mass to fat mass.
“When an athlete or serious exercise enthusiast knows the values our tests reveal— peak aerobic ability, amount of lactate in the blood during vigorous exercise and maximal and average power capabilities— they use this knowledge to optimize workout training time, training technique, recovery principles and optimal amounts and times of nutritional intakes,” says Quest co-owner Simon Bartlett, who has a Ph.D. in exercise physiology. He adds that many of Quest’s clients are distance runners seeking a leg up on marathon finish times and bikers facing that first 100-mile ride.
Quest, whose motto is “building better athletes through science,” employs much of the same testing equipment you might find at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, upon which it’s modeled. The TruOne metabolic cart offers the gold standard in evaluation, measuring Vo2 maximal uptake, which is the amount of oxygen your body can consume and use per minute of vigorous activity, and basil metabolic rate, a numeric value of how many calories are burned in a resting state. The Wingate test measures muscular strength and endurance. And the new Skyndex Body Caliper, a computerized three-site skin-fold assessment— which is “very accurate within a 2 to 3 percent margin of error,” explains Bartlett— measures body composition.
After clients undergo two hours of assessments, Bartlett covers “basic Physiology 101” before explaining the results and offering recommendations and possible adaptations to the clients’ current training. Then Al-Masri consults with clients to evaluate trends in their diets and explain how they affect performance and recovery.
Price: The cost for a one-time appointment that runs about four hours is $395. Follow-ups run approximately $160.
Quest Sports Science Center, 436 Chinquapin Round Road, Annapolis, 410-626-1566, questssc.com