IN SHAPE: Adopting a healthier lifestyle

Every year, millions of Americans make the same New Year’s resolution: be more fit, lose weight, live a healthier lifestyle.

By Emily Selby // Photography by Kathryn Ingall

However, people often struggle to keep this resolution after the month of January.

Without a personal trainer, class schedule, or friend to keep them accountable, it’s easy to make up an excuse not to workout.

But there are several fitness options, like CrossFit, yoga, and Orange Theory Fitness, to keep you accountable, motivated, and energized well into the New Year.


One form of fitness sweeping the nation is CrossFit.

Combining high-intensity interval training, Olympic weightlifting, calisthenics and other exercises, CrossFit uses a personal trainer and a dedicated support group to help participants reach their fitness goals.

“You are more likely to do something if you have help,” said Lt. Bobby Stilson, a firefighter with the Woodstock Fire Department. “If you just go to a regular gym and you just sit there by yourself, you’re not going to do as much as you normally would if you’re with a class and a personal trainer.”

Stilson has been doing CrossFit since 2012, and started because he thought it would help him through a back injury.

When he started, Stilson couldn’t lift heavy weights, but in the past four years, he has progressed significantly and said he is now 99 percent pain free.

“CrossFit kept me from going under the knife,” he said.

Stilson attends classes at CrossFit Cherokee and his coach, Jeff Rice, said people come to CrossFit for a variety of reasons.

“Some people come for weight loss, some people come for sports, and some people just want to look good,” he said. “Everybody is coming in for a different reason, but it is all going toward the same place. It all leads toward the same goal.”

CrossFit Cherokee offers one-hour classes six days a week, and Rice said the schedule is great because participants warm up, work out and cool down all in one hour.

Each day, the prescribed workout, called the Workout of the Day, or WoD, is written on a white board with a scheduled warm-up geared toward warming the muscles that will be used in the workout. After the warm-up is complete, the trainer guides members of the class through the workout, which is timed.

Alongside each WoD is the “Rx2”, the second prescribed workout that is scaled down by either doing less repetitions or using a lower amount of weight.

“We have people that come in with different skill levels and everything we do is scalable to your ability,” Stilson said. “There is always a substitute exercise that is easier than the prescribed exercise.”

Rice said the progress of members is unbelievable and it can change their attitude, as well as the attitude of those around them.

“When you start doing something good for yourself, people notice that,” he said. “You start doing better and people see that, and then they ask you what you’re doing and you invite them to a class. That’s how this whole thing has gotten so big. CrossFit improves your mobility, balance, strength and mindset.”

For beginners, Rice recommends researching local CrossFit gyms and visiting a class to see if it is right for your fitness goals.

CrossFit Cherokee offers an unlimited CrossFit and gym membership for $140 a month and is offering a special promotion of $99 a month membership for six months.

CrossFit Cherokee
2050 Cumming Hwy., Canton
(678) 500-5838


If CrossFit seems a bit too intense for your fitness needs, Ember Yoga offers a variety of traditional and hot yoga classes that will benefit both the body and mind.

“Yoga is the unity of the body and mind,” said Jenny Lair, an employee of Ember Yoga who has practiced the discipline for five years. “It is one size fits all. No matter your age or injuries, it is beneficial to everyone.”

Yoga offers a more relaxing, but equally challenging alternative to a regular gym workout.

Through various poses that test our flexibility and balance, the practice also engages your awareness and concentration.

“The focus is always on the breath,” Lair said. “It becomes meditative when you’re doing poses and it takes you out of your head and puts you in your body.”

Ember Yoga, located in Woodstock on Main Street, has two studios, locker rooms and a boutique. Classes are offered every day and range in length from 60 to 90 minutes, and a variety of styles are scheduled including Pilates and hot sequence.

The hot sequence class, which works through 26 postures twice in 60 minutes, is led in a heated room at a temperature of 105 degrees and a humidity of 40 percent that allows the muscles to stretch while practicing.

“Eight out of 10 people find that after a few classes, they are addicted to the heat,” said instructor Cleveland Willis, who has been teaching yoga for 12 years.

Both Lair and Willis said that those looking to begin yoga are often intimidated by others in the room, and many think it is a practice only for skinny and fit people.

“Don’t assume it’s all about pretty people,” Willis said. “There is no such thing as perfect yoga. It is all about progression.”

Lair said she first began yoga to lose weight and become more active without lifting weights. After losing weight with the hot sequence, she began to find other parts of the practice that she loved.

“It grew into something much more than a workout,” she said. “Physically it is a challenge, but mentally it is a much bigger challenge. Everyone is in a different place and everyone’s first day is always awkward … but don’t be nervous. It’s your practice. It’s not a competition.”

An unlimited membership at Ember Yoga is $119 per month, and they have an introductory special of $49 for the first 30 days for unlimited classes. The studio also offers five, 10, 20 and 50 class cards at various prices along with a one-month and three-month unlimited membership. Single class drop-ins are $30, and community classes, for which a $10 donation is recommended, are offered several times per week.

Ember Yoga
330 Chambers St., Woodstock
(770) 485-5583

Orange Theory_1rgb.jpg

For a more fast-paced, high energy workout that is sure to burn calories, Orange Theory Fitness in Woodstock is the place to keep your body moving.

The one-hour classes are led by a motivational and energetic trainer that keeps you accountable and pushes you to the limit.

“You are getting a personal trainer and a great workout in 60 minutes,” said head trainer Vanessa Vossler, who has been with Orange Theory for two and a half years. “This is more than you would ever get going to a gym by yourself.”

Backed by the science of Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption, Orange Theory monitors your heart rate during classes to show results and stimulate metabolism.

Different heart rates are broken down into colored zones — gray, blue, green, orange and red, which correlate to a number of calories burned. The green zone is the prime calorie burning zone, and classes are designed to keep your heart rate in the green for 20 to 30 minutes. The orange and red zone are the after-effect zones. After a workout, your body continues to burn calories for at least 24 hours, and by keeping your heart rate in the red and orange zones for 10 to 20 minutes of a workout, you ensure that your body will benefit from your efforts long after you’ve gone home.

In class, participants’ heart rates are displayed on a screen with their name, so they are able to keep track of how they are doing, and a progress report is sent by email after every workout. Classes are broken up into three segments: treadmills, rowing machines and the weight room. Different routines at each station keep you engaged and moving, and the trainer pushes you to work through the base, push and max out levels.

“You never get the same workout twice,” Vossler said. “We coach based on perceived exertion. Base level is where you are moving comfortably and could carry on a conversation. Push level is more uncomfortable, maybe 3 to 5 words, and max level is full out. You give everything you’ve got and empty the tank.”

Orange Theory offers classes five days a week, and the same classes are offered at every studio all over the country. The three programs of endurance, strength and power rotate daily.

“It’s for every level, from athlete to beginner,” Vossler said. “It is functional training for daily life. It’s the best program I’ve ever seen and I’ve seen the most results of people here than anywhere else.”

For those interested, Orange Theory offers the first class free, and three different levels of memberships, which can be used at any Orange Theory Fitness location.

Orange Theory Fitness
200 Parkbrooke Drive, Woodstock
(770) 833-4550

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