Fit Room at Fairgrounds Park features AntiGravity Fitness
When people walk into the Fit Room at Fairgrounds Park in Hagerstown, the first thing they notice are colorful hammocks attached to the steel beams.
Once they are unwrapped, students climb into them almost like they are little cocoons waiting for a butterfly to emerge.
The hammocks are part of AntiGravity Fitness, a form of yoga that through inversions and stretches gives a new experience for those who want to be “happier, healthier and taller,” according to its founder Christopher Harrison, who started the fitness activity after starting a theater troupe using the hammocks.
Certified AntiGravity Instructor Lauren Alford has brought the national fitness trend to Hagerstown.
Alford was living in Baltimore a few years ago when she was introduced to the workout from a fellow fitness lover, they talked about Alford’s background in anatomy and physiology. The new friend introduced Alford to The Movement Lab. There Alford got a work study while she was a grad student and bartered four hours at the desk in exchange for four hours of AntiGravity Fitness classes.
Through the classes, students use the hammock to do inversions, spine mobility, stretching and more, Alford fell in love with it and was able to start classes in the fall of 2018 in Hagerstown. She offers the hourlong workouts at several times throughout the week through the City of Hagerstown.
Alford said AntiGravity Fitness has a lot of benefits.
“If you’re doing the inversions, it elongates the spine. It helps to open up space in your spine and kind of hydrates those spinal discs and it really does make you become taller,” she said. “I have scoliosis and it helps tremendously with back pain that I used to have. After my very first class, I was like ‘I haven’t felt this good since I was 12.’ There’s a huge impact people notice about their back and hips especially.”
One of her students, Renée Kauffman, 48, of Hagerstown was intrigued after seeing a video about the new class. A recent empty-nester, the Boonsboro High School Spanish teacher was looking for something to help fill her week.
“I needed to do something to do midweek and I needed something to keep me challenged and get me out on a winter’s night,” she said.
Kauffman, who has been taking yoga for years, said she found it to be a struggle in the beginning.
“I thought ‘this isn’t for me, this is too hard, I can’t do it.’ But the more I stuck with it I felt (better),” she said. “You build in the skill and each week it gets easier and you add more challenges and you grow into them.”
She said she’s noticed more muscles and better flexibility. And as her schedule allows, she hopes to continue with the classes.
“It just gives a good stretch,” she said.
Alford said anyone can take AntiGravity Fitness.
“Beginners do this all the time. People with no fitness background at all come and do it. There’s definitely a very wide variety of people who come and try this practice. Pretty much everyone who’s come has been successful,” she said, noting that to check with your doctor before starting if you’ve had other injuries.
Currently, Alford offers levels 1 and 2. She hopes to add more classes for more advanced students. And this spring/summer, Alford wants to include classes for meditation and cocooning as well as one that is more for those who want to learn tricks.
Even though she’s already a physical trainer and massage therapist, Alford said she has seen a difference in her own body.
“I definitely love that my back feels better,” she said.
For her, though, it brings all of her passions into one class. She said she worked taking souvenir photos and working concessions at Cirque du Soleil, which shows her love of the circus.
“I have my undergraduate degree in visual arts, then I have the circus experience and working as a personal trainer and massage therapist, it brings all of those things together for me and I get to share it with a bunch of people at once,” she said.
But for anyone thinking of trying it, Alford said “it’s lots of fun, you’d be really surprised how good you feel afterward. It’s not a super intense workout, at least not the fundamentals.”
Top photo: Lauren Alford leads an AntiGravity Fitness class at Fit Room at Fairgrounds Park in Hagerstown. (Photo by Crystal Schelle)