• Madison Improvement Club’s spin, yoga classes go upbeat

    Madison Improvement Club’s spin

    There’s nothing typical about the Madison Improvement Club.

    The yoga and spin studio, which opened in late September, is a stylish health club with the flair of a trendy nightlife hot spot: Members are greeted by an upbeat staff, dance tunes play continuously and the color scheme features white and gray with pops of bright orange and grass green.

    The club is the brainchild of Andrew Valera and his mother, Mary Swanson. Valera has taken and taught spin classes for years, and his mother practices yoga regularly. The pair decided to combine their fitness passions and create a place that helps Valley residents set their fitness goals and have a great time doing it.

    “Who doesn’t like to go to a party?” said Valera, 27. “Oftentimes after a long time, you’re not always in the best mood. But when you get here, it’s our goal to make everyone smile.”

    The Madison Improvement Club is in a historic brick building that originally housed a women’s club founded in 1910. While removing a cornerstone, the construction crew discovered a time capsule placed in 1917 by the former members that contained the club bylaws and old Arizona newspapers. Valera and Swanson incorporated that piece of history by leaving the brick exposed where the capsule had been and preserving the booklets and newspapers behind glass.

    Everything has a playful spin, from the names of the smoothies and sandwiches to the fliers and decor. The club sells its own workout-clothing line, with soft T’s and tank tops bearing such phrases as “Being boring sucks,” and “I’m into heavy breathing.” In other words, it’s the type of place that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

    “Most people have their preconceived expectations of what yoga and spinning is supposed to be, and here you disregard them,” said Brent Harris, 33, a club member. “It’s modern, it’s light and more fun than any other place I’ve gone.”

    Party on a bike

    The spin room, with bare white walls and a floor-to-ceiling mirrored sliding door behind the instructor platform, is deceivingly minimal. Filling the space are 38 top-notch LeMond Revmaster bikes.

    After all students are seated at their bikes, dance music starts to blast and the lights go off. Suddenly, the room is glowing with UV lights, flashing red, then blue, then dotted with green laser lights. The instructor runs the students through a spirited 45- to 60-minute cycling workout. During the Neon Bike Classes, students are encouraged to wear neon colors, and they receive glow bracelets and necklaces upon arrival.

    “It’s like a Vegas nightclub in here when the classes start,” said Valera, who teaches the classes regularly.

    Students use a knob to regulate the intensity of the workout. Spin shoes — recommended but not mandatory — are free for the first class, then cost $2 thereafter to rent. At the end of class, during which they typically will have burned 500 to 600 calories, students are served mints on an LED-lit tray.

    Phenomenal Flow yoga

    Practitioners say this form of active yoga lengthens and strengthens, as well as energizes and lightens moods.

    Arrive early and you can relax in “Your Room,” a waiting area furnished with a navy-blue sofa with orange trim, and a large, funky painting of a monkey.

    Before class, students set their flip-flops on a wheeled metal cart, which is rolled to the exit across the room after class so students don’t have to walk the club barefoot. Students can stash belongings inside the spacious studio’s two walls of white cubbies with push-open doors.

    The large room has sliding doors, like the spin room, which open to a long, rectangular water fountain. Valera said instructors open the doors for shavasana, so students can meditate to the soothing sounds of the water. Sleek heat lamps and speakers are artfully placed on the ceiling, and the room is heated to 90 to 95 degrees during classes to loosen muscles for deep stretching.

    The playlists vary by instructor but are mostly in line with the rest of the club: lively and contemporary. Most of the songs have lyrics, except during shavasana, or corpse pose, when at the end of class students lie down and focus on their breathing, to restore their bodies after practice.

    “Music is one of the most powerful things and has the ability to lift your spirits,” said instructor Alex Austin, who has taught yoga for eight years. “Infuse the right music with yoga, and it can be a very positive experience.”

    S.E.E.D. Cafe

    It seems hard not to linger after class, with the cafe employees mixing earthy greens and fresh fruits to create fresh juices and smoothies each day, or chef Joe Myers (formerly of Gallo Blanco) whipping up healthy, delicious sandwiches and salads.

    Menu selections have fun names picked by the staff, such as: the Don’t Act Your Age sandwich ($7) of avocado, cucumber, tomato, basil and cottage cheese on nine-grain bread; the Spin Chick salad ($8), spinach with chicken, goat cheese, dried cranberries, spicy almonds and basil vinaigrette; and A Scooter Monkey smoothie (16 ounces, $6), peanut butter, bananas, almond milk and chocolate protein powder.
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