The New Shape of Fitness

The New Shape of FitnessMake Your Workout Routine Anything But With Exercise Trends From the Dance Stage to the Drill Field  

By Beth Nabi

The rest of the country has already put away their terrycloth beach towels and dug out the turtleneck sweaters, but Emerald Coast residents have a few more months to bask in the Florida sun. In the land of blue-green waters and sugar-white sand, every season is swimsuit season. And if you’re feeling a little uninspired with the same ol’ exercises that got you through the summer, Destin has more fun fitness options than ever to turn you on during the off season.

The Pole Position
If you’re bored with the usual sit-ups and push-ups, try a new orientation and go vertical.

Tabu Dance and Vertical Fitness offers women a sexy new way to get fit with sensual choreography that boosts core strength, muscle tone, confidence and overall health. The all-girl fitness studio specializes in workouts that combine elements of yoga, ballet, striptease and pole dancing. Tabu owner Brenda Winfree started the studio in Fort Walton Beach in November 2006, then brought it to Destin in February 2007 and to Pensacola last December.

“We’re not teaching women to be strippers,” Winfree says. “We’re helping them as women to empower themselves. That’s our trademark – ‘to reveal the inner you.’ That’s really what my goal is – to help transform the woman inside, because once you do that, it’s apparent on the outside. So we work on their creativity, their individuality, their spirituality … We want to see all of that be revealed.”

With a focus on defining lean mass rather than bulking up, pole exercises such as the corkscrew, the sidewinder, the windmill and the snake crawl are sure to break your muscles out of their normal circuit routine.

Women become “Tabugirls” over the course of six-week sessions, with a 90-minute class each week. The first session starts with the fundamentals of vertical fitness and introduces the first part of your routine, with more advanced moves added in Session Two. During Session Three, students complete the routine with a chair dance, and at that point have the option to invite a guest into the studio for a private recital. During the fourth session, the class learns a new routine set to the song “You Can Leave Your Hat On.” Session Five features advanced new pole tricks, and during the last session, students can create their own routine.

Just as martial artists are awarded belt rankings according to skill level, Tabugirls earn a different-color garter belt with each session completed, from a white garter after the first session to a black garter after Session Five. While there are no caps or, ahem, tassels involved, at graduation each woman is bestowed with a black, rhinestone-studded G-string.

Additional programs are available after Session Six, including an extreme pole class, an “ultimate vertical challenge” and seasonal routines such as a choreographed “Santa Baby” number.

Each six-week program costs $200, and the studio also offers a “teaser” class for $40, to give prospective students a taste of Tabu. Women of every age, shape, size and skill level are encouraged to give it a twirl.

“I have suburban housewives, I have single people, I have grandmothers,” Winfree says. “I’ve even had Seventh Day Adventists come down and take my class.”

For Tabu attire, she recommends wearing shorts or yoga pants you can roll up (you need skin-to-pole contact to ensure a good grip), and a comfortable T-shirt or tank. Class is conducted barefoot on yoga mats until the last 30 minutes, when students will need a pair of 3- to 4-inch heels, but not stilettos or wedges.

As the first pole fitness studio on the Gulf Coast, Tabu gives women a one-of-a-kind exercise option.

“It’s not just about going in and swinging on the pole. It’s about so much more,” Winfree says. “Every woman is in search of her inner self, and it gives me chill bumps to know that I can help transform somebody to be so much more than what they thought they could be, but every bit of what they are.”

Visit for more information on class schedules.

Hup Two, Size 4
If your workout style is a little less “shake what your mama gave ya” and a little more “your mother wears combat boots,” it’s time to enlist in boot camp. Military-style fitness programs promise an intense, efficient full-body workout – and usually before the sun peeks over the horizon. Participants are put through the grueling paces with sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups, jumping jacks and the very appropriately named suicide drills – all with little rest in between. The idea is to push your body to the limit.

Boot camp workouts offer a one-two punch of motivation: You get the benefit of one-on-one personal training and the camaraderie of a group of people as dedicated (though your co-workers will call it “crazy”) as you are.

Misty Ballard is now whipping Emerald Coast residents into shape as the area’s only certified Adventure Boot Camp instructor. Ballard, who is certified in just about everything from Pilates to kickboxing, recently debuted Adventure Boot Camp in Destin on Sept. 8. The four-week outdoor program of fitness instruction, nutritional coaching and motivational training was conceived by Dr. John Spencer Ellis in Orange County,

Calif., in the late 1990s and is now found in about 250 locations nationwide. Ballard knew it would be a good fit for the community.

“You’re going to be doing push-ups and all kinds of stuff in the sand,” says Ballard, “which makes it twice as hard as on the ground or in a gym. So what better place to offer boot camp than on the beach, where you’ve got the added resistance of the sand along with a view of the beautiful ocean?”

“Also, outdoors, you don’t have the limitations of the walls or the mirrors (you find in gyms),” Ballard says. “And it can be so motivating to watch other people struggle but then achieve their goals – the same goals you have – and who are going on the same journey as you are.”

In what Ballard calls the “ultimate out-of-gym experience,” Adventure Boot Camp offers a unique workout every time. “Cadets” meet on the beach behind The Crab Trap every weekday morning from 5:30 to 6:30 a.m. for a month. The camp comprises a range of activities: core conditioning, short distance running, plyometrics, speed and agility training, rope jumping, circuit training, obstacle courses, par courses and even Pilates. Some days, boot-campers will head off-site for an exercise such as climbing bleachers, or Ballard will throw into the mix props like weighted vests and parachutes. The variety ensures that your body doesn’t get used to a routine, which leads to faster results. Ballard says participants often see a 3-percent to 5-percent loss in body fat after the four weeks.

The month-long program (20 sessions) costs $299, or you can choose the three-day-per-week option (12 sessions) for $199. Ballard also offers 10-day mini-boot camps for $150 that span a two-week period. The fee includes an Adventure Boot Camp T-shirt, as well as a pre- and post-camp assessment, in which your weight and body measurements are recorded and, if you choose, “before” and “after” photos are taken. Ballard even caters to vacationers who may not want to go AWOL on their fitness regimen: Pay $25 daily or $90 weekly to participate in the camp.

Visit for schedules and to learn how to sign up for a boot camp session.

Surf, Sand and Sun Salutations
For a more peaceful pace, try unrolling a yoga mat onto the white, sandy beaches of the Emerald Coast.

Yogic principles proffer that the breath is the key to the peaceful union of mind and body, and where better to practice breathing techniques than sitting on the beach, inhaling the crisp, salty air?

Destin Yoga by the Sea, the area’s originator of beach yoga, offers on its Web site an irresistible description of their seaside classes:

“Our beach yoga classes fully connect with the rejuvenating ambience of Destin – allowing us to step out of our heads and become grounded in peace, listening to the gentle rhythm of the waves lapping onto the shore, renewing in the sea breeze and centered with the horizon as a focus point while delighting in the dolphins surfing the waves.”

And it’s a great workout, too. Rhonda Comparin, owner of Destin Yoga by the Sea, teaches all the classes Vinyasa style, in which the focus is on the journey between the yoga postures, and not just the postures themselves. Students learn to connect their flow of movements – such as Sun Salutations and Downward Dog – with their breathing, and Comparin demonstrates modifications for every skill level. While yoga has long been known for its meditative benefits, such as quieting mental chatter and reducing stress, it also does wonders for the body. Practitioners will see better posture, more-sculpted muscles, improved flexibility, increased coordination and greater endurance as their bodies gradually come to their natural weight.

Comparin holds her beach yoga classes at James Lee Park near The Crab Trap on Scenic Highway 98, and has back-up locations in the event of cold or rainy weather. Class fees are on a donation basis, and drop-ins are welcome. Be sure to wear comfortable clothing that allows you to move (no shoes needed), and bring drinking water, a towel, sunglasses and sunscreen, along with “an open mind and a sense of humor.” If you don’t have a yoga mat, you can borrow one.

Visit for a full schedule, including sunset classes, and more information on the different types of yoga offered, as well as instructional photos for various poses.

So grab your high heels, combat boots – or go barefoot – and just get moving.