Indoor Fitness Classes for Cold Winter Days

Innerpeaks 315

Winter’s dropping temperatures and fewer hours of sunlight can make wrapping up in a blanket much more appealing than heading outdoors for play and exercise.

Families who want to integrate exercise into their routines this year don’t need to wait until spring. The Charlotte area is home to several state-of-the-art, indoor recreation facilities that offer fun and exercise for the whole family.

Whether your family enjoys scaling rock walls or year-round swimming, here are a few ways to keep fit indoors during the winter.

Climb the Walls
The first indoor gym dedicated to rock climbing opened in Seattle in 1987, and in recent years this family-friendly sport has taken off all over the United States. Inner Peaks Climbing Center, Charlotte’s only dedicated rock climbing gym, has seen participation in its youth climbing team more than double in the past year and a half.

Rock climbing builds endurance and strength, and most older children and adults can master simple techniques and attempt their first climb with about 15 minutes of instruction and safety procedures. All that’s required is a harness, a rope and the nerve to grab onto a series of handholds and footholds and start scaling.

“My favorite thing about climbing is that it really is for everyone,” says Sean Wieboldt, a manager, setter and climbing team coach at Inner Peaks.

Children as young as 4 can climb at Inner Peaks. Even then, they are limited not by ability but by weight, as most children that young aren’t heavy enough to naturally lower to the ground after climbing a wall. Children naturally have strong grip strength compared to their body size, which can make them strong climbers.

Simple rope systems eliminate complicated harness-and-rope systems. New climbers simply have to clip a rope to their harness, make sure someone is belaying them and begin their ascent.

Wieboldt says that Inner Peaks family memberships, which allow two adults and all of their children under age 21 unlimited climbing, are a popular choice. When families come to the gym, parents can help each other and their children climb, and older children can serve as belay partners for parents.

Climbing does not require a base level of fitness, but dedicated participants can expect to regularly get a full-body workout. Wieboldt compares it to swimming and gymnastics, two sports that require muscles in the whole body.

Beginning climbers often use their arms to pull themselves up the wall, but as they develop better technique they grow into the proper form of using their hands to grip while their legs do the work.

Meanwhile, they also are developing balance, coordination and flexibility. Climbers who are looking for a power workout can do “laps,” or repeated climbs up and down a wall.

“Your heart rate goes up and it becomes a cardio workout,” says Wieboldt.

Inner Peaks offers a climbing team for ages 7-17 with different levels of competition, including the opportunity for climbers to compete in regional and national competitions.

Other places in Charlotte that offer indoor climbing walls include UNCC’s climbing gym, which has six routes and a 32-foot climbing height, and YMCA Wall West Cabarrus, which has a 30-foot wall with seven top ropes.

littleotter_315.pngDive in
Swimming is one of the best sports for working the whole body, and is available year-round for all ages.

“Swimming is very easy on the joints and the whole body, and it’s a good overall workout,” says John Kirk, who owns Little Otter Swim School with his wife, Lory Kirk. “There is little chance of injury.”

Several facilities in the Charlotte area have indoor pools that are accessible with membership. Pools range from lap pools for adults who swim for exercise to pools where children can play.

Little Otter Swim School offers lessons year-round for ages 6 months and up. The school focuses primarily on children, and parents are required to attend classes with children through age 36 months.

Parents work with infants and young children on face floats, back floats and holding their breath. Kirk says that babies have a natural instinct to hold their breath.

“As we get older, we lose that reflex,” says Kirk. “If we nurture that and keep it going, those kids are going to do well in the water.”

Swimming lessons for young children can be a great time for families to bond and for young children to get moving. Families with children enrolled in lessons at Little Otter also can enjoy bi-monthly open swim sessions.

Older children can take swim lessons or join Little Otter’s in-house junior swim team, which provides a “swim team experience” for kids during the colder months. When the weather warms up and outdoor pools open, young swimmers are prepared to join regular season swim teams.

Older children can also practice their strokes through the winter at the YMCA’s numerous indoor pools, which are accessible with a YMCA membership. The Harris YMCA has an indoor waterpark with a slide, a lazy river and other features. Very young children can enjoy the zero-entry pool’s shallow end.

The waterpark is next to a 25-yard, six-lane lap pool that is open daily. The Y also offers adult water fitness classes throughout the year.

A number of Charlotte area YMCAs, including the Siskey, the Dowd, the University City and the Lake Norman YMCAs have indoor pools and offer swim lessons for all levels.

Parents looking for a day of water fun with their children also can head to Ray’s Splash Planet, an indoor waterpark that is a joint venture of Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation Department and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. Membership is not required, but a minimal fee is charged per entrant.

The splash park’s features include the three-story Blue Comet water slide, a lazy river, water squirters and a gradual-entry pool. The park is open year-round.

cltfamyoga_315.pngGo With the Flow
Children and parents can stay fit and flexible all year at Charlotte’s family yoga studios that offer classes for toddlers through adults, and numerous classes suited for beginners.

Many studios offer free trial classes, new student specials and reduced price classes that make giving yoga a try affordable. Practitioners recommend it for people of any age.

“Children get the same benefit from yoga that adults do,” says Diane Cevallos, owner of Charlotte Family Yoga Center. “Yoga moves the body, sort of like a massage, and the side effects are physical strength and flexibility.”

Parents of very young children usually attend yoga classes with their child, where instructors plan partner poses and other fun yoga activities. Y2 Yoga at Cotswold Shopping Center offers classes designed for children ages 4-10 to attend without a parent. Tweens usually can attend class on their own, and teenagers can take part in adult classes.

Charlotte Family Yoga Studio offers child care for ages 7 and younger while parents attend classes.

“Parents can do their own personal (yoga) practice, and children are still exposed to a yoga studio environment and the energy of the yoga studio,” says Cevallos.

Marty Minchin is a freelance writer based in Charlotte. She has two elementary school age children.