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A new brand of fitness swings into Richmond

Michael Thompson June 25, 2014 0
Audrey Bonafe. Photos by Michael Thompson

Audrey Bonafé demonstrates an Antigravity move in her new studio on West Cary Street. Photos by Michael Thompson.

Another new name in the local specialty fitness market is getting its business off the ground.

Fighting Gravity Fitness, a studio that uses silk cloth hammocks to suspend people in the air during their workouts, opened earlier this month in a 950-square-foot space at 1911 W. Cary St., just east of Carytown.

Audrey and Wesley Bonafé founded the studio, which is licensed to teach AntiGravity branded classes, along with yoga and Zumba.

Audrey and Wes Bonafé

Audrey and Wes Bonafé

Audrey Bonafé got her start teaching Zumba in her Powhatan home before moving on to teach classes at American Family Fitness in Midlothian. She tried AntiGravity for the first time in Miami earlier this year and wanted to bring it back to Richmond.

“I didn’t feel AntiGravity would go over in Powhatan,” Bonafé said. “I felt like it was more of a trendy thing and it would be received better in the Richmond area.”

The hammocks help decompress the spine while also working out core and upper arm muscles. Half of a person’s weight is supported by the hammock, and the rest is up to strength, Bonafé said. Bonafé leads her classes through movements that combine yoga, Pilates and gymnastics.

According to Bonafé, just one session can add a quarter of an inch to a person’s height, but the effect isn’t cumulative.

The hammocks resemble those used for high-flying suspension acts found in the likes of Cirque du Soleil. The founder of AntiGravity, Christopher Harrison, has been an “aerial designer” for everything from Broadway productions, Grammy award shows and major sporting events.

“He brought the hammocks down to a level where everyone can use them,” Bonafé said.

After trying the workout in Florida, Bonafé said she called gyms around the country that offered AntiGravity fitness classes to see how popular it was.

She and her husband have since invested $22,000 of their retirement savings to start the studio. They paid $4,000 for 13 hammocks and another $6,300 for steel beams to hang them.

“It’s a gamble,” Bonafé said.

Bonafé

The AntiGravity hammocks are hung from steel beams and can support 1,000 pounds.

Bonafé also paid $1,200 to take a four-day certification class in Manhattan. There are five levels of certification offered by AntiGravity, a brand that licenses the use of its name and its methods, much like CrossFit and Zumba. There are 43 gyms licensed by AntiGravity in the U.S., and Fighting Gravity Fitness is the first in Virginia.

A one-year membership at Fighting Gravity with unlimited classes costs $60 a month. A drop-in costs $15. Bonafé has sold 33 memberships so far and hopes to reach 100 after two years.

“In the two years this lease is for, I’m hoping to double in size,” Bonafé said. “That’s what’s happened at other studios.”

Fighting Gravity Fitness isn’t the only niche gym in town. Hot House Yoga is adding a second location to the area. There are also a slew of studios offering classes in Krav Maga, kickboxing, ballet barre, cycling, CrossFit and other disciplines.

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