- Associated Press - Saturday, March 18, 2017

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Melanie and Haley Schlarb are firm believers in the quote, “In order to fly you must first be willing to let go.”

“Which is kind of true for anything in life. You have to be willing to step out and try it,” Melanie said. “You have to step out of your comfort zone.”

The mother-daughter duo carry that same belief in all they do - including their newest venture FlyFitness, an AntiGravity studio in Kanawha City.

AntiGravity fitness began in 1991 in New York City as a confederacy of gymnastic athletes who yearned to continue their sport after their competitive years.

Gymnastics specialist and Broadway dancer Christopher Harrison led the group, and his style merged athletic power with the creativity of dance.

Today, there are AntiGravity studios across the globe. FlyFitness is the first certified studio in West Virginia.

“We actually aren’t doing yoga. It’s aerial fitness and aerial restorative,” Melanie said. “There’s some yoga poses in it, but it’s more fitness-based and less yoga. It’s not as much about poses as it is using the hammock and the resistance of your own body. You rely on the hammock. The hammock is your dance partner. You’re in constant contact with the hammock.”

The two got hooked on AntiGravity while spending time with Melanie’s son in New York City. While visiting him, they attended classes at Harrison’s labs and studios, learning from some of the best in the business.

“It’s something different. I do a lot different exercises and try to work out, but you get tired of the same routine,” Haley, a fourth-year medical student said.

AntiGravity fitness is its own brand. It’s not quite yoga, not quite Pilates. Celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow have given the fitness brand high praise. It’s also appeared on award-show stages and at the White House in performances.

FlyFitness offers two types of classes: fitness aerial and restorative aerial.

Restorative classes are geared toward those who are recovering from injuries, the elderly population and anyone looking to restore his or her body.

The fitness classes are open to anyone, the two said, any age, body type and ability.

Before taking any of the fitness classes, guests are required to take three fundamental courses, where they learn the “grips, wraps and traps of the hammock,” Melanie said.

“I’ve never taken a class where someone who is doing it for the first time isn’t giggling,” Melanie said. “I’ve done many, many, many programs. I love all of them, but I get bored. This is limitless of what you can do.”

FlyFitness has several brightly colored hammocks dangling from the ceiling under a matted floor for safety.

The hammocks, which are certified AntiGravity equipment, can hold up to 500 pounds safely.

“It holds a baby elephant,” Melanie said, laughing. “That’s what it is weighted for. All of the moves, you cannot fall as long as you’re following the direction.”

Melanie and Haley spent weeks becoming certified in AntiGravity from Harrison’s studio in New York and a studio in Las Vegas. “It’s truly for all ages and body types. Babies - we even put a little 1-year-old in it,” Melanie said.

As well as fitness benefits, AntiGravity classes help elongate and stretch the spine.

Haley said during one of the classes she took in New York, participants were measured following one session where most of them were 1 inch taller after the class.

The FlyFitness studio is in an intimate studio. The two said they planned to start small on purpose.

It ensures the safety of all of their guests, one-on-one attention to form and it makes it feel like a close-knit community.

“It’s not about excellence; it’s about doing your best. If your best is just leaning back in the hammock for the day, that’s fine,” Melanie said. “We decided to start small for a reason. I want people to feel when they come in here it’s personal.”

The two were intrigued by the idea of AntiGravity when they first heard of it, but they haven’t looked back since.

“I love the idea of flight,” Melanie said. “It goes back to the idea of being a little kid. Who doesn’t love to fly?”

The Schlarbs have partnered with Centered Pilates for the studio on 50th Street.

The two have been clients of and friends with Amy Teeter, the owner of Centered Pilates, for years. They decided to go in on the new adventure together to partner Pilates with AntiGravity.

“If you do aerial three times a week, you can supplement it with Pilates, and that would be good,” Melanie said. “I’m a firm believer that you should do something every day. Between us and Amy, I feel like we have a great union here.”

Both Melanie and Haley teach classes at the completely renovated studio, which celebrated its grand opening last weekend.

“When we went, Christopher Harrison really liked that we’re his first-ever mother-daughter teaching team,” Melanie said. “And we really like each other.”

Guests are greeted with brightly colored hammocks dangling from the ceiling. There’s space for Pilates classes and a retail section of the activewear brand Onzie, an affordable American-made clothing line.

“Onzie doesn’t sell anything that costs more than $79,” Melanie said. “We love that it’s all American-made.”

Guests are also greeted by that quote, “In order to fly you must first be willing to let go,” written in scripted letters on the wall.

It serves as a reminder for the Schlarbs and their clients to let go, have fun and follow AntiGravity’s basic principles: safety first, have fun, kick butt - in that order.

“It truly sums up the whole idea,” Melanie said.

FlyFitness is located at 601 50th St., in Kanawha City. There is a parking lot in front of the building and parking available on the street and across the street from the studio.

To see a schedule of classes, clients are asked to download the free MINDBODY app. Clients can see the schedule, register for classes, register for one-on-one sessions and pay for their classes all in the app.


Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail, https://wvgazettemail.com.

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