Crowded fitness centers can be breeding grounds for competition and hostility. Regular gym-goers decked out in Lululemon who eat, sleep and breathe working out can come across as intimidating to novices, and nobody enjoys being stared down by someone who wants a turn on the treadmill during peak hours.
Sherie and Ross Flores, a former military couple with a longtime hankering for fitness and overall health, recently introduced Charlottesville to a concept that not only embraces the crowds, but thrives on them. “We love a crowded atmosphere,” says Ross Flores, co-owner of 9Round, a franchise circuit gym that provides high-intensity, interval training workouts with no class times. “People tend to feed off each other. The more folks that are in there working out, the more energetic it is, and the better workout folks are getting.”
9Round, an international franchise with more than 200 locations in the U.S. including the one on Timberwood Boulevard across from Hollymead Town Center, features nine stations, each with a specific exercise that changes daily. Equipment at the stations includes jump ropes, dumbbells, kettlebells, different sized punching bags and medicine balls, and the idea is to work every muscle in half an hour. You get three minutes at each station (which may sound easy, but have you ever jumped rope for three straight minutes?), with 30 seconds between each rotation. Those 30 seconds are not to be confused with time to rest—the trainer, who’s always on site to push you through the workout, calls out a different low-intensity exercise like lunges or wall-sits to keep your heart rate up between intervals. From start to finish the whole thing takes 30 minutes. And part of what makes 9Round so approachable, especially for working parents or anyone else with busy schedules, Sherie Flores says, is that there are no designated class times.
“It’s like a passing storm, people are streaming in all the time,” she says.
9Round is open six days a week, with two blocks of time on weekdays. Members pop in any time during operation hours, start at station one, two or nine (all of which focus on strength and can serve as warm-ups and cooldowns) as soon as the group rotates, ring the bell at the end of the workout and can cross “gym” off their to-do list in less time than it takes to go to Target.
In terms of the workout itself, it’s as intense as you want it to be. While you’re working out alongside others, including a 9Round trainer, it’s up to you to set a pace for each exercise and stick to it. No one is going to bark orders at you, or demand that you drop and give them 20, if you don’t reach a certain weight or number of reps. That is, unless you want them to. Flores says a lot of athletes join 9Round in hopes of focusing on a particular area, and trainers can work with them individually to adapt the workouts for their needs. Same for anyone with an injury or physical ailment who would require an altered workout.