Fitness options proliferate downtown Schenectady

Just a few years ago, downtown Schenectady was home to a YMCA and that was about it as far as fitnes
Brendan Keller of Schenectady works out at Crossfit 58 on LaFayette Street in Schenectady Thursday, January 29, 2015.
Brendan Keller of Schenectady works out at Crossfit 58 on LaFayette Street in Schenectady Thursday, January 29, 2015.

Just a few years ago, downtown Schenectady was home to a YMCA and that was about it as far as fitness centers went.

But in the last year, as more companies locate downtown and luxury apartments open nearby, the beginnings of what some might soon call a fitness craze have begun to pop up downtown. There are yoga and pilates studios, places to try spinning and CrossFit, even Parkour. A huge four-story building on lower State Street is being transformed into a fitness center offering everything from mixed martial arts classes and boxing to Zumba and free personal training.

The owners of these new facilities say they were attracted to downtown Schenectady for its ongoing revitalization and broad swath of potential customers. There are office workers who sneak a class in on their lunch break or before the evening commute, students from Union College or Schenectady County Community College who live within walking distance, residents of nearby neighborhoods and towns, and even local military personnel.

The old downtown YMCA is closed, but its fitness facilities and programs live on in Center City.

Here are some new places to get your “om” and sweat on:

Studio 4 Hot Yoga and Pilates

Where: 151 Lafayette St.

Who: Michelle Pollard

What: yoga, hot yoga, pilates, mat pilates, barre fitness, group classes

For more information:

Michelle Pollard opened the yoga and pilates studio in October. She’s worked for Capital District YMCA and Hot Yoga Saratoga, and even ran her own studio out of her Ballston Lake home while raising young children. As she looked at places in the Capital Region that could use a new yoga studio, she found one downtown sorely lacking in fitness opportunities and decided to do something about it.

“There are great restaurants and bars in Schenectady,” she said. “There are young professionals moving to this area and impressive companies like Quirky and Transfinder moving downtown. But I really did feel like there were very little health and fitness opportunities in downtown Schenectady.”

CrossFit 518

Where: 151 Lafayette St.

Who: Andy Sayles

What: beginner courses, weightlifting, powerlifting, rowing, gymnastics, strongman movements, running, Parkour

For more information:

CrossFit was formally established in California in 2000 with the aim of preparing trainees for the unknown. It has since grown to include more than 4,500 CrossFit-licensed gyms worldwide. The strength and conditioning program incorporates a variety of exercises that emphasize mobility, flexibility, strength, gymnastic skills, aerobics and endurance.

Andy Sayles had just become certified in CrossFit when someone from Re4orm Architecture asked if he’d like to open a gym in a building the company was rehabbing at the old Franklin Plaza downtown. He’d wanted to open his own gym, and here the opportunity was falling into his lap. He opened the gym in March 2014.

“I thought there was a good opportunity to fill a void in downtown Schenectady,” Sayles said. “There is a CrossFit in Rotterdam, but nothing here downtown. We get a whole variety of people now. We have people who work at the public defender’s office down the street and walk over during lunchtime. We get a couple guys in the military who live in Saratoga County and drive down early in the morning. We get local firefighters and people from Albany. Our youngest client is 15 and our oldest is 66. It’s a whole array.”

Yoga Bliss on the Blvd.

Where: 140 Erie Blvd.

Who: Mary Clare O’Connor

What: adaptive yoga, gentle yoga, impromptu yoga, krapulu yoga, ashtanga, prenatal yoga, vinyasa, belly dance, qigong, therapeutic resonance, monthly kirtans

For more information:

Mary Clare O’Connor opened her yoga studio in May 2014 in a building that once stood at the Erie Canal’s towpath. A resident of the nearby historic Stockade neighborhood, she is a firm believer in downtown’s renaissance and knew she wanted to be in the middle of it all.

“I love the vibrant feel of downtown,” she said. “I love downtown. I love the fact that I can walk places. I love the work that’s been done on Erie Boulevard.

“We get a mix of people who live downtown and work downtown, so this location is convenient for them. I’m getting a lot of people from Scotia, Glenville and Niskayuna, I think because it’s an easy spot right off of [Interstate] 890. We’re also on the way home for a lot of people who take Erie Boulevard on their commute.”

Ultimate Fitness Center (coming soon)

Where: 237-245 State St.

Who: James DeFalco

What: boxing, mixed martial arts, yoga, Zumba, cardio, weights, personal training

It hasn’t been easy and it hasn’t been swift, but James DeFalco is finally gearing up to open his dream gym. The Staten Island native managed Bally Total Fitness gyms in Albany and Syracuse and once competed in professional wrestling promotions under the name Jimmy “Jact” Cash.

After sitting on the building for nearly a decade, DeFalco is hoping to open a sprawling gym inside a prominent four-story, 26,000-square-foot building on lower State Street this March.

About $150,000 worth of renovations got underway last year, and as of February he had set a tentative opening date of March 1. Because of the size and scope of the project — it will include cardio equipment, weights, a boxing ring, an aerobics room, locker rooms, steam rooms and tanning beds — he plans to open the gym in phases.

“I think Schenectady has a lot of potential,” he said. “There’s a good population down there and that’s the major thing. Businesses are expanding. I’ll have drive-by traffic from both Erie and State. We’re within walking distance of SCCC. And soon, we’ll be down the road from a casino.”

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