Detroit's Livernois strip has long enjoyed a reputation as a center for fashion. But what if you want to look and feel great underneath the clothes you buy there? Well, as luck would have it, the area is also starting to become a bit of a fitness hub too. In the past few years, a variety of options have opened up along the avenue for those interested in getting their workout on.
Got a hankering for aerobics and dance fitness? Try BAM Studio
on Livernois near Pembroke Avenue, which offers Zumba, Dance Fitness, Twerk Fitness, and Thick Girl Fitness classes, as well as kids' ballet and teen dance.
The 'BAM' in the name stands for Best Artist Management, and the space is owned by Dorothy Ware, an entertainment industry consultant, manager, and booking agent who over the years has worked with notable hip-hop artists and acts like Whodini, Erick Sermon, Doc Ice, and Dru Hill. She rents out the space as a joint fitness studio and banquet hall.
"I decided to start renting out the space for fitness classes because I'm personally a fitness fanatic," she says. "I also saw a need for affordable events so I decided to broaden my business and created our Bam Studio full service venue."
Dance Fitness class in progress at BAM Studio
A Detroit native, Ware opened BAM Studio in 2013. For her, Livernois was a very sensible spot to set up shop.
"I was familiar with Livernois because growing up my mother would shop at the historic Avenue of Fashion," she says. "My sister also worked in a real estate company on Livernois and when the company closed down she decided to open her own real estate company, Luxury Home Enterprise, and I opened BAM right next door to her."
BAM Studio features hardwood floors, mirrors, and a Bose sound system so that folks can get their groove at the same time as getting fit. Dance instructors rent out the space to host their own own dance classes or rehearsals. Several of these instructors have gone on to do big things. Dominique Loude has been hired by Ware to do music videos, danced backup shows for local performers, and is currently working with Beyonce on her On The Run tour. And Jeral Gordy is currently the choreographer for the Detroit Pistons dance team as well as a dance professor at Wayne State University.
Ware says people come from all over the city to participate in classes, and adds that her rates are very affordable for prospective instructors.
Spinning and cycling
If you're into biking and looking for a place to get some pedaling in no matter the weather, Detroit Cycling Studio
on Livernois near Santa Clara is an excellent option.
Founded in 2015, the studio specializes in indoor cycling, or spinning, a cardio-intense form of exercise that makes use of stationary bicycles. The cycling center is owned and operated by Ty Nesbitt, a certified Spin instructor and physical trainer with prior experience training boxers and mixed martial arts fighters.
"I take you through a series of exercises," Nesbitt says in a video on the studio's website. "We create an atmosphere that's fun, exciting, motivating. And we don't want anybody to feel pressured to keep up with anyone. We want you to go at your own pace."
Detroit Cycling Studios offers regular and senior-oriented cycling classes, which feature music and involve adjusting the stationary cycles to fit the needs of individual cyclists. Those attending the class must be 275 pounds or under. Participants are asked to arrive 15 minutes early, wearing regular gym shoes, and encouraged to bring their own water bottles. The studio offers drop-in, multi-ride, and unlimited monthly rates with discounts for seniors and DPD officers.
There's also an option for those who want to get stronger. SOS Fitness
— which stands for "So Simple" — is a community-based gym that offers a variety of classes, nutrition plans, and other personal training services dedicated to building strength and changing people's body compositions.
"It's not a weight-loss program," says owner Bear Sanusi. "We're not concerned so much with the number, with how the client looks afterwards. We're concerned with shedding fat and building muscle."
Bear Sanusi, owner of SOS Fitness
Beyond that, Sanusi also sees fitness as training that benefits the mind, body, and spirit, and encourages the development of traits like discipline and steadfastness that are beneficial to those outside the gym.
SOS offers a mix of fitness training crafted for the general public. There are two main classes: "sculpt," a small group class that combines weight resistance training, aerobics, and core workouts for those who want to slim down fat and build up muscle ; and "strength," an advanced class for women that features high-intensity cardio and functional training and focuses on strengthening and toning glutes, legs, and abs.
The equipment available at the facility includes barbells, squat racks, medicine balls, cable machines, agility ladders, resistance stands, and more.
Sanusi comes from an athletic training background. A former college football player, he went to school at Grand Valley State and Eastern Michigan University, where he worked as a trainer with EMU's football team. After that he worked at Burn Fitness in Livonia and Rochester Hills. Eventually, he decided to start his own fitness center to help serve the community in the city of Detroit where he grew up.
The space "kind of fell into his lap," he says, due to a family connection, and he opened the doors to the gym in October 2016.
He says it's been a real learning curve over the past two years making the transition from trainer to owner and operator, learning to rely on his instructors, rather than taking everything on himself. Lately, the business has really started to bloom.
Foot traffic along Livernois is bustling, especially in the summertime, and an active social media presence has him drawing clients from around the city of Detroit as well as Southfield and Oak Park.
"I think the fitness community is starting to build around here," he says. "I think people are starting to take their health more seriously."
Beyond that he's excited to see the success other fitness-related businesses are enjoying elsewhere on the avenue.
"Everybody offers something a little different. It's not just the same thing, everybody's got their own own niche, so people can get a little of everything."
This article is part of a series where we revisit stories from our On the Ground installment and explore new ones in the Live6 area. It is supported by the Kresge Foundation.
Photos by Nick Hagen.