Fitness on the coast is different than it is in areas that are farther inland. Myrtle Beach locals utilize a more diverse regimen, an outdoor attitude and a beach body motivation when setting and achieving fitness goals. (The weather does not hurt, either.)
When it comes to putting your toes in the sand, people are more concerned with their backside than their pedicure. Getting tan and tone has been a conversation piece for decades; however, in recent years, it is less about being skinny and more about being strong.
Leading an active lifestyle has become the new version of what it means to live at the beach. Clubs, businesses and activities focusing on health are spawning up all over the Grand Strand and they all have one thing in common: No couch potatoes allowed.
Sure, we have gyms
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The last several years have evolved the traditional gym into having a more diverse menu beyond weights and a treadmill. In fact, gyms that do not offer classes, alternate fitness programs or outdoor facilities are behind the curve of what exercisers are expecting.
Contributors to this trend are programs like Crossfit, races like the Tough Mudder and sports like mixed martial arts. They all create a “push yourself” mentality that does not translate to a treadmill very easily.
On the zen side of exercise, yoga has been a go-to practice for years. The blend of stretching, breathing and conditioning has taken a hold of our desires to relieve stress and get in shape.
While it is easy to see how traditional training practices are beneficial, these newer trends bring something else to the table that is impacting the Grand Strand — exercising in groups.
Training in groups has changed what some people believe about working out and why we workout. The mind-set has shifted from exercise as the “way to get skinny” to “the way to get strong.”
Given this type of positive shift, there stands for more people to get in on living life differently and doing more with their exercise buddies than ever before.
While it may seem trivial, the idea of group training is the real trend-setter in how beach health is growing to levels not yet seen.
Join the club
One of the best ways to get in on the group training phenomena is to actually join a club around the beach. Running, cycling and swim clubs are popping up all over the Grand Strand. The common goal of these groups is to bring people together to train at individual paces in a safe and fun environment.
One of the fastest-growing groups on the beach is the Myrtle Beach Triathlon Club. Before you dismiss this club as being for only the hard-core athlete, consider that they make it a mission to cater to all levels of fitness. In fact, they pride themselves on helping people learn how to compete.
Pete Politis, an administrator for the club, says they experienced a “growth spurt” this year due to athletes looking for more of an adventure in their training. MBTC offers six supervised, instructed activities for athletes to choose from like stand-up paddleboarding to kayaking to running.
One of the principles of MBTC is that racing helps promote the active lifestyle by giving the athlete goals to work toward. Politis says the club puts on many events that cater to various skill and training levels year round.
“You will start off the year with a small race and finish the year with a longer race,” he says.
Someone training in the club gets access to seasoned racers, a library of online documents for information, classes and some great group training to work toward their next race goal. Every activity is voluntary and all part of joining the group, which costs less per year than most gyms charge per month.
“Every workout has a purpose. Staying focused and disciplined is the key,” says Politis about the way the club approaches training classes and workouts.
While fun is a core principle, club members pride themselves on not wasting time and providing members with beneficial training practices that will enhance their experience.
The health business
While everything is, or has potential to be, a business these days, there are a few successful businesses that focus on health and an active lifestyle. As a coastal town, there is one activity that really captures Myrtle Beach’s unique geography and its coastal attitude. Surfing.
Jack Hannigan, owner of Jack’s Surf Lessons and Board Rentals, says “surfing is surprisingly one of the best workouts for your entire body that you could do. It has been viewed strictly as a leisure sport, but now many people are picking it up for the health benefits.”
When it comes to exercise, board sports are often overlooked. They blend a strong upper body and lower body workout by simply doing what you should be doing with a surfboard: paddling out and catching waves.
This year, Hannigan and his team added paddleboard excursions and kayak trips to their repertoire. Some people who visit the beach are looking for something active to do outside, something that they can’t do anywhere else. By adding stand-up paddleboarding and kayak tours, he can now offer some variations if surfing is not your thing.
“Most of our clients do not ever expect to feel the burn quite like they do after a surf lesson. One of the biggest misconceptions of surfing is that you just paddle out there and sit and wait for a wave,” says Hannigan about the fitness realization behind surfing.
In addition to surfing, Myrtle Beach caters to traditional sports year round. One of the newcomers to sports fitness in the area is Manzer Basketball Academy.
Training basketball players from recreation level to professional players, Colin Stevens, owner of Manzer, focuses on instilling a strict fitness regimen in athletes of all levels.
“Fitness brings about toughness in players and we express that in all of our programs,” says Stevens. He makes sure that he not only has skilled basketball players, but that he has fit players under his watch.
Manzer trains a handful of professional players who demand top-level skills coaching as well as fitness coaching. This commitment helps the younger players in their development from high school to college.
Manzer starts the basketball education around fitness from day one with their youngest players starting while they area in elementary school. It is never too soon to build the philosophy for an active life, he says.
Training at the X Gym as well as the Myrtle Beach Sports Center, Manzer players get a strong mix of training options. Getting out of the traditional programs in the weight room, Stevens puts his players through running exercises, jumping rope, stadium runs, hill runs and other alternative training practices that have proven beneficial to develop a complete player.
There are a few places around town that really accommodate training sessions. Safety is a key factor as is accessibility, parking and manicuring. Myrtle Beach makes good use of outdoor space for exercising.
The beach is an obvious choice for running, yoga and walking. Early morning and late evening give you the best chance of avoiding the crowds. But over the last few years, developers have been making the effort to give us some other outdoor training spaces designed for exercise.
The Horry County Bike and Run Park (aka The Hulk) is the mecca for outdoor running and cycling in Myrtle Beach. More than seven miles of trails that are maintained and supervised are complete at this time. Its Carolina Forest location makes it easy to access for anyone who wants to run or bike a trail. From long, dusty straightaways to table tops and rollers, The Hulk is the ultimate stop for trail riding and running.
Broadway at the Beach is known for its shopping, but it is also the perfect place to practice intervals, according to Politis. The loop around the complex, when traffic is not a factor, is a great short ride.
There is an 18-mile loop for running and cycling through Plantation Point and along Marina Parkway that Politis says is safe any time of the day or year. A similar look with paved exercise paths is from the YMCA along Marina Parkway. This route offers lots of shade and safe running conditions.
If you are looking for a challenge, Barefoot Landing has one of the toughest cycling loops in the Myrtle Beach area. At 18 miles long and climbing more than 300 feet through its five bridges, it really gets your workout pumping. Five miles of this loop are marked for running and the loop is safe any day of the year.
Anytime a community gets saturated with people who love to live an active lifestyle, there is a shift in the economy. From retail trends to culinary trends, the impact reaches well beyond just going for a jog.
While we are not there yet, Stevens says that “we are trending in the right direction.”
More and more people are living active lifestyles, which means they are less concerned with a crash diet or emergency workout program, but they are living healthier 12 months of the year. Running races, walking, yoga, cycling, mud runs and surfing are all becoming part of daily life and not just something you do each spring before the bikini hits the beach.
Politis says that as people become more involved in active lifestyles, the desire for better food options grows as well.
“You can not train for an Ironman on fast food and do well,” says Politis.
MBTC is geared toward this caliber of racing and, within that, diet is very important. Finding healthy options when you eat out is becoming more and more vital in what the locals are looking for in restaurants.
Shifting the tourist mentality from lazy days at the beach into the days of surfing, basketball, running, cycling, swimming and kayaking has already begun. Adventure attractions are popping up here and there, like Go Ape Zipline and Treetop Adventure in North Myrtle Beach. It is the foundation of active-life small businesses and locals utilizing geography and opportunities that will make the biggest wave.
Hannigan says that he sees a lot of “propaganda leading towards a young and fit generation” around Myrtle Beach.
“Just about all of our instructors work out on a regular basis at many of the local gyms,” he says. He stresses health and conditioning for his staff and, lately, that has been easier to find around town.