Best Of :: Sports & Recreation
Don't confuse Muay Thai, the Thai kickboxing discipline, with muy Thai, which is Spanish for very Thai. Such cross-cultural hybridization, however, is what you're likely to find at the Yard Muay Thai, a spacious, inviting martial arts emporium offering highly accomplished fighters/teachers, a family environment and open scheduling where instruction takes place anytime enrolled students drop by. Airplane hangar–like doors let in light and air, and an enormous, blue-matted floor allows for plenty of workout space as well as a tidy roped-in ring. "We don't separate people by experience," says Lee Garcia, a head trainer along with Joe Schilling and Mark Komuro. The more experienced work with the less experienced — unless a bout is coming up. Garcia says 80 percent of students aren't hoping to fight competitively, one reason they try to keep it light. —Adam Gropman
241 W. Avenue 26, Lincoln Heights, 90031. (213) 706-6827, theyardmuaythai.com.
The same folks who decided that people should be able to ride a Ferris wheel where they fish have come up with, arguably, an even better combination. The Santa Monica Pier offers ROGA — running plus yoga — workouts on Saturday mornings for free at various times throughout the spring, summer and fall. Come at 8 a.m. to warm up with a two- or five-mile run and stay for yoga at 9 a.m. Yoga is led by a rotating list of Santa Monica's best yoga instructors. Friendly volunteers will hold onto your yoga mat and cheer you on while you run, then offer you refreshments from sponsors such as Clif Bar or Honest Tea when you need a boost of energy. Check the Santa Monica Pier website, sign up for the email list or "like" the Facebook page to make sure you're in the know. It's always nice to wake up to the waves, but having your workout done before brunch is another kind of heaven. —Eve Weston
200 Santa Monica Pier, Suite A, Santa Monica, 90401. (310) 458-8901, santamonicapier.org/roga.
A yoga studio for the real Eastside was embraced almost as the second coming. Finally, yoga for the people. And that's almost what Leah Gallegos and Lauren Quan-Madrid call their new space: People's Yoga. Bringing the chi to Chicanos means "Yoga y Luz" classes in Spanish, prenatal yoga, yoga for "baby 'n' me" and family yoga sessions, Gallegos says. For two years the pair traveled around the Eastside and other underserved neighborhoods to bring the practice to the working-class masses. Then, in June, $10,000 — raised in just 60 days with a crowd-funding campaign — allowed them to open the doors of a dedicated studio. So, uh, do Mexican-Americans do the downward dog? "We're seeing new people every day," Gallegos says. "It's going really good." —Dennis Romero
5161 Pomona Blvd., #209, E. Los Angeles, 90022. (323) 739-4018, peoplesyoga.org.
An entertainment producer and mother of three, Antonia King was startled to realize that L.A. had no yoga studios for children. So in 2012, she launched Zooga Yoga, a studio offering yoga classes to kids of all ages, from babies to teenagers. Naturally, the younger ones are not adept at concentration or mindfulness, so the instructors offer something they call "playful yoga," which involves a lot of motion and activity. Before you know it, your toddler will be showing you how to do tree pose and downward dog. Zooga has been so successful that King plans to expand, with two new storefronts opening soon. —Gene Maddaus
4311 Overland Ave., Culver City, 90230. (310) 839-6642, zoogayoga.com.
Joe Wolf, a massage therapist and nursing student by day, fills the Hollywood Wilshire YMCA's spin studio Tuesday through Thursday evenings with a crowd ready for a fast, fun and absolutely grueling workout. When he's not making the rounds to personally pump up participants, he seems to channel Andre the Giant's Dread Pirate Roberts from his bike, tracing his finger around the room and challenging the class to "Add more!" in a deep bellow (more resistance, that is). The workout is simple, no gimmicks and little chatter, just steady climbing or quick pedaling to an eclectic playlist — epic heartland rock, swampy industrial trip-hop, classic soul and funk, Top 40 R&B and electro-pop. Even gritty grunge ballads. Whether it's Joan Jett's "Bad Reputation" or Journey's "Don't Stop Believing," the right song always hits the speakers just as the crowd is wilting, and the hour simply speeds by. —Jessica Langlois
1553 Schrader Blvd., Hlywd., 90028. (323) 467-4161, ymcala.org/hollywood.
Located in downtown's Arts District, just off the Sixth Street Bridge, L.A. Boulders has become a top destination for bouldering — otherwise known as rock-climbing without ropes. The gym opened in January in a vast warehouse next door to a shooting range in the up-and-coming neighborhood. Inside are three massive walls — "the Barrel," "the Alcove" and "the Wave Wall" — which together offer more "problems" to solve than any other gym in the city. L.A. Boulders also has weights and exercise machines, a good enough assortment that some customers use it as their primary gym. Business is so brisk that the owners expect to open locations in Culver City, Pasadena and Hollywood next year. —Gene Maddaus
1375 E. Sixth St., #8, dwntwn., 90021. (323) 406-9119, touchstoneclimbing.com/la-boulders