Thirty years ago, locals could count the number of fitness clubs and specialty stores in the Charleston area on two hands.
Times have changed. Dramatically.
The influx of newcomers combined with fitness-focused millennials and age-battling baby boomers have led to the opening of dozens of gyms, an array of studios, stores and outfitters, ranging in price from budget to boutique.
Charleston’s fitness desert has now turned into a diverse jungle of activity.
Clubs & studios
If you like the Big Box, Charleston has them, including O2, Planet Fitness, Pivotal and Gold’s Gym, which have multiple sites across the metro area.
While the newness of CrossFit is over, those small boxes continue to draw the faithful.
Dozens of studios devoted to yoga, barre, Pilates, indoor cycling and circuit training are peppered over the landscape. Some of the more popular ones are Charleston Power Yoga, Holy Cow Yoga, Pure Barre, Barre Evolution, Revolution, Journey Cycling, Cyclebar, Chucktown Fitness and Orangetheory.
Newer boutique studios include HYLO Fitness, Longevity and Koko Fit Club.
Running & triathlon
In the past decade, fitness has become more tribal in nature.
The running and triathlon scene reflects that as well. Locals gravitate to the old-school Charleston Running Club (established 40 years ago), stores such a Fleet Feet Sports or Blue Sky Endurance for training camps and group runs, or events, such as the Charleston Sprint Triathlon Series or the Race the Landing 5K series.
While running has taken on a more social nature in recent years, the area still boasts of nearly 140 races, triathlons and open water swims every year.
Among the biggies are the Cooper River Bridge Run in early spring, the Lowcountry Splash open water swim around Memorial Day and the Turkey Day Run and Gobble Wobble on Thanksgiving Day.
Another change over the past three decades has been the presence of cyclists, from commuters to the competitive, on the roads in the Charleston.
For those just getting acquainted with cycling here, the best place to meet and find out about upcoming events is by visiting the websites of Charleston’s two cycling nonprofits, Coastal Cyclists and Charleston Moves, not to mention the websites for various stores.
The tri-county area hosts an array of weekly group rides, including Barn Jam Rides on Wednesday evenings at Sewee Outpost in Awendaw, weekend rides in the Francis Marion National Forest and on Johns Island.
The Bridge Run equivalent for cycling in Charleston is actually Coastal Cyclists’ After the Bridge Run Ride in April. Meanwhile, Charleston Moves has upped the ante for National Bike Month in May by adding an array of activities over the four-week period.
With most climbable rock at least three hours away, Charleston surprisingly has a growing climbing community, thanks to climbing programs at James Island County Park and a bouldering gym at Coastal Climbing that was established in 2009.
Supporting all these fitness endeavors are plenty of stores.
Besides Fleet Feet and Blue Sky, Half-Moon Outfitters has locations in Charleston, Mount Pleasant and West Ashley. Lululemon and Athletica are favs, especially for women. Cycling is covered by Affordabike, Trek, Charleston Bicycle Shoppe, Mike’s Bikes and Sweetgrass Cycles.