OZARK, Ala. (AP) — After strapping themselves into harnesses attached to bungee cords, a group of women prepared to sweat.
And they sweat. For 45 minutes, the So Fly Bungee Fitness class at Ozark followed a routine that involved everything from toe taps to jumping jacks to burpees. Harnessing the benefits of plyometric exercise — explosive jumps or movements — with a bungee cord not only provided a good cardio workout for the class, but participants didn’t pound their joints with every movement. Besides, they looked like they were having fun.
“I have knee issues,” Ariton’s Shalene Schmidt said after class ended. “It’s less impactful than doing regular jumping jacks or lunges. The elastic takes some of the pressure off where I can do those activities without hurting myself later.”
Schmidt has been coming to So Fly since it opened last year and said she feels stronger now than before.
“I definitely have a lot more energy than before,” Schmidt said.
Paula Teeter opened So Fly Bungee Fitness in May 2021. She stumbled across bungee fitness on TikTok and read the story of Candace Williams, the creator of Sling Fitness in Edmond, Oklahoma. An athlete plagued by an autoimmune disease, Williams turned to bungee fitness when other types of workouts became impossible for her due to the pain.
Teeter could understand.
A Pilates and aerobics instructor when she was younger, Teeter’s lifestyle changed with age. Then, at age 43, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a double mastectomy. The drugs she took for 10 years after that caused Teeter terrible joint pain.
So, at age 54, Teeter made the trip to Oklahoma to become certified by Sling Fitness. On her second day there, she called her husband, Terry, and told him to start looking for a studio.
“I could actually exercise without my hips and knees hurting,” Teeter said.
Teeter got the okay from his doctor before embarking on the bungee fitness studio. Not even a year in business, So Fly has received the New Business Starter Award from the Ozark Region Chamber of Commerce, and Teeter has lost 50 pounds since opening her studio.
“I’m in the best health of my life and it’s thanks to plyometrics,” Teeter said. “That’s what bungee fitness is; it’s plyometrics.”
She has seen clients who have had knee and hip replacements return to exercise.
In a class she recently taught, Teeter had participants ranging in age from 16 to 80. The studio even offers a bungee class for kids on Saturdays. Each bungee class can accommodate 11 people plus the instructor. Fans around the studio help keep things cool during class.
There are a lot of women taking So Fly classes, but there are a few men who attend them regularly, Teeter said. There are also many different body shapes – short, tall, round, thin.
“The majority of people we see here are over 150 pounds because we have an obese nation,” Teeter said. “I’m also over 150 but when I started I was 230 and now I’m 180.”
Bungee cords are designed to support certain weight ranges and can support a person over 200 pounds. Before each class, participants climb a ladder and are assigned a bungee cord based on that number. At So Fly, the rubber bands are attached to cables which are attached to the ceiling beams. Cables swivel to allow full movement. Users wear a harness that is snug around the body but loose around the legs. The harnesses are elasticated by a hook at the back, although there is the possibility of being hooked on the sides.
It is important to get the correct fit of the lanyard and harness so that users can hang above the ground without touching it. Also, a harness that is too tight on the legs will pinch and not allow full movement.
Teeter starts everyone in a beginner level class, but there are advanced classes with more air moves and jumps.
While one class can do Peter Pan jumps, another can become Superman.
Aerial fitness isn’t new – Pilates and yoga studios introduced yoga silks and hammocks years ago.
But the bungee fitness concept, according to previous media reports, debuted in Thailand in 2016 and came to the United States about a year later. Today, some companies offer training certifications, bungee equipment, and franchise opportunities.
A few months after Teeter opened So Fly in Ozark, a second bungee fitness studio – Fly By Bungee – opened in downtown Dothan but closed after the building was sold (the owner hopes opening a new space soon).
So Fly has more than bungee fitness with a Bounce and Barre trampoline class, another class that focuses on abs and arms, and a boot camp class. Then there’s the Kangoo Boot Jump class where participants train in spring-loaded bouncy boots (although you have to buy your own boots). Teeter even plans to introduce a book class that uses chopsticks to lead a total body workout.
You can find So Fly’s class schedule on the MindBody app or by visiting the studio’s website, soflybungeefitness.com.
Teeter said she was happy to have brought bungee fitness to Ozark. She even helps train future studio owners in northern Alabama and Louisiana.
“You have to have the will to just believe it,” Teeter said. “And I do, and I love it. Does it make you hot and sweaty? Yeah. Is it hard? Yeah. But I have women who are close to 80 who come here three days a week. I have them as young as 4. We offer something for everyone, and that was really what I wanted to do.”