The AFM Annual "Best Of" Awards 2012

By Madie Leon – January 1, 2013
Brian Fitzsimmons

This year’s “Best of Health and Fitness” list is a clear reflection of the thriving fitness scene in Austin. Our readers voted in a variety of categories to give voice to some of their favorite stores, people, gyms, eateries—all the components of a fit lifestyle.  Each account could vote only once, so multiple votes by the same person were discarded.  For categories in which more than three winners are listed, we decided to take an extra step to provide additional information in races that were too close to call.  Is one of your favorites missing from our list?  Make sure to get involved next year to show your local support. 


Best National Gym

Life Time Fitness 24%

For the third year in a row, Life Time fitness takes the top spot for national gyms. This year, Life Time partnered with the Commitment Day national movement to host the Commitment Day 5K on January 1, 2013.  This national chain is getting involved personally within the community.

Gold’s Gym 22%

Taking a step up from last year’s results, Gold’s Gym pulls in as a close second. The national chain boasts 45 years of fitness experience along with 700 locations across the globe. In Austin-area Gold’s Gyms, look for kids’ clubs and a diverse amount of group classes, such as Zumba and RPM training.

24 Hour Fitness 11%

Taking a slight drop from last year’s votes is 24 Hour Fitness, a dream for young Austin entrepreneurs whose schedules dictate their workout times. The prices at 24 Hour are slightly lower than other competitors but there are not quite as many franchises in the area.

Best Local Gym
In a tight race for local fame, our second place winners were separated by a margin of only three votes.

Pure Austin 19%

For a second consecutive year, Austin’s “indoor gym for outdoor people” takes the prize for local gyms. Check out an unusual gym benefit in the nutrition consultations provided by Pure Austin registered nutritionists at an affordable cost.

CG Arena 12%

The CG Arena pulls into the local gym contest this year.  Known for their outdoor group boot camps, Camp Gladiator now offers a group workout spin on the traditional indoor gym.  While Camp Gladiator has workouts in places other than Austin, their only facility is the CG Arena, located in Northwest Austin.

Castle Hill Fitness 12%

Located in trendy downtown Austin, the term “gym” falls short when describing Castle Hill. Also available are facials, massages, and other spa treatments as well as a health food café to supplement your workout.

Best Personal Training Studio

Castle Hill Fitness 11%

Featuring separate cardio rooms as well as an outdoor training studio and a multisport training studio, Castle Hill offers a wide variety of ways to get in shape.

Dane’s Body Shop 8%

On a given day, a drive by Dane’s Body Shop usually includes a scene of trainers in the heat or the cold, providing interesting ways to get fit. A newcomer onto the scene in last year’s “Best of,” the local gym keeps in the contest for a second year.

Pure Austin Fitness 7%

Two locations with the same goal:  to get you in shape and support a healthy lifestyle. (Also see Pure Austin in the local gym category.)

Best Personal Trainer
This tight contest was separated by only five votes when the chips finally fell for our first and second place.

Michael O’ Hara 6%

Previously a manager at a local 24 Hour Fitness, Michael O'Hara is a personal trainer, business owner (Bigger Faster Stronger Training), and volunteer for Team Red White and Blue (TRWB). In addition to his training with clients to improve their performance and health, O'Hara's work as chapter director with TRWB, an organization that helps veterans returning from war to reintegrate into American society.

Kim Strassmann-Eagle 6%

Strassmann-Eagle is a personal trainer with an educational background in biology and a Masters in Eastern Medicine. She is the founder of “Earn That Body,” an eight-week online program designed to address nutritional and fitness needs through personalized planning.

 Best Outdoor Boot Camp
Aside from our first place winner, the margin between the other contest winners was so small that percentages were relatively the same, which is why more are featured for this category.

Camp Gladiator 30%

A clear favorite, Camp Gladiator pulls into first place once again.  Close to fifty locations in the area offer group workouts designed to challenge, rain or shine.

Relentless 8%

Relentless Training Systems is associated with CrossFit Central, which was founded by the Thiel siblings in 2005. Classes range from Boot Camp Levels One and Two to intense week-long ab training sessions.

RockBody 7%

Offering unlimited classes and locations along with no start or end dates, RockBody Boot Camps are a bargain for the fitness they offer.

Full Force Fitness 6%

Full Force Fitness located in Cedar Park offers early morning boot camps as well as kickboxing classes in the local community.

Synergy Fitness 6%

Offering meal plans for boot camp members, Synergy Fitness promises you’ll lose inches and build muscle or get your money back.

Best CrossFit Facility

CrossFit Central 25%

Started in 2005 by Jeremy Thiel and his sister, Carey Kepler, the facilities were one of the first 50 CrossFit affiliates in the world. Thiel moved here with the idea of creating a fit community, which has been built as CrossFit locations expand. A locally owned and operated business, CrossFit remains a family affair, run by Thiel and Kepler and the their three brothers and sisters.

Fit and Fearless 11%

Located in north and south Austin, Fit and Fearless seeks to create camaraderie among their trainees. Compete against personal bests and participate in a family dynamic training style. Choose from more than 70 classes every week.

Woodward CrossFit 8%

Holding on to third place again this year, Woodward CrossFit, founded by Matt Woodward, is keeping folks fit in the (787)28!

Best Yoga Studio

Black Swan Yoga 25%

Committed to making yoginis out of every yoga novice, Black Swan offers donation-based classes ($10-15 suggested donation).  Also available are online courses to which you can subscribe for fees as low as $8/month for your favorite trainer’s sessions.

Castle Hill Fitness 12%

Featured in two other categories, Castle Hill provides an all around fitness liftestyle.  The site features two separate yoga studios.

Yoga Yoga 10%

Competition is fierce in the yoga category.  With three locations in Austin, and offering classes, events, and teacher training, Yoga Yoga takes third place this year, slipping from second last year.

Best Yoga Instructor

Gioconda Parker 7%

Parker has 15 years of experience and is registered with the Yoga Alliance.  She leads retreats in the Caribbean and other exotic resorts; here, she teaches at Castle Hill Fitness as well as her own classes at Gioconda Yoga.

Zoe Mantarakis 5%

Mantarakis, a vinyasa yoga instructor, currently teaches at Yoga Vida. The ten-year practitioner is known to combine fun party events and live music with classes.

Dido Nydick 3%

Nydick , certified in several areas of yoga practice teaches at several studios throughout Austin for all levels of yoga, including prenatal and yoga for the elderly.

Best Pilates Studio
The first two listings are actually gyms with Pilates classes, while the rest are specialty Pilates studios.

Castle Hill Fitness 21%

Coming in first in this category—up from third last year—Castle Hill, located in downtown Austin, offers a variety of top-notch fitness activities and is AFM readers’ first pick for Pilates.

Ballet Austin 13%

In addition to the world-class professional ballet productions, Ballet Austin provides Pilates classes at the Butler Community School in the Ballet Austin building downtown.

Mauro Pilates 6%

Last year’s leader in the category was the first in Austin to offer STOTT PILATES equipment.

Redbird Pilates & Fitness 5% – tie

This East Austin studio offers a variety of Pilates and conditioning mat classes.

Pilates Bodies & Barre 5% -tie

The Power Pilates host training center is a newcomer to the “Best of” list.

Best Pilates Instructor

Vlada Sheber, Ballet Austin 9%

Now the Pilates program director for Ballet Austin, Vlada Sheber has had  a successful career as a company member in Ballet Austin and has received several honors, including one for designing the Butler Community School’s Pilates studio.

Stephanie Wright, Castle Hill7%

This Pilates instructor seeks
to unite people together in
her classes.

Liana Mauro, Mauro Pilates 7%

Formerly a psychotherapist, Mauro now specializes in custom designed motion for her clients.

Best Barre Studio
The top three studios from 2011 were once again the top three this year, with just a slightly different lineup.

The Bar Method 24%

Taking a jump from third place last year, The Bar Method takes a jump to first place.

Pure Barre 21%

Once again in the “Best of” list, Pure Barre’s “lift, tone, burn” model is obviously working for its clients.

Dancers Shape 8%

Owned by a former New York dancer, Dancers Shape is about maintaining the highest level
of fitness.

Best Martial Arts Studio

Austin Muay Thai & Jiu Jitsu 23%

A clear favorite in this year’s race, Austin Muay Thai once again takes the top spot in the results. The studio offers Muay Thai/Thai boxing and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Fit and Fearless 15%

Holding on to second place for another year, Fit and Fearless offers Krav Maga, Gracie Jiu Jitsu, as well as CrossFit Fearless and CrossFit Endurance training.

Premier Martial Arts 10%

Premier Martial Arts, which combines a variety of techniques with four disciplines, makes its premier appearance on the list this year with a strong third place finish in the voting.

Best Massage

Michelle Hittner, Austin Body Worker 7%

The only massage therapist to spend two years singled out for her skills, Hittner is a triathlete, swimmer, and cyclist who understands athletes’ needs.  You can also find her backstage at music events like Austin City Limits.

milk + honey 6%

This is the first year on the “Best of” list for this award-winning spa.

Austin Deep/Massage Envy 5% – tie

The all-women staff at Austin Deep doesn’t hold back at getting to the tougher issues with deep tissue massage.  Massage Envy, a full service spa, is back a second year on the “Best of” list.

Best Chiropractic Care

NextLevel 11%

The doctors here have extensive biomechanics knowledge and design care to address your physical needs.  For athletes heavily involved in CrossFit, specialized treatments are available.

Austin Sports Therapy 8%

One of the company’s physicians, Dr. Arbuckle, recently competed in the Austin’s Fittest Doctor contest. Outside of the competitive arena, the group tailors a physical regimen to specific injuries.

Advanced Rehabilitation 6%

Advanced Rehabilitation debuts on the list this year. They offer free injury evaluations for new patients every Wednesday from
11 a.m.-1 p.m. at all of their four locations in the Austin area.

Best Acupuncture Services
The top three contenders in this category were separated by only nine votes this year.

Matthew Kirsch, Windows to the Sky 6%

This licensed acupuncturist offers acupuncture and bodywork in a beautiful and convenient location.

PK Acupuncture and Wellness Center 5%

Also a professor at the Texas College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Phyllis Kung (PK) is licensed in Texas as well as nationally.

Aaron Rubenstein, Castle Hill Fitness 4%

A world traveller, Rubenstein has been around the globe to learn from professionals in places such as Amsterdam and Tokyo.

Best Local Nonprofit

Cedar Park Boxing 16%

This nonprofit works with underprivileged youth to give an outlet for aggression and to provide accountability through a mentor.

Kid Gladiator 12%

Kid Gladiator is a summer nonprofit in Austin formed by Ally Davidson, the creator of Camp Gladiator. The faith-based camp encourages teamwork and gets kids going through fitness activities such as relays and obstacle courses.

Youth in Motion Foundation 11%

An “umbrella” organization, this nonprofit promotes fitness programs as well as fundraising for fitness-based programs for youth in the area.

Best Running Group

Rogue Running 33%

Last year’s first place winner, Rogue Running offers groups for every fitness level and schedule—from the triathlon trainee to the busy working mom—to meet your training needs.

Gilbert’s Gazelles 14%

The Gazelles leapt into second place this year.  Former NCAA All-American track star and Austin Fit Magazine’s “Best Runner” winner, Gilbert Tuhabonye offers his expertise to get you ready for your next race.

RunATX 7%

Using the Pose Method of running, the group meets at a local middle school to train.

Best Runner
These two competitors were separated by only one vote.

Valerie Hunt 11%

Owner of Xpressfitness and RunATX, the runner picked up on the POSE method after years of suffering injuries. Hunt has been training athletes for over twenty years.

Gilbert Tuhabonye 11%

A philanthropist and survivor first, Tuhabonye escaped horrible tragedy in his home of Burundi, Africa. Twenty years later, having gained national acknowledgement as a premier athlete, Tuhabonye is a local celebrity in the running world.

Scott MacPherson 7%

A University of Arkansas grad, MacPherson has created a stir in Austin’s running community since his arrival in 2010 with some stellar performances at many of the area’s races.

Best Triathlon

TriRock 22%

The Austin Triathlon and TriRock Austin are the same popular event. This triathlon is clearly a favorite.

CapTexTri 15%

This event puts Austin’s natural athletic venues to the ultimate test. Named as the UTA Para Triathlon National Championship, the triathlon is obviously picking up widespread attention as it pulls into its 22nd year.

Couples/Danskin 5% – tie

The Couples Triathlon and the Danskin Triathlon tie for third place this year, perhaps indicating the strength of the female constituency and a fondness for sprints.


Best Triathlete

Brandon Brickley 8%

The Texas A&M grad who saw competition on the Aggie swim team returned to the triathlon scene in Austin several years ago. He placed first in the Burnet Triathlon in 2010 and is a popular trainer for Camp Gladiator fitness camps in the area.

David Garza 8%

Featured three times in AFM’s “Top 10 Fittest,” this triathlete has had a successful career as a personal trainer. Coming away from a time in his life in which he admits he was overweight, Garza now leads running groups in Austin and is an avid indoor cycling instructor.

Mike Thompson/Amy Marsh 6% – tie

A cancer survivor and well-respected athlete, Thompson has raced in marathons and Ironman-distance triathlons to benefit  Go Mitch Go! a foundation benefiting blood cancer research.  Amy Marsh is a four-time Ironman Champion and the 2010 USAT Long Distance Triathlete of the Year.

Best Running Race

LiveStrong Austin Marathon and Half 17%

Austinites built it and the nation has noticed, as this marathon continues to grow in numbers of both local and out-of-town runners.

Run for the Water 15%

Sponsored by the Gazelle Foundation and co-founded by runner Gilbert Tuhabonye, the race benefits go toward building wells for clean waters in Burundi, Africa. The distances offered are 10 Mile, 5K, and Kids Run.

Capitol 10K 14%

The Austin-American Statesman Capitol 10K is the largest 10K in Texas and the fifth largest in the nation.

Best Indoor Cycling Instructor

David Garza, Castle Hill Fitness 24%

Garza has gotten several nods from the fitness community in Austin. This is his second year in a row as the top dog for local cycling instructors.

Kim Strassmann-Eagle 14%

Also featured as “Best Personal Trainer,” Strassmann-Eagle has developed a presence on this year’s “Best of” list.

Ryon Talbot, Pure Austin 13%

Talbot makes his second appearance on the best cycling instructor’s list.

Best Bike Shop

Jack & Adam’s Bicycles 28%

Known for their community events, Jack & Adam’s blends into Austin’s fitness culture and is a hot spot for triathletes.

Bicycle Sport Shop 17%

This store has been an Austin fixture in the cycling community for almost thirty years.
Mellow Johnny’s 14%

This shop values a sense of community; it's mission is to “introduce people to the bike life.”

Best Place to Swim Laps

Deep Eddy Pool 26%

The oldest swimming pool in Texas has morphed from swimming hole to resort to popular place for local athletes to get their laps in while enjoying the scenery.

Barton Springs 25%

Nestled inside Zilker Park, Barton Springs Pool offers a very classic Austin scene for the avid swimmer. For a more productive workout, avoid this pool in its busiest hours.

Quarry Lake- Pure Austin 14%

The north Austin gym offers a pleasant addition to your routine workout with a 750-meter open water loop course marked with buoys.

Best Outdoor Fitness Activity

Running 29%

Bootcamp-style Training 15%

Bicycling 9%

Stand-up Paddleboarding 7%

Best Local Adventure Race

Tough Mudder 23%

This race is supposedly designed by the British Special Forces, though it aspires to much more fun than stress. The course forces runners to work as teams, since many of the obstacles require an extra hand.

Dane’s Body Shop Zombie Obstacle Course 12%

Under the premise of a zombie breakout, participants shuffle through parks in search of an antidote to cure the disease taking over the population.

Warrior Dash 9%

Tagged as a “mud-crawling, fire-leaping, extreme 5K from Hell,” the Warrior Dash is designed to amp up the average race experience.

Night Ops by Atomic Athlete 6%

This course challenges the athlete with endurance, the athlete with strength, and the critical thinker all in one long night.

Spartan Race 6%

This 5K challenge packs approximately 15 obstacles in its short distance.  Bring your endurance to the test!

Best Dietician/Nutritionist

Haley Hall, Pure Austin 17%

A University of Texas graduate, Hall is a clinical dietician who has experience working with university students as well as hospital patients with chronic diseases. This is the certified personal trainer’s first year on the list.

Meredith Terranova 9%

This ultra-distance runner and swimmer understands fueling the athlete’s body for maximum performance.  Terranova was the only nutritionist to make the list two years in a row.

Emily Talley 5%

Talley is a head coach and the head nutrition coach at Woodward CrossFit.

Best Restaurant for a Fit Lifestyle
This category was one of the most diverse contests, with each of the winners earning only a small portion of the vote.

Casa del Luz 7%

The menu here changes daily but can always be counted on to be vegan, organic, and gluten- and allergen-aware. Samples include salad with a pecan cilantro cucumber dressing and meals that take advantage of fresh ingredients.

Food for Fitness Café 5%

Located in Castle Hill Fitness, this café offers the perfect supplement to a
grueling workout.

Beets Café 5%

Described as “a café as unique as Austin,” Beets offers healthy, wholesome meals like steel cut oatmeal for breakfast or banana smoothies for a snack during your day.

Best Pre-Packaged Healthy Meals
The winners of this category have remained the same for two years in a row.

My Fit Foods 49%

A clear majority winner, the restaurant’s diverse menu and multiple locations support a healthy lifestyle for a price that doesn’t break the bank.

Snap Kitchen 29%

This is take-away fit food that goes quickly into your oven without sacrificing taste.

Mel’s Meals 11%

Mel’s Meals provides healthy meals that have undercover benefits such as only whole grains, no simple starches, and low sodium content.

Best Smoothie

JuiceLand 22%

A local Austin favorite, located in some of the city’s iconic venues, JuiceLand also provides juice cleanses.

Daily Juice 15%

Started in Austin and maintained by Austin, this juice bar aims to keep their product local and organic.

Food for Fitness Café 10% – tie

A fairly new addition to the Castle Hill Fitness programs, the Food for Fitness café seems to be making a splash in Austin.

Whole Foods Market 10% – tie

A go-to place for organic, Whole Foods has not missed the art of the smoothie in its quest for mastering tasty healthy products.

Best Post-Workout Eatery

Whole Foods Market 25%

The organic menu offers meals that will leave you satisfied without feeling like your workout went to waste. This is Whole Foods’ second year in the top slot for this category.

525 N. Lamar Blvd.

9607 Research Blvd.

4301 W. William Cannon

Food for Fitness Café 8%

This eatery popped up elsewhere in this year’s “Best of,” which is a good indication that the selection here can healthily replenish any loss from your workout.

1112 N. Lamar Blvd.

Taco Deli 5%

An Austin favorite, Taco Deli puts a healthy spin on some unhealthy classics. The healthy carbs can help you recover from a particularly rough run or workout.

12001 Burnet (North), 4200 N. Lamar (Central), 1500 Spyglass (South)

JuiceLand 4%

This place offers one of the best smoothies in town.  Seriously—that’s what our readers said. Plus, this is JuiceLand’s second year as a winner in this category.

1625 Barton Springs Rd.

2307 Lake Austin Blvd.

7329 N. Burnet Rd.,2908 Fruth St.

Best Running/Fitness Apparel Store

lululemon athletica 31%

For the yoga junkie and the avid runner, lululemon offers wearable, stylish
workout options.

1016 West 6th St. #116

11600 Century Oaks Terrace
(The Domain)

Luke’s Locker 25%

Conveniently located near the Roy and Ann Butler Hike and Bike Trail, this is the store’s second year at second place.

115 Sandra Muraida Way

Rogue Running 12%

Rogue climbed up from fourth to third to make it onto this year’s list.

500 San Marcos St.



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