Birmingham is brimming with new, hip venues that’ll easily fill any weekend schedule. There is one area, however, that especially jumps off the map when it comes to supporting a healthy lifestyle while also having a good time. Pepper Place, an area originally known for its weekend farmers’ market, now overflows with opportunities to get your sweat on and satisfy your health-food cravings. From premier fitness studios to chic restaurants that offer a smorgasbord of healthy options, this is the place to go if you’re looking to indulge in some fun without feeling guilty later. Here is a roundup of gyms and healthy hot spots that’ll help you plan your perfect “wellness day” in downtown!
For a meditative workout: Aero Joe Pilates
2805 2nd Ave S Suite 100, Birmingham, AL 35233 • (205) 202-5758
Aero Joe Pilates opened in Pepper Place six years ago and has grown to become one of Birmingham’s premier Pilates studios. By engaging muscles with intentional movements meant to stretch and tone, Aero Joe allows participants to build strength while also understanding how their bodies work. Alison Page, who opened the studio after several years of learning and teaching the practice of Pilates in New York, says her goal is to create something akin to a “fitness sanctuary.”
“A strong tenant of Pilates is resisting the forces of gravity on the body in as many planes and spaces as possible,” Alison explains. “Something that I try to impart here in the studio is mindfulness. So yes, we’re providing a killer workout — a full body workout — and you’re going to sweat, but you’re also going to get in-depth knowledge of how your body works.”
The studio, draped in twinkle lights and boasting chic, exposed brick, is outfitted with several machines all meant to strengthen the core while aligning and toning the entire body. Along with Pilates, Aero Joe also offers mat classes, chair classes and aerial yoga — an innovative program that blends traditional yoga methodology with unique conditioning of the aerial arts (Yes, this is the class where participants suspend from the ceiling wrapped in colorful silk fabrics!).
If you’re looking for consistent exercise throughout the week, Alison recommends coming in for a Pilates class. There, she says, guests will be able to get individualized attention from one of the studio’s knowledgeable instructors about how to reach specific fitness goals. “We do want you to feel successful when you’re here, so we tailor classes to meet individual needs,” she says. “The instructors aren’t just moving through a list of choreography. We’re looking at the people and the bodies in front of us, and we’re making adjustments and variations to suit the group we have.”
For a party on wheels: Ignite Cycle
224 29th St S, Birmingham AL, 35233 • (205) 639-6908
Ignite Cycle, Birmingham’s only boutique cycling studio, blends sweat time with party time. It sounds like a crazy concept, but it’s actually genius. By creating an environment that simulates a posh club-like experience, Ignite takes riders through a beat-driven journey that leaves them feeling empowered and strong. “What I love about a rhythm-based cycling class is the paradox of what I call ‘mindful movement’ … losing yourself in the music and the movement while still being fully present,” says Tiffany Martin, the studio’s owner and founder.
Centrally located in the Pepper Place Entertainment District, Ignite feels more like a hip hangout venue than a gym. When riders arrive, they’re greeted at the front desk where they check in and receive their cycling shoes (which clip into the bike’s pedals, so riders feel sturdy and ready to move throughout the 45-minute class). From there, guests enter the dimly lit studio, hop on their reserved bike and get an orientation of the bike and the ride. Once the beats begin and the energy level rises, that’s when the ride takes off. “We ride fast, we ride slow, we crunch, we lean, we tap it back,” Tiffany says. “Our instructors coach you on exactly what you should be doing and how it should feel so that your ride is safe, challenging and a good time.” Toward the end of the class, riders grab weights, located on either side of their bicycle seat, and engage in an arm workout that has just the right amount of burn.
Aside from the obvious physical benefits, Ignite offers an opportunity to become a part of a community that extends outside studio walls. “We created our space to intentionally encourage community,” Tiffany says. “There’s tons of space for our riders to hang out before and after class and engage with one another. Occasionally, we’ll surprise our riders with beverages after class to keep the party going.”
If you’re looking for a posh place to get your sweat on, then this is the workout for you!
For the healthy chef: The Market at Pepper Place
While you’re getting your sweat on, don’t forget to fuel up. The Market at Pepper Place is where you’ll find a large selection of locally sourced ingredients perfect for your weekly meal-prep (or a healthy weekend meal!). With a long list of Alabama farmers who provide only the freshest, most flavorful foods, you’re bound to find something to satisfy your taste buds. The outdoor market runs through mid-December and is hosted every Saturday morning from 7 a.m. to noon, rain or shine. The weekend tradition started nearly 20 years ago, giving Birmingham a go-to source for locally grown ingredients. Plus, you’ll be able to get plenty of steps in while perusing the many booths at the market — it’s a win-win!
For the downtown explorer: Zyp BikeShare
With multiple stations throughout downtown, there’s no excuse not to experience Birmingham by bike. Zyp BikeShare, Birmingham’s only bike-sharing service, gives locals an opportunity to be active while zipping through downtown’s burgeoning communities. Start the day at Pepper Place Market, then check out a bike using the program’s easy-to-use mobile app. Visit nearby breweries or hop on the Jones Valley Trail and ride all the way to Railroad Park.
Meander back to Pepper Place and cap off the day with a healthy meal from any one of Pepper Place’s delicious restaurants. Here are a few tasty selections we highly recommend:
- Bettola: The Kale Caesar Salad
- The Red Cat Coffee House: The Veggie with Hummus Wrap
- Blueprint on 3rd: Summer Vegetable Plate
- Ovenbird: Tuna Avocado Toast
- Stone Hollow Farmstead: New to Pepper Place, Stone Hollow offers seasonal, locally grown produce, flowers, juices, cheese and more.
- The Lumbar: Cantina Tortilla Grill is currently hosting a pop-up in Pepper Place’s science-themed bar. We suggest going for their delicious (and healthy) Keto Bowl.
Don’t miss out on the ultimate healthy eating experience at the Blueroot pop-up in Pepper Place from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, as well as normal market hours on Saturday mornings (7 am. to noon) starting July 9.
Blueroot’s produce-forward menu celebrates the garden goods from our local farmers and highlights the goodness of whole, simple food. A few fan favorite dishes are the Farmstand salad, The Green God, the Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Energy Bites and the Not Your Mama’s Rice Crispy Treat. Yes, please!
Get out and enjoy a wellness-filled weekend at Pepper Place!
This article is sponsored by Pepper Place.