“Take one last sip of air,” yoga instructor Elle Lemler told her class of 22 pretzel-stretched folks splayed on mats on the floor of a St. Paul brewery.
In a few minutes, they’d be taking a sip of something else a bit higher in potency.
The class was a monthly outing from GetKnit, an activity planner that brings together local businesses — in this case, YogaFresh and Tin Whiskers Brewing Co.
While common wisdom might say that drinking right after a workout is counterproductive, there is a growing scientific understanding that the two activities actually might go hand-in-hand. Recent studies found that the more people work out, the more they drink.
The reasons are varied and remain something of a mystery, but research suggests that both activities can give people a feel-good buzz that gets stronger when they do them in succession.
To capitalize on that buzz, a growing number of Twin Cities area fitness enthusiasts and instructors are bringing workouts to the bar and vice versa.
“After doing something like yoga, it’s always really nice to continue that relaxation into your day,” Lemler said after class, as her charges lined up for beer tasting flights.
Of course, she added, “moderation is key.”
Attendee Audrey Horowitz said the hourlong class helped “take away the guilt part” of the pint of golden Wheatstone Bridge she was sipping.
Vast numbers of exercisers who imbibe will say that they’ve earned a drink or two by blazing through calories beforehand. GetKnit CEO Nick Blake said when planning activities — which have included a boot camp that employed filled kegs as weights — he and his colleagues like to joke, “Detox to retox.”
Counting calories and fun
Brendan Kennealy of Bloomington follows a strict calorie intake to maintain his weight. On workout days, he can’t eat enough to fill the calorie gap left by running trails or going to the gym. So, he methodically indulges in new craft beers at dinner. One or two nights a week, he enjoys two or three brews.
“If I didn’t exercise, I wouldn’t be able to justify all of those extra beer calories,” he said. “In fact, I’m hesitant to go out for dinner or drinks with friends or with my girlfriend unless I’ve had a good run and have ‘earned’ it.”
The reward aspect of earning a drink after a hard workout isn’t the only reason to hit up happy hours, the studies show. There is the camaraderie found at the bar and the gym, and the line between the two can get blurry.
PedalPubs, for example, meld the social and the physical. The ubiquitous bicycle-powered trolleys are outfitted with a keg, and participants have to work for their drink. “You get to share the exercise with your friends,” said PedalPub city manager Lisa Staplin. “You’re sharing both the love and the pain.”
Matthew Wildenauer works out at Alchemy in the North Loop, a fitness studio where participants introduce themselves to the group before every class. He described the atmosphere like “Cheers,” the fictional saloon where everybody knows your name. “It’s like going to a bar,” he said, “but working out instead of drinking.”
Drinking happens, too. The club treated members to mimosas on Valentine’s Day, for instance.
“We take an approach of 80/20,” said Alchemy spokesman Brock Severson. “Keep yourself pretty clean a majority of the time, and don’t worry about it if you stray off the path.”
Focusing on the flavor
Striking a balance is the key to indulging in a tipple after training, instructors say.
“We’re in a place nowadays where people feel like, ‘I need to punish myself to feel good or make progress,’ ” said Ted Roseen, a yoga instructor. “But I think there’s a part of yoga that’s just enjoyment, instead of one extreme or the other.”
Roseen started hosting wine and yoga events more than a decade ago. The idea came to him after classes, when he would offer participants treats such as clementine oranges or dark chocolate.
“All the time, people would come up to me and say, ‘Omigod, this tastes so good.’ It was just a regular old strawberry, but I realized they just finished a yoga class, and their senses are heightened. You take that to wine, it can do some amazing things.”
Indeed, many organizers of exercise and drinking events tend to focus on some of the finer flavors in life.
“When you look at the type of person doing yoga, they care a lot more about what they’re putting into their bodies, and that in turn lends itself to craft beer,” said Matt Zanetti, a founder of Lake Monster Brewing in St. Paul, which hosts a popular weekly yoga class.
“They’re not going to work out and have a few shots of Fireball,” he said, “and chase it down with a tallboy of PBR.”