Strangers Wil McCormick and David Golden were among two dozen yogis who, one recent Sunday morning, flowed through several sun salutations and held just enough planks to break a light sweat on the second-story deck of West Philadelphia’s City Tap House.
After shavasana, a Sweat Fitness rep handed out drink tickets; within minutes, Golden, McCormick, and the rest of the class were enjoying complimentary glasses of beer or wine, Bloody Marys, or Beermosas (a fizzy champagne-meets-beer concoction).
“This is guilt-free drinking,” said Golden, 26. He’d already downed half of his on-tap pilsner. Golden laughingly admitted to thinking about his thirst-quenching drink midway through several downward-facing dogs. (So did I.) “It kept me going. … Don’t get me wrong, I like meeting people. I just don’t like to do it in clubs.”
“Yep,” piped in McCormick, 31, the two now chatting it up like old college roomies. “It’s a great way to make new friends.”
Sweat Fitness’ weekly Sweat + Sip sessions are one of countless organized meetups that marry my two favorite activities: working out and going to happy hour.
This month, the mega-gym hosted Cycle + Sip at select locations, too. Because of the popularity of the program, Sweat likely will offer pop-up workouts at City Tap House through the cold-weather months.
The Philadelphia Museum of Art hosts the quite popular yoga-meets-happy-hour event on Wednesday nights. But most of the events are hosted at gyms and boutique fitness studios trying to drum up new business. Starting next month, Cycle Brewerytown will partner with 2637brew to offer weekend warriors a monthly spinnin’-meets-brunchin’ function.
Every third Sunday of the month, Evil Genius Beer Co. in Fishtown charges $25 for yoga class with popular yoga for men instructor Jake Penasevich that includes a post-class beer on tap.
Restaurants are getting in on the movement, too. After all, if an establishment can get you to show up for an after-work endurance session, then you can clearly be lured to imbibe with them on a random weeknight. Each Tuesday and Thursday evening and Sunday morning, the Moshulu — the once-popular-for-Gen Xers party boat — hosts a kickboxing boot camp and dance classes on The Deck followed by happy hour-priced drinks all night long.
“We [millennials] are more in tune with working out; we’ve found a way to make them a part of our social scene,” said Sydney Grims, the 26-year-old director of development for Fearless Restaurant Group, who organized the free classes at the Moshulu. The programs average about 30 people a class; Grims has decided to continue them through November.
“As the weather gets colder, people will be able to get it in and enjoy a hot beverage like a drunken hot chocolate and sit by the fire pit,” Grims said.
Sounds fun to me.
Capping off a vigorous workout with a little taste is, according to global trend-forecasting company WGSN, a combination of two things big with millennials: health and wellness, and the ongoing interest in craft everything.
“We are seeing a movement in fitness consumers rejecting hard to unachievable self-restriction and denial — and taking that cocktail,” said Yvonne Kostiak, active senior editor at WGSN. “[Millennials] are seeking out the means to be the best, healthiest, and most balanced versions of themselves, without compromising taste and individuality.”
I’m glad those millennials are finally catching on. A few years before craft breweries and boutique fitness studios started offering twofer deals, my buddies and I were the queens of runnin’ and brunchin’. Our preferred post-workout cooldown was a glass of chardonnay.
We weren’t alone. In 2006, Manuel J. Castillo, a doctor and professor of medical physiology at the University of Granada in Spain, completed a study concluding that beer was just as effective as water to drink when recovering from a strenuous exercise like running.
Based on those joyful findings, local runner David April founded the Fishtown Beer Runners the following year. Although the Hash House Harriers, a running club started by British soldiers in the 1930s, also mixes beer with running, the Fishtown-based runners focus more on running than drinking. The beer, April said, is the cherry on top. And since it is one of the country’s first serious running clubs that rewards finishing the race with a brewski, it makes Philadelphia a leader in this social trend.
“We now have 50 chapters all over the country, in places like South Carolina and Vegas,” said April, who has completed 15 marathons in the last 10 years. “The workout is just as important as the social aspect.”
Further proof that Philadelphia was at the forefront of this trend? In 2009, local runner Carl Ewald founded the ODDyssey Half Marathon; as part of runner’s incentive for finishing the 13.1-mile race, the finish line was just a few feet away from a beer garden. That beer garden was so popular, Ewald said, that in 2013 he started the Great American Brewery Runs. These shorter races — think 5 and 10Ks — all have finish lines at or near beer gardens. Today they average about 1,000 runners in each race in four cities, including Philly, Baltimore and New York.
“We want people to hang around and socialize at the end of the race,” Ewald said. “It’s all about being social. It’s all about connecting with people and cheering them on. … And it’s catching on outside of Philly. I’ve had people call me from as far away as Belgium.
Beer is one thing. But wine, is that all right? And some cocktails — like Bloody Mary, for instance — call for the harder stuff. And does it really make sense to drink alcohol after a vigorous, mind-clearing, so-good-for-you workout? Aren’t we just undoing all the good?
Not necessarily, said Jeremy Close, a sports medicine physician at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.
“The truth is, water is still the best recovery aid,” Close said, pointing out that the social activity is just as important as the actual exercise. “But the nice thing about beer is that it’s a majority water with carbohydrate and electrolyte… I just don’t recommend anything heavy like a double IPA.”
That makes sense. What about wine, I pressed?
“One beer, one shot. One glass of wine. If you stay within your recommended daily allowance of alcohol, you shouldn’t run into any problems,” Close said.
That’s all I needed to hear.
I grounded my way through a series of mountain poses, perspired my way through a few triangle poses, and nearly tipped over at a skandasana lunge on the City Tap House deck before I sat down to enjoy a Beermosa. I only knew one person there, but by the time it was over, the whole left side of the bar had erupted into a giggle fest.
That’s what I call a perfect Sunday morning.