After strapping themselves into harnesses attached to bungee cords, a group of women got ready to sweat.
And sweat they did. For 45 minutes, the class at So Fly Bungee Fitness in Ozark worked their way through a routine that involved everything from toe taps to jumping jacks to burpees. Harnessing the benefits of plyometric exercise — jumping or explosive movements — with a bungee cord not only provided a good cardio workout for the class, but the participants didn’t pound their joints with every move. Plus, they seemed to have fun.
“I have some knee problems,” Shalene Schmidt of Ariton said after the class ended. “It’s lower impact than doing regular jumping jacks or lunges. The bungee takes some of the pressure off where I can do these activities without hurting later on.”
Schmidt has been coming to So Fly since it opened last year and said she feels stronger now than she did before.
“I definitely have a lot more energy than I used to,” 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 disorder, Williams turned to bungee fitness when other types of workouts became impossible for her due to pain.
Teeter could relate.
A Pilates and aerobics instructor when she was younger, Teeter’s lifestyle changed as she aged. Then, when she was 43, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy. The medication she took for 10 years after that caused Teeter terrible joint pain.
So, at 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 studio space.
“I could actually exercise without my hips and knees hurting,” Teeter said.
Teeter got the OK from her doctor before she went all in on the bungee fitness studio. Not even a year in business, So Fly received the launch award for a new business from the Ozark Area Chamber of Commerce, and Teeter has lost 50 pounds since she opened her studio.
“I am in the best health of my life and it’s because of 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 instructed, Teeter had participants that ranged from 16 years old to 80 years old. The studio even has a kids’ bungee class on Saturdays. Each bungee class can hold 11 people plus the instructor. Fans located around the studio help keep things cool during classes.
There are a lot of women who take So Fly classes, but there are a few men who regularly attend, Teeter said. There are also a lot of different body shapes — short, tall, round, thin.
“The majority of the people we see here are over 150 pounds because we do have an obese nation,” Teeter said. “I also weigh over 150, but when I started this I weighed 230 and now I weigh 180.”
The bungee cords are made to hold certain weight ranges and can support someone well over 200 pounds. Prior to each class, participants step on a scale and are assigned a bungee cord based on that number. At So Fly, the bungee cords are hooked to cables that are attached to ceiling beams. The cables swivel to allow for full movement. Users wear a harness that fits snug around the body but loose around the legs. The harnesses are attached to the bungee by a hook on the back, although there is the option to be hooked on the sides.
Getting the right cord and harness fit is important so that users can suspend above the floor without actually touching it. Also, a harness that is too tight across the legs will pinch and not allow for full movement.
Teeter starts everyone on a beginner level class, but there are advanced classes with more aerial movements and jumps.
While one class may do Peter Pan leaps, another may go full Superman.
Aerial fitness isn’t new — Pilates and yoga studios introduced silks and yoga hammocks years ago.
But the bungee fitness concept, according to previous media reports, got its start in Thailand in 2016 and arrived in the U.S. about a year later. Today, there are companies that provide training certification, 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 to open in a new space soon).
So Fly has more than just 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 exercise in spring bounce boots (although you have to buy your own boots). Teeter even has plans to bring in a Pound class that uses drumsticks to liven up a total body workout.
You can find So Fly’s schedule of classes on the MindBody app or by visiting the studio’s website, soflybungeefitness.com.
Teeter said she’s glad she brought bungee fitness to Ozark. She’s even helping train future studio owners out of North Alabama and Louisiana.
“You got to have the drive to just believe in 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 that are close to 80 that come here three days a week. I have them as young as 4… We offer something for everybody, and that was really what I wanted to do.”