Best of Marin 2016: Fitness & Recreation

By Molly Oleson

David Hockney once said that the sources of inspiration for his work were wide. “I am sure my own sources are classic, or even epic themes,” he said. “Landscapes of foreign lands, beautiful people, love, propaganda, and major incidents (of my own life).”

If planted in Marin with an easel, the English painter might never feel the need to leave the rolling emerald hills of Mount Tamalpais, the forested trails of China Camp State Park and the long, sandy stretches of Stinson Beach. And if he were searching for subjects for his swimming pool series, he wouldn’t have to wander beyond Bay Club Marin or the Mt. Tam Racquet Club to find athletes underwater—or quietly pondering a splash.

Work it

“Whatever you need to live life to the happiest, it’s all at the Bay Club.” So when running those trails just isn’t enough, 60,000 square feet of luxurious facilities await at Bay Club Marin, Marin’s Best Health Club. Group exercise, squash, Pilates, swimming, yoga, cycling, basketball and more are all at your fingertips, and the world-class Sanctuary Spa—offering everything from therapeutic work to massage treatments to skin and nail care—lets you zen out after intense workouts. Bay Club Marin has a cafe, a registered dietician for nutrition needs and fitness, and summer and childcare programs for kids. For those looking to unwind, a Vintage Seventy-Seven Wine Club boasts handpicked vino, exclusive tastings and winery excursions.

220 Corte Madera Town Center, Corte Madera; 415/945-3000.

Give it a whirl

According to Pelo Fitness, to have the life that you want, all you have to do is set the pedals of a bike in motion—the rest just follows. Marin’s Best Gym, which says it’s less of a gym and more of a “perfect formula,” offers top-of-the-line cycling equipment and “the best teachers on earth” to give visitors their “best ride ever.” Designed to burn fat and build lean, strong muscles, Pelo’s programs will have you giving yourself a high-five in the mirror in no time. Here, you can do it all: Build endurance and cardiovascular health through cycling, build full-body strength through a TRX suspension system and learn how to make the best food choices through a nutrition program. If you find yourself lost in the whirlwind of an epic workout, all you have to do is remember Pelo’s motto: Spin. Grin. Repeat.

171 Third Street, San Rafael; 415/459-7356.

Actions and reactions

Body Kinetics changed my life forever!” So gushes a happy customer about Marin’s Best Pilates Studio. What’s to love? For starters, the neighborhood health club has been in business since 1990, and is family-owned by brothers Michael, John and Joey Hoeber. The environment is inviting and friendly, and in addition to caring about customers’ muscle strength, flexibility and cardiovascular endurance, these guys go the extra mile when it comes to nutrition, mindfulness, rest and recovery. In addition to Pilates, Body Kinetics offers yoga, Zumba, group cycling, personal training and massage. Three locations—in Mill Valley, San Rafael and Novato—make it easy to drop in to sweat whether you happen to be in Southern, middle or Northern Marin. If life gets in the way one day, not to fear: A blog on the club’s website offers inspiring ideas for your health and well-being.

1800 Second St., San Rafael; 415/457-2639; 1530 Center Road, Novato; 415/895-5965; 639 E. Blithedale Ave., Mill Valley; 415/380-8787.

Strike a pose

You and your co-workers work hard all week, and by the time Friday rolls around, a drink at the local dive sounds pretty darn good. But then someone in the group mentions a class at Red Dragon Yoga. There’s an angel on your left shoulder whispering, “Yoga,” and a devil on your right whispering, “Beer.” What’s a gal to do? Yoga trumps that cold one, and you thank your friends—and yourself—for choosing Marin’s Best Yoga Studio. Multiple Bikram and Power Yoga classes are offered throughout the day at two different locations, so yogis can choose to practice 26 postures in a 105-degree room, or a flowing series of movements linked together with breath. Red Dragon promises that you will sweat—and man, does it feel good to rid yourself of the toxins and stress that have been building up. It’s the perfect way to begin or end the day feeling revitalized and ready for anything.

438 Miller Ave., Mill Valley; 415/381-3724; 1701 Fourth St., San Rafael; 415/306-7904.

Rich traditions

Mental growth and physical health are at the core of San Rafael Martial Arts’ commitment to excellence. Teaching Kung Fu, Tai Chi and Self Defense to children and adults, this studio passes on not only discipline, but also confidence and respect. Classes like Lion Dancing, rich in Kung Fu history, keep tradition alive. All levels are welcome at Marin’s Best Martial Arts Studio, so no need to have years of experience under your belt. One of the best parts about venturing into new territory? Your first class is free.

861 Fourth St., San Rafael; 415/459-5425.

Time to play

At Mt. Tam Racquet Club, it’s all about a healthy lifestyle—and a robust social life. Joining Marin’s Best Tennis Club means access to tennis courts, a basketball court, cardio equipment, a pool, steam room and a Jacuzzi. But it also means becoming part of a community established in 1974. So you can challenge your best friends to a friendly game of tennis, and then clink glasses courtside and laugh about those crazy serves that had you scrambling, hustling and diving. Life is short. Work hard; play hard.

One Larkspur Plaza Drive, Larkspur; 415/924-6226.

How they roll

Bikes are life at Mike’s Bikes, Marin’s Best Bike Shop. Founded in 1964 as one of the county’s very first Schwinn shops, this institution has always been committed to finding new and creative ways to get more people on two wheels. Walk in with a flat tire after loving your bike a little too much, and someone always greets you with a smile and a quick fix. Overheard conversations about Marin’s best trails create a buzz of excitement, and make you antsy to get back out there and explore. Cyclists can “learn to spin wrenches like a pro” at free tech clinics, and group rides—ranging in difficulty level from beginner to advanced—help build the cycling community. There’s even a ride to a North Bay brewery. Need we say more?

836 Fourth St., San Rafael; 415/454-3747; 1 Gate 6 Road, Sausalito; 415/332-3200.

Flying high

Proof Lab, the place to be when it comes to surf and skate gear, is nestled in Tam Junction, right before the turnoff to Mt. Tam and beaches galore. Supporting small businesses is part of the mission here, and places like Shredders Skate Camp, Big Dog Surf Camp, Magic West Music School and Studio 4 Art are all in it together, creating a colorful community with much to offer. Equator Coffees & Teas is located inside Proof Lab—Marin’s Best Skate Shop and Best Surf Shop—so you can load up on caffeine before hitting the surf. And there’s even a small, indoor skate park. A new and inviting location in downtown San Rafael gives these guys central visibility on a bustling street—soon to be full of people from all walks of life enjoying the weekly farmers’ market.

244/254 Shoreline Hwy., Mill Valley; 415/380-8900; 415/888-2553; 907 Fourth St., San Rafael; 415/457-1625.

The full list of Best of Marin 2016 Fitness & Recreation winners:

Best Health Club

Bay Club Marin

220 Corte Madera Town Center, Corte Madera.


Best Gym

Pelo Fitness

171 Third St., San Rafael.


Best Pilates Studio

Body Kinetics

1800 Second St., San Rafael.


1530 Center Road, Novato.


639 E. Blithedale Ave., Mill Valley.


Best Yoga Studio

Red Dragon Yoga

438 Miller Ave., Mill Valley.


1701 Fourth St., San Rafael.


Best Martial Arts Studio

San Rafael Martial Arts

861 Fourth St., San Rafael.


Best Tennis Club

Mt. Tam Racquet Club

1 Larkspur Plaza Drive, Larkspur.


Best Bike Shop

Mike’s Bikes

836 Fourth St., San Rafael.


1 Gate 6 Rd., Sausalito. 415.332.3200.

Best Skate Shop

Proof Lab

244/254 Shoreline Hwy., Mill Valley.

415.380.8900; 415.457.1625.

907 Fourth St., San Rafael.


Best Surf Shop

Proof Lab

244/254 Shoreline Hwy., Mill Valley.

415.380.8900; 415.457.1625.

907 Fourth St., San Rafael.


Best Beach

Stinson Beach

Best Park/Open Space

China Camp State Park

Best Hiking Trail


Best Bike Route/Trail

Mount Tamalpais State Park

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