Animal Flow: Miami's Most Primal Workout
by jason fitzroy jeffers
Mike Fitch performing a Scorpion Planche on Miami Beach.
Mike Fitch doesn’t work out anymore. Sure, he’s a ripped fitness expert and trainer whose methods are so in demand that acolytes fly from as far away as Singapore and Australia to study with him, but he doesn’t consider what he does “working out.”
“What I do every day is practice,” Fitch says of the avant-garde body-weight regimen he’s dubbed Animal Flow. “It took me three months to create this program, but it’s taken me every day since to learn it.” The practice mimics the movements of various animals and relies entirely on body weight instead of equipment of any kind. The Crab Reach finds practitioners bending themselves into a crustacean-like pose for a good stretch, while the Scorpion Reach takes them down on all fours before thrusting one leg high into the air. When they quickly transition from one move to another, they become lunging and leaping blurs across the floor, enhancing cardiovascular fitness, strength, balance, and endurance.
The program has amassed quite a following through the Web and classes Fitch has taught here at the U-Fit Health and Performance gym on Alton Road. Last year, he signed on to offer Animal Flow exclusively at Equinox, which has classes in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, DC, and London. This summer, the program will finally be coming to Equinox’s Miami gyms. “It feels like a bit of a homecoming,” Fitch says. (He will not be personally teaching the classes at the Miami location.)
A fitness enthusiast for most of his life, Fitch first took to pumping iron as a kid, which led to a career as a personal trainer in Los Angeles, New York, and Aspen. At a certain point, however, he hit a wall. “I was about 50 pounds heavier than I am now, and I felt awful,” he recalls. “I always had some sort of acute [ache or pain]. As much as I knew about training properly, it was just something my body couldn’t sustain.”
With that, he dropped the weights and took to the road: His travels led him to France to study parkour (a method using movement developed out of military obstaclecourse training), New York for break dancing, and Australia and Costa Rica to learn body-weight disciplines like surfing and using one’s surroundings for fitness. With time, he developed Global Bodyweight Training, one of the Internet’s most popular hubs for videos and articles about body-weight exercise. Animal Flow soon followed.
“The cool thing about Animal Flow is that it really utilizes the body at its full potential,” Fitch says. “Some people come to this from weights; others come to it from yoga or CrossFit. It’s great to be embraced by people from so many different disciplines of fitness.”
Considering the growing popularity of his programs, some might see Fitch as a body-weight guru. However, he still considers himself a student. “It’s been a very cool journey. I spent hours and hours on the ground figuring out how all of these movements fit together, and I’m still learning,” he says. “I have so far to go, and I have the rest of my life to do it.” Animal Flow will be offered at Equinox South Beach, 520 Collins Ave., Miami Beach, 305- 673-1172
photography by matthew roy