Alchemy is a medieval word for the seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination. In the Twin Cities, Alchemy is also a popular fitness studio with dedicated members who see a physical transformation through a special combination of exercise formats. After opening its flagship location in the North Loop in February 2015 and a Northeast studio a year later, Alchemy opened its first suburban space in Edina in April next to the Onyx Edina apartment complex on York Avenue South. Alchemy has a philosophy to become part of the community where they’re located. “We are a community, not a franchise,” general manager and coach, Karin Norby, says.
The Alchemy Difference
The five founders of Alchemy come from a variety of fitness backgrounds. Three are responsible for, at one point, running the largest CrossFit business in the Twin Cities and one managed some of the top yoga studios in town. The blending of high-intensity conditioning, strength training and yoga moves created for Alchemy’s classes speaks to the founders’ goal for clients to meet all their fitness needs with one membership. While some clients buy class packages, most become members who take advantage of unlimited classes.
Alchemy has a unique class structure and lingo. The person leading a class is a coach, not an instructor. The typical 40- and 50-minute classes are called A10 and A20, which combine conditioning, strength training and yoga. The AStrong classes are 30 minutes of strength training. A mix of yoga and high-intensity intervals make up the 50-minute class called APulse. The class with strictly yoga is called AFlow, but none of the classes, not even AFlow, require members or guests to bring mats and hand towels. Everything needed for the Alchemy experience is provided by the studio, including towels for a shower after class.
Customers looking to join a new gym, especially one with unfamiliar classes, want to know if the method works. Norby says, “When you follow our program you will see results, but what makes us really special is that we’re efficient. At some gyms you have to block off two hours to attend a 60-minute class. Time is precious, and a workout shouldn’t overtake your schedule.” Indeed, unlike at other gyms, at Alchemy clients don’t need to worry about signing up or saving a spot. “We have enough to space for as many people as possible,” Christy Wright, Edina Alchemy’s marketing manager and coach says. “We figure out a way to accommodate that. We can modify the workout planned if there’s not enough space for a certain move. Just walk in right before class and you’re ready.”
The culture at Alchemy is also a source of pride for the founders and staff. Wright explains, “We have four full-time staff at each studio. We know every member and are truly a community. We like to give people nutritional advice when asked, like what to order at a restaurant, or we can do a grocery run with members.” Norby adds that the full-time employees can work with clients in a different way than you’ll find at many other studios. Alchemy client Louise Schoenberger agrees that the culture of community is a noticeable feature. “From the moment class starts, the coach is creating community. You have a room full of cheerleaders rooting for you and encouraging you to do your best.”
A Typical Alchemy Class
In an A10 class, the group circles around the chalkboard so the coach can demonstrate the moves with scaling options. Some clients preview the moves on Alchemy’s site, but either way, the coach breaks down the language and mechanics on the board. For 12–15 minutes the coach uses yoga so students can warm up, plus be introduced to the movements of the day. Next, everyone returns to their spots where they will have already set up the gear. The coach sets the clock, then the high intensity part of the workout starts, and each person goes at the pace that’s comfortable yet challenging to cycle through as many rounds as possible. At this point the music is purposely loud and motivating. The class ends with 10 minutes of yoga.
Norby says, “We are intentional with how we sequence the warmup, cool down and even the volume of the music. We always tell people you are going to walk in anxious the first time and walk out alive by the end.” Wright adds, “It’s sweaty. You will get strong fast.” There are members who come every day and can do so without worrying about injuries, Norby says. “If you come daily you will be working out different muscles.” Client Adena Borodkin likes that the coaches at Alchemy want to safely help you get stronger. “They check your form so you get the most out of the workout. I also appreciate that every workout is different. You get out what you put in, but they encourage you to push yourself.”
Who Is the Alchemy Client?
“We have members from every walk of life,” Norby says. “Your goal may be to carry your baby longer, walk around the lake with your grandkids, or maybe you’re aiming for your first slam-dunk or your first triathlon. The fitness we do is functional.” Wright adds, “We pride ourselves on the fact that our workouts are scalable. If you see an intimidating movement we can change it for you in class. Our workouts are for everyone, and we offer the best mix of cardio and strength. Norby was an avid runner who needed strength training. “I did CrossFit [but] needed more balance.” Wright points out that both of her parents work out at Alchemy five times a week. “If my dad can be here after a knee fracture, anyone can do this.”
Beyond Exercise Alchemy offers a four-week fitness and nutritional program every quarter called the 365 Challenge. “Each person who takes part gets weekly check-ins with a coach through email and in the studio. There’s also a private Facebook group.” Members pay $45 for the four weeks. Non-members pay $200 and have access to unlimited classes in the studio during that time.
“We host member and non-member events at least once a week,” Wright says. “The studio can also be used for private [events] such as birthday and bachelorette parties, company health events, and healthy happy hours.”