Local Fitness Check-In: SweatIX

Posted on February 26, 2016 by


Have you been to the IX building lately? Just over five years since the owners started to re-envision the bare expanse of parking lot and land around IX, the place is completely transformed. Outside events, tastings, and concerts go on regularly against the vibrant backdrop of the IX art park. Inside, you can get a bike tune up, indulge in locally made chocolate, or join one of Cville’s most dedicated fitness communities. B:core Methods and MADabolic are two studios in the IX building working together under one fitness philosophy – an initiative called SweatIX

Sweat IX

Photo Courtesy of SweatIX

A little background on the studios behind SweatIX

MADabolic has been a staple in Charlottesville for three years. Their population has grown from about 10 to nearly 300 in that span of time, and they have yet to repeat a workout. The Charlottesville location is part of a small franchise with other locations in the Carolinas and Ontario. The franchise has grown an enthusiastic following for their blend of strength and endurance work that aims to increase overall athletic ability. B:core methods is launched last Summer, and has attracted a similarly dedicated following. Their website defines b:core as a “multi-concept niche fitness studio designed to support the demand for complimentary fitness modalities.” B:core currently offers barre fusion, cardio barre, and core cardio options, with plans to incorporate the cutting edge Lagree Fitness Method in the near future. Both studios have strong foundations in sport science, highly trained staff, and a community-driven approach to fitness. 

What is SweatIX?

At the most basic level, SweatIX is a partnership between Mad and B:core that seeks to allow members a “well-rounded, balanced fitness lifestyle,” according to Valerie Morini, who co-owns the two studios in partnership with Dar MaleckiDigging down a little deeper, SweatIX is a community, a lifestyle, and a fitness philosophy that Valerie, Dar, and their team of charismatic fitness professionals are bringing to give their members more balance in their fitness routine. It involves constant variety, some of the highest standards in the fitness industry, and a sense of local connection.


Valerie Morini at work. Photo courtesy of b.core methods.

Meet the Founders

Val and I sat down together in the IX building to talk about the motivation behind SweatIX as well as what’s ahead.

Val, a lifelong athlete – and UVA grad – walks me through her personal athletic history, as well as how she and Dar gravitated toward MADabolic and eventually b:core after working with other fitness concepts. It becomes clear during our conversation that MAD and b:core aren’t just business initiatives – they’re carefully crafted responses to a void the owners saw in Charlottesville’s increasingly diverse fitness market. They rely on experience, training, and kinesiology to guide their programming, which is one reason why the two are collaborating to ensure that participants have plenty of options to cross train.

The SweatIX philosophy even encompasses diet. “People come in, they get ⅔ of the way to their goal, then they start asking what else they can do to get to 100%,” Val explains. We discuss the annual reset, the Whole Damn Thing, that encourages members to get healthy and stick to their nutrition goals in January. Val continually stresses individualized planning and personal choice, noting that b:core and MAD embrace Paleo concepts, but don’t make diet mandates for participants. She endorses an “80/20” mindset, a concept that promotes clean eating and hard sweat sessions balanced with flexibility to indulge or relax 20% of the time. Other businesses in the IX building have started to catch on to this whole mindset – Brazos recently started offering a full Paleo menu as their own form of (delicious) support for a balanced lifestyle, inspired by Val, Dar, and the SweatIX philosophy. Val has a ta-cup (that’s a cup of taco filling, no tortilla) named after her at Brazos, and she says she visits her neighboring businesses “pretty much every day.”

After my conversation with Val, I was sold on the SweatIX philosophy, so I knew I had to give both studios a try. Here’s my firsthand experience at each.

b:core methods: a firsthand experience

I love exercise. I love to move, to challenge myself, and to try new things. However, after years of sequined costumes and too-small tights in elementary school, I firmly convinced myself that I’m not really meant to dance (at least not in well-lit places). So I go in to b:core with some trepidation. Will I be the least graceful gal in the room? Will I re-live my awkward tall-girl-tries-ballet days?


Getting set up at the barre. Photo courtesy of b:core methods.

I get set up with a mat, a long band with handles on each side, a set of light dumbbells, and what looks like a giant rubber band. The ladies and gents in the room are incredibly friendly and sociable for 6am, quickly putting my fears about being judged or looking ridiculous to rest. They coax me to take a mat up front, but I decide that I’ll enjoy my first stab at this from the second row so I can take cues from what others are doing if I get off-track. After all, I’m a total barre newbie.

Once the music starts, I’m sweating within minutes. We lunge, kick, pump our arms, and totally exhaust tiny muscles in our hips and thighs using the barre and that giant rubber band for resistance. The part of me that was worried about plies and arabesques is shut down quickly – this is a serious workout that could make anyone a better dancer, but doesn’t feel like dancing. By the end, I’m shaking head to toe and I feel AMAZING. We finish the hour laying on our mats for a few quiet moments while one of the instructors comes around giving quick, blissful back rubs.

My instructors, Hillary and Liz, come around to congratulate me on my first session at b:core and see if I have any questions. They give me some helpful tips to share for other first-timers and barre-newbs: Grippy socks help, core stability is key, and embrace the shake! I leave with a smile on my face and a new respect for barre. As a runner and cyclist, the workout was perfect for targeting my weaker areas and makes for an incredible cross-training option.


b:core instructors getting their shake on – notice the grippy socks! Photo courtesy of b:core methods.

MADabolic: a first hand experience

When I pop in to MADabolic to observe a session, Dar is right up front, greeting participants by name and welcoming everyone into the studio for a packed class. The group ranges from newbies to seasoned “MadOnes.” The black, silver, and turquoise walls house rowing machines, kettle bells, mats, punching bags, medicine balls, and dumbbells. Dar gets the class going right on time, pointing to the board to explain today’s theme: Durability. She rotates around the room, demonstrating each movement in the cycle participants are going to complete and giving thorough guidance. After about 5 minutes, the music and the timer start, and everyone jumps into a plyometric warmup to get ready for the workout. Participants are then split into groups of four, each group heading to a different station to start – they’ll rotate every few minutes from there.


Workouts are performed as a cycle, rotating around the room to movements that suit all levels. Photo courtesy of MADabolic.

I have to admit, I was a little intimidated walking in to this place. I worried that the workout would be too intense or that the studio was really only meant for the fittest of the fit. Within minutes, I realize just how wrong I’d been.

MADabolic focuses on form and functionality, so everyone has a comfortable place to start and tons of room to grow. The workouts are so immersive that everyone is deeply focused on their own movement and their own efforts – no judgement or comparisons. There is roughly a 60/40 split of women to men in the clientele, and the population covers everything from weight lifters to yogis, graduate students to father-daughter duos. I feel completely comfortable in the mix, surrounded by a welcoming group of people who share my love of exercise. The major thing folks have in common is their dedication to becoming fitter, and we’re all able to pursue that dedication here.


Photo courtesy of MADabolic.

Dar walks the floor, providing individualized coaching and tips. She provides encouragement and motivation: no yelling or scare-tactics, and definitely  no “one size fits all” approach. Everyone follows the same guidelines at each movement, but they choose their own weights and go at their own pace for a personalized workout experience, powering through 50 minutes of variety for an intense feeling of accomplishment at the end.

A few weeks later, I’m back to get my own taste of the MADness. Liz is coaching; she’s one of a nice handful of instructors who transition seamlessly between b:core and MAD. She greets me by name and warns me that today’s workout is “tough.” A participant from the 6am class chimes in with encouragement, telling us that we’re going to feel great afterward. Again, a lot of people in the room seem to know one another, and there is a supportive, community vibe. We warm up, then start on a cycle that includes mountain climbers, standing rows, suicide sprints, some jumps, and overhead presses with dumbbells. Everyone chooses weights that work for them, and everyone goes at their own pace in each station as we rotate around the room together, finishing the cycle 6 times with two breaks in between. The workout is tough, but I leave feeling like a million (sweaty) bucks – I survived the MADness.

After experiencing MADabolic and all that is b:core, I can tell that a combination of the two could take anyone’s fitness and sense of accomplishment to the next level. Want to try SweatIX for yourself? Check out the facebook page to learn about deals and promotions. The collaboration kicks off February 27th with the SweatIX Triple Shot! You can also find more information about the SweatIX lifestyle on Val’s blog, fuel.sweat.grow.