Wouldn’t You Like to Be a Runner Too?

If you’ve ever enjoyed running, even once, or even thought maybe you could enjoy running, get thee to Mile High Run Club this winter. If you’re a true runner (whatever that means), then you might really enjoy running in 19-degree weather, but me, I’m from Florida. When I can make clouds with my breath, I head to a treadmill. And, it’s a lot more fun to treadmill with a class than all by my lonesome. I probably don’t push myself as hard when I’m running alone either. (Unless maybe there are some really killer tunes in my earbuds.)

While I’ve never really thought of myself as a “runner,” darned if I haven’t been really loving the running (especially the sprints) during my Orange Theory classes. I get such a rush from pushing that plus sign and going faster, baby, faster. I’ve also grown accustomed to the community, the coaching of a class, and the chance for a little competition.  So, instead of running in the park, I went to the Mile High Run Club to try their Distance class.

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I haven’t run more than 2 miles in long time. At Mile High’s DASH 28, OTF, and Barry’s Bootcamp you get time to run on a treadmill, but never more than 20-30 minutes, so I’m not logging too many pure running miles. But since it’s become my favorite part of the class, I figured why not try out a class where you run for 55 minutes straight?

The result: I’m sore. But happy. It made me feel like a runner. It was a lot different than just lacing up my shoes and going. There were timed intervals in which we slowly increased our speed and attempted sprints at faster and faster paces. And it was fantastic to get an explanation of how form can impact speed and protect you from injury. For more on how you can protect yourself from running injury check out this recent article from the Times, “Why We Get Running Injuries (and How to Prevent Them).” Spoiler alert: Consciously thinking about a softer landing, especially if you’re a heel-striker, is key.

I can tell the sprints worked their magic on me too because I hit 9.5 MPH during my last sprint at Orange Theory this morning. I’m sure to some people that is no biggie, but it’s the fastest I’ve ever gone, so I was pretty high on that all day. Maybe I am a runner after all.

But, just when I was feeling all comfy with my new treadmill habit, a friend of mine asked me if I’d join a soccer team with her through ZogSports. Just the words “team sports” have always been enough to make my stomach do flip-flops. Too many nightmares of middle school team picking during Phys Ed class. Why do they ever let students pick the teams anyway? Do the coaches secretly enjoy torturing the chubby, awkward kids? Anyway, it’s time to finally overcome the fears of being hated by my teammates for not knowing what I’m doing. It’s time to put my new fitness skills to the test. I signed up for a Saturday soccer league! If anyone wants to join me on the team, you can sign up here: ZogSports Saturday Indoor Soccer.

By the way, I’ve had this earworm all morning: I’m a runner. He’s a runner. She’s a runner. Wouldn’t you like to be a runner too? Dr. Pepper! (which is probably not the best hydration choice while running.)

 

Pushed but Squished at PushLab Fitness

Using my FitReserve membership, I’ve found a few go-to workouts, but part of the fun is getting to try new spots too. Last weekend, I walked over to Yorkville, home to frat-boy-filled bars, Gracie Mansion, and my destination: PushLab Fitness.

I’d heard good things about this spot from fellow class-hoppers, so I came in ready to sweat. And sweat I did. (Thankfully they have an easily accessible water fountain and provide small towels!) In our 45-minute workout we used light-weight dumbbells, kettle bells, TRX-like straps, and a rowing machine. We also did equipment-free moves like burpees, planks, and mountain climbers.

The trainer, Rick was friendly, but tough. If we rested at certain points, he would punish the whole class with extra reps. Also, if it was your turn on the rower, (there are two rowers in the back that we rotated through during circuits) and you didn’t make the 250-meter goal in a minute or less, the class had to go an extra 30 seconds on whatever station they were on. Thirty seconds may not sound like a lot, but when you’ve just done 35 squat-thrusts, you’d be ready to kill anyone who made you do even one more.

So, let me be clear, this is NOT a class for beginners! I was probably the oldest person in the class too, which doesn’t bother me too much these days, but I do feel safer when I’m given options for modifications and if I’m allowed to take a break when I need to without being yelled at. I work harder with encouragement versus punishment. In fact, threatening us with extra reps made me feel like the workout was a punishment rather than a joy. Working out is both physical and “mental,” or as I prefer to say, it’s a lot about mindset and how you frame it. Like Coach Fitz from Mile High Run Club said to us yesterday, instead of saying to yourself, “Oh man, this is really gonna hurt,” when faced with your next sprint interval, say “OH YES! This is gonna hurt!” with a smile, and feel the difference.

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The bathroom and coat hooks are behind the small, white wall.

My only other complaint about the class was the physical space. It was teeny-tiny. In suburbia, it would be like working out in someone’s walk-in-closet. No lockers or showers, but there is bathroom in the back that faces the 4 coat hooks.

It’s just one bare room with well-stored equipment lining the walls. There were 10 of us in class, making it was a tight squeeze. For a comfy workout the room shouldn’t have more than 8, but this is New York City where we all tend to settle for cozy rather than comfy. I was impressed that they made the space work as well as it did, and if I lived in Yorkville, I’d probably go back. But I don’t. So….

I’ll head back to some of my other faves, and also cross my fingers that FitReserve will sign up The Fhitting Room which I’ve heard is stellar.

Here’s the long story short:

PUSHLAB FITNESS

LOCATION: 249 East 77th Street – Yorkville/Upper East Side

PROS: Efficient HIIT workout in 45 minutes; small group class; total body is worked including cardio; friendly trainers.

CONS: Teeny-tiny space; no showers, no locker room with plush glamour products; it’s in Yorkville; not a class for HIIT newbies- they expect you to know what the moves are and don’t offer modifications.

 

 

 

My Top 6 Go-To HIIT Classes

If you’ve been reading, you know I recently joined FitReserve instead of ClassPass. This was because I was too overwhelmed by the choices with ClassPass, and often couldn’t book the classes I really wanted. Also, FitReserve offered me a great deal and gives me discounts on some services like Zeel, in-home massage. FitReserve also has a great selection of HIIT-style workouts to choose from.

My favorite workout of all time is the Orange Theory Fitness workout (and I still go there at least once a week even though they are not a part of FitReserve or ClassPass). But, because of OTF‘s price-tag and my body’s endless need for variety (I’m talking about workouts), I’ve let myself roam.

My favorite workouts tend to be high-intensity, bootcamp-style ones. The kind where you are getting both cardio and strength all at once and getting high on pushing yourself harder than you thought you could. Sorry folks, but despite the acute pain I experience doing Barre or Pilates, they just don’t give that I-am-strong-like-bull feeling, nor do they seem to burn as many calories if that’s what you’re after. I’d like to do more research on how HIIT fitness differs from Barre-style workouts and what benefits you get from each, but I’ll save that for another post.

In the meantime, here are my top 6 favorite classes for High Intensity Interval Training (a.k.a. HIIT):

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#6 As One Effect at As One Studios located at 3rd Floor, 1845 Broadway, New York, NY 10023 (Columbus Circle. See my full review here: A Hidden Gem.

 

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#5 EVF 360 at EVF with locations at both Columbus Circle and the Upper East Sid. I love this not-quite-cross-fit style workout in a Cross-Fit “box” studio. See my full review.

 

brick 2#4 The B/X class at BRICK NYC, with 3 studios in New York located in Chelsea, Grad Central, and Brooklyn. This is another Cross-Fit box that offers non-cross-fit classes that are non-stop and hard core, but fun and friendly. You can check my original review of BRICK too.

Logo_FeaturedImage-353x210.png#3 Barry’s Bootcamp with 3 NYC locations in Chelsea, Noho, and Tribeca (and more in Miami, LA, Boston and London). Yes, folks, it’s dropped down from my once favorite in recent experience, as the customer service skills at the front desk and the smoothie bar are sometimes NYC-snob, and it’s more of a “beautiful people” scene than I like these days. It’s still a great workout though, and it’s now available through FitReserve.

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#2 The Workout at Exceed Physical Culture (with Upper East Side and Tribeca locations), I loved the space, the trainers, and the workout itself. I felt safe, strong, challenged and encouraged. Here’s the full scoop: Exceeded Expectations.

 

And, as I said before, although not offered on FitReserve (yet?), my all time favorite workout is:

OTF-splat1-714x930#1 The Workout at ORANGE THEORY FITNESS .

I’ve been going there regularly for a year, and can say that it helped me discover the joys of sticking with one studio as opposed to constantly hopping around. They know me there. The trainers comment on not just my form, but my progress. And it’s just all-round awesome– treadmill, rower, TRX, and weights in every class. I don’t even use the heart rate monitor that often any more, but that’s another great benefit of the workout- you can see what your heart is doing. And they are located all over the country including my hometown of Tallahassee, Fl. You can read more about it here and here.

Tell me about your favorite workouts in the comments below. I’d love to find some new places to hop to!

By the way, if you’re interested in joining FitReserve (see pricing here), use my discount code (https://www.fitreserve.com/r/15affd93) and get $50 off!

Surf’s Up @ SurfSET (and I’ve got a Secret)

In honor of the new Point Break movie (at least the original was awesome), I trekked to the Sports Center at Chelsea Piers  to try the SurfSET class that you can book through either ClassPass or FitReserve even if you aren’t a member of the gym. (And by the way, considering all the amenities including the giant pool, indoor track, super-spacious locker room, and a full class menu, at less than $200 a month, it’s not a bad deal. The trick is getting there.)

It was a humbling experience. Coming off my runner’s high from Mile High Run Club and feeling the burn of total body training at Exceed, I thought for sure a silly surfing-style class would be a breeze. But just standing without wobbling was a challenge!

 

The perky, but tough teacher, Diana, had to hold my hand at one point so I could keep my balance as I attempted lunges on a surfboard that was attached to unstable inflated balls. In a 45-minute class she had us alternate between intensive cardio, strength and balance intervals. There were a lot of what she called wave runners that were basically plank mountain climbers on the unstable surf board.

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In addition, we did squats half-on and half off the board, pretended to kick sharks in a Pilates-esque move, and went from face-down “paddling” to a wide-stance squat in mock stand-up for a wave on the board. I’m sure it’s not sufficient training for the real thing, but it was a decent workout with lots of core work. And more importantly it was novel and FUN!

It’s good to feel humble once in a while, and to challenge your muscles (and balance) in new ways. In fact this takes the whole core stability trend to a peak. Rather than feeling silly on a balance board or Bosu, why not feel even sillier pretending to be a surfer dude for the day?

I wouldn’t make this my main fitness source (not enough cardio and no extra weights, although we did use bands), but I’ll definitely be back. Plus, and I’m hesitant to write this for fear of them cracking down, but here’s the secret: after class I hung out at the Sports Center checking out the indoor track and enjoying the sauna in the locker room. I could easily spend the afternoon there and stop by the cafe for some post-workout sushi and smoothies on the way out.

SurfSET at Chelsea Piers

PROS: Awesome space including the giant locker rooms with plush showers and towels (bring your own lock); great teacher; fun and different; no shoes needed.

CONS: Location (a pier is by nature not centrally located); not the most efficient workout if you’re looking for total body plus cardio, but tougher than your average Pilates class and I haven’t graduated to the advanced classes yet, so who knows!

Racking up miles at the Mile High Run Club

Every time I tell my partner that I’m going to try out the Mile High Run Club he giggles. Can’t help but picture something naughty on an airplane or in this case, a treadmill.

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But my workout at Mile High was no joke. I took the 45-minute Dash 28 class which consists of a warm-up, 28 minutes of interval running on the treadmill, and 10 minutes of strength training. This workout had all the ingredients of what I love at Orange Theory Fitness (my gold standard in fitness classes) minus the rower and the heart rate monitor:

  • Encouraging, knowledgable trainer
  • Cardio plus strength all in one workout
  • High-intensity intervals

I’ll definitely be putting Mile High into my FitReserve rotation. The trainer even had me itching to sign myself up for a 5K race in the real world as she related pace choices for intervals to paces for a 10K or a half marathon. Another cool perk at Mile High is that you can try out new pairs of Nike shoes for free. So as long as you’re not grossed out by wearing shared footwear, you can’t use forgetting your sneakers as an excuse not to go.

It may have been a bit ambitious to follow my Exceed workout with this one. The subway stairs were painful after class, but I guess that’s a sign that mixing it up is working.

Also, does anyone know if different treadmills are harder or easier than one another. I found 7.0 speed at a 1% incline much more challenging at Mile High than at Orange Theory. Could have been my own lag, but it’s curious.

Here’s the skinny:

Mile High Run Club

Locations in NoHo (E. 4th St.) and NoMad (W. 25th St.)

PROS: Great for any kind of runner from beginner to marathoner; good space in both workout room and locker room; choose from endurance running or total body workout classes; pace your own intensity; usual boutique amenities: lockers, showers, and hair ties; Nike shoe trials; friendly staff.

CONS: If you’re not into treadmills or running this is obviously not the workout for you; I’ll have to try the NoMad location- the NoHo one was far from the subway

 

Why Fitness Should NOT be your New Year’s Resolution

I just saw this hilarious self-parody video of “All About That Bass” featuring James Corden, and I cannot stop watching it:

I love New Years and all the hope of fresh starts and checking off goals like getting fit, writing my will, and being nicer to my partner in the mornings. But, it’s true: we all feel like crap when we break the resolution, and then we just give up.

That’s why fitness really can’t be a New Years Resolution for me. Blogging about it is. But I’m gonna do what I can and see from there. Exercise has to be a part of my life, and so I work it in however I can. And find ways to make it FUN! Like trying whacky new classes, catching up with a friend by ice skating instead of over drinks, and doing the 7-minute workout app while I binge watch Making a Murderer.

It’s not about body image (not as much as it was in my 20’s anyway) or losing weight as much as it is about coping with my anxiety and upping my happiness quotient. It really is about health and sanity for me, and the more you think of it that way, the more likely you are to stick with it.

Exceeded Expectations

I finally made it to Exceed Physical Culture on the Upper East Side thanks to FitReserve. I could never find a convenient time that wasn’t booked as soon as the booking window opened on ClassPass.

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This was an all-out, HIIT workout with very little down time, and not for beginners. Unlike Barre and Yoga classes, this is the kind of class a guy could attend while still maintaining bro status. And I’m not trying to maintain society’s silly gender boundaries. I’ve seen men in Pilates classes too. But, it’s no secret that fitness class attendance rosters run heavy on the estrogen. And readers of both sexes have asked me which classes tend to have more guys.

Turns out the number of men in a class can depend on timing, and at Exceed, some evening and Saturday classes are split about 50/50 along gender lines. The three guys that were in my 14-person 10:30 am class were definitely as sweaty and tired as I was when the clock ran out. The Masters classes (which you can only attend after the prerequisite 5 signature classes, and proof that you can correctly perform dead lifts, thrusters and box jumps) are even heavier on the guys to gals ratio.

Similar to many of my favorite classes (like EVF, Brick, and As One), Exceed’s 50-min signature class features different combinations of intervals, including Tabata, and 2-minute circuits so you get total body strength training while keeping your heart rate up. (Next time I’ll wear my heart rate monitor to find out exactly how high).

The instructor (I had Tracey who was awesome!) carefully demonstrated moves and corrected students’ form through movements that used TRX, kettle balls, and the rowing machine. This workout had the level of intensity I’d hoped for at Kore, but didn’t quite get. Another thing that sets them apart is their physical space. As in, they have some: several big, open rooms for workouts, and a full-size locker room. Plus, I can tell today that I hit muscle groups I haven’t in a while because my delts and quads are just the right amount of sore to remind me they exist, but moveable enough that I can still go try out Mile High Run Club this afternoon!

Here’s the skinny version:

Exceed Physical Culture

“A full service boutique gym that offers group classes to all levels of athletes, and a space for personal trainers looking to achieve their personal best and help their clients do the same.”

Locations:  Upper East Side and Tribeca

PROS: Efficient, truly high-intensity, total-body workout with knowledgable, friendly trainers; great space with showers, towels and lockers provided.

CONS: I’d feel intimidated if I were a beginner (most people in class were athlete level!); location isn’t the easiest for me as I live on Upper West Side.