Not HIIT with Best Shot at KORE Method

When I heard there was a swank new HIIT studio (with chilled, eucalyptus-infused towels!) in the trendiest of hoods,  I booked a session on FitReserve and headed to Kore on West 13th Street.

I was primed for intensity, hopeful for a dark, clubby vibe with killer tunes. The room was dark. It was also spartan, the only equipment being TRX straps, kettle balls, and bands. They boast a 5 step-format HIIT workout (high-intensity interval training) that targets strength and cardio without the treadmill. After some active stretching, the highlight of the workout is the 8-minute series of high-rep body weight strength and stability movements.

While the trainer was knowledgable and encouraging, and the method mixes up such a variety of movements that I was never bored, the intensity was not much higher than a shetland pony, and the music was less than memorable.

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That said, I did break a sweat and was challenged by the kick-ups (in which several classmates made it to hand stand). Many of the moves were original and creative– not just a bunch of burpees, which I liked. It was kind of like boot-camp meets pilates with some kettle-balls and TRX thrown in. While I won’t be putting them on my regular workout rotation, it was an above-average workout.

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And sure, there were the fancy skin care products, and the chilled eucalyptus towels, but there was only one bathroom. The lobby was cramped enough to bump into 6 people while trying to remove my coat. I opted not to try out the showers to avoid the closet-like “locker” room.

The short story:

Kore New York

Meatpacking District, 336 W 13th St, New York, NY 10014

Pros: Interesting workout with great instructors. Small group format. Chilled eucalyptus towels and free lockers. Dark room, loud music. Some challenging and origianl moves.

Cons: Not as high-intensity as they claim. Trying to be too cool. Teeny-tiny lobby and even smaller locker room/bathroom.

 

 

Buffer Than Barry

For my first class hop of 2016, I decided to head back to my former love, and what I considered the gold standard in high-intensity, total body workout: Barry’s Bootcamp. (See previous posts, here and here.)

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What I learned: I am waaaaay more fit, than the first time I tried it, thanks to my Orange Theory Fitness superpowers.

When the coach called out that I should be at 6, 7, or 8 (as in MPH), the lower speeds were a breeze, whereas last year I couldn’t even get to them. I could also handle heavier weights!

I kind of love the anonymity and dance club feel of the darkly-lit room at Barry’s, but don’t feel nearly the level of personal attention to form nor the encouragement that I got from Orange Theory coaches. Instead, the coaches, staff, and clientele are uber-hip. And you get to pamper yourself with MALIN+GOETZ skin and hair care products in the locker room. (This was really my only complaint at Orange Theory– while they have superior fitness classes and provide hair ties and a blow dryer, they are skimpy on the skin care products: no free deodorant and the towels are scratchy.)

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After OTF pushing me to higher run speeds based on the increased efficiency of my heart rate, I now know that I won’t fall off Barry’s treadmill if I hit 8 or sometimes even 9 MPH. And another thing I didn’t miss at OTF – the rower. I know, I know, rowing is sooooo good for you. But I’ve got calloused palms, and my heart rate never gets as high on the rower as on the treadmill. Might be time for me to venture to the Mile High Run Club and see how I stack up there. . .

Hopping Back to FitReserve

First off, I want to apologize for the long hiatus. I haven’t posted in a while or replied to comments as I was dealing with some health issues (more on that in a later post), but now, I’m back!

For the last 9 months I’ve been semi-exclusive with Orange Theory Fitness (occasionally visiting FlyWheel and Yoga to the People on the side). I LOVE OTF! But alas, monogamy fitness is not my cup of tea. The body craves variety. Orange Theory does mix it up between the treadmill, rowing machine, TRX, and weight work focusing alternately on endurance, strength, and power depending on the day. And I feel a bit guilty leaving them as they have taken me to a much higher level of fitness than I was achieving in my ClassPass days. I can run faster, and uphill. I feel stronger and have more definition in my legs, arms and abs. I love the intensity and efficiency of their heart-rate monitored, total body fitness classes. The coaches (especially Eddie!) are excellent– really watching your form and encouraging progress. Plus, there’s one in my hometown, so I can travel and still go to my own gym. I can safely say, that in all my class hopping thus far, OTF takes the cake (as in the cake I ate off of my butt).

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But it ain’t cheap. In NYC, a monthly membership for unlimited classes cost me $329 a month. I have NEVER paid that much for a gym before. Then, I thought, I’ll do it for one month, at least 4 times a week to get in shape for summer. I got hooked. I could no longer push myself without the coaches and the meticulously-planned full-body focus. I justified the expenditure because it was my health, and figured I’d cut back on eating out and clothes. I also found out that I could get $200 back from my health insurance with proof that I’d attended the gym at least 50 times in a 6-month period. But $329 a month is a big chunk of change, no matter how you cut it. I dropped down to the 8-times-per-month membership for $219 a month.

But now, It’s time to face the fact that I need to save a little money. That, and I’ve got to see how my new fit-self does back at Barry’s Bootcamp (now on the FitReserve roster!). With a wandering eye and a hankering to try some kinkier, wilder fitness forays in 2016 (like aerial fabric pole dancing and Thai Kickboxing, I’m putting my OTF membership on hold, and taking FitReserve for another spin.

I’m choosing FitReserve over ClassPass for now as the price of ClassPass has gone up (to $125 from $99 per month), and I’m haunted by nightmares of setting calendar alarms for the booking windows of my favorite classes, scrolling through endless choices, the choicest of which were always un-bookable on ClassPass.

But whether you’re using FitReserve, ClassPass, or just class-hopping on your own, this classhopper is happy to be sharing her adventures with you once again. I plan to try new classes, return to old faves, and hopefully catch up on some requests, like finding out which classes have the most guys in attendance.

Happy 2016 and Happy Hopping!

Day 69: Back in the Game at End Game Training

I’ve been on hiatus. Not from class though, just from writing. I’ve been busy writing other things, like the new preschool Building Buddies curriculum for RoboFun.

But I’m back with a bang, and traveled all the way to Murray Hill from the UWS to do to End Game Training. No one should try to get to Murray Hill from the Upper West Side on a weekend. You might as well hike to Jersey. I did enjoy their circuit training Afterburn Metabolic Workout though.

I’ll cut to the chase because I have some catching up to do on my ClassPass adventures.

End Game Training (Park Ave and 30th Street, basement of an office building)

They offer small group classes (circuit-style) and personal training in a big open space with a smoothie bar, smallish, clean locker rooms with two showers (Frederic Fekkai hair products!) The Afterburn class which they claim helps keep your metabolism revved up for hours after class consisted of 11 one-minute stations that we did 3 times (and climbed the stairs in between). It sounds harder than it was. It was challenging, but unlike some places (Brick New York for example) the instructor wasn’t pushing us to go super fast, and one minute is pretty do-able for almost anything. The squat and presses had me willing the stopwatch clock to move faster, but I had fun pushing a slider loaded with weights across the astroturf floor and then pulling it back again!

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PROS: Efficient circuit-style class; small group for more attention from instructors, clean locker rooms with nice amenities, smoothie bar.

CONS: For me the location is a bummer, and I’m not sure there’s enough here that sets them apart from more conveniently located HIIT, circuit-style training classes like PT6 at Focus, As One Fitness, and Epic Hybrid Training; energy of the class/instructor felt a little low, but it was a rainy Saturday morning so that didn’t help.

Off the Beaten (aka Overbooked) ClassPass Path

ClassPass’s new cancellation policy is so much better than the old one! With the 12-hour window, rather 24, I’m able to make adjustments in my schedule more easily which is often a necessity having a preschool-age kiddo. More importantly, because there’s more of a penalty for no-showing ($20) versus late canceling ($15), there’s a bit more of a chance you can book a sought-after class last-minute. Bit being the operative word. Many studios don’t allow last-minute booking though and I’ve still got my alarm set in hopes of getting another date with Barry.

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I’ve decided (thanks to a special rate offer) to also try out FitReserve this month in hopes of getting into some of the classes I just can’t seem to book on ClassPass as that is what FitReserve claims is what sets them apart: you can book harder to book classes at popular times, and you can go to each studio 4 rather than 3 times a month. I’m not giving up ClassPass yet though. For now, I’m just cheating on them a little with FitReserve. But alas, that still doesn’t mean more Barry’s Bootcamp in my life as they don’t have Barry on their roster yet. If they manage to get the new OrangeTheory Fitness that’s opening up in Chelsea, I’d switch over for good.

In the meantime, I’ve been talking to other class hoppers to get ideas about fun studios to book that are actually book-able. Here are a few of the best, less-discovered studios I’ve found. If you know of more, please share!

  • As One (Columbus Circle): HIIT-style total body workout
  • EVF Performance (Upper East Side and Columbus Circle locations): Offers CrossFit and HIIT-style classes, total body workout
  • Crank (Upper East Side and LIC locations): I can’t believe I haven’t done a whole post about this place yet. It’s one of my favorite indoor cycling spots because it’s the closest I’ve ever come to getting a total body workout on the bike, they provide shoes and the teachers are awesome!
  • Revolution in Motion (Garment District): A revolutionary approach to total body training, like nothing I’ve ever done before.
  • Revolve (Union Square): Loved this indoor cycling class too, especially the hour-long RIP class that incorporates more upper body.

Revolution in Motion: Balancing Barefoot with Bosu

One Yelp reviewer describes this place as “weird and amazing!” I’d have to agree. Good weird, but definitely different than anything I’ve ever done. For instance, I’ve never played hot potato/catch-it-fast using two soft weighted balls (like these) while balancing on one bare foot atop a slant board. That is until I found myself on the 10th floor of an office building in the Garment District at Revolution in Motion.

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It was kind of genius. I was thinking fast, using my core, improving my balance, and laughing all at once. We also did all kinds of other challenging and unique movements using physioballs (those giant, inflated, bouncy ones), and Bosu balls (think half of one of those giant inflated balls).

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In the picture above, it looks easy, but that was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. Thankfully, my instructor, Alex, helped me get stable and guided me toward using my core to balance and gain control. Alex was a bastion of calm and strength and smiling encouragement.

Founded by Dr. Edyth Heus, Revolution in Motion (Rev In Mo) is a program of carefully sequenced movements designed to enhance how the nervous and musculoskeletal systems work together. Another cool health and fitness blog describes Rev In Mo as a program that, “empowers you to reach your highest level faster, safer, longer than any method available.” Maybe that’s why the cast of Superman and several Yankees players have trained there.

I definitely felt sharper, more limber and graceful after leaving. I was really surprised by my state of mental clarity actually. It helped me realize the level of scatter-brained fog that I’m usually walking around in. I think it would also be a great alternative to Yoga once or twice a week or a complementary workout for those super-yogis out there if you didn’t want to commit to the system in its entirety.

I did the Power Play class, but next time I head back I’m gonna try the Slip and Slide which looks like a blast. And maybe I’ll be brave enough to try their soon-to-come 5-class Sexual Fitness series.

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Learning from the Heart at OrangeTheory Fitness

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I did not want to like OrangeTheory Fitness. On a brief visit home to Tallahassee where my ClassPass membership is meaningless, I decided to give it a try for the sake of the blog. The reason I didn’t want to like it is that it’s a chain, a nationwide franchise, and in Tallahassee they’re located right across the street from one of my favorite locally-owned studios, Sweat Therapy.

But my body hasn’t felt this way in a while. Totally spent. Like I really pushed myself to places I didn’t think I could go. The set up is a lot like Barry’s Bootcamp, but they also have rowing machines, and the most important feature, you wear a hear rate monitor. I’ve seen these at BFX, and even wore one at Drill Fitness, but this was the first time I was sold on their true value.

In the past, at Barry’s I’ve been hesitant to try the big numbers the teacher calls out, convinced that my body can’t handle them and I might go flying off the machine. I’m a max-out-at-6.0mph kinda girl. Or I used to be. Tomorrow will be day 50 of my 100 days, and despite my body shape (or at least my body image) not changing a whole lot, I’m definitley MUCH more fit than when I started. Feeling strong is the best high. Wearing the heart rate monitor today helped me realize how strong I am.

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At OrangeTheory Fitness (soon to open a Chelsea studio in NYC), like at Barry’s, you move from intervals on the treadmill to strength training floor work. Unlike at Barry’s, the workouts are a little more varied (sometimes you’ll only be on the treadmill for 5-minute stints, and other times for longer). Also, your name is on the big screen with a bunch of numbers, the most prominent of which is your heart rate. It’s highlighted in a color that corresponds to your ideal and maximum heart rates (which are calculated based on your gender, age, and weight). I can’t remember the exact breakdowns they tell you are ideal, and I liked the fact that the teacher told us to just ignore them if they were distracting us. The idea is to be in the Green zone (fat-burning) for part of the time and in the Orange zone (84% or higher of your max heart rate) for part of the time. According to the people at OrangeTheory, by getting that time in the Orange zone you will experience Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption or EPOC. This means you’ll have an increased metabolic rate even after you stop working out.

I’m looking forward to that, and can actually feel it. Even more importantly though, looking at my heart rate numbers taught me more about myself. I actually had to go a lot faster than I thought I could to get to the orange zone, like 8.0-8.2 without an incline. I also learned that inclines are the killers for me. I had to slow way down when the incline was 5.0 or higher. Plus, I saw that I had a pretty quick recovery rate and my starting heart rate was pretty low which means I’m fit!

This kind of workout also means you CANNOT CHEAT or fake it! Which I’m often tempted to do in spinning class. Sigh. It means that even as I get fit, I can keep my workout challenging by pushing myself to the zone every time. So, as much as I hate the idea of a franchise beating out the local guy, this was a fantastic workout. Now, let’s see if they’ll be on ClassPass once they open in NYC!

ORANGETHEORY FITNESS (nationwide locations)

PROS:

Heart rate tracked by monitors shown on a video screen; progress tracked and sent to you via e-mail; clean space; efficient total-body workout; great instructors and class sizes small enough for them to help you with your form.

CONS: 

Not as many amemities as at some studios I’ve seen– the location I went to had limited locker/cubby space and only two showers; pricey.

Amped Up Asanas at NY Loves Yoga

I wanted to title this post, “Yoga on Crack,” but decided that was too harsh for a class that included harmonium chanting and essential oil annointing. Take note: the Chakra Flowtastic class at NY Loves Yoga is NOT for beginners. It’s a warm, inviting studio and the teacher, Christine Chen, from California made it her mission to get us warm on one of the coldest days of the year.

a95b5fe863019bbb532ed015eabf014dI’d never done a 3-legged chaturanga before, but by mid-class we were moving through it as a part of some of the most vigorous vinyasas I’ve ever seen. And Christine started out so California-mellow chanting beautifully as she played the harmonium. Don’t let her fool you, she’s actually a Yoga Lady Jaye who could easily swing a side job as an auctioneer since she can call out Yoga poses faster than I can think them. (And she writes books in her spare time.)

It made for a sweat-filled, cardio-style class that would have been a “lyrical dance-like flow” as the class-description reads if I were more  graceful. As it was, I flopped out of a few twists and skipped a few chaturangas to meet everyone in downward dog. But I loved the fast pace because it kept my mind from wandering and had me trying things out before I could think about them too hard. I also enjoyed the chanting much more than I though I would. It was surprisingly, genuinely heart-warming which was much needed in 7 degree weather.

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NY Loves Yoga (140 West 83rd Street between Columbus & Amsterdam)

PROS:

Beautifully designed, cozy space and a true community vibe; friendly staff and yogis; experienced, well-trained teachers; a variety of classes offered from beginner to advanced; mat and towel rental available; cubbies for shoes.

CONS:

No showers and limited space for changing

A Hidden Gem: As One Fitness

This crazy contraption, the Jacobs Ladder, was only one of many new and intense moves that George from As One Fitness (located at Columbus Circljacob's laddere) introduced me to.

On one of the best websites I’ve seen for a studio, As One claims they offer the city’s toughest workout. I can’t quite vouch for that yet, as I’ve only tried the 30 minute workout. It was super efficient non-stop cardio and strength training in a compact, but clean and well designed space. After just those 30 minutes, I can imagine their 90-minute “Grind” classes might just be the city’s toughest. (Although I’m sure some Barry’s Buffs might disagree, and I wouldn’t want Barry to know I was cheating.)

Another thing I loved was that they took the time to stretch using foam rollers after the class which a lot of intense, cross-fit/bootcamp style classes don’t seem to do.

Here’s the skinny (which I’m sure you’d become as a regular here):

AS ONE FITNESS (Located on the 3rd floor of a nondescript building at Columbus Circle)

PROS:

Small group classes in a clean, compact space with out of the ordinary equipment; they offer 30, 60 and 90-minute workout options; amazing trainers who pay attention to your form as you do rows with sandbags, burpees, and jump squats to name a few; the kind of place where you can make goals and they will help keep you on track to meet them.

CONS:

You can’t get away with anything because it’s small and personal; limited space for changing, and there are bathrooms with showers but don’t expect Bliss Spa products, just the basics (there is a water cooler and they do have towels); a little pricier than some classes at $40 for a single session, but they offer the first class free and the first month unlimited for $99.

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Sweating Barry

Feeling especially overwhelmed this week (hence the dearth of new posts), I was just given the gift of a couple of free hours. I tried to schedule a last-minute class on ClassPass, but that is proving harder as more and more people join ClassPass. I’m convinced that there are people who sit by their computers everyday at noon just to book a coveted spot at Exceed or Barry’s.barrys

And speaking of Barry, even though I think of him as a boyfriend who tosses my heart around, I can’t give him up. I took a class at Barry’s Bootcamp Chelsea on Monday. I was still often totally unsure whether or not I was doing the floor work correctly, and frankly, didn’t feel like I was fit enough to enter the room. I sheepishly watched girls who were cut like boxers change into high-fashion workout wear in the locker room while asking each other if they were staying for the next class too. Two classes in a row? But then I hit a new high speed on the treadmill. 8.0! Yes! I felt like a speed demon until I saw the girl next to me reach 11.2. It’s like one of those unhealthy relationships with a super-hot narcissist who’s really good in bed. Oh Barry, I want to impress you, to feel the pain and the rush I get from being near you, yet I probably deserve a little better.

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I don’t mean to diss Barry’s, but it does bother me that the instructors have so many students to watch at once, and that some of the people at the front desk are rude in that I-don’t-need-you-as-much-as-you-need-me kind of way. In fact, I left my FitBit in the shower after class, and when I called to ask if they could hold it for me, the guy who answered the phone completely brushed me off saying I’d have to come in and check with the maintenance crew. Dreading a cab ride back downtown to Barry’s after work, I called again and a young woman with a soul answered. She found my FitBit and held it for me at the front desk.

When I went to retrieve my FitBit, I felt the pull to get back in that room and be able to lift that next level of weights and reach the numbers on the treadmill that the instructor will shout at me. I cannot stop seeing Barry. Much better boyfriend material though, would be BFX.

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Yesterday I took the BFX Burn class with Derek, and is was an equally challenging workout. But I got attention to my form by not one, but two instructors. I even felt a bit pampered. The plush new mats, the spotless new-ness of everything from the floors to the coat rack, and the sticky sweet smiles of every employee. I should totally like them better than Barry’s. They were nicer to me, their locker rooms allow me to open the door without hitting someone else, and they’re so high tech. I do, I like them. But is it possible for a studio to be too perfect?

ClassPass really is like dating. I’m starting to get that feeling that settling down instead of playing the field would be nice, but I’m not sure I’ve found the perfect place yet. The place that gets to know me, supports me, but also gives me space to lay low and not feel self-conscious. For now, I’ll keep fishing around.

On that note, just got an e-mail from ClassPass that members can now use Crunch Gym and go to their classes! Woot! Tomorrow I’m giving FlyBarre a second date. Despite all the raves (even from those super fit double-day class go-ers) I’m not sold on the Barre idea yet. But everyone deserves a second chance.