Flirting with FitReserve

I’m still using ClassPass. A Lot. (4-5 times a week which means I’m probably one of the people they are not making much money on). But, I’m also flirting with the competition. FitReserve reached out and offered me a deal to try them out, and so I have.

On the surface it’s really hard to compete with ClassPass’s simplicity: $99=classes at hundreds of studios in the city (unlimited number of workouts, but only 3 at any one studio per month).

Here’s the catch. There are so many ClassPass members that it’s getting harder and harder to book spots at the most popular studios. I’ve seen the words “No Spots” enough to want to cry.

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Their new cancellation policy which punishes you more for not showing up ($20) than for canceling less than 12 hours in advance ($15) has helped to free up more last minute spots. So even if you’re not consistently free at noon everyday to sit by your computer and hope for a coveted spot when the booking-window bell rings, you can check the schedule last-minute to see if people have canceled their spots. There’s much more last-minute movement than before. That said, I still spend an inordinate amount of time trying to schedule, book, and re-book classes. (Sometimes this is worth it, like today when I happened to scroll across the words Barry’s Bootcamp with a friendly purple Reserve button next to them!)

There are still plenty of choices to stay in shape on ClassPass, even if they’re not my first choices. But, I have found FitReserve‘s promise of being able to book classes at hot spots in convenient time slots to hold true. It is rare to see the “Sold Out” button on FitReserve’s website. In general, I’d have to say FitReserve’s website is better. It’s clearer with bigger font, easier filtering options, and simple navigation. (I do wish they’d offer the same kind of easy, add-to-calendar feature when you get the reservation confirmation pop-up though.)

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Another one of their claims to better-ness is their partner discount offers. Some of them seem pretty good, and I might check out Zeel, massage on-demand and Bestowed healthy snacks. I’m not sold on these partner offers being much of a perk though. You can often find the same sorts of deals on your own.

So far I like FitReserve quite a bit. The biggest drawback is that they don’t have as many participating studios as ClassPass and their lowest-cost membership option only allows you 10 classes per month and it’s still a bit pricer than ClassPass’s $99. If they can get a bigger roster of studios, and maybe open that up to 12 classes a month (which would let you workout at 3 days a week), I think it might be worth switching.

Here’s an older post with more deets on the differences.

I’m getting pretty spoiled this month using both. If money isn’t an issue, you don’t have to choose. You could have the best of both fitness worlds.

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.

Take Me to Church, I Mean SoulCycle

soul cycle inside

I did it. I finally took the plunge and went to Soul Cycle. They would never deign to participate in something like ClassPass or FitReserve. But they do offer you your first class for $20. I just had to know what the original cult spin class was like.

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There are people for whom Soul Cycle is a religion. And indeed, there are church-like elements to the experience. Good music, candles at the altar, a person at a podium shouting their truth at you, devotees wearing special clothes, and we ended with our heads bowed and eyes closed. There are even those smiley door-greeting people told to find out if you’re a guest so they can make you feel welcome when you walk in the door. And they lure you in with those damn Grapefruit Jonathan Adler candles that smell so good you could burn your nose off by sticking it into the flame to get closer. I want to go back just to smell those things again.

That would probably be the only reason I’d go back too. Not that I didn’t enjoy it. It was an amazing workout. I’m just not into cults. And that’s what Soul Cycle is.  A trendy one, but a cult all the same. (See these magazine articles from Vanity Fair and NYMag if you don’t trust me on that.) They’ve done a great job of branding themselves and creating an A-list, dance club-like feel. You feel special while you’re in there. And truth be told, I liked the workout and the music (which is especially loud) better than FlyWheel. But that’s probably because I tend to like a non-metrics driven cycling class. That said, I’ll always go back to FlyWheel because they’re dependable, they have free water bottles and fruit, and I have to check my metrics sometimes.

Whom am I kidding, if I had all the money in the world, I’d go back for more soul cycling (if they’d have me), not just for the candles but for those moments when I felt like I was flying.

You can find soul-similar-style, non-metric rides though that aren’t quite as holy or holier-than-thou (in that they are on ClassPass) at Cyc, Crank, Monster, (and probably at Peloton’s Rhythm Rides which I haven’t tried yet).

Here’s my summary of the bike masters of soul:

SoulCycle (multiple locations, I went to the Union Square one)

PROS:

It is that rare workout where you’re transported to a trance-like zone between your body and the music so that you push harder without thinking about it; good amount of upper body work so you come close to a total body workout; nice amenities in the locker room; those grapefruit candles; the MUSIC; being part of the cool crowd.

CONS: 

Being part of the cool crowd (the majority of the riders are the same 20-somethings lining up, or cutting the line at the trendiest clubs in the Meatpacking district, wearing make-up and headbands for their workout); too many people in the narrow locker hallway, so after a great workout in the zen-zone you have to face navigating that crowd; pricey classes, shoe rentals are $3

And speaking of church, this is a little random, but I can’t stop watching it, and maybe there’s a fitness class somewhere that can make me feel like I can dance like this (note, not really dance this well, cause that’s impossible, but maybe give me the feeling of it):

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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How to Workout instead of Grocery Shopping

plated 2I’ve been meaning to share this for a while, because it’s been a life-saver as far as time goes. When I was single if there was no food in the house, I ordered take-out without thinking twice. But ordering food comes along with the double whammy of expense and unhealthiness. I actually prefer home-cooked meals with fresh ingredients. But between searching for interesting recipes, hunting down the right ingredients which sometimes include lemongrass and fresh thyme (you’ll need 2 sprigs by the way, but they’re sold by the bundle), food prep and cooking, creating healthy meals at home can be a real time suck.

Enter Plated. And now I have time not only to exercise but to constantly search for new classes, make and change reservations, and generally be obsessed with ClassPass. Plated is a subscription service that delivers weekly menus of fresh, pre-portioned ingredients to your door in a box. You still have to prepare and cook the food. But you don’t have to shop! I love to get messy in the kitchen, but I do not love dragging myself home from the store, my Whole Foods paper bags starting to tear (because I forgot to bring my own bags, AGAIN) in the ice and snow for six blocks that felt so easy on the way there, but are now torture, only to realize once I get home that I forgot to buy the Miso paste that the recipe calls for even though I spent twice as much as I’d planned to.

Plated meals cost $12 per person per meal for most meals, and you have to buy at least 2 portions of every meal. You can choose from a list of recipes for the week and there are always several vegetarian options, including at least one vegan option as well as gluten-free options. I love this, because while I’m not a vegetarian, my partner is, and I try to cut back when I can, and they give you interesting tasty non-meat choices.

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I first tried Plated not just to save time, but because I was in a cooking rut, sick of my own cooking and uninspired by the row of cookbooks growing dust on the shelf. I also tried two other comparable services called HelloFresh and BlueApron, both of which are slightly cheaper. But I went with Plated because I liked their website, customer service, choice of menu, ease of cooking steps, packaging and overall tastiness better.

HelloFresh is only $9 per plate for the veggie box and $10.75 per plate for the omnivore box, but you can’t pick and choose between the two. That didn’t work as well for us, because we do eat fish and we don’t eat soy which many of the veggie recipes included. BlueApron also allows you to pick and choose from their entire menu for only $10 per plate per person (family plans are even a little less), but I wasn’t as excited by how their meals came out or as impressed with their packaging. But they were a close second, and would be a great budget friendly option.

My latest Plated box just arrived with its recipes and ingredients, including tonight’s Braised Cod with Swiss Chard, White Beans, and Almonds, so I’m off to get cooking!

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.

Another ClassPass Competitor: Move USA

One of the most fun parts of my post-workout has become chatting with other studio go-ers about ClassPass. It’s how I find out about the most popular workouts, and hopefully about some awesome workouts that are less popular so there’s more of a chance I can book one. I’m a HUGE fan of ClassPass, but as their membership increases, it’s getting harder and harder to book coveted spots at places like Barry’s Bootcamp or Exceed (which I still haven’t tried). I now have an alarm set on my phone to go off everyday just before noon in hopes of booking one of those spots. It’s why more ClassPass competitors are cropping up, like FitReserve which promises you can book seats more easily and offers discounts on things like massage and nutrition services.

Talking with fellow yogis at NY Loves Yoga the other day, I learned of a new interesting competitor: MoveUSA. Looks like they offer quite a few studios in NYC as well as in other major cities (including some international locations). Like FitReserve, their homepage says that members get discounts on complementary acitivities like massage, but I found it hard to get more information about that, and in general found their website a little confusing and cumbersome. They have 4 major price plans (some less than and some more than ClassPass’s simple $99/month rate), and then it also looks like there are other “premium” studios for which they charge an additional $10 per class.

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One thing that seems cool about them is that they have a few more “open gym” partnerships, like with the JCC on the Upper West Side which also includes access to their swimming pool. That’s something I’ve been missing with ClassPass— swim access, but access to NYC pools is fairly cheap through NYParks and Rec. MoveUSA has partnerships with many of the same gyms as ClassPass including Barry’s and Exceed, but not some of my other favorites like BFX, Brick, and Exhale Spa.

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 12.43.34 PMBecause of that, I’m still choosing ClassPass over MoveUSA or FitReserve. However, if I can’t get to Barry’s at least a couple times a month, I may consider switching to FitReserve (cause I’d really like to check out Clay Helath Club) or buying a class package directly at a couple of studios.

Any readers want to share their experiences with either MoveUSA or FitReserve?

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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