Personal Excellence: The P.E. Club

I’m not at all sure what the P or the E in The P.E. Club really stand for (if not the traditional Physical Education), but this boutique fitness studio does offer an excellent and personal workout, so that’s my best guess. I was impressed as soon as I walked in the door.

Picture the scene: a pristine Upper East Side boutique studio space, waxed wood floors, cream walls, shiny chrome equipment. In walks a model-esque trainer with not a hair out of place wearing the hottest new sports bra trend, the string-back (seriously, I’m seeing these everywhere I go all of a sudden), an open-backed top, and floral sneakers. (Yes, I wanted to hate her for being beautiful, but she was welcoming, friendly, and almost hugg-abble. It was impossible not to love her because on top of all that, she knew what she was doing.)

Through the walls of the bathroom, where I stood in front of the mirror trying to tie back my greasy, unwashed locks and adjust my Hello Kitty t-shirt to hide a small hole in my thinning Old Navy leggings, I overheard comments about someone rocking some shiny green spandex leggings, and how so-and-so was looking great today. “Lo-ove that outfit!” Suddenly I realized it was the kind of place that people dressed for.

Even though I felt a bit self-conscious and out of place in the land of the too-rich-to-be-doing-anything-but-working-out-everyday a.k.a. the Upper East Side, the instructor, Nedra Lopez, put me right at ease in the TRX workout room. And truthfully, so did the smiles of my seven classmates.

PE-ClubThe class was “TRX Xtreme Total Body,” and I’d been curious to give it a try when I realized how quickly the class books up. I’ve been spoiled with FitReserve, being able to constantly book almost any class I want at the last minute. But this class fills up faster than most because it’s very small and personalized. Only 8 students per class.

Everything about the class was deliberate and well-planned. We started with dynamic warm-up stretching, hit all our major muscle groups, and finished with static stretching. It was a full 50 minutes of purposeful strength training. Nedra not only walked around to gently correct our form as we squatted and planked, but she also continually reminded us how each part of our body was connected to every movement. She actually helped me understand what it looks and feels like to “keep your shoulders down and away from your ears,” something I hear trainers say all the time, but never fully understood until Nedra’s class. As a result, the day after class, I could feel the activation of small muscle groups that I don’t usually get to.

The class was challenging, and although not cardio heavy, I did sweat a lot. It activated a blend of large muscle groups that HIIT and bootcamp-style classes target, as well as the smaller muscles that Pilates and Barre classes seem to focus on, therefore increasing both muscle strength and tone. On leaving, I was sweating, but with better posture. Even though it wasn’t a cardio workout, the P.E. Club allows you to use their cardio equipment before or after class if it’s not being used by one of their personal trainers.

In short, I give this fancy place a 2 thumbs up! Even though it had the potential to be elitist and snobby, it wasn’t at all. And it managed to pull off not feeling cramped despite not having a locker room. (There are 2 bathrooms with showers and cubbies.) It really did feel personal, inviting, and all-round excellent.

The skinny:

The PE Club

Location: 238 E. 75th Street, 1st Floor New York, NY 10021

PROS: Beautiful space, personal attention, careful, deliberate and thorough workout. Challenging, but do-able, and works for beginners through athlete; fun, friendly atmosphere.

CONS: No locker room, but not really a need for one since it’s small enough to keep your belongings nearby; expensive; you might have to think about your wardrobe a little– it’s not the Monster Cycle crowd.

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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.

Day 21: Bollywood Boogie with Booya Fitness

The blizzard was a bust, and with my son home from school on a snow day I thought maybe I could call it a snow day from my 100 days of classes too. Then, my conscious got the best of me when I saw that Booya Fitness was offering a Blizzard of 2015 promo code on their Facebook page. Booya Fitness promises boutique workouts without the crowd. That’s because you’re at home watching videos of the classes. They charge $10 a month or $100 a year which seems reasonable, but I’ve only committed to my free first month so far.

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After registering, I clicked on the box that said “Dance (Ethnic),” because are people seriously using the word ethnic to describe things other than what they’re used to? I had a friend in college from Kentucky who called pizza and tacos “ethnic food.” Is Zumba “ethnic?” Yoga?

(FYI, the founder of Booya Fitness is Harvard Business grad Prita Kumar, also not a name I’d feel comfortable describing as ethnic.) Turns out this “Dance (Ethnic)” workout was a 30-minute video of the Bolly X workout which is also a studio class offered on ClassPass. It’s a lot like Zumba, Bollywood style. I’ve enjoyed Zumba workouts in the past, but usually feel like the girl in the back with two left feet. So this Booya Fitness chance to practice Bollywood dancing in the privacy of my own home was especially appealing. The only problem is, I live in NYC and my neighbors can see directly into my apartment, so I had an audience anyway.

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It was a fun way to sneak in a quick workout, and maybe after I practice 3 or 4 or 10 times, I’ll be able to stand at the front of the Bolly X line-up. In the meantime, I’ll keep dancing for my neighbors.

It would have been a decent workout too, a little on the easier side (I’m not one to complain), but I walked away from the video several times to get water or check my e-mail. I didn’t hit pause. Yes, I could have paused it. But, I didn’t. That’s why I go to in-person classes: lack of willpower without the mandate to save face. On-line college classes are the same. I’ll take a C in an on-line class, no sweat. Have a professor look me in the eye though, and I’m the one sitting in front, batting my eyelashes, and turning in all the extra credit.

PROS: Don’t have to leave your house; good filtering options; fun workout

CONS: No teacher feedback or personal attention; workout was on the easy side

If you have a friend who’ll come over and do it with you, or if you are that motivated, Booya Fitness offers more than “Dance (Ethnic).” They also have Yoga (with Zander Gladish), Pilates, HIIT, bootcamps, and circuit training to name a few, and you can filter workouts by your energy level, your goal, or the equipment you have available. It certainly comes in handy on snow days. Here’s a shout out to my NYC friends: if someone wants to come over and help me give it another shot, you can pick the class.

Or for those of you who are a little more adventurous, I’d also like to try this new Reggae/Dancehall fitness class: Brukwine.

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Day 18: A New Fav, BFX Studio!

Continuing my quest to visit every indoor cycling studio in Manhattan, I finally made it to BFX Studio in Chelsea. I woke up feeling slow after cocktails at another new fav, STATE Bar and Grill last night, but I pulled myself together and made it out the door by 8:15 AM to make the 9 AM class I’d reserved on ClassPass. (Must avoid racking up anymore of those $20 no-show fees!) Feeling quite proud of myself for my early departure and the will to brave both snow and rain, I soon found myself staring at the subway tunnel walls. News flash: incessantly checking the time on your phone does not cause the train to start moving.

I arrived2014_07_bfx-techs at 9:05, and the girls behind the front desk said they’d let me in, if I went in right away. But I really had to pee (nor did I feel like rushing). I explained my ClassPass plight and asked if there was anyway I could take a later class instead.  The smiling girl politely informed me that Class Pass was very nice in these situations, and she was sure I could call them and work something out.

Crestfallen at the thought of a phone call and no class for the day, I was quickly rescued by the studio’s manager who came over to help me figure something out. After perusing their schedule, I was able to find a spot in Juan’s 11:00 FusionRide and Build class. I am a changed woman.

Prior to today, I’ve been wondering why anyone would pay upwards of $500 a month for an indoor cycling studio or any type of boutique studio membership, only to be locked into that one studio when you can get ClassPass for $99 a month and go to several different studios. I know a community factor comes into play. On ClassPass you’re roaming rogue (which you can also do by purchasing packs of classes at various studios). But if you join a studio, you get to know the people there, feel part of the tribe, and have the added benefit of accountability for your fitness goals. I’m kinda into anonymity myself, which may be why I’ve stayed in NYC after growing up in a small town. However, after today I saw the appeal of joining. Well, joining BFX Studio anyway.

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BFX stands for Boutique Fitness Experience, and they fit the bill. Not only is the space exquisite– open, bright, they also offer a lot more than just indoor cycling classes including Barre, Pilates, HIIT-style conditioning classes, and personal training sessions. And, if you’re into metrics, they go the extra mile. While waiting for my class, I got a Fit3D body scan which collected 450 body-circumference measurements in 30 seconds. I’ll be going back to take a strength and endurance test as well. In addition to offering members an initial consultation where you are assessed and set goals, (which I’ve done at every traditional gym I’ve joined and then never referenced again), they have MyZone tracking belts that you can strap on during workouts on or off site. The workouts then get uploaded to their system so that you can track accurate data like heart rate and effort.

So that leads me back BFX-2to the mebfxclasstrics debate. From my rides in various classes, I’ve really enjoyed being able to let go and forget about the numbers at places like Cyc and another new studio I found on the UES called Crank Cycling Studios (look for classes with Amina who was top-notch). Non-metrics style classes depend on stellar instructors and carefully chosen music whereas riding with metrics often leaves me checking my watch along with my RPMs. Focusing on numbers is boring. And how the hell does the FlyWheel bike know how many calories I’ve burned when it doesn’t know how much I weigh or whether I’m a man or a woman?

But at BFX, they seem to look at numbers as a part of the whole picture, and they only offer you numbers if the ones they can give you are accurate. In the 30-minute ride I took as a part of my FusionRide and Build class, we were asked to look at RPMs and our effort number, and the instructor provided a nice balance of suggested specific-RPM numbers and general calls to increase our individual effort numbers. Hungover though I was, I pushed myself as hard as I could. The music was decent, but not terribly inspiring. The instructor was inspiring, and unlike the instructors at Barry’s Bootcamp, he managed to watch and correct our form during the Build portion of the class. (I’m sure the instructors at Barry’s are great, but the layout of the studio and number of people in each class there make it impossible for them to keep an eye on everyone.) I felt equally challenged, but much safer.

BFX has also convinced me that a studio that doesn’t provide you with cycling shoes can be worth it. One of my favorite things about picking classes is picking them based on how little stuff I’ll have to tote along with me after work and before meeting up with friends. BFX makes an it’s-more-safe-and-sanitary claim for not having having cycling shoes, and the cages on their bikes felt very secure. At least I don’t have to lug my own lock. They have the built-in lock lockers, plenty of them, and all those little goodies the best studios seem to have now, like complimentary hair ties, bobby pins, and mints. Needless to say, I’m sure I’ll be back for another class at BFX Studio soon.

img_0176PROS: Great class selection; accurate metrics; super friendly staff; amazing space with plenty of amenities, lots of personalized attention.

CONS: I wasn’t able to buy a pair of socks because they’re computer system was a little messed up. Maybe they’re still working out some kinks, but I wouldn’t hold that against them. Would be super expensive without ClassPass; have to bring your own shoes.