Regenerate Fitness Has My Heart

I decided to try out a new studio that FitReserve recently added to their growing roster: Regenerate Fitness located at 1616 York Ave on the Upper East Side, and I’m so glad I did!

After receiving a friendly greeting from Reggie, the super-buff trainer who set me up with a chest-strap heart rate monitor, our class of four people got warmed up on this crazy contraption, the Helix Lateral Trainer:

This machine was perfect for my bursitis-blighted hip that stopped me in my tracks on the treadmill at Orange Theory Fitness a few days prior. After talking with a physical therapist, I was ordered to stop running for a while, ice my hip, and strengthen my adductors and abductors. The Helix got my heart rate up just as well as running while working those inner and outer thigh muscles.

After the warm up, Reggie led us in a series of targeted-strength training exercises using the ever-popular kettle bell, TRX, straps, and dumbbells. We hopped back on to the Helix for 5-minute intervals to get our heart-rates back up between strength intervals for an efficient workout rivaling my oft-touted Orange Theory Fitness fave.

In fact, Regenerate had almost everything I love about OTF, and they offer different kinds of classes too like Kickboxing and Yoga. Plus they don’t force you to buy the heart-rate monitor, nor do they pressure you to get to a certain zone like OTF does. They provide you with the monitor, advise you on a personalized target heart rate to aim for, and post it for you to watch. The individualized attention of the small class size really made it feel like a personal-training session.

If only I lived on the Upper East Side! Yorkville in particular seems to be the land of the fitness elite. There you can choose from places like Regenerate, EVF, Exceed, The PE Club, PushLab Fitness, and one of my favorite spin spots, Crank.  Meanwhile, over here on the other side of Central Park, the boutique-fitness-studio pickings are slim. I did try a new class in my hood though, at BeFitNYC, and it was a challenging twist on the HIIT circuit. More on their classes and space soon to come!

Regenerate Fitness

Location: 1616 York Ave, between 85th and 86th

PROS: Efficient, HIIT workout with complimentary heart-rate monitors available for use, small class sizes, total body workout – cardio and strength, friendly, knowledgeable trainer, various kinds of classes offered, clean space.

CONS: No locker room or showers, small space, but they keep the class-size small too and offer cubbies for your belongings.

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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.

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.

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?

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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Day 25: Brick by Brick at BRICK New York

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Have your abs ever been so sore that it hurts when you laugh? That’s me today after the Friday Abs B/X class at Brick New York in Chelsea. If there’s anything that’s clear after 25 days of my ClassPass adventure, it’s that there is no shortage of awesome gyms and boutique studios, especially in Chelsea. Brick New York was another great find.

I flew into the studio one minute before my scheduled class, and the girl at the front desk checked me in, and assured me that all was fine– that I should change and go on in. Downstairs, it took me a minute to figure out which locker room was the women’s as the two doors facing me read, “Squat” and “Jerk,” a little CrossFit inside humor perhaps? While not huge, the locker room space was well-planned for minimal traffic jams. The lockers (bring your own lock) are outside the locker rooms, so that inside there’s space to change, hang your coat, use the bathroom, and shower. They have all the little amenities you need like the hair ties and complimentary razors, deodorant, and tampons. I so appreciate the gyms and studios that provide these things for forgetful me.

The workout was equally well-planned and efficient. CrossFit gyms or boxes, as their known, don’t mess around. I sidled past an actual CrossFit class into my own B/X class which, like the EVF 360 classes at EVF Performance, seems to be a class reminiscent in style to CrossFit, but a bit more accessible. Don’t let that fool you into thinking that it’s gonna be in any way easy. I thought maybe I was in the wrong place when the first thing I saw the instructor demonstrate (as a part of the warm-up, no less) was a move called a “Wall Walk” in which, basically you start in push-up position an then literally walk your feet up the wall and your hands backwards until you are in a hand stand against the wall.

“What?” I yelped. The class laughed, and the instructor gave us an example for a modification that still involved walking up the wall as far as we could, and surprisingly, I was able to get much straighter than I thought I’d be able to. I couldn’t do all of the exercises without modifications (the Toes to Bar, for example), but I did more than I ever thought I was capable of. We were in constant motion going through 5 stations of 3 exercises each. The music was spot on, cranking me through my Plank Jacks (on the rings!) when I wanted to quit.

brick lobbyAfter the workout, I enjoyed a large free sample of a protein shake in the lounge. You can also purchase all kinds of Paleo salads and snacks as well as coconut water and protein bars. I feel inspired to go back, and perhaps even try out the Academy classes which are a series of 8 classes that you’re required to take at Brick before beginning the CrossFit classes. I love that, because I’ve been completely intimidated by CrossFit, and frankly worried that I might injure myself. The Academy is designed to make sure you know proper form and technique so you don’t get hurt. This is a studio that will help you become an athlete, brick by brick.

BRICK

LOCATIONS: Chelsea, Grand Central, Brooklyn, L.A, Chicago, Boston

PROS: Challenging, efficient workout. Classes are not tiny, but small enough for instructors to pay attention to your form and push you to our max; good music; plenty of amenities including showers, towels, shampoo, lockers (bring your own lock), and a protein smoothie bar.

CONS: They should make the towels and water available in more places than the front as it’s a big space, and you will need extra water. Towels and a water cooler in back workout room would rock. There was no stretching after the workout, and I could’ve really used a stretch.

WHAT TO WEAR: Regular workout clothes and sneakers. Bring water and a lock.

MY BRICK GOAL: Toes to the Bar