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.

My New Workout Buddy is LOLO Jones

At first, I didn’t think much of the e-mail from the manager of my Orange Theory Fitness in Chelsea inviting me to a special workout session with Lolo Jones. I’d heard the name, but didn’t realize her supernova-star power. Not only is she an Olympian, holding world records in track and field (along with competitive bobsledding on the side), she is an Amazonian bombshell, and the new spokesperson for OTF.

When I arrived for my workout, there she was in the locker room with an entourage of hair and make-up. There was a lot of commotion, and as I tip-toed to put my things in a locker she graciously apologized for taking up all the space. Her smile and demeanor were completely down-to-earth, and in that instant I really felt as though she could be my workout buddy.

Here she is on the treadmill, and as my name starts with K, it was right next to hers on the scoreboard.

 

Untitled documentIn my resolution to save more money this year, I’d been planning on giving my one-month notice to cancel my membership after the workout. But, after I’d pushed myself to higher levels of speed and push-up-to-row reps than ever before (if only there was an Olympic athlete in the room for every workout), I couldn’t quite get the words, “I quit,” to come out of my mouth. SO, now I still have my OTF membership, and a FitReserve membership.

So far, Orange Theory really is still the best workout I’ve ever had. I will continue to search for one that comes close throughout the month and report on my findings. Heading over to Exceed Physical Culture right now.

And until then, I have Lolo (or at least the treadmill that she ran on)!

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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!

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

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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):