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.

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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.

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!