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)!

20588256020_d43483488f_k.jpg

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!

hqdefault

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.

barry Screen Shot 2015-02-28 at 8.01.22 AM

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.

slantboard

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).

powerplay

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.

slipslide

Learning from the Heart at OrangeTheory Fitness

img_2926

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.

orange theory

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.

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 12.21.25 PM

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.

clock

4th on the Fly and 60 Minutes at Drill

leaderboard

That’s right, I finished fourth on the leaderboard in my latest FlyWheel class! Granted, the class was on the small side, but that’s quite an improvement from my first SWERVE rides class two months ago where I finished 28 out of 35. Now’s the time that I’m thankful for those metrics since the numbers on my scale and my pants size haven’t budged much.

Since comparing FlyWheel to SWERVE is apples to oranges, I’ll have to head back to SWERVE soon. In the meantime, I did a 60 minute ride downtown at Drill Fitness. I was dragging a bit on a Sunday morning, but wearing a heart monitor and seeing my numbers on the screen kept my heart in it. (Pardon the pun.) Even though you can slack off during a ride by not pushing yourself as hard as you can or turning your resistance knob down when no one’s looking, staring at your hear rate on the screen shames you into going faster.

The teacher I had a Drill was Prozac-happy even though the crowd was hung over, and the facilities are pristine. Plenty of room in the locker room, free shoes, and a smoothie bar. It is tempting to purchase the heart-rate monitor so that I can sync-up with their system and track my progress. And I might if they weren’t so far away. Tribeca is a hike, and FlyWheel is everywhere. I’d love for someone to do some kind of test though to see how accurate the metrics are at all these place.  And, I’m kind of jonesing for a metrics-free drumroll ride at Cyc.

Drill Fitness 

Located in Tribeca, offers Indoor Cycling and Bootcamp-style, HIIT conditioning classes.

PROS

Super-solid ride with decent music; complimentary heart-rate monitors and shoes for your ride; beautiful facility with ample room in the lockers and nice showers; smoothie bar; they offer HIIT classes in addition to cycling.

CONS

Felt a little bit sterile, and the staff could have been friendlier; can’t track your numbers unless you purchase the hear rate monitor from them.

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.

Bad-Boyfriend-doll

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.

images

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.

Best of ClassPass and Me, Day 28

8950165394_534b1c43dc_zIt’s day 28. I was back at Brick New York in Chelsea today for another awesome workout. It’s high on my list of favs. Really feel stronger after my workouts there with an extra side of endorphin rush. Then chatting with some other ClassPassers in the locker room, I got some more suggestions for new, similar-in-style studios to check out. These were some serious class-goers. Here I thought I was daring with 100 classes in 100 days, and these girls are often hitting two different studios a day. (Granted one was a professional actor/dancer.)

But I’m feeling strong, sleeping better, am down 3 pounds in weight, and 1 whole inch off my hips, and discovered the answer to world peace. Actually, I can’t even keep the peace in my own house sometimes. I struggle to make it to every class and find time to write about it. I always feel better after a great workout though. Here’s a list of my favorites of the 26 studios I’ve tried thus far:

Best Total Body Workouts

4600362568_85e099188b_z

1. BFX Studio – love the Fusion workouts that involve both cycling and weight training. Beautiful space with lots of personal attention from the staff.

2. Brick New York– Honestly I had a hard time deciding between this place and EVF Performance for #2. Both are intense total body workouts that leave you feeling strong and motivated because of amazing instructors. But Brick has a nice lounge area and locker room and EVF doesn’t.

3. EVF Performance – Like Brick, it’s a CrossFit gym that also offers classes that are super intense, functional fitness workouts for non-CrossFitters. Instructors pay attention to form and encourage you by name. Really love this place.

Barry’s Bootcamp was also a kick-ass workout, and I plan to return. I’m just a little concerned about the size of the classes that make it hard for the instructors to check your form. And locker room gossip has it that I should also check out Exceed and PushLab Fitness. I’m also looking forward to trying out Drill Fitness this weekend.

2945594079_d28487da4f_zBest Yoga Studios

1. Upper West Side Yoga and Wellness – The more yoga I do, the pickier I am about the studio space and the instructor. This is a clean open studio, and the classes I’ve taken here are the perfect balance of mind and body alignment.

2. YogaMaya – Again this place has a large studio and instructors who take the time to remind you of the new-ness of every pose every time you experience it. They also often start class with a short reading, reminding you of the more spiritual aspect of the practice without overwhelming you with it.

3. Exhale Spa – This was the most luxurious of all the studios so far, and while it wasn’t spiritual yoga in any way, the instructor was fun, accommodating, and knowledgeable. And then there were the plush robes in the locker room.

I’m loathe to start my next list since I haven’t yet hit all the cycling studios I want to. I definitely already have my favorites though.

2370276576_c1d308368b_zBest Indoor Cycling

1. Cyc – It has a special place in my heart since it helped me kick off my 100 days, but it was also the most fun of all the cycling I’ve done so far. And my upper body got worked too!

2. Crank – This was a pleasant surprise find. It’s smaller than most and located only on UES and Long Island. They include more of an upper body workout mixed in with the cycling and it was FUN!

3. FlyWheel – (especially with Danielle) These classes are consistent. They are challenging and they track your metrics. I LOVE that they provide shoes, free water, and fruit, and the space is clean with nice amenities. Secret hint: the blue lockers at some locations have plugs so you can charge your mobile device while you ride.

That stated, I’m scheduled to take an off-ClassPass class at the infamous SoulCycle tomorrow. Looking forward to seeing whether they really are worth the hype as the industry standard. Pretty soon I’m gonna have to move on to a new genre. I’m thinking dance so I can try out this new ClassPass studio addition: StripXpertease.