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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TrampoLEAN will make you Jump! Jump!

I wanted to title this post, “Girls on Trampolines,” as a cheap way to get more views, but when I googled it, I was too creeped out. And staring at myself in the mirror as I jumped on command at my strangely fun TrampoLEAN class, I realized that when you are almost 40 and wearing a sports bra, the bouncing flesh is in places that aren’t all that sexy.

But there’s something about jumping, like dancing, that just naturally makes you smile. It feels good to jump. And it took me back to being a kid and sneaking into my mom’s room to jump on the bed. As silly (and humbled) as I felt watching myself do jump squats on a trampoline, I kind of wanted to buy a trampoline after class so I could jump on it everyday.

My TrampoLEAN class took place at a room in the multi-studio venue, DANY studios in Midtown West, and was taught by CEO and founder, Louis Coraggio. It was a small class for a Saturday morning, and the energy-level in the room felt a bit low, or perhaps we were all just self-conscious. Something I’ve noticed since having my own kid is that it’s hard for adults to be silly and playful without alcohol involved, and trampolines by nature are kind of silly. It may have been helpful to address that directly so we could all loosen up a bit.

The workout itself was just as challenging as it was awkward. Within in the first 20 second of a light bouncing I could feel my calf muscles engage in ways they weren’t used to. I found the “knee tuck” jumping (pictured below) especially challenging as it made me feel like I might fall flat on my face at any moment. But by the end of class, it was easier, and I was going higher while flapping my arms like a bird, a move Coraggio aptly calls, “fly like a bird.” I guess that’s what it is about jumping: for just a few seconds you are suspended in the air as though you’re flying.

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We also did a good bit of core and glute work using bands and light weights. The tunes were fun too. In fact my favorite part of the class was when we did some twisty jumping while beating on air drums to a Caribbean-style drum sequence. I much preferred that to getting down on all fours and doing donkey kicks with the bands in true Jane Fonda fashion. This class works more of your small muscles than a bootcamp with heavy weights does, but don’t worry, you’ll get your fair share of jump squats.

I’ll be honest, when I first started the class I had thoughts of sneaking out and not returning. I just felt like a clumsy fool with jiggling arm fat. But, you gotta get past that. Now, I actually want to go back and try it again. Maybe next time the instructor could help us laugh and embrace the silly joy of jumping.

I booked my class through my FitReserve membership (and if you’re interesting in joining FitReserve too, feel free to use my discount code: https://www.fitreserve.com/r/15affd93). You can get your jump on too at:

TrampoLEAN

Location: DANY Studios, 305 W. 38th Street, 3rd Floor (buzz in)

PROS: Fun, unique workout; cardio and toning; no shoes required; DANY studios has a locker room or you can bring your stuff to the classroom; no prior trampoline experience needed; fun music.

CONS: You will be watching all your fleshy parts bounce in the mirror; energy level of the room/teacher felt a little low, but I’d give them a second chance; bring your own lock for the locker room; no water fountain so bring your own water bottle.

Day 2: Gyrotonics at Living Room SoHo

No, that’s not a medieval4991518713_23f0272b20_z torture bed you see. Nor is it a Steampunk contraption. It’s specialized equipment designed by Juliu Horvath, the founder of the Gyrotonic Method.

I had never heard of this until, on a whim, I signed up for a class called First Time Movers in Gyrotonics at Living Room SoHo through ClassPass. I picked it because it was a convenient time, and it claimed to help lengthen and strengthen, and was good for those who move in other modalities. I figured it might be a nice compliment to all the cycling I’ve been doing lately.

The studio itself was lovely, mostly white and soft with vases of fresh flowers and complimentary chocolate truffles on theliving room coffee table. The teacher was equally warm and graceful, walking us through the basics of the Gyrotonic Method. She adjusted dials, strapped our feet to the contraption of pulleys and weights, and had us move our spines into various C curves in all directions. It felt nice, but I’m not sure what the point was. Granted she had a lot of technical and breath work to talk us through, but she never once explained what the real purpose of each movement was. She did say at one point that we were working our hamstrings or our arms, but I wasn’t sure if I was or not. I’m assuming at a regular rather than intro class, I might get a workout that’s similar to Pilates on the Reformer.

In fact the two methods, Gyrotonics and Pilates were both founded by men who were in search of ways to work the body through either illness or injury. Both, (Gyrotonics more so), feel dance-inspired with fluid movements and particular attention to alignment and posture. For more on the similarities and differences of the two methods, click here. Personally, I’m more partial to Pilates. I took many classes both mat and Reformer when I lived in Argentina, and the Reformer is much less complicated than the Gyrotonics equipment seemed. I also didn’t like that so much of the Gyrotonics class was done in a seated position on the bench. For instance, we started with curving our spines back and forth in the same way you do with Cat and Cow in Yoga, but we were sitting on our bottoms, which I think we all do enough of these days.

It was a beautiful studio though with cubbies and coatracks just outside the door, one bathroom (that had a shower, but I don’t think it’s really ever used), complimentary water and snacks, and a cozy couch to rest on. And just because of those yummy truffles, I may go back to try it out one more time.

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