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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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.

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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Backtracking: Tribeca Health and Fitness and Pablo Fitness

I haven’t yet written about a couple of classes I took last week. That’s because they were nothing to write home about. But if you’re a ClassPasser or just passing by, you get to have my two cents about them anyhow. Both of them felt a bit like stepping back in time compared with some of the sparkling new studios I’ve been to lately.

The first was Tribeca Health and Fitness, which is not a boutique studio, but an actual gym with weight rooms and treadmills in addition to a windowless exercise class room. With the word Tribeca in the title, I was expecting understated swank and a little snobbery. Instead I was greeted at the door with a sign that said TANNING in bold print. It foreshadowed more anachronisms circa 1985. Either I was in a time warp or they just haven’t remodeled or changed their playlists in quite a while.

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Passing through a weight room of muscle-heads straining to Twisted Sister, I found the hidden room that houses the exercise classes which include Karate, Zumba, Elf Tennis (I really hope this does not involve tossing elves around), Flat Iron Express (I don’t think it’s a hair styling class), and the class I’d come for, Body Shred. The room was large, but dingy and covered in cushy padded vinyl flooring (see above). Even the teacher was wearing 80s-style floral leggings. But she was welcoming, asked my name, and had prepared a fun, sweat-filled class for us. Apparently, it’s not just a catchy title, Body Shred, but a specific kind of circuit training that includes several sets of strength training, cardio, and abs. We were constantly in motion. It was an efficient 30 minutes well spent, with a wonderful 15 minute stretch segment afterward using foam rollers (that once again looked as though they were purchased many years ago).

After my surprisingly gratifying workout, I headed two deep stories down where the locker room is. There was plenty of room, but don’t expect Bliss personal care products or any freebies. I was really wishing I’d brought my own flip-flops as I tip-toed across the moldy tiles into the shower which had a totally exposed light bulb on the ceiling. Health code violation? But maybe I’m being too harsh. I’m getting spoiled by David Barton and Exhale. There were two hotel-style hair dryers and some body lotion which was really all I needed to get ready for work.

PROS: Great teacher and a quick, efficient workout with a wonderful stretch afterward.

CONS: Bring flip-flops, or better yet, shower at home. Locker room leaves much to be desired.

pablo fitness

And now I’ve written so much about one place that I claimed was nothing to write home about that I don’t have time to write as much about Pablo Fitness. As a part of my quest to try all the cycling studios in Manhattan, I ventured to Midtown East to try out their Interval Cycling class. The bikes were basic, with RPM meters attached, and it was clean and well-kept, complete with two bathrooms (that also had small showers) and a changing area with cubbies (not lockers). I found the workout a little on the easy side, but truthfully, I could have put more energy in. The teacher was peppy and the music was better than most, with more of a Latin vibe. If I didn’t have so many other snazzy cycling options closer to my apartment, I’d probably go back if only to have a ride with good music.

PROS: Good music with Latin vibe; friendly staff; clean space; decent burn

CONS: Older style bikes with limited metrics; nothing special about the ride and no upper body; no lockers

Speaking of music, I’ve been to so many classes with mediocre music, I’ve stop expecting to get into my workouts through the music, but the class I took this morning at FlyWheel had the BEST playlist ever. I was singing along to Janis Joplin and Cindy Lauper (which reveals something about my age). I’ll write more about the class in my soon-to-come Tour de Spin post. In the meantime, check out Danielle’s classes at FlyWheel.

More than a stretch: Upper West Side Yoga and Wellness

5423423505_6c0504a96a_zAfter my EVF class soreness and then another workout with my cousins at their traditional gym here in my hometown of Tallahassee, FL, I’m longing for a good stretch. I’m hoping to find a yoga studio down here that might match a couple of my experiences at Upper West Side Yoga and Wellness.

I’ve never thought of myself as a yogi. In fact, some of my loved ones claim, “I’ve got ants in my pants.” I’m one of those people who thought yoga was for lightweights. How could I possibly burn enough calories posing like a dog or a cow? In more recent years I’ve taken quite a few yoga classes that have convinced me otherwise, and while I don’t maintain a regular yoga practice, I’m a convert. I’ve been challenged physically and mentally by some of the classes I’ve taken, and if the class is especially good I come out feeling stronger, walking lighter, and perhaps even taller. (I have a good friend who claims she grew two centimeters since she started a regular yoga practice.)

Like anything, not all classes are worth the time, and so much depends on the teacher. Shortly after I had my son I took classes at Yogamaya and loved them. I also took a few classes of Bikram or hot yoga at Bikram Yoga NYC. Warning: do not attempt hot yoga with a hang-over. It’s hard core, and you supposedly burn about 700 calories in a 90 minute session.

But more recently, I tried some classes at Upper West Side Yoga and Wellness. After the first class, I wasn’t super impressed. It was a Level I class, and while the teacher was kind and knowledgable, the class didn’t seem to flow. We got out chairs, moved to the wall and back, and I felt a little confused at times.

yoga-and-wellnessMy friend, who’s a regular there though, convinced me to go back for a class with Stephan, the studio’s co-owner, and now I believe that she might actually have grown those two centimeters. I will definitely be using my 3 alotted ClassPass classes per month here.  My second class was a 75-minute Open Level class, and I even managed to break a sweat. I got what I call the yoga-buzz, that balance of peace and energy that children seem to have, that most adults lost somewhere along the way. My back felt aligned and my hips open, and that’s what I’m looking for right about now in the after-math of burpees and box jumps. I’ll shout out to my Southern peeps and let you know what I find down here. In the meantime, if you need to lighten your mind and body after carrying packages and party-hopping in New York, I’d recommend a class with Stephan or his wife, Ingrid. Here’s what you can expect:

UPPER WEST SIDE YOGA AND WELLNESS

LOCATION: at 75 West 85th Street (just east of Columbus),

Enter a cozy lobby where you can hang your coat, cubby your shoes, and browse the bookshelf. Get there about 5-10 minutes before your scheduled class so you have time to set up your mat (rental for $2), blankets, and blocks, and to stake out your preferred spot. The studio is spacious, but fills up so you have to stagger to stretch your arms. Most classes are 75 minutes and teachers vary the classes to focus on different body areas or intentions. There was the traditional Ohm chanting in each class, but otherwise not much in the way of chanting or readings. There’s an optimal balance of concentration on body, breath, and mind. 5423423515_ca55935d4c_z

PROS

Clean inviting space; warm, professional staff; ideal balance of challenge and safety; teachers walk around to gently to correct poses; attention is paid to body, mind, and breath; focus on strength, flexibility, and endurance.

CONS

Bathrooms are in the studio so you can’t use them if you get there early and the previous class is in session; very small lobby for storing coats and shoes that can get cramped in the winter between classes.

WHAT TO WEAR

Loose, comfy clothes with a good sports bra (for the ladies) underneath. Too loose and baggy could trip you up though (literally). Yoga pants (duh!) and a tank or tee are ideal. PopSugar has some good yoga wadrobe advice here.

MY GOAL

To be able to do headstand!

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