Regenerate Fitness Has My Heart

I decided to try out a new studio that FitReserve recently added to their growing roster: Regenerate Fitness located at 1616 York Ave on the Upper East Side, and I’m so glad I did!

After receiving a friendly greeting from Reggie, the super-buff trainer who set me up with a chest-strap heart rate monitor, our class of four people got warmed up on this crazy contraption, the Helix Lateral Trainer:

This machine was perfect for my bursitis-blighted hip that stopped me in my tracks on the treadmill at Orange Theory Fitness a few days prior. After talking with a physical therapist, I was ordered to stop running for a while, ice my hip, and strengthen my adductors and abductors. The Helix got my heart rate up just as well as running while working those inner and outer thigh muscles.

After the warm up, Reggie led us in a series of targeted-strength training exercises using the ever-popular kettle bell, TRX, straps, and dumbbells. We hopped back on to the Helix for 5-minute intervals to get our heart-rates back up between strength intervals for an efficient workout rivaling my oft-touted Orange Theory Fitness fave.

In fact, Regenerate had almost everything I love about OTF, and they offer different kinds of classes too like Kickboxing and Yoga. Plus they don’t force you to buy the heart-rate monitor, nor do they pressure you to get to a certain zone like OTF does. They provide you with the monitor, advise you on a personalized target heart rate to aim for, and post it for you to watch. The individualized attention of the small class size really made it feel like a personal-training session.

If only I lived on the Upper East Side! Yorkville in particular seems to be the land of the fitness elite. There you can choose from places like Regenerate, EVF, Exceed, The PE Club, PushLab Fitness, and one of my favorite spin spots, Crank.  Meanwhile, over here on the other side of Central Park, the boutique-fitness-studio pickings are slim. I did try a new class in my hood though, at BeFitNYC, and it was a challenging twist on the HIIT circuit. More on their classes and space soon to come!

Regenerate Fitness

Location: 1616 York Ave, between 85th and 86th

PROS: Efficient, HIIT workout with complimentary heart-rate monitors available for use, small class sizes, total body workout – cardio and strength, friendly, knowledgeable trainer, various kinds of classes offered, clean space.

CONS: No locker room or showers, small space, but they keep the class-size small too and offer cubbies for your belongings.

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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):

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).

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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.

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.

4th on the Fly and 60 Minutes at Drill

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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.

ClassPass just got some competition

Look what popped up on my Facebook feed: Screen Shot 2014-12-28 at 8.36.50 PM(an ad, of course),

but an ad about some competition for ClassPass, a service that also offers a way to access fitness, dance, rowing, strength training, pilates, and yoga studios all over the city.

It’s called FitReserve, and its website is almost identical in appearance to ClassPass. Like ClassPass, you have to provide your e-mail address and “request an invite” to sign-up. Unlike ClassPass, FitReserve claims to offer access to “peak class times” that can sometimes get filled up before being offered on ClassPass. FitReserve is only in NYC right now, and while it doesn’t have as many studios on its list yet, it does offer access to a couple different ones like Clay Health Club and Spa, as well as offering discounts with partners like Instacart grocery delivery, Bestowed healthy snacks service, and Zeel massage on demand. It’s also a bit more expensive. $149/month gets you 10 classes a month and $249/month gets you 20.

For now, I’m planning to stick with ClassPass, but I’ll be watching to see if FitReserve partner deals and studio access are too tempting to pass up. If Soul Cylce or The Class suddenly deigns to offer classes with them, I’d pay the extra fifty bucks in a heartbeat.

Here’s a breakdown on what I see as the differences between the two:

ClassPass:

  • $99/month for unlimited classes at over 300 studios in New York metro area
  • offered in 14 major cities
  • 3 classes per studio each month
  • no included discounts with affiliated partners
  • can be hard to book classes at peak hours for hot studios like Exceed

FitReserve

  • $149/month for 10 classes, $249 for 20 classes at over 70 studios (so far) in NYC
  • offered only in NYC Metro area (so far)
  • 4 classes per studio each month
  • incudes discounts with affiliated partners on things like clothing, healthy snacks and massage
  • access to all classes at included studios, even during peak hours

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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