Crash Course: Roam Fitness is a boutique gym located in the Glover Park neighborhood that offers personal training, a carefully curated selection of functional training equipment, and a few non-traditional group fitness classes. One of them is a genius combination of outdoor bootcamp circuits and running, as if one weren’t hard enough without the other. This class would not be great for the first-time runner, but seems best fit for those who are comfortable running more than three miles on trail and pavement. If you’re tired of your normal running routine, this is a surefire way to shake things up. Click here for a schedule.
where: 2505 Wisconsin Ave., NW/basement of the Savoy Hotel
perks: free parking, access to shower, small class, outside
sweat score: 8 out of 10
wear: recommend trail shoes, clothes you don’t mind getting dirty
instructor: Chris Geier
cost: drop in rate is $25 or pay $22 for a month of unlimited Out Run classes
I walked into the small but well-appointed Roam Fitness at approximately 6:20 a.m. It was early enough that I wasn’t questioning why our instructor was stuffing his backpack full of bands, ropes, and other torture devices. I just yawned, submitted to my fate, and began a routine that looked like stretching, hoping to blend in and be left alone. Hey, it was early.
Looking around, I noticed that the gym itself is very…cozy. It wouldn’t hold a lot of people, but maybe that’s the idea.
As the clock rolled around to 6:30, it was time for us to get out of the door and on to our workout. We all had offices to be in by 9 and knew it was now or never to get in a morning sweat. Luckily, it was a rare DC morning with low(er) humidity and brilliant sunshine. There were only three of us in the class, all ladies and each of a different experience level.
We followed Chris, our instructor, as he bounded from the Savoy Hotel across Wisconsin Avenue and into the the heart of Glover Park. As the pace picked up, I suddenly found myself wide awake, looking around, and wondering…where exactly was this Out Run excursion taking us?
I have been a DC runner for nine years and pride myself on knowing some of the area’s most obscure and tucked-away running routes. It’s really more an outcome of marathon-training desperation than exploration. But this morning was exactly what I needed to remember why running in DC is so awesome: no matter how well you think you know your routes, there’s still more out there to discover.
For example, I had never…ever…run through the tidy row houses of Glover Park to join the Glover-Archibald trail at the edges of the neighborhood. The trail entrance is completely tucked away and easily missed, so I was surprised when our little gang of four suddenly veered off the pavement and into the nearest hedge. Before I knew it, we were under a canopy of huge green trees and treading on dirt.
Every half-mile or so, we stopped to do a different set of exercises. This is where the real fun begins. Who needs a tidy gym when you can do tricep dips on a log? Or planks in a dew-soaked field?
Cross-over mountain climbers in the dirt, anyone? If this was a video, you’d also hear the croak of frogs hanging out in the creek behind us. I mean, really, let’s break it down for a hot second. You could do your morning workout in a gym with towel service, air conditioning, rows of treadmills, florescent lighting, and muzak. Or you could get out into nature and play around like it’s recess…all before rush hour. At least in my book, the winning option is obvious.
We continued on for a total of about four miles. Up hills, down hills, and every few minutes stopping for another round of surprises. There were a few moments of morning clarity when I realized what was going on and thought…wow, this is so much better than when I run by myself before work.
The second half of the run is when we started incorporating some of the gear in Chris’ backpack. He would find an open space, signal for us to stop, zip open the pack, and before we could blink we were doing another set of this or that. These partner resistance bands were awesome. We did some standing twists and arm strengtheners.
Our final destination on this morning’s Out Run was Holy Rood Cemetery, which I have passed a zillion times but have never been in. It’s perched above Wisconsin Avenue and Chris was adamant about showing us the view from the top. After three sweaty miles, we were all tired, and I had my doubts the promised vistas would be worth the effort. We entered the property at the bottom of the hill and, true to form, Chris reached into his backpack to pull out a different set of resistance bands. But in that brief moment of transition, we all noticed a tiny baby deer sleeping soundly in front of us, nestled into the grass next to a tomb. So very awesome.
After taking a few moments to admire our very own little Bambi, we were off again, chugging up the Holy Rood hill with partner resistance bands. One runner would hold the band, while the other would take ten strides forward, ten shuffles to the side, ten backward, and ten to the other side. This was an awesome way to work in lateral movement, not to mention a killer interval workout.
We finally made it to the top to admire the promised-view. Chris was right, it definitely didn’t disappoint. As we huffed, puffed, and wiped the sweat out of our eyes, we took in the panorama of the Kennedy Center, the Washington Monument, and Georgetown. What a way to end the workout!
Bottom line: this is way more fun than waking up to slog through your normal morning loop solo. The instructor is energetic, the group is friendly and engaged, and the routes are entertaining. Yes the morning class is early, but it’s worth it. They also have an evening option for those who can’t make it at 6:30 a.m. Out Run is an awesome few miles coupled with important cross training exercises that will make you a better runner and a better athlete. I will definitely be back soon – thanks Roam Fitness!
It has been weeks since my London trip and I haven’t told you about the one true crash I did while there. I searched high and low for a place that would offer a no-joke workout in a location convenient to where I was staying. Our days were absolutely filled to the brim with touring around, and sneaking in a formal workout proved to be a bit harder than I had anticipated. So I was over the moon when I stumbled upon Frame, a boutique studio in the Queen’s Park neighborhood. After pouring over their crazy-awesome class selection (trampoline workout or 80s aerobics, anyone?), I decided to check out one of their signature classes called Frame Camp.
The lobby is bright and airy with fun chalkboard walls and a great collection of magazines. A very chic front desk attendant in a slouchy sweater and darling British accent welcomed me to the space and helped me sign in.The drop-in price for a class is 13 pounds (almost $20)…more expensive than I would have liked, but I chalked it up to investing in a fun new experience. And to be honest, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get the fish and chips kicked out of me for 30 minutes at a trendy London boutique like this, could I?
So what is Frame Camp all about? It’s a high intensity 30 minute class combining 15 minutes of treadmill intervals with 15 minutes of plyometric conditioning. Think squats, push ups, free weights, etc. There were five of us in the class and we split up into two groups. I started out with the plyometrics portion and was crying uncle within just a few moments. I thought 15 minutes would be a breeze…but holy smokes was I mistaken. There was no rest in between sets and we just plowed through. As everything in my body started to shake, the instructor turned up the music and just kept going. Beast. The bell went off to signal the mid-point, and I hobbled over to the treadmill.
Let’s get one thing straight. Words cannot describe how much I abhor these torture devices. Very little makes me hate exercising…but these puppies come dangerously close. So you can imagine my excitement about the second half of the workout involving 15 minutes of treadmill intervals. See this? This is me hitting snooze and excusing myself from class. Bor-ing. But since I was in a foreign country and had already forked over my pub fare for a sweat, I decided to play nice and go with it. It was 15 minutes. I can do anything for 15 minutes.
Let the record show that I was horribly wrong about the treadmill. At least in one respect. While it was still as entertaining as watching paint dry, I found the 30 second intervals to be a worthwhile challenge. Check out the photo and try it sometime, I promise you’ll be in a pool of sweat at the end. The competitive type in me overshot my target “base” pace by quite a bit, so I ended up having a few moments of panic as I realized my feet may not be able to keep up with the belt. But in my mind I was winning. Winning what? Not sure, but it felt good.
Would I regularly pay $20 in the US for a similar class? Probably not, because I like to do circuit training on my own. But it was a great (and time-effective) workout while on the road. I got cardio and weight training, left a tired and sweaty mess (see exhibit A above), and felt re-energized to tackle a couple more days of touring the city. If you are traveling to London and need a fun option to get you out of the hotel gym, definitely check out Frame. If this isn’t your thing, I recommend browsing my new website obsession, Fitness Freak. It’s DC Fit Crasher on steroids and your one-stop shop to working out in London. Even if you aren’t planning a trip any time soon, just checking out the crazy-fun events and studios they feature is entertainment enough. Enjoy!
How do you find workout spots while on the road?
Last week, Sculpt asked me to come by and crash their new monthly class called the “Sculpt Lab.” If the name conjures memories of that dreaded high school course when you were partnered with the kid with sweaty hands, don’t fret. While there won’t be any chemical mixing or mitochondria modeling, the hour-long class is definitely a bit of a mad science experiment in the fields of stamina, calorie burning, and sweat.
So what exactly is Sculpt Lab? Each month, the studio chooses one of their instructors to piece together a Frankenstein workout based on participant requests. While Sculpt focuses on spin and yoga classes during the week, the Lab class are a wild combination of any and all workout options put on the table by the instructor. This month, Anita sent an email to everyone signed up for the Lab class soliciting votes on what we would like to do. We chose from the following: body weight exercises, yoga, pilates, kick boxing, spin, plyometrics. I’m not entirely sure there was any choosing or voting, because we ended up checking all of those things off the list in one crazy, calorie-burning hour.
We started Lab in the spin studio with 25 minutes of intense intervals. There were flashing lights. Standing climbs. Eye-closingly-intense seated sprints. And then there was “Dirty Pop” by NSYNC – which Anita swears is one of the most challenging spin songs of all time. I can’t say I disagree, but I was too busy signing and channeling my 14-year-old self to notice. This first part of class definitely was not a warm up – we cannonballed right into the deep end and never looked back. With shaky legs and sweat pouring everywhere, we moved on to the second part of class in the yoga room.
Don’t let the yoga mats and mood lighting fool you – this was not a cool down. Anita turned up the music and we began with plyometric moves (think lots of jumping). We transitioned into kickboxing, followed by a series of push ups and planks. I’m not going to lie, after the kickboxing part I was starting to really feel fatigued and pushed to my limit. This was tough. Think muscle confusion meets bootcamp meets a crazy and twisted decathlon.
We ended with a few signature Pilates moves focusing on abs (not the easy ones I was hoping for) and then, as if the giant Buddha head decided to show mercy on us, we cooled down with some yoga. Oh boy, Sculpt Lab, you crashed this crasher in the best way possible.
This was tough, fun, and totally unlike any other class I have taken before. If you go, remember to listen to your body and monitor your heart-rate’s roller-coaster ride. I will definitely be keeping my eyes peeled for the March Lab to see what kind of insane combination you piece together next. And for those of you who have never taken a class with Anita – do it. She teaches an enormous variety of things ranging from spin to breakdance yoga at gyms all over DC and is a total ball of energy.
One other thing to note: I haven’t been back to Sculpt since they did a bit of remodeling downstairs to help maximize the space. The landing on the ground floor is now much more open, with only one cubby cube and a bench. This helps reduce the claustrophobia of everyone standing on top of each other trying to get to their lockers at once.
The lockers now line the hallway wall leading from the changing area to the spin studio. This is such a big improvement in their use of space and general flow. I’m a fan.
I’m also digging this new piece of artwork hanging on the wall. Oh, it’s so true. If only all watches looked like this.
Sculpt Lab: eureka or scary?
Crash Course: The ballet barre class at Epic Yoga is not your average barre class. It’s heavy on the yoga with a sprinkle of classical ballet moves thrown into the mix. Be prepared to test your balance, flexibility, and focus. Click here to check out the schedule.
where: 1323 Connecticut Avenue, red line/Dupont Circle
perks: showers, lockers, wifi, free mat rental and towels
sweat score: 5.5 out of 10
wear: yoga clothes
cost: drop in rate is $18, first week is $20*
instructor: Emma Saal
Don’t be intimidated by the fancy French terms. Yogis with no dance experience will feel right at home, as Emma has seamlessly integrated all of the ballet moves into basic yoga sequences. If you can flow your way through a guided sun salutation, you’ll be just fine. But don’t think that means you’ll feel comfortable. Even without any barre work or the familiar yell of “tuck! tuck! tuck!” you’ll hear in other traditional barre classes, this class is sure to break a sweat. I was shaking within the first 15 minutes as we started in on side planks, lunges, and leg extensions. I thought it was a really fun way to switch things up, and made me acutely aware of how far I have to go on increasing my flexibility and grace.
*Epic Yoga waived my walk-in fee, but opinions are entirely my own.