Archive of ‘other’ category
Crash Course: The “training class” at DC Boxing & Fitness offers a cardio-centric 45 minutes geared toward getting you in tip-top fighting shape. No, you don’t have to jump into the ring, but be prepared to fight tooth-and-nail through an intense barrage of plyometric moves, heavy-bag work, and bodyweight exercises. Believe me, burpees and round kicks make a formidable opponent any day. This is a non-stop, in your face, no frills class that will leave you in a pool of your own sweat. If you like high-intensity cardio, this is the class for you. Click here for a schedule of class times.
where: 1000 New Jersey Ave/Navy Yard Metro
bring: water bottle, towel, clean shoes, boxing gloves
perks: across the street from metro
sweat score: 9 out of 10
wear: clean shoes
cost: $95 per month for training
You have to get ugly to look pretty. - Coach Jerome
I was lying face down on the mat, praying for the pushups to end and slowly sweating through every single item I was wearing. Those words, that phrase, felt both motivating and ironic. But I could appreciate the sentiment. Nothing about what I was doing was pretty. I was flailing my arms at a heavy bag. Jumping up and down like a crazed pogo-stick addict. Sprinting in place as fast as I could. Lurching toward the floor and doing rapid-fire mini pushups. Flinging sweat at complete strangers. Grunting. Even whispering a few expletives under my breath.
This class, my friends, is ugly. It requires good old-fashioned hard work and grit. And it is awesome.
Indulge me, if you will, in a little soapbox moment:
One thing that never fails to amaze me about the fitness world is how easy some folks make it sound to get into “the best shape of your life.” While I understand that statement is entirely subjective, if you are hoping to lose weight and make some serious changes, it’s going to take a lot of work. Hard work. Work that shoves you outside of your comfort zone and makes you stay there. No it’s not “fun” and it’s certainly not “pretty” – which is why I appreciate a class like the one at DCBFit where that ugly, sweaty, explative-strewn process is par for the course, expected, and celebrated.
Okay, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, on to the crash review
DCBFit is a Thai boxing and MMA studio located directly across from the Navy Yard metro stop. There aren’t any big signs hanging from the building, so in case you can’t find it, it looks like this from the street:
When you walk inside, you’ll be greeted by someone at the front desk and asked to sign in. Put your belongings in one of the lockers along the wall, grab your water bottle and boxing gloves, and take off your shoes. That’s right. No outside shoes are allowed on the mats at DCBFit, so either bring a fresh pair to wear during class or get ready to work out in your socks.
The majority of the space is taken up by a boxing ring and a large heavy-bag section. Every other nook and cranny is filled with some sort of training equipment, whether it’s a cardio bike, free weights, or MMA pads. There are two generously-sized restrooms in the back of the gym (no showers) where you can change before/after class if needed.
I showed up to crash the 9:45 class on Saturday morning and walked into the fogged-up studio with my coffee au lait just as the 9 a.m. folks were finishing. From what I could tell, I was in for a whooping. Jerome was pacing back and forth, yelling out a loud mix of encouragement, demands, and expletives. Everyone in the class was drenched in sweat. I clutched my coffee cup and nervously smiled at the woman waiting patiently next to me. It couldn’t really be as bad as it looks, right? *gulp*
I put my half-emptied coffee on a shelf, grabbed some loaner boxing gloves, and tried to look like I knew what I was doing. No sooner than the last 9 o’clock person stepped off the mat, we were jab, cross, and upper-cutting away at the heavy bags. Jerome didn’t miss a beat. He would call out a combo, demonstrate it, and the rest of us would try to keep up. Some folks had more experience and aced the combinations. Others, like me, not so much. It didn’t matter. It got our heart rates up and the point was to just keep moving.
Jab. Cross. Punch. Sweat.
Then…the gloves came off.
The second portion of class focused less on bag work and more on plyometrics and interval bodyweight training. Each round consisted of fun things like mini-pushups, diamond pushups, pike push ups, planks, high knees, and jump lunges. Instead of resting in between intervals, we did burpees. Now…interpret burpee as you will, but the point was to just keep moving the entire time. Was it crazy hard? Absolutely. But like Jerome said, you have to get ugly to look pretty. Nobody’s going to get fit just standing around.
Third part of class: back to bag work. This time we practiced knees and round-kicks. Truth: nothing makes me feel more badass than kicking the stuffing out of a heavy bag with a few round-kicks, even when I’m flinging sweat half-way across the room while doing it. We alternated legs to the tune of Jerome’s increasingly-louder yelling. Left, right, left, right. If we weren’t exhausted from the first half of class, we were now.
For the finale, we landed on our backs for core work. One of my favorite moves we did involved holding the heavy bag between our legs and crunching up to punch it. Need motivation? Jerome will gladly get in your face for a little extra “encouragement.” After a dozen or so of those, I had officially tapped out. Phew! I’m spent!
The 45 minutes flew by. There was honestly never a time I looked at the clock out of boredom or desire to be somewhere else. Sure it was a really hard class, but it was engaging from start to finish. The transitions were smooth, the instructor was a force-of-nature and captivating, and the group was welcoming and supportive. And at just 45-minutes, I was in and out of the whole operation in under an hour. Even got to grab my still-hot coffee off the shelf to enjoy on my trip home.
I loved this crazy class. And if you’re looking for a cardio-infused round-house kick to the face, you will too.
Crash it and let me know what you think!
Crash Course: According to my research, parkour is a method of movement where “practitioners aim to quickly and efficiently overcome obstacles in their environment, using only their bodies and their surroundings to propel themselves” (via). According to my personal experience, parkour is a crazy fun way to workout that feels a whole lot like being a stunt double in an action movie or one of the Mario brothers. You pick. There’s a lot of climbing, swinging, jumping, tumbling, leaping, running, and scrambling involved. It’s not really something that fits well into words, so here’s a video featuring one of the American Parkour Academy instructors doing his thang all over DC. Click here for a schedule of classes and to sign up.
where: 219 M Street NW/Convention Center Metro
bring: water bottle, towel
perks: where else can you learn to do this in DC?
sweat score: 8 out of 10
wear: flexible clothing, minimal shoes
cost: here’s the pricing page
Confession: parkour is something I have seen in videos before and thought, “well, isn’t that interesting, someone made a workout out of climbing up walls and jumping off them.” It seemed dangerous. Crazy. Reckless. Something that appealed mostly to boys who liked to climb stuff. Totally not something I would ever let my clumsy self attempt. Until I did.
The American Parkour Academy is part of Primal Fitness, a functional fitness studio located just past the Convention Center on M Street NW. The enormous space offers both crossfit and parkour classes, so there’s something for every functional junkie out there.
Walking up to the red brick building, my first impression was that it’s rugged, loud, and whirling with activity. I had to walk through a few shirtless guys doing handstands and ring dips to get to the reception area in the back. As a first timer, it’s intimidating – but everyone is friendly and will be happy to point you in the right direction if you look as lost as I did. Just don’t expect to be greeted by a reception area with calming zen gardens and complimentary lattes. This just isn’t that kind of place (in a good way).
The first floor of the building houses the crossfit box, reception desk, and a smaller area with functional training equipment. After you check in, head upstairs to where the parkour room is. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to meet the resident pup, who enthusiastically greeted me with a hairy hello. Workouts + dogs = a win in my book. I stashed my belongings, filled up on water at the cooler, and headed into the classroom for the warmup.
I can always tell when I’m in for a wild ride on a fit crash when the warm up throws me for a loop. We did a series of dynamic movements unlike anything I had ever done in a class before, including running from one end of the gym to the other while spinning in circles and somersaulting all the way around the room. Dizzy yet? I was. The last time this body did a somersault was somewhere in-between pre-k and grade school. Rusty is an understatement. I was warmed up, slightly dazed from all the twirling, and a bit panicked about what could possibly come next.
The workout that day focused on scaling walls of all shapes and sizes. There were three stations to choose from and work through, each with varying degrees of difficulty. The instructors went over the form and technique at each station, taking questions and offering bits of advice.
I started with the smallest wall, where the focus was learning how to use the leverage in your arms to swing your legs to the top in one graceful swoop. Graceful. Ha. Let me be the first to tell you that nothing about my crash was graceful, but I sure as hell tried. I got a lot of great feedback after every attempt and eventually got my bearings. But guys, it is in no way as easy or intuitive as it seems. And this was only stage one.
Stage two involved running at top speed toward a medium-sized wall, where the goal was to use your momentum and a carefully placed foot mid-height to launch yourself up to the top. Launch. Kind of like Mario does when he wants to go down one of the pipes to beat up on King Koopa. I couldn’t quite get out of my own way with this one; the voice in my head was a bigger obstacle than the wall. But running as fast as I can toward a big stationary object isn’t something I do every day, so hey, it takes practice.
After all the tumbling, running, and jumping, I didn’t make it around to stage three. But if you’re following the pattern, that stage was the most advanced and required serious ups and hustle. In other words, scrambling up the tallest wall in the room. Honestly, it seemed 15 feet high, although I’m sure that’s not the case. I couldn’t believe how effortlessly some of the students sailed up that thing. Crazy impressive.
With only a few minutes left in the workout, we closed out the class with a good old fashioned game of “don’t touch the lava.” You know, the one you played in recess where you had to jump from rock to rock without touching the ground (aka, the hot, molten lava). But in this case, instead of rocks, the entire group of us scurried over small planks, bars, and obstacles strewn about the room. All at once. For time. Every man and woman for themselves, and heaven forbid you’re the last one back.
It was chaos. It was hard. It was hilarious. It was so much fun. Straight out of recess circa 1995. Not many workouts can give you that kind of nostalgic whiplash while also kicking your butt – but parkour, I tip my hat to you. Nicely done.
Let me pause for a moment and talk about the class members and instructors, who were hands down some of the friendliest folks I’ve ever met. Some fitness fads tend to get cliquey (you know what I’m talking about), and I was worried that something as niche as parkour would be totally insular. But I couldn’t get over how welcoming everyone was. Not only was parkour 100% new to me, but I was also the newest kid in the class, and I had a zillion-and-one questions. There was always someone willing to demonstrate a move, explain a technique, or offer a high-five after a successful attempt. Even more importantly, the instructors were extremely engaged and I never at any point felt like I was in danger, despite my constant fear of breaking a leg or faceplanting on the floor. Kudos to everyone in the class for making this total newbie feel like part of the crew.
Things I liked:
- A workout that’s so different, challenging, and fun that you forget that you’re working out
- Welcoming community, cool vibe, great energy throughout the whole gym
- Genuinely helpful instructors who care about sharing their craft
- Where else can you do this kind of crazy stuff?
Things to consider:
- This is a no frills spot. If you’re looking for cooled lavender scented towels after your workouts, this ain’t the place.
- This is a high impact, high energy class. Know your body and what it needs before you go jumping off things. Just a friendly reminder!
Crash Course: SolidCore is the first studio in DC to offer the Lagree Fitness Method, a high-energy, low-impact, full-body workout done on a monster spring-loaded pilates machine called the MegaFormer. The classes are small, the teachers are motivational, and the playlists are rockin – which is good, because you’ll need to muster all the extra oomph you can during this crazy sweat sesh. The class is a megawatt combination of pilates, barre, yoga, and body pump, sprinkled with a little zen and then doused in a pool of awesome. Click here for a full schedule of class times at SolidCore.
where: 1841 Columbia Road/Adams Morgan
bring: socks with grips
perks: small class size
sweat score: 9 out of 10
wear: whatever you’re comfortable sweating in
cost: first class is $17 ($20 after 30 Nov.), after that drop-ins are $35
SolidCore studio opened this past weekend in Adams Morgan on the same block as neighborhood favorites Mintwood restaurant and Fleet Feet running store. It’s the brainchild of Back On My Feet founder Anne Mahlum, who fell in love with the Lagree Method in LA and New York and decided DC needed to be in on the fun. And we are so glad she did, because this monster workout is the perfect match for DC’s slightly crazed, uber competitive, type-A intensity.
The SolidCore website describes the method as:
using slow and controlled full-body movements with constant muscle tension [to work] all muscle fibers to failure leaving them no choice but to rebuild, which leaves you with a more defined, toned and stronger body.
Let’s go over that again: Slow, low-impact movements + Failing muscle fibers = Toned body. Seems so civilized when you put it that way. But when Lorde is blaring over the loud speaker, the instructor is urging you to lunge a little deeper, the clock mocks you with a full minute to go, and your legs are simultaneously seizing and shaking…civilized is the last thing that comes to mind. More like: Challenging. Insane. Badass. Definitely badass.
The megaformer may look like a pilates machine, but let me be the first to tell you that this ain’t your momma’s pilates class. It’s the younger, hipper, crazier cousin from California. The one with the enviable tan and Jennifer Aniston arms.
While all of the pilates classes I’ve been to focus on posture, grace, and building lean muscles, this class is focused on making your muscles cry for mercy. All of them. All at once. And if pilates classes are soflty playing Norah Jones and Sara Barielles in the background, SolidCore is blasting rock while the instructor coaxes you into another round through his Janet Jackson headset microphone.
How was the workout? Really fun. It’s engaging from start to finish and there was never one moment when I was bored or unmotivated. Which is good, because if you haven’t caught on yet, the detail that stands out most in my mind is this: SolidCore is really, really challenging. Honed athletes and weekend warriors were struggling hand in hand. Which is awesome, because it shows the impressive versatility and accessibility of this workout for every fitness level. But it’s also awesome because I have never seen a class humble every fitness type, across the board, from start to finish.
Yes it’s hard. Yes it’s unlike anything you’ve tried before. Yes you will be sore in weird places for days after you walk out the door. But don’t let the workout itself intimidate you, because I can honestly say it is one of the most effective things I’ve ever done. As someone who injured themselves with too many high-impact miles on DC pavement, a low-impact, super high-intensity workout like this is a godsend. Not only does it scratch the masochistic itch to put yourself through the wringer, it also delivers the safe body strengthening benefits of a barre method or mat pilates class. I’m sold. Now, there’s only one problem…
The price. At $35 per drop-in class, SolidCore is hitting the top tier of high-end boutique studio pricing in DC. [Note: sessions are less expensive if you buy a package deal.] On my current budget, it’s is just not something I can realistically do all the time. Which is a shame, because I’d love to go multiple times a week and make it part of my normal routine. Yes, I liked it that much. As a fit crasher, that’s saying something. I ran into the same problem after falling in love with Capital Gyrotonic and Georgetown Pilates, both of which charge over $40 per session. Guess I have expensive taste in sweat.
Hey, I’m all about splurging on health and fitness. Believe me, nothing is more important to my own personal happiness and sanity. And if you can afford it, I think there’s no better way to spend your fitness budget than on something you enjoy, whether that’s CrossFit, SolidCore, or that carbon fiber triathlon bike you’ve been lusting after. But I also believe in living within my means. At least until my memoirs sell for millions or el bloggolito gets purchased by a major fitness publication. (Hey, a girl can dream!)
So, SolidCore, I will be back for your high-octane brand of awesome. Just know I may have to have a bake sale or two before I do.
What’s your take on boutique fitness studio pricing: too darn high or worth the splurge?
Crash Course: Capital Gyrotonic is a boutique fitness studio in Woodley Park offering private and group instruction in gyrotonics and gyrokinesis. Say what? Exactly – this exercise technique is definitely off of the beaten path of commercialized fitness trends, but don’t let its obscurity fool you. Originally created as a rehab method for professional dancers, gyrotonics is best described as a mixture of yoga, assisted stretching, pilates, dance, and physical therapy. According to the website: “Through the use of circular, continuous, and repetitive movements, Gyrotonic Exercise both strengthens and stretches the body to its fullest capacity of wellness and health.” Click here for more info.
where: 3000 Wisconsin Ave., Suite 334
perks: beautiful space, small class size
sweat score: 4 out of 10
wear: clothes that allow a full range of movement
instructor: Nathan Martin, Yvonne Hamm
cost: private session is $85
A while back, a good friend suggested I visit one of his all-time favorite boutique studios in DC. Intrigued by his enthusiasm, I quickly agreed to put Capital Gyrotonic on my fit crashing list. But before I called to make an appointment, I wanted to do some research to figure out just what the heck I was getting myself into.
A quick google image search was leaving me with more questions than answers. The gym’s website mentioned the workout was an improbable and hilarious mash up of yoga, dance, tai chi, gymnastics, and swimming. And the videos on YouTube were freaking me out. So before I could psych myself out, I picked up the phone and booked the next available session. How crazy could it be?
The Capital Gyrotonic studio is in the large building complex directly across from the National Zoo. There’s a bike share station out front, and the location is accessible from both the Woodley Park or Cleveland Park metro stops. When I walked in, I was struck first by the bright and clean space and second by the beautiful fresh cut flowers decorating the space. I know I’ve said this before, but I love the effort some small studios put into the little details. It makes a huge difference and helps set the tone.
My first session was with Nathan, the studio owner and a certified gyrotonics master teacher. His resume includes a stint as a ballet dancer and time spent in China during the 2008 Beijing Olympics teaching at the country’s first gyrotonic studio. Needless to say, I knew I was in great hands. After a short tour of the space and all of the many crazy-looking contraptions, it was time to get started.
I was completely spoiled with three complimentary private sessions at Capital Gyrotonic; one with Nathan, and two with Yvonne Hamm. Both instructors were attentive, encouraging, challenging, and inspiring in their own ways. Yvonne and Nathan are former ballet dancers, and I was in complete awe of their fluid, graceful movements as they demonstrated the various gyrotonic exercises. I tried my best to emulate their flow, but flexibility and grace are not my strong suit. Thankfully, the environment was entirely non-judgemental and I never felt inadequate when I couldn’t quite lift my leg to that 90 degree mark. Needless to say, the instructors definitely provide an example to aspire to (and make it look so easy!).
So what the heck is a gyrotonic session like? Well, a little bit like your favorite vinyasa yoga class paired with pilates and infused with a little bit of sassy interpretive dance. Each exercise is geared towards stretching out the body, elongating the spine, and building strength through fluid movement. It’s very hard to explain without seeing it with your own eyes, so I suggest doing a quick video search to check it out.
Because all of the exercise movements are scalable, either by adding weights or increasing the range of motion, the workout is ideal for folks of any imaginable age and ability. I have heard of gyrotonics being a part of routines for professional dancers and athletes, and also geriatric clients who need a gentle, no-impact workout. If you want to be challenged, you will be. I felt particularly challenged in my flexibility, core stability, and agility.
I left each session feeling elongated (at 5’1, this is particularly exciting) and pleasantly tired. There wasn’t the “I’m going to die” feeling of a spin class or a “I won’t be able to walk the next day” wince of a boot camp, but my body felt like it had done some intense internal work to stretch, lengthen, and tone all over. I absolutely loved it. And as someone who tends to be more attracted to high-impact workouts like running and interval training, gyrotonics was the perfect counterbalance. While the price point for private sessions is out of my range, I am intrigued by their group session option and think a few classes each month would be a great way to keep my body in check. If I go back, I’ll be sure to let you know!
As some of you may remember, I visited a good friend of mine in London a few weeks ago. It was my first visit and I was so excited to jam as much sightseeing, tea drinking, pub crawling, and fit crashing as was possible into the few days we were in town.
Let’s just say I did much more of the first part of that list and much less the latter. I only snuck in two workouts over a total of six days, and this post is about one of them. I could make all sorts of excuses, but the reality of the situation was that we were so busy sightseeing and enjoying ourselves that stopping to workout each day just didn’t fit into the agenda.
But there was one excuse that kept popping up each day. It was freezing cold while we were there. Not kind of nippy or a bit breezy…full on arctic blasts from Old Man Winter himself.
So cold we were forced to shop for cute mittens, hats, and scarves. Shoot! But the real tragedy? My visions of waking up early each morning for a jaunt through Hyde Park were quickly smashed when I realized I packed only one pair of long running tights and only one lightweight pullover. I needed fleece…and lots of it. Thankfully Jenny was way more prepared and shared a pair of gloves and a pullover.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t figure out a logical way to run with this sweater, so we had to leave it behind. So, after much contemplation, logistical planning about how much cold we could technically stand without being miserable, and map studying so we wouldn’t get lost…Jenny and I headed out one morning for the one and only dedicated run we did on our trip. We stayed in the local neighborhood of Queen’s Park and settled on a three mile loop. We didn’t have international 3G on our phones, so we had to do it the old fashioned way and hope we didn’t lose our way. #firstworldproblems
The farthest part of our loop was Queen’s Park itself, a beautiful public park complete with a playground, running trail, “quiet” garden (no dogs allowed), pitching mound, and goats.
You read that right: goats. I wish I could tell you why, but it seems Queen’s Park decided to build a little petting zoo area with a bunch of kid goats. They were free to roam in their pen and gathered at the gate to check out the crazy runners. I can’t figure out who was more surprised by who. Let’s just say the feeling was mutual.
The run was a much needed sweat after a few days of eating and sightseeing. Despite the freezing temperatures, we were glad we mustered up the nerve to head out and felt much better when we returned to the warm apartment. And we didn’t get lost! Running is such an awesome way to get your bearings when traveling, and looking back, I wish I had wherewithal to do a bit more while in London. But next time, I’ll be sure to pack my warmest running duds to stave off the London gloom!
What are some of your favorite international runs?