Archive of ‘pilates’ category

Meet Bethesda’s Megaformer Hot Spot: Sculpt Studio

sculpt megaformer pilates bethesda

Crash Course: Sculpt Studio in Bethesda offers classes on the mega-popular megaformer machine, a souped-up pilates reformer on a serious power trip. This thing makes your entire body shake within minutes, and you’ll leave feeling toned, tired, a little buzzed, and fantastically sore. It’s a no-impact workout that caters to all fitness levels. But a note to even the fittest among us: check your ego at the door with this one, because you’re in for an incredibly challenging ride. Click here for a full schedule of classes at Sculpt Studio.   

wear: recommend spandex bottoms

instructor: Mary Farber

cost: $20 first class/$35 drop-in


sculpt megaformer studio bethesda

For all the times I said a $35-per-class fitness trend would never really catch on here in DC, let me be the first one to eat my words. With the rapid success and expansion of Solidcore and the popularity of Bethesda’s Sculpt Studio, I think it’s safe to say that the DMV is twitterpated with the ultra-lux megaformer workout.

sculpt megaformer studio bethesda

Sculpt Studio is located on the lower level of the building and encompasses the main workout floor, a bathroom, and an adjoining studio/merchandise space. Despite being occupied by so many hulking machines, the gleaming floors, bright overhead lights, and high white ceilings give the space a wide-open, almost sterile feeling. A wall of mirrors sits at the front of the room, and a row of cubbies and hangers offer storage space toward the back.

sculpt megaformer studio bethesda

The 10 a.m. Saturday morning class was nearly full, and everyone seemed fairly relaxed as they prepared for the workout. I, on the other hand, was a ball of nerves on my carriage, anxiously swishing through Twitter to distract myself from what was about to go down. The woman next to me introduced herself. I smiled back and asked if this was her first class. She said yes. I silently debated whether to warn her about the pain train that was about to happen in this bright, peppy room. Don’t be fooled by these sleek machines, I wanted to tell her, you’ll be sore for days. DAYS!

I opted instead for the interpretive: “Good luck!”

Before we got started, Mary went over the ins-and-outs of the megaformer machine. This is an introduction I honestly hadn’t received before, and I liked getting a little tour of all the different do-dads and options available. I also relished in this being the only part of class when I wasn’t shaking like a leaf and praying for the fitness police to come and save me from myself.

sculpt megaformer studio

Then Mary put her headset on, turned up the music, and started taking us through the first few moves. We began with a series of excruciatingly slow ab exercises and planks. She would count each rep to the beat, going down “one, two, three, four” and up “one, two, three four.” Five minutes in and my arms and abs were already praying for a break. Do you think she would be able to tell if I put one knee down in this plank? Is it really cheating if the rest of my body is still engaged? There’s a lot of negotiating with yourself that goes on during a megaformer class – come ready to stand your ground and fight fair. 

We then moved into a leg series using hand weights, which was a new combination I hadn’t tried before. For example, as we lunged we also worked our arms into an overhead press. I still don’t know if I loved this added extra because it served as a distraction from the burning in my legs, or hated it because it also caused a burning in my arms. Either way, it definitely upped the ante in the “full body workout” category and demanded serious concentration.

sculpt megaformer studio bethesda

Other funky moves I’ve never tried before included spider and donkey kicks, both of which included straddling the machine and using one leg to push the carriage away. Awkward? Absolutely. Effective? Yes, that too.

The overall tone of the class was not as intense or competitive as others I’ve been in. For example, between the bumping loud music and the constant stream of commentary from coaches at Solidcore, I am 110% engaged at all times. This also means I feel a great deal of pressure to perform and keep up with the pack (or suffer being called out) which isn’t always the best thing for my body depending on the day. At Sculpt, the atmosphere was much more relaxed and open. Sure there was necessary and appreciated encouragement, but I felt like I could disappear and do things at my own pace if I really wanted to. I felt no pressure to keep up or compete with my neighbor. If you prefer a less in-your-face style of coaching, this approach may be the best fit for you.

sculpt megaformer studio bethesda

Mary was enthusiastically demonstrative throughout class, which is especially helpful when doing strange new moves on strange new machines.  You can say “wheelbarrow” all you want, but I’m not entirely sure what that has to do with me being on this machine. One minute she was lunging on a megoformer next to you, the next she was on the floor behind you going over the most effective crunch angles. She also was noticeably vigilant, always ready to adjust or offer assistance to those who needed a little nudge in the right direction.

We ended class with a few deep stretches on the machine. This, my friends, was heaven. Not only did it signal a definite end to class, but it also gave us all a brief opportunity to attend to our tired bodies. I wasn’t a sweaty mess after this particular class, but I undoubtedly felt like I had just survived yet another encounter with the legendary megaformer. I grabbed a fresh clementine, my things, snapped a few photos, said my “thank yous” to Mary and her team and was on my way back into the city. Pass the foam roller please!

Do you think the megaformer workout is worth the sticker-shock price?

Note: While Sculpt Studio invited me to try a free class, my review is based entirely on my honest-to-goodness personal experience. Thanks for reading!

Sweating All Over DC in Eight Workouts

There’s a lot of working out that goes on behind the scenes here at DC Fit Crasher. My week typically includes one day of fit crashing at a new studio and six other days of sweating all over the place. Literally. So I thought it’d be fun to share some of the workouts I do outside of my official studio reviewing duties. Here are eight from the past two weeks. I’d love to hear what you got into too, so be sure to leave me a comment and share your crashes!


first visit to solidcore studio in shaw

solidcore megaformer workout shaw dc studio

WEDNESDAY: SolidCore megaformer pain cave studio opened a new location last weekend in Shaw, right next to the metro stop. After wobbling and sweating and wincing through their popular classes in Adams Morgan, I knew I had to christen the new space with a proper fit crash. I took Ashley’s evening class and, as usual, left with wiped-out muscles and a sweaty smile. That megaformer elicits such a love-hate-love-reallyhate relationship, but I keep coming back because the no-impact workout is so good for my runner’s knees. The new studio is bigger than the original, with lofty industrial ceilings and extremely flattering lighting (wink). If you’re going to get housed by the megaformer, you may as well look good doing it. Am I right?

Yoga District

yoga district glover park

THURSDAY: The last few weeks have been nuts. Way too much going on in way too short a period of time. You know what that’s like, I think we’ve all been there. There came a point when I honestly just needed help to reset, refocus, and get my head in order. While I can typically do that on a run, I craved something gentler. So I signed up for a sunrise class at Yoga District’s studio in Glover Park. It was my first visit to the studio, but it won’t be my last. The space is sparse, clean, and no frills, but the class was exactly what I needed. Warm, welcoming, calm, no expectations or stress to be a super yogi, and it sent me out the door with a clear head and ready to get back to business.

CUCB Training Run

7 mile training run for the CUCB

rock creek park path

SATURDAY: I’m training for the Cherry Blossom 10 miler road race here in DC on April 6, so I’ve been incorporating more running into my weekly workout schedule. This includes longish runs on the weekend to help get my legs ready for those double digit miles in April. The weather was freakishly nice last weekend for my seven mile loop; shorts, t-shirt, and sunglasses nice. It definitely made those miles fly by and I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a run that much in quite some time. Hear that spring? You’re good for my training, so arriving any time now would be great!


True Form

true form resistance band training

true form resistance band training

SATURDAY: I had the fun opportunity to demo a new fitness invention last weekend. The company is called True Form and they created a wearable resistance band training unit. You wear special shoes and a velcro belt and then hook resistance bands to the front and the back. The system doesn’t get tangled (I did burpees, jumps, grapevines, and bicycle crunches) and adds just enough resistance to your normal routine to really kick your training up a notch. I demoed it for just a few minutes and was really tuckered out when I left. I don’t know that I’m ready to wear this to all of my fit crashes, but it definitely was neat to try!


barre3 dc georgetown

SUNDAY: After a not-so-hot first encounter with Barre3 in Georgetown, instructor Alicia Sokol invited me back to crash one of her classes. “Let me make this one up to you, girl,” she wrote, “I will have you quaking and shaking.” Game on! Within ten minutes, I was sweating and struggling through series of push up variations and lunges. You win, Alicia! Your class was challenging, fun, and I left feeling like I had gotten the workout I came for. I also learned (lightbulb moment) that Barre3 isn’t purely a traditional barre studio – the class is a combination of yoga, pilates, AND barre. So if you go and wonder why you aren’t tucking and barre-ing the entire time, that’s why. Consider me schooled!


centerpointe studio dc

THURSDAY: CenterPointe functional training studio in Adams Morgan was my official “fit crash” for this week, so all you’ll get is this teaser photo. Check back later this week for the full write up!

Fuse Pilates


FRIDAY: 6:30 p.m. Most of DC is either still at work or celebrating the start of the weekend at various happy hours across the city. Me? This is my happy hour. A $7 workout in a small boutique pilates studio, classic rock blaring, just a handful of other students, and my muscles having a blast networking with each other. Fuse Pilates in Dupont Circle offers this apprentice (teacher-in-training) class every Friday, so if this sounds like your cup of tea, mosey on by and check it out sometime.

Bike Ride

blue road bike

SATURDAY: My teal bike has not seen the pavement in years. I bought it in college as I was first getting into triathlons, but it quickly got pushed aside by a sassy yellow racing bike I have since sold. Thanks to some new-found motivation to get back on the bike, I dusted her off, brought her to The Bike Rack for a tune up, and now she’s ready for miles of adventure. I’ve been having a lot of fun re-learning the delicate ins and outs of cycling, like how to properly snot rocket in motion and how horribly uncomfortable bike seats are despite the horribly-unflattering padded shorts. You know, the important stuff! I’m looking forward to warmer weather soon so I can take my old teal friend out for some longer rides. Allez!

Your turn: where was your favorite fit crash last week?

San Francisco Crashes: The Wacky and The Wonderful

san-francisco-golden-gateSan Francisco. Where do I even begin. After spending a week bundled up in cold, rainy, grey Portland and Seattle, the blue skies and sunshine of California were just what the doctor ordered. The city was experiencing a freak heat-wave and temperatures climbed into the 70s every day, making it perfect weather for outside workouts and adventures. Oh January, I could get used to this.

san-francisco-parkI arrived on Wednesday evening, a full day and a half before meeting up with friends flying in from the east coast for a bachelorette “girls weekend.” The bride-to-be is a dear friend from college, former roommate, teammate, and marathon training buddy. Needless to say, I was over the moon to be there to help celebrate the occasion and send her down the aisle in style.

Informed Technique

In my alone time before the gang arrived, I met up with the friendly team at Sweat Guru to chat boutique fitness, sweat, and not-to-miss crashes in San Francisco. So much fun! They shared an extensive list of classes and events to check out during my visit, and even set me up with a gratis crash at “the most unique workout in the city.” Most unique? Music to my ears. There’s nothing I love more than trying out a new class, especially when it’s a little to the right on the zany scale.

informed-technique-gearHonestly, nothing could have prepared me for what I encountered when I walked in the doors at Informed Body studio. I knew the device used during class was custom-built by the owner. I knew it involved resistance and suspension. And I knew it was one-of-a-kind. But I had no idea just how bizarre the thing would look to me that morning, pre-coffee, jet lagged, dangling in front of me like a taunt. “Go ahead, try me.” I was the fit crasher. On a mission to try everything and report my findings. But…look at that thing!

After introducing myself to the instructor and nervously laughing about my total lack of coordination, I strapped in and anxiously awaited my fate. The unit has space for about four students, and each of us worked two spring-straps around our thighs and two into our hands. It was awkward and unflattering. But I immediately felt a buoyancy similar to being underwater. Okay, I thought, this could be two things. Really fun. Or a total disaster.

informed-technique-demoThe class was similar to a ballet or pilates class, but different for obvious reasons. I mean, you’re strapped into springs hanging from the ceiling, for goodness sake. But the moves mimic sequences done in both ballet and pilates, with a heavy emphasis on dance. Not barre method, but classical ballet. There were terms I hadn’t heard since I was leaping around in pink tights and a tutu. Tandu? Releve? What?

Luckily owner, creator, and dancer extraordinaire Jill Harris was leading the class and giving easy to follow cues. Follow, I said, not mimic. Because holy smokes could that lady bend and leap in ways I could only dream of. The grace! The form! I wish I had a video of my attempts, because it must have been laugh-track worthy. Choreography is not my bag. Choreography while suspended on resistance springs is, well, also not my bag. Those straps demand that you focus on balance, core strength, and stability at all times. Even when trying to lift your leg high in the air and then lower into a plié. I giggled out loud on multiple occasions as the springs snapped my body back to center after falling out of line. It was such a strange and funny sensation. 

Bottom line: the workout was really fantastic and my body felt elongated and different when I finished. Similar to how I feel leaving a really intense pilates reformer or gyrotonic class. For those of you who know me, this is huge. I mean, I’m a smudge over five feet tall, so I’ll do just about anything to feel “elongated.” It’s a lie, I realize, just like it’s a lie when barre instructors tell me ten more leg raises will give me those lean, long legs I’ve always wanted. Nice try, sister. These strong yet sturdy legs aren’t going to look like Natalie Portman’s no matter how reps I do. It’s called reality. *sigh* Anyway.

If you’re in the area and looking for a fun, wacky, unique workout that takes your childhood ballet classes to the next level, I highly recommend visiting Informed Body studio. Jill is an absolute sweetheart and couldn’t be more welcoming. Her creative approach to intuitive movement is really worth checking out, especially because we don’t have anything like it here in DC. And don’t worry if you’re not a prima ballerina, even newbies like me were able to follow along just fine. The classes aren’t cheap — new students pay $75 for three sessions — so I am especially grateful to GoRecess for setting me up with this fun crash!


burn-san-francisco-groupAll of the ladies involved in the weekend getaway are super active and athletic, so once everyone arrived, we made a special point to crash a studio together. One of our friends currently lives in San Francisco and recommend coming with her to her newest sweaty obsession, Burn, a studio that combines cardio, weights, and pilates springboard. As the website says:

Our unique Method draws upon the very best aspects of Pilates, Cardio and Strength Training to create a body sculpting, heart-pumping 55-minute workout.

burn-san-franciscoIt was everything I though it might be, and a little more. The cardio segments weren’t wimpy. Goodbye boring running in place. Hello burpees, jump lunges, vertical mountain climbers, and surfer jumps. For those who needed low impact options, the instructor made sure they were plentiful and given right along with the other cues. They weren’t treated as an “exception” or a “less-intense option,” just a different way to do the moves. As someone with a cranky left knee that sometimes needs no-impact movement, this was greatly appreciated. The cardio segments start and end the class, with a few sprinkled throughout to jack up your heart rate at different intervals. I was breathing heard from the get-go till the very end.

burn-san-francisco-meThe hand weight exercises are similar to what you would do in a barre class, but kicked up a notch. I was sweating buckets by the time we moved to the spring board, where we did a series of arm and back exercises before moving to the floor to work on our legs. The burn. The deep, terrible, wonderful burn. Especially in my hamstrings and inner thighs. I knew within 5 minutes of the class I’d be sore in weird places the next day. It just felt like one of those workouts that targeted smaller muscles I have a tendency not to focus on as much. Which is exactly the kind of class I need to be doing.

In just under an hour, every part of my body felt like it was shaking (in a good way) and my lungs and heart felt like they were just put through a treadmill interval circuit. What a fun workout! I just wish they had a location on the east coast (ahem, in DC) so I can go back and try it again.

Other than those two fit crashes, we also snuck in a fair amount of outdoor activity over the weekend. I mean, how could we not when the weather was so perfect! We all went for a day hike at the Point Reyes National Seashore, which was by far the most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen.




point-reyes-panoI completed two short (hilly) runs from our rental house to a small beach overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. Nothing like this view to get you going in the morning!

san-francisco-run-golden-gateOn one of my runs, I also passed by an outdoor gym that looked like so much fun to use. Currently trying to figure out how we can get one of these in the DC area, I think it’d be a hit!

san-francisco-fitness-courtAnd finally, I ended both of my runs with a chicory iced coffee from the local brew shop and new-to-me Picky Bars. How am I just hearing about these things?! They’re fantastic and made of ingredients I can pronounce, recognize, and love. I may need to purchase a case because I’ve already made it through my little sample collection.

iced-coffee-picky-barsOkay, San Francisco, I’ve decided that we should be friends. I’d like to come back soon!

Fit Crashing In Portland: Part 1


Hello from the Pacific Northwest! As I mentioned last week, I’m taking some time away from DC to visit family and friends on the west coast. It has been a wonderful change of pace and I’ve loved the opportunity to explore new cities. The food, the sights, and yes, the fit crashes! Since this blog is dedicated to my sweaty adventures, I would love to share some of the fun studios I’ve found along the way.

:: day 1 ::

My first stop was Portland, Oregon. Home of Voodoo Donut, pinot noir, and a ton of awesome fitness studios. My flight arrived late in the evening, and after spending so many hours cramped in a  tiny airplane seat, I was dying to get moving. Unfortunately, there weren’t any late-night classes to crash near my hotel, so I had to get creative. DC-based trainer Deanna Jefferson sent me a link to try out her new high intensity interval workout video last week, so I set up my laptop in the hotel gym and got down to business. 


I got a few funny looks, especially from the Montana State men’s basketball team who came through the front door just as I was getting crazy with some star jumps. I’ll be honest, I only made it half-way through the video before deciding to do something else. Not because it wasn’t effective (I was huffing and puffing 10 minutes in) but because the majority of the moves were really high impact and my knee started to feel wonky. Probably thanks to all that airplane time. Like her Nike Training Club workouts, the video is really tough, so I’m hoping to use it again once my knee can handle all of the jumping.

:: day 2 ::

I started day two with a serious bang, singing up for back-to-back fit crashes at Firebrand Sports in Portland’s Pearl District. The studio was enormous and had a refurbished warehouse/industrial loft feel. High ceilings, lots of grey cement, skylights, black window panes. I loved it. Bonus points awarded for having fully-stocked individual shower rooms, clean bathrooms, a fresh juice bar, and plenty of hand towels. Basically, all signs point to lots of sweat going on in here.


Firebrand Sports offers two classes: Pyrolates on the megaformer machine and full tilt cycling on Real Ryder bikes. Talk about a killer combo. I decided to get the most challenging workout out of the way first, so my morning kicked-off with quaking legs and burning arms on the megaformer, a machine I’ve developed a serious love-hate relationship with thanks to crashes at DC’s SolidCore studio.


Unlike SolidCore, which is a smaller space with an intimate feel similar to a personal training session, there were about 20 machines in the Pyrolates room. Add in the high ceilings and expansive windows, I imagined I had plenty of space to hide from those extra lunges and personalized adjustments…or so I thought.



Our instructor Josh was an expert at working the room and making us work, all at the same time. Meaning: no hiding. In fact, he had an uncanny ability to creep up behind me whenever I decided to slack off. Busted! The music was pumping, we were lunging, the sweat was flowing. And boy oh boy, this class was putting me through my paces.

firebrand-portland-plankOn my sweat scale, I’d put this class at a solid 7. Every little muscle I never knew I had screamed at me, my shirt was sweaty, and I had the sneaking suspicion that in just a few minutes a wave of crazy soreness would set in. But I left with a huge smile on my face, high-fiving Josh and elated about surviving another encounter with the megaformer.

Not five minutes later, I was on a Real Ryder bike in the back of Ellie’s spin class. The cycling studio is just down the hall at the back of the building, and really plays on the industrial loft feel with exposed ducts and gleaming skylights. The bikes are set up stadium-style, so everyone has a good view of the instructor and has plenty of space to move around. As far as spin rooms go, this is by far one of the coolest I’ve ever been in. 


The Real Ryder bikes are a challenge on a normal day. They teeter back and forth, keeping your balance is a futile game of cat and mouse, and it takes every ounce of energy and concentration to keep up with them. Bottom line: not the best idea after a megaformer class. My legs were screaming at me, and rightly so. I had just put them through torture and decided to come back for more.

But honestly, I had a serious case of FOMO  (as the kids say these days) and couldn’t say no to crashing two really awesome, unique, fun classes. So I turned the resistance knob down low, laughed at my own fit crashing insanity, and sang my heart out to every single song for 45 darn minutes. True story, ask the poor girl next to me. I belted out Wrecking Ball like I was on stage at the VMAs. You’re welcome.


After wobbling my way to the front desk in a sweat-induced fog after the morning’s marathon crash session, I somehow purchased a few too many fresh-pressed juices. Three, to be exact. But I can explain. They were all so delicious, the guy behind the counter was nice enough to let me sample every flavor, and after two hours of sweating I was thirsty and indecisive. So yes, I purchased three with the intention of finishing them all in the same day. I didn’t. But luckily my hotel room had a fridge and I was able to eventually finish off every last drop. My favorite flavor was a blend of carrot, apple, ginger, turmeric, and burdock.


Juices in hand and on a high from such fit crashing fun, I made my way through the pouring rain to Isabel for brunch. If you are ever in Portland near the Pearl District and are looking for a great food spot, I can’t recommend this place enough. My meal was absolutely delicious and the restaurant gets all of the ingredients fresh from their own locally-sourced farm. I had the Omar, which was a heaping portion of egg whites, teriyaki chicken, sautéed veggies on top of brown rice. Add in a piping cup of hot coffee and I was a happy, tired, sweaty camper!


I will be posting updates about day three and four in Portland soon, including my crashes at Yoyoyogi and the original Barre3 studio. Stay tuned, and until then, don’t forget to follow along on social media for instant updates from the rest of my trip!

Dear Fit Crasher: Affordable Mat Pilates

Potomac Pilates equipment

Dear DC Fit Crasher,

I’m a runner who likes to spend my allotted workout budget on races and new shoes. But I know how important cross-training and strength work are. I enjoy mat pilates classes, but it’s really hard to stomach the hundreds of dollars it would cost to keep that practice up regularly at my local place. Do you have any tips on how to fit classes in on a budget or snag a great discount?

Thanks! Abby

As a runner who has suffered through my fair share of injuries, I am totally with you on the importance of incorporating cross training into your mileage plan. I’ve heard from quite a few physical therapists that pilates, yoga, and barre are great for keeping those knees and hips in check during all that pavement pounding. But they’re not always great for those of us on a budget, especially in this city, where class prices can cost as much as a 10k entry.

I’ve searched high and low for affordable mat pilates options and hope this list helps you find what you’re looking for. Good luck with your training this year and see you out there on the road!


Yoga District $11 drop-in for yogalates class

Past Tense Studio $15 drop-in; $130 for 10 classes

Work It Studio $17 drop-in; $130 for 10 classes

STROGA $18 drop-in; $139 month unlimited; $150 for 10 classes

Fuse Pilates $19 drop-in; $175 month unlimited; $10 happy hour class each week

Toolbox $20 drop-in; $150 for 10

Fuel Pilates $22 drop in; $225 month unlimited

Excel Pilates $20 drop in; $180 for 10 classes

Capital Pilates $20 drop in; $180 for 10

Quantum Pilates $20 drop-in; $180 for 10 classes

Circle Yoga $21 drop-in

Reformation Fitness $22 drop-in; $180 for 10 classes

Other ideas: check pricing and schedules at your local YMCA or DC recreation facilities, many of which offer mat pilates classes.

Northern VA

Local Motion (Old Town) $18 drop-in; $150 for 10 classes

Mind Your Body Oasis (Crystal City) $20 drop-in; $150 for 10 classes

Mind the Mat (Clarendon) $20 drop-in; $160 for 10 classes


Simon Says (Bethesda) $18 drop-in; $150 for 10 classes

Pulse Fitness (Bethesda) $20 drop-in; $160 for 10 classes

FitnessWise (Bethesda) $80 for 4 week session, one class/week

Balance (Bethesda) $20 drop-in, $175 for 10 classes




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