Archive of ‘review’ category
Crash Course: My Bootcamp offers small, outdoor group training sessions in the DC, VA, and MD area. Each 45-minute workout includes 15-20 minutes of mobility followed by 30 minutes of high intensity interval training. Classes use traditional bodyweight exercises and a variety of fun tools like TRX, the rip trainer, sandbags, kettlebells, and the infamous fire hose. Yes, it’s like a playground full of toys for adults who are addicted to sweat. For pricing options and bootcamp locations, visit the My Bootcamp website.
where: Bryce Park, Northwest DC
bring: water bottle, gloves optional
perks: small group, being outside
sweat score: 7 out of 10
wear: whatever is most comfortable for being outside
instructor: Grant Hill
cost: $100/month plus $50 enrollment fee
I had heard about My Bootcamp through Revolve spin instructor extraordinaire Grant Hill, who just happens to be the company’s founder and president. Grant invited me to come crash one of the bootcamp sessions and I was more than happy to oblige. The best part? The Northwest DC location was just a hop, skip, and uphill jump from my apartment. The website lists it as “Cathedral,” but it’s actually in Bryce Park across the street on the corner of Wisconsin and Massachusettes (I wandered the grounds of the National Cathedral in spandex for 10 minutes before figuring this out – oops).
We wasted no time getting down to business, beginning class with a few warm up exercises and mobility stretches. Oh yes, that included bear crawls across the cold pavement. I remember the moment this photo was taken, because it was just as I began to get frustrated with how difficult I found the simple act of crawling. Maybe it’s my coordination, or the fact that I haven’t crawled since I was in diapers, but let’s just say it’s a whole lot harder than it looks. If you want a quick and effective warm up and don’t mind getting a few weird stares…I highly recommend it.
Next, Grant explained that we were going to do hill repeats while carrying a 60 pound sandbag. Notice the look of amusement on everyone’s face. I may have been behind the camera, but I was also thinking “you’ve gotta be kidding.”
So not kidding. We each had to carry the bag up the hill twice while the rest of the group did a series of planks, push ups, burpees, and abs. This photo was obviously taken during the first lap, because by the second I was a sorry mess. That thing felt like it was full of bricks and I quickly discovered there was no efficient or convenient way to carry it. I think at one point I attempted to swing it between my legs with the hope of finding some sort of forward momentum…bad idea.
After the hill repeats of death, Grant demonstrated the circuit portion of the workout. It was a HIIT series, with short bursts of intensity followed by short periods of rest. This little device is a TRX rip trainer hooked up to a lamp pole. Using it feels like shoveling really heavy snow or chopping wood.
Then we did one arm rows with the TRX. Check out that view – not bad, right?
Followed by kettlebell swings.
And the entire thing was topped off with a round of fire hose waves – basically yanking the heavy fire hose up and down to create a wave-like motion. I felt this big-time in my arms, shoulders, and abs. After a two minute break, we started over again for round two. Coming off of the sand bag hill repeats, I was really feeling fatigued at this point and could already tell I was working muscles that were going to fight back in the morning.
During the circuit, Grant walked around to each of the stations, correcting form and offering encouragement. He wasn’t in your face or overly energetic. There was no “rah rah” feel or drill sergeant attitude. But it was enough to let you know that he was paying attention and wanted you to do it right.
When we finished, I was ready to call it a day. I walked over to my backpack and started to sit down. But next thing I knew Grant was demonstrating a tag-turned-mortal-kombat routine and telling us to pair up and join in. Tag? As adults? First crawling and now tag?
You can see how well that turned out for me. I’m not exactly known for my cat-like reflexes or my speed, so let’s just say this is an area for improvement. After about five minutes, Grant called “time” and we were officially finished for the day. It was a busy 45 minutes and I really enjoyed the class. I can’t say I was drenched in sweat by the end, but I can personally attest to being sore for the next 48 hours straight. I’d definitely give the class another try in the future. I love that it’s outdoors, that the equipment is effective and fun, the exercises are creative and functional, and that it’s right by my apartment. A win all around!
After bootcamp I walked a few blocks to Hawthorne Organic Juice Bar. It’s on Macomb Street just around the corner from Wisconsin Avenue. They offer an assortment of fresh juices, smoothies, and yummy organic foods.
I choose a juice combo with kale, apple, carrot, ginger, and cucumber. It was just the kick I needed after being trounced at bootcamp. Another plus? The three block walk from Bryce Park to Hawthorne was an excellent cool down. I can see this being a dangerous combination in the warmer months…until then, I’ll be practicing my tag and foam rolling my calves.
Crash Course: Peloton Cycling is the latest spin studio to pop up in DC, making it the sixth in the area to hop on the sweaty indoor biking trend. The studio steers away from the posh party-on-a-bike, soul searching, cult-like atmosphere found at other locations and sticks to the basics: challenging, fun, and traditional spin classes. But don’t mistake traditional for boring. The music is great, the instructors are energetic and knowledgable, and the workout is killer. Visit Peloton’s website for a full list of class options and times.
where: 2217 14th Street NW/U Street Metro
bring: towel, water bottle
perks: posh lounge area, close to metro
sweat score: 8 out of 10
wear: spandex or close-fitting shorts, bike shoes optional
cost: drop-in class is $20, first class is free
The thing that intrigued me most about Peloton was this blurb on their website:
We are rebelling against the typical modern cycling studio with a nostalgic turn of the 20th century motif. Absent from Peloton Cycling is the stark palate of the modern; present is the old world charm of honest competition. We focus on character – not reputation. With this focus, we are committed to building a healthy and active community in DC.
Rebelling? Nostalgia? Charm? Oh my! After crashing every spin studio in the metro area, I had a very clear idea of what this studio was trying to rebel against. There are a few indoor cycling locations where the atmosphere is part dance-party, part rave, part self-empowerment session. This is not that studio.
So what is Peloton all about and what makes it different? After going to their “breakaway” class the other week, here’s what I took away:
- The students seemed to be a mix of cyclists and non-cyclists.
- The class cues were built around meeting target RPM (rotations per minute) vs. levels. For example, you’ll be asked to get your cadence clock between 80 – 90 instead of being asked to “find a level 6.” To me, this was awesome and gave students a more concrete idea of exertion levels.
- The music is great, but you won’t leave with ringing ears.
- The atmosphere is casual and spacious. You won’t be assigned a bike and you won’t feel like you’re getting sprinkled in someone else’s sweat.
- The session is built around real ride experiences, including hill climbs, time trials, flat open roads, and pace lines.
- Riders can use bike shoes or street shoes.
- Another thing that sets Peloton apart? I have never been to a spin studio that charged for towels. Spin = sweat, so it goes without saying you’ll need one. If you forget, you can rent towels at the studio for $1.
Peloton is located just a few blocks from the U Street metro and next door to Crossfit Praxis. I didn’t see a sign hanging outside the building for Peloton, so you kind of have to know it’s there to find it. It’s good you’re reading this!
On the night I went to class, I got a bit lost trying to find my way. For those who haven’t been, you need to walk into the entrance for Crossfit Praxis and make a hard right to find the door to Peloton.
It’s not entirely intuitive, but look lost enough and the kind folks at crossfit will help point you in the right direction. When you walk in, you’ll find yourself in a very swanky reception area. There were plush leather chairs (leather+sweat don’t mix…but I digress), a large glass table sitting on a cowhide rug, wooden fans in the studio, and the bathroom looked like it was right out of Restoration Hardware. I loved the little details they put into giving the space a very nostalgic feel.
One thing worth mentioning: the fact that Crossfit Praxis is next door means there is a constant sound of boom, thud, and clash resonating throughout the studio when crossfit classes are in session. It’s incredibly disconcerting to be using the restroom and have everything start to shake as if the place is being shelled from some invisible enemy army. Ahem. It’s also annoying to try and have a discussion or calmly put your things into a locker when it sounds like there’s a war on (or one heck of a bowling match). Thankfully, you can’t hear or feel anything during the class itself. It’s very possible this experience was unique to my visit. But it was so overwhelming that I had to share. For those of you that have been, did you find this to be the case?
Bottom line – despite being brand-spaking new to the DC scene, Peloton is a quality studio that you should put on your radar if you’re looking for an excellent sweat. I had an incredible workout, and I look forward to going back for the “all rounder” full body ride I’ve heard so many great things about.
Be sure to check out my other spin crashes:
Crash Course: Georgetown Pilates is a small, boutique, classical Pilates studio focused on quality instruction and attention to detail. They offer private reformer sessions, group mat classes, tower classes, massage, acupuncture, and muscle activation techniques. A private Pilates apperatus session will deliver a tailor-made workout integrating breath work, stretching, and various strength-building exercises. It’s not cheap, but the level of care and personalized approach were truly second to none. The experience was luxury fitness at its best. For a full list of services and prices, check out the Georgetown Pilates website.
where: 1230 1/2 31 Street NW
perks: filtered water, one-on-one instruction
sweat score: 4 out of 10
wear: comfortable clothes
instructor: Lissette Valdes
cost: single private apparatus session is $103*
The Georgetown Pilates studio is really tucked away, located in a gated collection of offices called Hamilton Court. If you’re having a hard time finding it, it’s almost directly across from the Georgetown Post Office on 31st Street. The gate should be open during normal business hours, but if not, there’s a call box to buzz in.
Walk all the way to the back of the courtyard and head to the the right, where you’ll find a small pathway that leads to the front door. The entrance is hidden from the main area – I had to be directed via hand signal by one of the instructors already inside.
Ta-da! Found it. You’ll be greeted at the front desk by one of the trainers, who will walk you through new client paperwork and give you a little tour of the studio. From the first moment I arrived, I knew this place was special. Everyone was extremely warm and welcoming, and the entire space gave off a calm, serene, spa-like vibe. There were no loud noises, there was no smell of sweat, there was plenty of space to move around in, it was well lit, and a member of the team was always available to answer questions. And the entire studio from top to bottom was gleaming with clean. Be still my heart.
I tucked around the corner to the small bathroom to change into my workout gear. There is no changing room, but the bright, cheerful purple bathroom does the trick in a pinch. It’s stocked with a few essential toiletries should you need to freshen up after class. There’s also a hallway with a row of hooks and hangars for your coat or clothes. I’m so used to rolling up my work clothes and smushing them into my backpack, being able to hang them nicely was a total luxury.
I almost forgot to mention this handsome fellow – the rescue pup who serves as chief-greeter, frazzled-nerves-corrector, and mayor of the studio. I’m sorry the photo is blurry, but the little guy was wagging his tail so hard it was difficult to catch him in stillness. Can you could see his amazing mustache collar? So fashionable! As an animal lover, it was a delight to be able to chill and de-stress with this dude before class. I know studies show animals in the workplace make for happier employees, but I think the same goes for customers too. Love!
The session I had with Lissette was unlike any other Pilates class I had ever been to. I’ve tried the reformer at Reformation Fitness, and done mat classes at Fuse in Dupont and other places. But this was something else entirely. From start to finish, the entire class was tailored for my specific needs, whether I knew what those were or not. I mentioned a few target areas I’d like to work on, but as the session progressed, I realized that often times we would work on muscle imbalances or weaknesses I didn’t even knew I had (until I was hanging over the cadillac machine, shaking like a leaf, wondering where my core strength went).
Every move, every breath was carefully guided and closely watched. I couldn’t get away with cheating if I tried. Lissette was right there to make sure every inhale and vertebrae was exactly where it needed to be. We worked on stretching, strength, and everything in between. I was pleasantly uncomfortable the entire time and sweating within 5 minutes, and it was wonderful – I knew I was in professional hands and trusted in the technique. After the warm up, I blurted out, “wow, I didn’t know Pilates was hard,” and got a few approving smiles and laughs. But really, I have never been to a class or session so focused or so challenging. It was absolutely wonderful.
This smile is fake – the chair machine torture device was absolutely my least favorite part, probably because it so clearly highlighted my biggest weakness: my knees. A few reps on this thing and I was toast. My thighs were burning, my core was shaking, and I was looking at Lissette with an “are you serious” face of panic. It was an eye-opener for sure, and made me realize how much work I still have to do to make sure my muscles are balanced. She calmly guided me through the exercise and encouraged me to do just a few more reps than I thought possible. That said, I was happy to leave this machine behind!
Here was my initial reaction after walking out the door:
It truly was mind blowing in every way. The studio was beautiful. The class was the most carefully constructed yet challenging Pilates session I had ever been to. It was completely customized and I never had any doubt that I was in the best, most professional hands available. I was greeted by name and spoken to genuinely. My clothes hung neatly on a hanger. The floor and equipment was sparkling clean. I got to pet an adorable dog.
Now, let’s get one thing straight – I’m a federal employee paying grad school loans and live within very real budgetary boundaries. At $103 per session, it should be this mind blowing and you pay for what you get. The honest truth is that I could not afford to come to this studio regularly, no matter how much I would love to. It’s just not in my budget at this point in my life. But if it is in your budget and you are looking for an incredible, one-of-a-kind Pilates studio to get you into tip top shape…this is the place for you. I wholeheartedly recommended the awesome work they do.
What’s your favorite high-end exercise indulgence?
*Georgetown Pilates generously waived the fee for this session. This review, including all of my opinions, are my own.
Saturday was the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon. Before I start my recap, I want to offer my heartfelt thanks and appreciation for all of the kind, encouraging comments I received from Friday’s post. I put it all out there and the response was overwhelmingly positive. So thank you – all of you – for making this little blog a safe space for honesty and taking risks. And now…off to the races!
Let’s start with the expo. I waited until the last 15 minutes of the last day to head over to the Stadium Armory to pick up my race packet…and paid for it.
The place was a bit of a mad house with lines out the door and people frantically trying to make their way through as vendors were closing down. Not crazy enough, however, to keep me from taking a shameless selfie amidst the chaos. That’s right, I totally pulled this one off for the sake of the blog. Don’t judge me. I wanted to show you the cool mirror with “here is your inner Kenyan” painted on it. Wonder how I could get one of these in my apartment?
I really have no right to complain about the stress level at the expo because I waited till the last minute. Lesson learned. One real complaint though: why were we emailed digital confirmation sheets but then required to transpose the information onto pointless paper forms before picking up our numbers? Made me wonder if they were going with the DC bureaucracy red tape theme or if it was really supposed to be that inefficient. Mystery.
I drove home and got right down to the business of making my traditional pre-race chow. I have a very finicky stomach, and when it comes to fueling up before a big event, blander is better. In college my go-to dinner before a triathlon was white rice with salt and butter. As you can see, I’ve upgraded to plain pasta, white chicken breast, and sautéed veggies with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. It did the trick and sent me to bed with a full (and happy) stomach.
I laid out every single thing I would need to get ready in the morning, right down to the plastic zip loc bag for my iPhone. Having everything prepared the night before cuts down on time in the morning and calms my nerves about forgetting something. I set my alarm for 5:30 a.m., did a little bit of foam rolling, and called it a night.
When I woke up, I immediately opened my window and checked for the forecasted rain. Nothing! What luck! I got dressed, made a bland breakfast of almond butter toast and banana, and spent a few last blissful minutes on the foam roller to get my muscles ready for the journey ahead. After hopping on the metro to Metro Center, it was just a short walk to the blaring music and huddled masses of the starting line.
Despite the gloomy clouds, the temperatures were perfect for running and there wasn’t a drop of rain falling from the sky. Hooray! I moseyed over to corral three to wait out the final 30 minutes before the start with a few stretches. And then we were off! Well, at least the first corral was off. The Rock ‘n Roll race starts each corral in their own separate wave, so we had to wait for the first two corrals to go before it was our turn. Talk about building up the excitement and suspense!
As I crossed the starting line, I took a deep breath and decided to take the entire race one mile at a time. And as the first mile beeped in at around 7:30, I knew this was going to be an adventure. A few details:
Crazy apparel seen on the course:
- Full suit and tie with “Jesus Saves” taped to the back
- A denim jacket
- Mini Mouse costume
- Green body sock
- Star-spangled full body spandex
- Spectator in a ketchup costume, spectator in a gingerbread man costume, spectator in a Mr. Incredible costume dancing to disco music
- Tiny gold lame shorts
- Tuxedo t-shirt and black shorts
Things I didn’t like about the race:
- My watch clocked the entire course at around 13.5 miles. I can’t tell you how devastating it is to think you are just around the corner from mile 11 and then realize it’s another few tenths away. My watch consistently beeped way before the mile markers. Anyone else have this problem?
- Calvert Hill at mile six
Things I loved about the race:
- Great spacing out of the bands along the route
- The spectator support was incredible (except for the guys offering beer – the smell was atrocious)
- The route was really fun despite Calvert Hill
- I never wondered when the next water/gatorade spot would be because there were plenty
- Runners genuinely seemed to be having a good time
- Lots (and lots) of free food at the finish area. Potato chips, chocolate milk, smoothies, bananas, Gatorade. I was in heaven!
My official finish time was 1:42:20 – about three minutes under my goal. I was so shocked and thrilled and shocked some more! According to my watch, my time at 13.1 was somewhere around 1:39, but since that’s not an official time anywhere other than my head, I’ll have to let it go. But breaking 1:40 is now in the crosshairs for next time. Oh yes, there will be a next time.
An enormous thank you to my parents for coming from Ohio to support me on the course. The original fit crasher is an accomplished marathoner and she has been my chief coach and motivator since I took up running in college. My parents have been my race-day support team from the very beginning and I couldn’t have done it without them. And check out the sign they made – so official! Thanks guys! Another big thank you goes to Bonnie, Jeff, and Heather for spotting me on the course and cheering me on along the way.
This is one of my favorite photos from the day. These are two of my friends from the Georgetown Triathlon Team, Jenny and Michelle. I don’t know how long it’s been since we’ve all done a race together, but part of me wants to put it way back to 2008. It was such a fun throwback to have a mini-reunion at the finish line. You ladies are the best!
And what do you do after running 13.1 miles? You eat, of course! Well, you change out of the wet and sweaty clothes from the race and then you eat. I took my parents to Ted’s Bulletin on Capitol Hill for an enormous celebratory breakfast. Mom tried a home-made pop tart and some breakfast classics, dad went with the biscuits and gravy, and I inhaled the ten-grain hot cereal with toasted coconut and dried fruit. Oh, and a bottomless cup of hot coffee.
We walked off breakfast with a trip to Eastern Market, and then it was time to call it a day. Whew! So many months of training and worrying and agonizing over 13.1 miles…and it is finally successfully behind me. What a wonderful sense of relief. This medal will be proudly hanging in my apartment as a reminder that anything is possible with a little chutzpah, faith, and a whole lot of good old fashioned hard work.
Did you run the Rock ‘n Roll? Share your story!