Archive of ‘review’ category
Crash Course: Potomac Pilates consists of three boutique studio locations offering pilates reformer and barre classes. Some of their more unique selections include pilates circuit training and something called “barre with gliding,” which seems to be a torturous combination of barre method and a slide board workout. Their pilates reformer class is a muscle-burning 55-minute session focusing on core strength and full-body toning. Aside from the newest Potomac Pilates studio in Friendship Heights, you can find them in the Palisades neighborhood and in Potomac Maryland. Click here for a full schedule of classes offered at leach location.
where: 5406 Wisconsin Ave, Chevy Chase
bring: socks with grips
perks: small class size
sweat score: 4 out of 10
wear: comfortable clothes for full range of movement
cost: $40 drop-in, packages available
Pilates is a mystery to me. Probably because I just haven’t learned my lesson yet. I always go into the class with the smug impression that because there isn’t a lot of cardio or heavy lifting involved, it will be a light workout. And sometimes it is. But eight-and-a-half times out of ten, there’s that moment 15 minutes into class when I realize there’s nothing light about that burning sensation in my shoulders. Such little movements. Such crazy soreness. When will I learn.
I have heard rave reviews about Potomac Pilates from a few friends, so I was excited to try out one of their classes at the newest location in Friendship Heights. That is, if I could find it. Full disclosure: the place is crazy hard to locate, despite their best attempts to put signage all over the place. I spent a solid 10 minutes wandering frantically around the Shops at Wisconsin Place development trying to find the studio entrance. Here’s the secret. If you are looking at Bloomingdales (see photo above), walk toward the courtyard until you see an alley on your right. There are a few shops tucked in there, and Potomac Pilates is almost at the very end on your right.
As you can see, the sign is crazy small and finding the place is not entirely intuitive. If you decide to check it out, hopefully these directions help a little bit. It’s in an awesomely convenient spot for folks working in the Friendship Heights area.
And when you finish, there are multiple restaurants, wine bars, shops, and a Whole Foods just a few small steps away. I’m all about getting errands done in as few stops as possible, so if you can sweat, shop, sip wine, and buy your groceries in the same block, I consider that a win.
The class itself was done entirely on the reformer machine with no extra props or gadgets. We worked on all the major muscle groups, with a special torturous grand finale focusing on the glutes and hamstrings. Hands down the hardest part of the class, for sure.
I really enjoyed Catherine’s instructional style. She was loud enough to hear (although a microphone would have really given some extra oomph), encouraging, gave great cues, and kept the pace of the class going at a good clip.
As a level one class, there wasn’t anything extra crazy going on and I felt like beginners would be able to follow along without too much confusion. But if you’re a pilates pro and are looking for a class with a bit more spice, I’d recommend checking out level two, which promises “new exercises” and “increased repetitions to keep the workout challenging and fresh.”
The studio itself is furnished to look and feel like an industrial style loft. The decor very sparse, the lights are bright, and there’s nothing that screams warm and fuzzy. You’re here to work and sweat, after all, so don’t get too comfortable!
Also, as with most small boutique studios in town, there are no designated changing or locker rooms. If you’re coming from work, scoot behind the reformer machines all the way to the back of the studio and change in one of the bathrooms. It’s a little awkward if there’s a class going on, but it’s more awkward doing tricep extensions in a pencil skirt and cardigan. Just sayin.
I’d definitely like to come back and crash their barre/cardio glide board class. Can’t say I’ve seen a similar class offered anywhere else. For someone as uncoordinated as me, it seems like a slippery recipe for disaster, but I’m willing to give it a try. If I do, you’ll be the first to know!
Until then…Happy Halloween!
Crash Course: This, my friends, is a full-body cardio and weights class masquerading around in sassy yoga pants. It smiles and whispers “namaste” while challenging you to a full throttle push up contest. And let me tell you…it is awesome. There’s loud music. Yelling. Jumping up and down. Burpees. Bicep curls. Puddles of sweat. And a little bit of vinyasa flow thrown in for good measure. Visit the CorePower Yoga website for a full schedule of their yoga classes at locations in DC and across the country.
where: 6800 Wisconsin Ave. Suite #300/Bethesda Metro
bring: towel, water
perks: showers, free parking, rental mats, lockers
sweat score: 10 out of 10
wear: less is more, it’s hot!
cost: $20 drop-in, membership available
Full disclosure: I’m a hot-yoga-induced-adrennaline-rush junkie. If you know me well, it’s not entirely surprising that I absolutely loved the Sculpt class at CorePower Yoga. It’s a fast and furious combination of many of my favorite things: hot yoga, mid-workout dance parties (more on that later), random bursts of burpees, energetic instructors, and free weight reps that make my arms want to fall off. So when Nanci at the Bethesda location reached out about crashing a class at her studio, I found my SmarTrip card and across the DC line I went.
This particular studio is literally a stone’s throw from the District border and is 100% metro accessible. But if you want to keep things closer to home, CorePower Yoga also has locations in Georgetown and a new one opening in Glover Park next month. The Bethesda location is in a strange strip mall complex, nestled in with a CVS, PetCo, and Mattress Discounters <insert joke about strange bedfellows here>.
If you drive, parking is free. Just remember to have your ticket stamped at the front desk. Make your way to the third floor and follow the stream of yoga-mat-toting folks down a long hallway leading to the front door. And enter the calming, spa-like oasis that is CorePower Yoga.
I have never in my life been to such a beautiful yoga studio. There’s no musty yoga smell. Plenty of space to move around in. The lighting is bright and upbeat. Things appear to be impeccably clean. Everything has its aesthetically-pleasing place. Be still my heart.
Yes, I think that’s a fireplace. See what I mean? Who wouldn’t want to cozy up to some crackling embers while browsing through adorable yoga merchandise and sipping eco-friendly filtered water?
I’m not going to lie. I was blown away by my first impression. It’s just lovely. And if your heart can’t be won with filtered water and racks of fresh Luon, just wait till you see the locker rooms.
Bright. Clean. Roomy. Lots of little amenities in case you forgot a hair-tie or need some mouthwash. Can I move in?
And five showers. Five. I didn’t use one but walked in fully-clothed to have a look-see. Sparkling clean with shampoo, conditioner, and body wash built in. What a lovely way to rinse off after sweating your brains out in class.
I had to literally tear myself away from the locker room and all of it’s splendor. I’ve been to many a gym in this city, and I can count on one hand the spots where the digs were this nice. Well played, CorePower.
Now…on to class.
There are two yoga studios at this location. Both look very similar, so what you see above is what to expect. Gleaming clean floors, fun lights, and lots of windows. I’m a big fan of the natural light. And of the fact that I wasn’t walking through sweat puddles or musty air to get to my mat.
I grabbed two sets of free weights, a block, and settled in to enjoy the proverbial calm before the storm.
Nanci led us through a few warm up yoga poses to kick things off. The music was thumping. Her upbeat voice carried well. And you could tell we were in for a wild ride.
From what I could tell, the class follows a very specific sequence of moves. There’s a leg, arm, and glute series. Each involves a few yoga-inspired moves like chair pose or warrior two, but made enormously more challenging thanks to weighted reps. For example, imagine sitting low in chair pose. Now imagine pulsing in chair pose. Now imagine pulsing in chair pose while doing overhead tricep curls while Miley Cyrus is blaring and sweat is pouring into your eyes. Now you get the picture.
I’ll be honest, this class is really tough. I had to take a few breaks. My arms and legs were shaking. Some positions needed modification just so I could get through them. But everyone in the room was in the same boat – so hear me out: do not feel any pressure to keep up. Be smart about the workout. It’s hot in there people.
The most interesting thing about the Sculpt class, in my opinion, is the mid-workout cardio segment. I’m not entirely sure how long it lasts (about the length of one song), but it involves any assortment of high knees, squat jumps, mountain climbers, and running in place. In other words, it’s a spastic dance party on your yoga mat. While easily the heart-pumpingest portion of the workout, it was also the most fun. I couldn’t believe the energy Nanci had – she was bouncing all around the room, shouting out commands and dancing to the music.
You know who else was laughing?
That guy. I swear the Buddha statue in the corner of the room was silently cracking up as all of us lept, repped, and sweat all over the place. Yoga? I’m not so sure I buy it. This class was a lot more “ommmmm(g)” than “ommmm.” But it’s a crazy challenging and fun workout that no doubt will whip you into great shape, no matter your fitness or yoga goals.
Would you call this class “yoga”?
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!
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: