Archive of ‘review’ category

Work Hard, Play Harder at Throwback Fitness

Throwback Fitness NYC


Crash Course: Re-live the fun and games of recess with Throwback Fitness, a unique workout designed around your favorite school yard pastimes. This small group class focuses on camaraderie, teamwork, and good old-fashioned competitive spirit to power through 45 minutes of high intensity training. Expect to play dodgeball and do burpees at the same time. Or maybe a relay race on the erg while your teammates jump rope or shoot hoops. Whatever the workout du jour, you can bet it will be enormously entertaining and a fitness experience like none other you’ve had in the city.  For more information about class times, check out Throwback’s schedule.

where: 303 Fifth Avenue, Suite 207

bring: water bottle

perks: towels

sweat score: 8 out of 10

wear: sweatbands and umbros

instructor: Ryan

cost: first class $19 | drop-in $32  

 


“What’s your favorite animated television show?” 

Standing in a circle with my classmates at Throwback Fitness earlier this week, I wracked my brain for something from my childhood that would be fun to share. There were so many choices, each of them nerdier than the next: Pinky and the Brain, Doug, Rugrats, Magic School Bus. When it came time for me to introduce myself with an answer, I blurted out the coolest cartoon that came to mind: “The Ninja Turtles.”

A total lie. But I was feeling some serious cartoon peer pressure and wanted to be sure the other kids knew that I took my Captain Planet with a side of street savvy, pizza wielding reptiles.

Throwback Fitness NYC
And thus began my experience at Throwback, the fitness studio where your childhood days on the playground come back with a vengeance, shake you out of your business casual, and demand you do ten more burpees.

When you walk into the space, you’ll realize that it’s set up to facilitate two things. The first being a nostalgic trip down memory lane. There are Karate Kid and Top Gun posters lovingly enshrined on the wall, nurf balls and super soakers waiting to be used in the corner, and a playlist dedicated entirely to early 90s hits cooing in the background. Even Ryan the instructor is wearing a uniform reminiscent of gym class days: polyester gym teacher shorts, sweat band, and a whistle.

throwback-nyc-gym-space
The second thing the gym is set up to do is deliver a legitimately tough, full-body workout.
 If you used your recess time to play patty cake, fold paper fortune tellers, or knot friendship bracelets, this isn’t the throwback you’re thinking of. An entire row of ergs lies in wait in the back. Free weights, medicine balls, battle ropes, chains, and jump ropes hang out in the front. And between the two is an enormous room just begging for a round of capture the flag.

Throwback Fitness NYC
Every workout is divided into four periods: warmup, phys-ed, recess, and stretching. 
Everything is done together as a group or as a team competition. The coaching staff usually consists of both Ryan and his polyester-clad partner in crime Brian, who orchestrate and lead the workout in classic gym teacher style. There’s a lot of cheering, encouragement, demonstrations of good form and technique, and of course, a heaping dose of friendly competitive spirit.

Throwback Fitness NYC
This evening’s line up was a doozy.
For warmup, we played hot medicine ball. Think hot potato meets musical chairs. If you’re caught with the medicine ball when the music stops, your punishment includes 200 meters on the rowing machine.

Throwback Fitness NYC
Up next: the portion of class called “phys-ed.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but my days of grade-school phys-ed were not ones I would like to re-live. Terrible shuttle runs. Embarrassing pull up competitions. And the endless, endless squat thrusts. Luckily, none of those were on the agenda this evening, but this was definitely the period of class where the focus was on working hard. Really hard. We partnered up into teams of two, switching off continuously between the rowing machine and a series of weighted exercises for a period of 16 minutes. The team who rowed the furthest during the allotted time was the winner.

My partner was fellow NYC fitness blogger Evann Clingan (hi there Evann!), who gave me the sage advice of not going too hard on the rowing machine at the beginning. This isn’t her first Throwback rodeo. “Sixteen minutes is a long time.”

Sixteen minutes is a long time, and I was slowly losing steam. Ryan was always just a step away, cheering everyone on while keeping the group abreast of the rankings. This was a competition, after all! And if you’re motivated by a bit of friendly rivalry, nothing sparks a fire under your stationary rower than being told you’re just 60 meters behind the first-placed team. Go, go, go!

Throwback Fitness NYC

The buzzer marked the end of phys-ed and I found myself lying down on the floor, staring at a Wayne’s World poster on the ceiling, listening to Bone Thugs ‘n Harmony. Despite being physically exhausted (and not winning the competition), I was happy. How could you not be? That was ridiculously fun. Little did I know, however, that the real fun was up next. Time for recess!

The group split into two for a friendly game of dodgeball. Ironically enough, the nurf balls we used were Ninja Turtle characters. That’s right. I was about to be pelted with a bunch of Ninja Turtles. What poetic justice. That’s what I get from telling a little white cartoon lie.

In order to earn an opportunity to throw a ball at the opposing team, we had to cycle through ten pushups, ten sit ups, and ten air squats. If you got hit by a ball, you had to do five burpees to get back into the game. If you caught a ball, the thrower had to do five. You get the picture. I lost track of time (and the number of burpees I had to do) because, truth be told, I was having a grand old time. Dodgeball and recess are fantastic endeavors and should be incorporated into adult life more often. Thank you, Throwback, for making it happen.

Throwback Fitness NYC
The workout ended and we huddled around for the cool down.
I remember this portion vividly because I was signing along to K-Ci & JoJo’s “All My Life” while doing quad stretches. Those 90s hits, man. Classics.

Evann and I grabbed our gym bags, guzzled some water, and headed out into the New York City evening on a high from the hilarious trip down memory lane. The studio is located right next to the Empire State Building, which makes for some impressive scenery on your walk home. Looking at this photo now I realize it was lit up with green lights. One last karmic tribute to the Ninja Turtles. Well played, New York. Well played.

A special shout-out to the kind folks at ClassPass for providing me with a free month so I can get a head start on my long list of NYC fit crashes – thank you!

 

 

Crashing Boston’s Btone Fitness

Boston Common in the rain
For those of you who follow me on social media (hello!) this might be old news, but I wanted to share my review of a fun studio I fit crashed while in Boston last week.
I was in town for an overnight business trip and knew I wanted to sneak in a workout early in the morning before my meetings. I crashed Barry’s Bootcamp last time I visited and wanted to try something just as unique. Finding fun workouts while traveling is always a challenge – in fact, one of the sparks behind this blog was my deep frustration over not being able to find honest  fitness class reviews while visiting Chicago a few years ago.

Whenever I visit a new city, I try to do my homework and find someplace new to crash. Let me tell you, it’s not easy, but I’ve learned a few tricks of the trade. And there’s something truly energizing and fun about experiencing the city through fitness - I think it’s safe to say it’s one of my favorite forms of tourism. So, to come full circle, I may have been in Boston for less than 24 hours but made an extra effort to squeeze in a sweat.

Btone Fitness on Newbury Street in Boston
To give you the full flavor of what my experience was like, let me set the scene for you.

It’s 5:45 a.m. when my alarm goes off. How rude. It’s mocking me by marking the time when I should have awoken refreshed, renewed, and ready to flit out of dreamland and down to Newbury Street for my workout.

Instead, I’ve been up since a 2:30 a.m. siren sent me blearily bolting out of bed and into my sneakers. Wrapped in half-sleep and a crumpled robe, I methodically followed the tide of hotel guests down the stairs. A few of us locked eyes and exchanged silent complaints about the annoyingly crass alarm that set us on this troubled course to begin with. But on the course we went, such as fire alarms go. And after a few moments outside in the cold and rain, we were assured by hotel management that it was a false alarm, all was well, and we should get some sleep. Sleep? Ha. I instead laid achingly awake in a dark hotel room for two hours until my alarm suggested that yes, indeed, it was now time to start the day. Good morning sunshine! Harumph.

So I dug my spandex out of my suitcase, tied on my sneakers once again, and slowly traipsed through the still-falling rain to my workout class at Btone Fitness. Honestly, if I didn’t have a previously-scheduled class to attend, I would have rolled over and tried to snag a cat nap. But I was truly excited to crash this trendy little boutique megaformer studio that I just had to power through and make the most of it.

Btone Fitness on Newbury Street in Boston
Btone sits above fashionable Newbury Street in a wood-floored, cozy space that’s bookended by windows and flooded with natural light.
 It has a stylish and fully-stocked locker room with showers, a couch to hang out on, and storage for your belongings. Btone offers a few different boutique-style classes, including spin on Real Ryder bikes, barre blast, and the signature tone class on the megaformer. They offer a $5 drop-in deal for first-timers, so if you’re visiting or new to Boston, how can you say no?

Our instructor Lisa introduced herself as I got set up on my megaformer, asked if I had any questions, and talked through the upcoming class. I love the personal touch of making newcomers feel welcome. She mentioned another visitor from DC had stopped by earlier in the week – if you’re reading this, leave a comment below, I want to compare notes! Despite my severe lack of sleep, I was looking forward to finding how Btone might differ from classes at other megaformer studios I’ve crashed like Solidcore in DC, Sculpt in Bethesda, and Firebrand in Portland. While the machine is always the same, I’ve come to find that different studios approach teaching the megaformer in subtly unique ways, making it a fun adventure at every new location.

Btone Fitness on Newbury Street in Boston

The class itself wasn’t particularly memorable. Perhaps it was because my head was in a bit of a fog. Perhaps it was because everyone was feeling the early-morning start time. But the class seemed to lag and lacked a certain zesty energy that I’m used to. I didn’t break a sweat, which was really surprising. I wasn’t sore the next day, which was even more surprising. Transitions were slow and the music was just loud enough to be heard but not really felt. I left feeling accomplished but not especially tuckered out.

This might have been a unique case, and as with any studio, overall class awesomeness depends on the particular time of day, the energy from the students, and the instructor. Maybe DC just has crazy-hard, wildly-energetic megaformer classes that have now ruined me from enjoying any others. Who knows!

At any rate, I said my thank yous and good byes and ducked back into the rain for a quick jaunt to the nearest coffee shop for an extra-grande cup of joe. Extra. Grande. After the night I had and an early morning fit crash, it was a grande kind of day.

Until next time, Boston! 

 

CrossFit Praxis Free Introductory Class

crossfit praxis


Crash Course: CrossFit Praxis is located just above the 14th and U intersection and right next door to spin studio Ride DC. It offers members a full schedule of class options to choose from each week, including WODs, endurance classes, mobility classes, CrossFit Football classes, and yoga classes. Praxis also holds two free introductory sessions each week, Wednesdays at 6 p.m. and Saturdays at 11 a.m.


where: 2217 14th Street NW // U Street Metro

bring: water (no water fountain)

perks: free intro class

sweat score: 8 out of 10

wear: whatever you want

instructor: Megan

cost: free 

 

crossfit praxis

Disclaimer: I don’t do CrossFit. In fact, this Praxis crash is only my third official run-in with CrossFit, the first being at an introductory class at Balance Gym last year and the second at an event on the National Mall. I’ve always enjoyed the workouts (or “WODs”) but have never taken that next step to sign up for foundations or join a gym. Why am I sharing this? To let you know that I’m coming at this workout with a beginner’s perspective, and I hope that helps others who are interested in exploring what CrossFit is all about too. And for those of you who are at the box a few times a week and rattle off WOD names like members of your family, than you know the drill already!

crossfit praxis

CrossFit Praxis is a no-frills, we-mean-business space. Its two sprawling workout rooms have soaring ceilings, stark lighting, and rubber floors just begging for more medicine ball slams. The front entryway is lined with a row of metal lockers and an open-storage shelving unit for your belongings.  The only other noticeable accouterment is a shining neon vending unit for Power Supply meals. You won’t find a water fountain to fill your water bottle because the focus here is on the workout, not thirst-quenching, so make sure to BYO.

crossfit praxis

Praxis offers two free introductory classes each week hosted by a rotating cadre of coaches. It’s a great way for the gym to showcase its team members, philosophy, and mission. It’s also a great way for people to check out this CrossFit workout everyone’s been talking about, free of charge. A win-win in my book.

At the session I attended last week, Coach Megan enthusiastically welcomed me and the two other curious souls who showed up to try a WOD on for size. She started with an overview of what CrossFit Praxis is all about, detailing the types of workouts offered, the community and team atmosphere it aims to foster, and added a bit of testimony about her own CrossFit experience. Her passion and dedication to sharing CrossFit with others was palpable. It made me want to jump up and do ten box jumps right then and there. Which is good, because after the introductory briefing, we transitioned immediately to the sweaty portion of class. Box jumps for everyone!

crossfit praxis

Coach Megan took ample time to teach, demonstrate, and provide individual feedback on each of the moves we would be completing in the workout. We learned the ins-and-outs of the box jump, the shoulder press, the air squat, and the CrossFit sit up. I was very impressed with her attention to detail and how she made each of the moves accessible to all of us, no matter our level of experience or ability. I learned I need to work on keeping my weight further back in my heels when I do air squats. I also need to remember to keep my arms back by my ears, not out in front of my face. All excellent tips I’ll take away and use in future workouts.

crossfit praxis
After we had sufficient time to practice each of the techniques, Coach Megan walked us through the day’s workout.
For those of you who are more familiar with CrossFit, she referred to it as a “fight gone bad.” Sounds positive.

In essence, the WOD was a minute of each exercise with a minute of rest at the end, three times through. The exercises were: sit ups, air squats, box jumps, shoulder press, jumping jacks. We were asked to keep track of our total reps at the end of the round and try to better that number during the next one. This is crazy hard to do when you’re working on little rest, gasping for air, and praying to the CrossFit deities that you don’t bite it during a box jump. But I loved the rush I got from trying to beat my own personal goal, and finished the workout feeling accomplished, if not completely wiped out. Compared to the only other intro class I’ve ever done, this one included a workout that really put us through our paces!

sweetgreen

I slowly gathered myself off of the floor after class, thanked Megan and my classmates for an awesome workout, and gingerly made my way around the corner to Sweetgreen for lunch. I was famished and knew I needed to quickly replenish everything I just burned or face that terrible-awful energy crash that comes after a tough session. Sweetgreen offered me a credit to try their May seasonal salad, and this was the perfect opportunity to dive right in. It’s a blend of kale and mesclun leaves with strawberries, feta, cucumber, mint, and dried cranberries with a champagne vinaigrette. I added in shrimp for a little extra protein and topped it all off with a cold glass of strawberry mint limeade. Delicious!

If you’re in the 14th + U neighborhood and are looking for a friendly, real-deal CrossFit introductory class, I recommend popping into Praxis. Give it a go and see how you like it! Oh, and be sure to check out my list of free DC workouts for other free CrossFit intro classes at gyms around the city.

Barre: 60 Class at Barre Tech in Arlington

barre tech arlington


Crash Course: Barre Tech is a boutique barre studio brand born and bred right here in the DMV. It currently has two locations in Alexandria and Arlington, both with free parking and adjacent lounging areas. Barre Tech offers a number of different classes including prenatal, beginner, core, burn, yoga-barre, and more. The barre: 60 class is a full-body workout using small, isolated movements to target arms, abs, thighs, and gluteus. Barre Tech prides itself on being a stickler for proper form and technique (hence the name), so don’t think you’ll get away with those half-witted leg lifts. Every move is explained in detail, and teachers monitor and make recommendations and assists as needed. Click here for a full schedule of classes at both Barre Tech locations. 


where: 3260 Wilson Blvd. // Clarendon Metro

bring: grippy socks

perks: free parking, adjacent cafe

sweat score: 4 out of 10

 

barre tech arlington

Barre Tech (formerly known as Barre Code) recently expanded beyond its flagship studio in Del Ray to a new location just steps from the metro in Clarendon. The building sits across the street from Northside Social and behind the Silver Diner on Wilson Boulevard. It’s the home of Saffron Dance studio and, if you’re a fan of barre workouts, you may have been there when Lava Barre occupied the second floor.  The entrance to Barre Tech is a little tricky to find, but if you go in the door pictured above, you’ll be in the right place.

barre tech arlington

barre tech arlington

The door will open into a small sun-drenched cafe that offers Goûter tonics, tea, bottled water, and a variety of tempting treats. The studio sits just behind the frosted glass, down the hallway on the left. There are cubbies along the wall for your belongings and a bathroom at the back. Pop through the heavy curtains, grab your equipment, and settle in at the barre.

barre tech arlington

The first thing I noticed about the studio itself is the gorgeous natural light pouring in from the windows. The crisp white trim along pale gray walls gives the room a fresh, clean feel. I grabbed a set of two pound weights (I now know better, less is more with those crazy barre arm series), a mat, and set everything up in the center of the room facing the mirror.

barre tech arlington

I forgot my sticky barre socks, so I had to make do with the pair I had on. Luckily they were my favorite, extra-cushy pair of running socks, so I didn’t mind. I did have to take them off for one of the exercises because I didn’t have enough traction, but other than that they did the trick. It was a good reminder that, while having the “right” gear is always nice, it’s not always necessary and shouldn’t keep you from giving it a go anyway!

barre tech arlington

The class was fun, challenging, and the sequences at times reminded me of Pure Barre. Which makes sense, since Amy mentioned she was trained by them. What makes Barre Tech different than any other studio I’ve been to (eight so far) is the instructor’s precise attention to technique and form. I’ll be honest, I’ve been to plenty of studios where I’ve stood at the barre, leg in the air, pulsing away and not having full confidence that I was really doing it right. Some of those ab exercises? Yeah, I think I’m doing those wrong too. It’s not a good feeling.

During this class, Amy came around and made very specific adjustments that helped me understand the movements and really get into the muscles that should be working. I had more than one “ah-ha!” moment where I realized what a particular exercise was supposed to feel like. I was really grateful to have a little extra help and impressed by how much more I got out of class with just a few small tweaks.

barre tech arlington
The playlist was fun and upbeat when it needed to be and calming when we did a stretching segment. The class seamlessly transitioned between mat work to barre work and back again, and Amy encouraged everyone to remember to hydrate throughout the class. It wasn’t particularly sweaty, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be drinking water!

An additional thing to note about my class at Barre Tech: we did a number of different moves that I hadn’t tried at other studios.loved this. I feel that barre can sometimes get a little mundane with the same lifts, tucks, and dips over and over again. As someone who really enjoys variety and mixing things up, it was refreshing to be at the barre trying new things with some expert guidance along the way.

barre tech arlington

Thank you to Amy and her team for hosting a fantastic, technique-filled barre crash. I loved trying out the unique Barre Tech approach and will need to make my way over to Del Ray at some point to visit the original location. Have you been? It has showers and free parking (swoon). If you go, leave a comment and tell me about it!

 

 

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

Yoga + Martial Arts + Plyo Fusion Flow at Yoga Heights DC

yoga heights dc


Crash Course: Yoga Heights is DC’s newest yoga studio located just a  few blocks from the Georgia Ave/Petworth metro stop. It offers a variety of yoga classes, pilates, and nutrition counseling. It’s signature class is the Fusion Flow, a mashup of yoga, martial arts, and plyometrics that promises to deliver an intense, mix-movement interval workout. According to the website, the class is “geared towards building strength, power, and stability in your body.”  Sound like something you’d be interested in? Click here to see a full schedule for the next Fusion Flow class.   


where: 3506 Georgia Ave. // Georgia Ave. and Petworth Metro

bring: mat, towel, water bottle

perks: showers, easy parking, integrated nutrition center

sweat score: 9 out of 10

 

yoga-heights-dc-outside

Do you all remember the crash I did at Athleta last year, the one with the interval workout that put me through my paces? The mastermind behind that class was Amy Rizzotto (photobomber extraordinaire, see above), who hinted to me that evening that she was working with a partner on a new yoga + wellness center in Petworth opening in the Spring of 2014. Well folks, it’s here! The amazing Yoga Heights is now open on Georgia Ave. and offers a really neat selection of unique classes to choose from, including hot power yoga, yogalates, pilates, beginners flow, athlete’s flow, and more.

yoga heights dc

yoga heights dc

Amy is a Certified Nutrition Coach and brings her passion for healthy eating to Yoga Heights through a variety of coaching services. Wellness and fitness isn’t just about sweating up a storm. You have to fuel your body to be its best, too. Yoga Heights brings it all together under one roof, something I have not yet seen in other studios. I’m such a fan of this integrated approach and hope it catches on at other places, especially the larger gyms with budgets to have an RD or nutrition coach on staff.

yoga heights dc

The studio is so new that the outdoor signage is still in process, so look for the white “Yoga Heights” banner hanging in the window. The front lobby area is clean and welcoming. The space has an industrial look to it, with exposed ductwork and clean lines. Amy and her business partner Jess Pierno decorated the space with wood and steel accents that really gives it an edgy-yet-comfortable vibe.

yoga heights dc

If you’re there on Wednesdays, check in with Andrew at the front desk (hi Andrew!) and make yourself comfortable. The lobby area has a selection of tea, a healthy snack bar or two, and a fridge full of Capital Kombucha. The two studio rooms are located down the hallway behind the front desk. The two bathrooms are all the way at the back of the space. I didn’t notice a dedicated changing room, so I popped into one of the luxuriously spacious bathrooms to do a quick-change out of my work clothes and into something more appropriate for class.

yoga heights dc

The bathroom has a shower in it – win! Bonus points for studios where I can freshen up after class and seamlessly get on with my day. I’m not sure if the other bathroom also has a shower, but one is more than enough and better than none!

yoga-heights-dc-biore-wipes

Whenever I go to class right after work, I always like to have face wipes on me so I can take off my makeup before getting down to business. I’ve been using the Say Yes! blueberry wipes forever, but Biore sent me a sample pack and I figured it was worth trying something new. They definitely did the trick, but I don’t think I’ll be using them again. The ingredient list included a few things I’m not so keen on (including parabens) and I’d rather use wipes that are biodegradable.

yoga heights dc

With a squeaky clean face and clad in the fit crasher uniform of head-to-toe spandex, I walked into the room where our fusion flow class would be held that evening. It was pretty dim, so apologies that my photos turned out a tad grainy. If anyone has tips for low-light, high-activity iPhone photos, give a yell!

yoga heights dc

We organized ourselves into two rows of mats facing each other, with Amy in the middle giving instructions and demonstrating. I am so used to a teacher in front, students scattared in the back kind of setup that this new design totally threw me off. Probably a good thing not to get too comfortable, though, right?

yoga heights dc

The fusion class is a combination of yoga, plyometrics, and martial arts movements all fused into one crazy sweat fest. Think budokon with plyometric circuits sprinkled throughout. The class was broken up into a number of circuits, where yoga would build into martial arts and then culminate in a round of cardio or plyometrics. After a quick rest in child’s pose, we were back at in and on to the next round.

yoga heights dc

Let’s just say it got really sweaty, really fast. We began with some sun salutations, but before I could get too comfortable we moved into dolphin pushups and donkey kicks. I loved how each circuit built on itself, from flow to full-out plyo. Amy demonstrated each of the moves before we began the circuit, and I felt that I was able to keep up despite being new to quite a few of them.

yoga heights dc

There was quite a bit of jumping around, so if you’re looking for relaxing yoga, Yoga Heights offers that, but not in this class. I’d also recommend chatting with the teacher before class if you have any injuries or concerns. Since plyometrics are pretty explosive, this may not be the best option for folks recovering from injuries.

That said, if you like yoga but want to kick it up a notch with some added cardio and challenges, I definitely recommend checking out the fusion class. It’s a unique twist on your traditional yoga class that takes an extremely athletic approach. It’s also a ton of fun. I got a kick (literally) out of attempting handstands, learning a funky martial arts slash breakdancing move, and sweating up a storm.

yoga heights dc

Your first class is free at Yoga Heights, and after that drop-ins are $18. I’d love to come back and try the Athlete’s Flow or Yogalates class.

To Jess and Amy: a “thank you” to you and your team for hosting my crash at Yoga Heights. Congrats on the grand opening and welcome to the neighborhood!

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