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.
where: 4900 Auburn Avenue/Bethesda, MD
perks: small class size, towels
sweat score: 6 out of 10
wear: recommend spandex bottoms
instructor: Mary Farber
cost: $20 first class/$35 drop-in
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
I have a confession to make: there are things I miss about belonging to a big box gym. To be clear, there are many more things I do not miss, but this week I realized I was accumulating a tiny list in the back of my mind of things that would make my fitness life so much easier…and then realized that those things were all perks associated with having a gym membership. I stopped cold in my tracks. Could it be? Could I actually be pining after monthly membership fees, decks of TVs turned to channels I don’t want to watch, and that adductor machine everyone hates? Not exactly. But let me explain.
1. Workout On My Own Schedule
You know those weeks when your schedule hurls itself out the window and nothing you had planned works out? Yeah, this was one of those weeks. Which meant that every fit crash I had on my agenda had to be cancelled at the last minute. As in, sometimes calling from the car stuck in traffic last minute. Sorry barre method. Sorry boot camp. Sorry run with friend after work. It just didn’t happen. And half-way through the week, I thought, wouldn’t it be lovely to workout on MY schedule. Even if it’s erratic and temperamental right now. Even if that means I don’t get around to it till 9:25 p.m. The truth is that there are one too many factors that can derail plans to get to the studio in time for a class. Life happens. The metro is delayed (shocker). Traffic accidents. Last minute 5 p.m. meetings with the boss as you’re walking out the door. No parking after circling the block 10 times. Needing to do laundry and get groceries instead. Bottom line: working out on somebody else’s schedule isn’t always easy.
Thanks to Drop In, I had an opportunity to workout for free at BodySmith in Logan Circle a few weekends ago. It was the first time I had been at a “big box gym” in ages. Because of ice and snow, my plan was to do a long run on the treadmill, scoot around to check out the weight options, and then meet friends for dinner after. Which I could do without being a sweaty mess because BodySmith has showers. Ah-ha! What a convenience! I am so used to running out of studios in my workout duds, hair all sweaty, clothes icky and damp. Cleaning up after class with fresh towel service and a fully stocked shower felt down right luxurious. I could seamlessly go about my day without the time-suck of going home, showering, and then heading back out to wherever I was going. I know there are a few boutique studios in DC with showers, but the majority do not have them. I understand why: they take up space, require cleaning, and are an added expense. But showers are a little time-saving perk that I sometimes really miss.
DC’s boutique fitness scene is about as varied as they come. You want options? We’ve got options. But there are days when I just want to do my own thing and need the right equipment. Thirty minutes of running followed by weighted squats and pull ups. Or a HIIT workout with medicine balls and kettle bells. Or intervals on the stationary bike, treadmill, and rower with a few dumbbell reps thrown in for good measure. While I have a few pieces of key equipment in my apartment, it’s not a gym by any means. There’s also the issue of not being able to jump around without my downstairs neighbor wanting to kill me. So okay, I admit it, sometimes I do miss having access to a gym with all the fun toys.
I don’t have plans to join a gym any time soon. Nine times out of ten, I love bouncing around town to explore the smaller nooks and crannies of DC’s fitness scene. But there are those days – like this week – when boutique fitness just isn’t convenient. And as the blogger who has often put her hands up and backed away from the idea of big box fitness, I felt the need to come clean. So there you have it folks, the post I never thought I’d write.
Have a great weekend!
Which option do you think has the most perks: big gyms or boutique studios?
I took a quick trip up to New York City last weekend and here is what I discovered: that city is a veritable cornucopia of fit crashing potential. Folks jaunt about in fashionable fitness clothes with yoga mats and green juices in tow, ducking in and out of bikram this and tone that. I honestly lost count of the number of times I said “oh hey, that looks like a great spot to crash!” And that was just on the first day. That city is packed to the brim with every kind of fitness staple, trend, fad, and everything in-between. I was overwhelmed. I was enamored. I was in desperate need of more than just a few days!
While I originally planned to visit more studios, the truth of the matter is I only visited two. Being in NYC was also a welcome opportunity to reconnect with friends, visit with family, explore the city, and just take a break from my normal routine in DC. That said, I want to share a few of the weekend’s fitness highlights:
1. Sweating with ClassPass
I had the fantastic opportunity to spend Friday with the team from ClassPass, who were kind enough to show me exactly what they do best: enabling fit crashing at the hottest studios all over town. Can you handle two crashes in one day, they asked? Bring it on, I said. Bring. It. On.
We started the afternoon at Uplift, a ladies-only boutique fitness loft in Chelsea offering strength training, cardio, and private events like their workout+wine series. You read that right. There’s no way that’s not amazing; unless, of course, the wine comes before the workout. But back to our fit crash. I joined Simona for the ”Uplifting – Strength” class, a full-body workout incorporating weighted interval training. She promised I’d love it. She was absolutely right.
The studio itself is lovely and perfectly New York. It is nestled into an airy, light-infused loft that has gorgeous crown moulding, gleaming hardwood floors, and towering bay windows. If you go, I recommend checking out Liz’s strength class. Crazy energy, creative moves, and you’ll leave with wobbly legs and an urgent need to foam roll.
After class, we popped over to the NYC Sweetgreen location to join the rest of the team for lunch. It’s enormous and bustling to the brim with salad-loving locals. Since Sweetgreen started in DC, it also felt like a little piece of home, so you can imagine my excitement as I whipped out my app and rattled off my usual order like no big deal.
We let our lunch settle over conversation about workouts, fitness apps, blog posts, what exactly makes the Sweetgreen bread so delicious, and other topics of the day. Before we knew it, it was time to hike over to Revolve NYC for an ultra-sweaty spin class with Jason Tran.
This class was bananas. I have never been to a NYC nightclub, but I swear the experience has to be the spitting image of Jason’s class. There as bumping music. Flashing lights. Sweaty bodies. Spontaneous dancing and gyrating. Sing-alongs. Beyonce. You name it. It happened. Ba-nananas. What a fun way to close out my time with the ClassPass team. They truly knew how to treat a fit crasher right, and I am so thankful to have had the chance to connect with them during my stay. ClassPass expanded to Boston last week, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed DC is next!
I adore DC’s bikeshare system. So when I laid eyes on the bright blue docks on street corners in NYC, I knew it was only a matter of time before I was whirling around town on two wheels. It’s such an easy way to see the sights, and so much more convenient than taking public transportation. It didn’t hurt that the weather was abnormally warm and sunny on Saturday, reaching into the mid 60s by the afternoon. Perfect biking weather if you ask me! I rolled along the West Side Highway, around the Meatpacking District, over to Chelsea Market, up to the High Line, and finally to a dappled roof-top bar for some much-needed hoppy refreshment. Cheers!
3. Running Along the Hudson
Before spending hours sitting on the train back to DC, I work up early on Sunday morning to log a few miles along the West Side Highway running path. Luckily it was easy to find and just a few blocks from my hotel. Sending a “thank you!” to fellow fitness blogger and NYC local Evann Clingan for the excellent suggestion. My Cherry Blossom 10 Miler training plan called for eight miles that morning, but tired legs and a tight timetable meant I only had thirty minutes to scoot around. That was perfectly fine by me! It was just long enough to get the blood flowing, work up a sweat, and take in the NYC skyline one more time.
I had the most fantastic time on my little weekend getaway to the Big Apple. There are so many more studios and classes I’m itching to try, so I’ll have to make a return trip soon!
Do share! What are your favorite NYC fitness spots?
Crash Course: Studio CenterPointe delivers functional fitness training in a personalized, small group environment. The trainers specialize in crafting strength, mobility, agility, balance, power, and endurance. The Bring Your Own Body (BOYB) bootcamp class is designed to use students’ own bodyweight to build strength and balance. Expect a healthy dose of air squats, wall walks, burpees, and other favorites. This class is a great introduction to functional training and a fantastic training compliment for the more advanced athlete hoping to round out their routine. Every class is different and moves are scaled to your ability. Click here for a schedule of class times.
where: 1802 Adams Mill Road/Adams Morgan
bring: towel, water bottle
perks: personalized attention, small class size
sweat score: 6 out of 10
wear: whatever makes you happy
instructor: May Bend
cost: $20 drop in
Studio CenterPointe is located in the basement of 1802 Adams Mill Road, just under the Starbucks and a lunge away from Stroga. The space used to be a hemp shop, but now stocks barbells instead of bongs. Go figure. The sign doesn’t pop out at you when passing by on the street, so be sure to keep your eyes down, especially if they’re a little bleary before the 6 a.m. BOYB class.
I’m testing out this new map widget to help give a better sense of where studios are located – what do you think?
Back to the crash. I showed up at 5:50 a.m., completely dazed and not quite sure what to expect. I’m familiar with the concept of functional training, it’s the stuff CrossFit fame is made of, but wasn’t sure how much function or how much movement we’d be asked to perform at this harrowing hour. I hadn’t had breakfast or coffee and was in desperate need of both.
But let the record stand that my laces were tied, I had a clean shirt on that wasn’t backwards or inside out, and by golly I was ready to rock.
It helped that blogger friends Mary and Allison were also part of the early morning pain train. It was fun to see friendly faces and have a few fellow bloggers to laugh with during those awkward moments when the spirit compels you to take that action-shot during a burpee or snap a selfie while stretching. Ahem. Guilty as charged. Moving on.
The studio itself is spartan. Except for the olympic rings dangling from the rafters, there are no large pieces of equipment cluttering the floor. The functional training toys at CenterPointe are stored in the back, leaving the entire floorspace open. I loved the feel of having all of that blank space. For some reason, it really got my imagination going about all the different types of workouts one could construct. Just add equipment, stir in a little sweat, maybe a dash of classic rock, and voila.
As the clock cranked to 6 a.m., we three bloggers circled up with the rest of class – six ladies in total – and after quick introductions we started the morning’s warm up. This involved many, many jumping jacks, a few long-hold planks, and some range of motion drills. I was definitely warmed up by the time we were through. It was time to move on the workout of the day, which looked something like this.
But before we got around to the actual workout, we spent a great deal of time going over each exercise in detail. May is an encyclopedia of functional fitness knowledge, and from my experience that morning, she definitely brings an enormous amount of smarts and passion to making sure each student learns in a safe, welcoming, and professional environment. She is adamant about proper form and took the time to walk us through the ins and outs of double-unders, air squats, and wall walks.
We started with a number of jump rope drills to get everyone comfortable with the proper technique. We then practiced trying to do advance from single jumps to doubleunders, which is a lot harder than it looks. I managed to complete one, and spent the rest of the time accidentally hitting myself with the rope during my fevered attempts to whirl it around twice.
Thwack. Ouch. Thwack. Dang it. Thwack. Ouch!
I was encouraged multiple times to “show that rope who’s boss,” and believe me I tried, but this is just one area I’ll have to mark as “needs improvement.”
We spent the next few minutes going through the technical details of air squatting and wall walks. Again, form is king here, so don’t expect to get away with breezing through the movement without focusing on the specifics. After May finished demonstrating both, we were asked to complete a round in front of the group. This definitely ups the intimidation factor for new students, but I appreciated the opportunity to get personalized feedback. Just know that you should be prepared to air squat on cue.
It seemed like we spent the majority of the class learning and practicing technique, with the actual workout serving as a homework assignment at the end. By the time we got around to the morning’s scheduled WOD, we had 15 minutes to complete the AMRAP of wall walks, doubleunders, and air squats. Don’t get me wrong, this was plenty hard, but I left feeling like the focus of the morning’s class was more on teaching and practicing the technique and less on the workout itself. Not necessarily a bad thing at all, but just not what I expected going in.
That said, if you are new to functional training, getting the movements right from the very beginning is absolutely essential to staying safe and getting the maximum benefit. So I think this class offers an important resource with those goals in mind. If you have a more athletic background with experience in this kind of training, I suggest reaching out to May for more information about some of her more advanced class offerings, like Raise the Bar.
Thank you to May and her athletes for hosting me, and thank you to Allison and Mary for completing the fit crashing blogger trifecta. Next time – coffee first!
What time do you workout in the morning? Is 6 a.m. really early for anyone else?
Note: While CenterPointe invited me to try a free class, my review is based entirely on my honest-to-goodness personal experience. Thanks for reading!
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!
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?
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
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!
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!
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!
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!
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.
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?