Crash Course: SolidCore is the first studio in DC to offer the Lagree Fitness Method, a high-energy, low-impact, full-body workout done on a monster spring-loaded pilates machine called the MegaFormer. The classes are small, the teachers are motivational, and the playlists are rockin – which is good, because you’ll need to muster all the extra oomph you can during this crazy sweat sesh. The class is a megawatt combination of pilates, barre, yoga, and body pump, sprinkled with a little zen and then doused in a pool of awesome. Click here for a full schedule of class times at SolidCore.
perks: small class size
sweat score: 9 out of 10
wear: whatever you’re comfortable sweating in
SolidCore studio opened this past weekend in Adams Morgan on the same block as neighborhood favorites Mintwood restaurant and Fleet Feet running store. It’s the brainchild of Back On My Feet founder Anne Mahlum, who fell in love with the Lagree Method in LA and New York and decided DC needed to be in on the fun. And we are so glad she did, because this monster workout is the perfect match for DC’s slightly crazed, uber competitive, type-A intensity.
The SolidCore website describes the method as:
using slow and controlled full-body movements with constant muscle tension [to work] all muscle fibers to failure leaving them no choice but to rebuild, which leaves you with a more defined, toned and stronger body.
Let’s go over that again: Slow, low-impact movements + Failing muscle fibers = Toned body. Seems so civilized when you put it that way. But when Lorde is blaring over the loud speaker, the instructor is urging you to lunge a little deeper, the clock mocks you with a full minute to go, and your legs are simultaneously seizing and shaking…civilized is the last thing that comes to mind. More like: Challenging. Insane. Badass. Definitely badass.
The megaformer may look like a pilates machine, but let me be the first to tell you that this ain’t your momma’s pilates class. It’s the younger, hipper, crazier cousin from California. The one with the enviable tan and Jennifer Aniston arms.
While all of the pilates classes I’ve been to focus on posture, grace, and building lean muscles, this class is focused on making your muscles cry for mercy. All of them. All at once. And if pilates classes are soflty playing Norah Jones and Sara Barielles in the background, SolidCore is blasting rock while the instructor coaxes you into another round through his Janet Jackson headset microphone.
How was the workout? Really fun. It’s engaging from start to finish and there was never one moment when I was bored or unmotivated. Which is good, because if you haven’t caught on yet, the detail that stands out most in my mind is this: SolidCore is really, really challenging. Honed athletes and weekend warriors were struggling hand in hand. Which is awesome, because it shows the impressive versatility and accessibility of this workout for every fitness level. But it’s also awesome because I have never seen a class humble every fitness type, across the board, from start to finish.
Yes it’s hard. Yes it’s unlike anything you’ve tried before. Yes you will be sore in weird places for days after you walk out the door. But don’t let the workout itself intimidate you, because I can honestly say it is one of the most effective things I’ve ever done. As someone who injured themselves with too many high-impact miles on DC pavement, a low-impact, super high-intensity workout like this is a godsend. Not only does it scratch the masochistic itch to put yourself through the wringer, it also delivers the safe body strengthening benefits of a barre method or mat pilates class. I’m sold. Now, there’s only one problem…
The price. At $35 per drop-in class, SolidCore is hitting the top tier of high-end boutique studio pricing in DC. [Note: sessions are less expensive if you buy a package deal.] On my current budget, it’s is just not something I can realistically do all the time. Which is a shame, because I’d love to go multiple times a week and make it part of my normal routine. Yes, I liked it that much. As a fit crasher, that’s saying something. I ran into the same problem after falling in love with Capital Gyrotonic and Georgetown Pilates, both of which charge over $40 per session. Guess I have expensive taste in sweat.
Hey, I’m all about splurging on health and fitness. Believe me, nothing is more important to my own personal happiness and sanity. And if you can afford it, I think there’s no better way to spend your fitness budget than on something you enjoy, whether that’s CrossFit, SolidCore, or that carbon fiber triathlon bike you’ve been lusting after. But I also believe in living within my means. At least until my memoirs sell for millions or el bloggolito gets purchased by a major fitness publication. (Hey, a girl can dream!)
So, SolidCore, I will be back for your high-octane brand of awesome. Just know I may have to have a bake sale or two before I do.
What’s your take on boutique fitness studio pricing: too darn high or worth the splurge?
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
perks: small class size
sweat score: 4 out of 10
wear: comfortable clothes for full range of movement
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: Thank Dog Bootcamp does three things: strength and cardio training for you, obedience training for your dog, and making sure Fido gets a workout too. The idea is to get dogs and their owners moving and working up a sweat, all while learning basic commands and doggie etiquette. This isn’t a killer hour of cardio that will get you in shape for your next Ironman. But it is a fun, healthy, active hour to spend bonding with your four legged friend. For more information, visit the Thank Dog Bootcamp website.
perks: you workout. your dog works out. everyone goes home happy.
sweat score: 4 out of 10
wear: clothes fitting for the outside weather
cost: $35 drop-in, packages available
The Thank Dog Bootcamp website has this to say about their mission and goals:
We are the nation’s first (and best) outdoor fitness program combining dog training, weight training and cardio training for dogs and their people. We are a one-stop fitness program where everything gets done in one hour – saving you time and money. Enlisting in our bootcamp can get you the body you’ve always wanted and a well-trained and happy dog!
Now, I know what you all must be thinking. “Hey, Meaghan, you don’t have a dog, so why in the world did you crash a dog and owner bootcamp.” Well, friends, the answer is fairly simple. Let me break it down for you. (A) I love dogs. I don’t have one, but I will jump at any opportunity to spend some QT with a four legged buddy. And (B), the purpose of this blog is to check out every single workout in this darn city. If I’ve put myself through strongman training, stripper bootcamp, and Jazzercize, then I sure as heck am going to crash this puppy. Pun totally intended.
Here’s the skinny.
I drove over to Arlington early Saturday morning and parked the car near Quincy Street Park. You can’t miss it, it’s huge. Coffee in one hand, yoga mat in the other, I slowly made my way over to the group of folks and dogs congregating off to the side of the soccer field by the tennis courts.
After awkwardly introducing myself as that “girl who didn’t bring a dog to the dog bootcamp,” I was warmly welcomed by owners and wet noses alike. It was quickly apparent that everyone is welcome here. Big dogs, little dogs, athletes, folks working on increasing their activity levels, and all sorts of wonderful in-betweens. So if you fit anywhere in that spectrum, this is your crowd.
It was then that Karen, the owner and lead trainer at Thank Dog, introduced me to my borrowed workout buddy, Rosie. “She’s the lazy one,” Karen said. I mean, look at her face people. Look at it. As much as I tried to bring some pep into the process, she just wasn’t digging this whole “working out before 9 a.m.” thing. I hear ya girl. Sometimes you just have to close your eyes, burry your head, and pretend you’re back in your cozy bed until it’s all over.
Too bad the “I don’t see you, you don’t see me, so I can’t do any more wind sprints” approach doesn’t exactly work. Nice try, Rosie.
Okay, so the class begins with a warm up jog around the block, with various commands called out along the way for humans and dogs. Humans should expect some lunges, side-shuffles, and mountain climbers. For all you dogs out there reading this review, expect to sit, lie down, stay, and heel while all of this craziness is going on.
The one-hour class transitions between “human time” and “puppy time,” meaning there are dedicated segments for each. During the human time, dogs will be tethered next to their owners and expected to lie down or sit for the duration. In other words, they get box seats to the show as you do a series of weighted exercises targeting the legs, arms, and abs.
Karen is great about coming around to each person, correcting form, offering encouragement, and dolling out a belly rub to the dog waiting patiently by your side. She has a palpable and genuine enthusiasm for what she does, and from what this non-dog owner can tell, she’s good at it. The dogs listen and learn from her. And the rest of us humans had a sweaty time trying to keep up.
Back to the crash. As I mentioned before, the human boot-camp portion was not the hardest workout I’ve ever done, but that isn’t necessarily the aim of this class. It does provide a full body workout that can be modified to fit any fitness goal. Want to make it harder? Run faster, do more reps, add more weight. Just happy to be outside and enjoying the class? You can do that too!
I will say this: there is a lot to fit into an hour and you will be moving the entire time. It’s not a sedentary experience by any means. You will run sprints, work on your pushups, hop into a few jumping jacks, lunge, and play around outside. All the while your dog is learning important commands, socializing with you and other dogs, and getting in a great workout.
The class ends with some key stretches and last minute commands. Nothing like doing a few upward and downward-facing dogs next to the real deal. Meanwhile, the dogs enjoyed one last chance to “sit,” “stay,” and “lie down.”
What a fun way to spend an hour of your weekend! Thanks to Karen, her dogs Rosie and Sasha, and the rest of the crew for inviting me to crash Thank Dog Bootcamp. If there’s ever a pup in need of a workout buddy in the future, I hope you all know who to call : )
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
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: Capitol Hill Fitness is a boutique circuit training studio smack-dab in the middle of Barracks Row on Capitol Hill. Just a short jaunt from the Eastern Market metro stop, the small space is packed with functional training equipment perfect for all sorts of sweaty endeavors. But don’t confuse this gym with just any old circuit circus. What sets Capitol Hill Fitness apart is its commitment to offering (a) low-impact HIIT training that goes easy on the knees, hips, and everything in-between (b) a drop-in-anytime policy and (c) competitive pricing. Check out more details on their Facebook page.
where: 725 8th Street SE/Eastern Market Metro
perks: no reservation/membership needed, joint-friendly, 30-minute workout
sweat score: 7 out of 10
wear: anything that’s comfy
cost: $10 for 30 minute circuit
Enthusiasm. Encouragement. Ermagawd HIIT without hurting my knees. That’s what comes to mind when I think of my experience at Capitol Hill Fitness. In a fabulous twist of fate, Breelaun reached out to me about fit crashing his new studio just in the nick of time. I was getting back into the swing of things on ye olde blog and looking for something new and different to crash. His email taunted me with a few irresistible factoids: the oldest participant was 83, the youngest 10; the entire workout is low-impact and joint friendly; I’d experience a full-body butt kicking in just 30 minutes. Intrigued? Absolutely.
So on a brisk fall morning I hitched a ride to an uncharacteristically quiet Capitol Hill (ahem, furlough much?) to meet Breelaun and tackle his workout of the day. Walking into the studio, it quickly became apparent that the space is no bigger than a local Starbucks. Definitely puts the “boutique” in “boutique gym.” Every piece of equipment has its spot, and loose odds and ends like medicine balls, barbells, and yoga mats were meticulously tucked away. “You can do over 800 different exercises with the equipment here,” Breelaun enthusiastically explained. My eyes grazed the room, hungry to try each and every one, all the while imagining all the crazy ways one could burn calories with a Bosu Ball. Or a TRX. Could I do burpees on that rowing machine? 800 different exercises. Color me impressed.
Let’s take a moment to talk about Breelaun. A fitness class is nothing without a qualified, encouraging, helpful instructor. Or else, let’s face it, you may as well be doing max reps at your local Globo Gym. The minute I walked in the studio, Breelaun was a bopping bundle of energy. His excitement to get started was contagious. I rested my coffee on the front desk, set down my backpack, and followed him around the room as he demonstrated the moves at each station. All with a smile. As if this was going to be party. Wait, I’m here for the as-advertised butt-kicking, right?
Ah yes, right. And so we began. Today’s circuit consisted of 16 different stations. One thing I noticed: there was no warm up. Diving-in cold turkey isn’t for everyone, so if you need a little extra kick-start, I suggest taking a few minutes to do some dynamic stretching or perhaps run around the block before hand.
Once you get started, it’s all business for the next 30 minutes. Don’t expect a water break or time to check your Instagram feed. Each station worked a different set of muscles and techniques. Some focused exclusively on mobility and balance, some on cardio, and others on strength. Breelaun had an eagle-eye on the clock the entire time, coaching us through the moves and providing modifications or corrections if needed. Most of the time, I just needed to know that the clock wasn’t broken and, yes, I had 30 more seconds left with the medicine ball.
So what did I think of a low-impact HIIT workout sans burpees, box jumps, or high knees? It was a surprising mix of muscle-shaking exhaustion and enjoyment all wrapped into one fascinating bundle. Just because we weren’t thrashing about the room didn’t mean we weren’t working hard. Stationary side leg raises were killer. V-ups with a yoga block between my feet were brutal. And two stints on the rowing machine? Don’t even get me started. *wipes sweat*
If you’re used to workouts that incorporate high-impact moves, Capitol Hill Fitness will definitely challenge your idea of what makes an exercise difficult. I finished the circuit in 30 minutes, fully satisfied I had received a thoroughly effective workout, without feeling like I had abused my body. It’s hard to explain, but I left feeling as though I had done a HIIT workout underwater. All the benefits without a lot of the extra pain and strain.
This is a great spot to check out for anyone looking for a time-effective, quality workout. 30 minutes in-and-out, no reservations or class times to schedule. Just show up sometime between 6 a.m. and 8:30 p.m.
Capitol Hill Fitness’s approach to interval training is particularly awesome for folks with mobility issues, joint injuries, or general distaste for unnecessary jumping around. As a runner, I loved the idea of completing a full-body cross training session without added strain on my ankles, hips, and knees. Thanks for the crash, Breelaun, and I hope to be back again soon!