Two weekends ago, fellow blogger Amy invited me to participate in an outdoor crossfit workout on the National Mall hosted by a few local crossfit boxes. I’ve only done one intro-to-crossfit class in my life, so I truly had no idea what to expect other than a sweaty good time. Luckily, my blogging buddy Anne was in attendance to translate the instructions and provide some much-needed early morning motivation. Two thumbs up!
It was an absolutely perfect DC morning with low humidity, brilliant sunshine, and not a cloud in the sky. No matter what the workout was, I was happy to be doing it outside and in the shadow of the Washington Monument and Capitol building. You can’t get this view at the gym, that’s for sure!
After a few opening remarks, each person grabbed a sandbag and headed to the middle of the grassy Mall area to await our first task. The workout consisted of five different stations, each with a series of team exercises to complete. All of the stations had an element of cardio (typically wind sprints), strength (always something with the sandbag), and agility (bear crawls, traveling burpees, etc).
My team was a fitness blogger trifecta. We helped each other take photos, thought up some tweets, and I think there was even some live-action-Instagramming going on during one of the squat sets (guilty). On the left is Anne and to my right is Ericka, who I hadn’t met in person yet but, as is always the case in the blogging world, knew lots about from following her site. We had a fun time chatting about our various sweaty endeavors and compared notes about workouts we want to try next. Oh yeah, and we got in a crazy sweat too…
I mean, who wouldn’t after an hour and a half of wind-sprinting, bear crawling, and sand-bag-dead-lifting in the summer sun?
As with any organized activity taking place in a major tourist attraction, we got a lot of odd looks and questions from passers-by. We must have looked like a fitness flash mob. What…this isn’t how you spend your Saturday morning downtown?
Also, I need to give a shout-out and a big “thank you!” to all of the instructors who were on hand to assist with the event. As a crossfit newbie, there were many moves that I just didn’t get right off the bat. They were extremely thorough in their explanations, demonstrations, and were never too far away to provide a quick adjustment when needed. Which is important when hurling a heavy sandbag over one’s shoulder. Bravo.
I would love to join this group again if they hosted another outdoor session. I’ll be sure to keep an eye out on their schedule. Great workout, fun folks, and you really can’t beat the location. While I don’t think I am a crossfit convert just yet, I can definitely see the appeal from a fitness perspective. That, and there were post-workout Pleasant Pops for our group to enjoy. So that added to the appeal. Fitness + food is always a win in my book.
Thank you to Amy (left), Anne, and Ericka for the fun day!
Crash Course: Roam Fitness is a boutique gym located in the Glover Park neighborhood that offers personal training, a carefully curated selection of functional training equipment, and a few non-traditional group fitness classes. One of them is a genius combination of outdoor bootcamp circuits and running, as if one weren’t hard enough without the other. This class would not be great for the first-time runner, but seems best fit for those who are comfortable running more than three miles on trail and pavement. If you’re tired of your normal running routine, this is a surefire way to shake things up. Click here for a schedule.
where: 2505 Wisconsin Ave., NW/basement of the Savoy Hotel
perks: free parking, access to shower, small class, outside
sweat score: 8 out of 10
wear: recommend trail shoes, clothes you don’t mind getting dirty
cost: drop in rate is $25 or pay $22 for a month of unlimited Out Run classes
I walked into the small but well-appointed Roam Fitness at approximately 6:20 a.m. It was early enough that I wasn’t questioning why our instructor was stuffing his backpack full of bands, ropes, and other torture devices. I just yawned, submitted to my fate, and began a routine that looked like stretching, hoping to blend in and be left alone. Hey, it was early.
Looking around, I noticed that the gym itself is very…cozy. It wouldn’t hold a lot of people, but maybe that’s the idea.
As the clock rolled around to 6:30, it was time for us to get out of the door and on to our workout. We all had offices to be in by 9 and knew it was now or never to get in a morning sweat. Luckily, it was a rare DC morning with low(er) humidity and brilliant sunshine. There were only three of us in the class, all ladies and each of a different experience level.
We followed Chris, our instructor, as he bounded from the Savoy Hotel across Wisconsin Avenue and into the the heart of Glover Park. As the pace picked up, I suddenly found myself wide awake, looking around, and wondering…where exactly was this Out Run excursion taking us?
I have been a DC runner for nine years and pride myself on knowing some of the area’s most obscure and tucked-away running routes. It’s really more an outcome of marathon-training desperation than exploration. But this morning was exactly what I needed to remember why running in DC is so awesome: no matter how well you think you know your routes, there’s still more out there to discover.
For example, I had never…ever…run through the tidy row houses of Glover Park to join the Glover-Archibald trail at the edges of the neighborhood. The trail entrance is completely tucked away and easily missed, so I was surprised when our little gang of four suddenly veered off the pavement and into the nearest hedge. Before I knew it, we were under a canopy of huge green trees and treading on dirt.
Every half-mile or so, we stopped to do a different set of exercises. This is where the real fun begins. Who needs a tidy gym when you can do tricep dips on a log? Or planks in a dew-soaked field?
Cross-over mountain climbers in the dirt, anyone? If this was a video, you’d also hear the croak of frogs hanging out in the creek behind us. I mean, really, let’s break it down for a hot second. You could do your morning workout in a gym with towel service, air conditioning, rows of treadmills, florescent lighting, and muzak. Or you could get out into nature and play around like it’s recess…all before rush hour. At least in my book, the winning option is obvious.
We continued on for a total of about four miles. Up hills, down hills, and every few minutes stopping for another round of surprises. There were a few moments of morning clarity when I realized what was going on and thought…wow, this is so much better than when I run by myself before work.
The second half of the run is when we started incorporating some of the gear in Chris’ backpack. He would find an open space, signal for us to stop, zip open the pack, and before we could blink we were doing another set of this or that. These partner resistance bands were awesome. We did some standing twists and arm strengtheners.
Our final destination on this morning’s Out Run was Holy Rood Cemetery, which I have passed a zillion times but have never been in. It’s perched above Wisconsin Avenue and Chris was adamant about showing us the view from the top. After three sweaty miles, we were all tired, and I had my doubts the promised vistas would be worth the effort. We entered the property at the bottom of the hill and, true to form, Chris reached into his backpack to pull out a different set of resistance bands. But in that brief moment of transition, we all noticed a tiny baby deer sleeping soundly in front of us, nestled into the grass next to a tomb. So very awesome.
After taking a few moments to admire our very own little Bambi, we were off again, chugging up the Holy Rood hill with partner resistance bands. One runner would hold the band, while the other would take ten strides forward, ten shuffles to the side, ten backward, and ten to the other side. This was an awesome way to work in lateral movement, not to mention a killer interval workout.
We finally made it to the top to admire the promised-view. Chris was right, it definitely didn’t disappoint. As we huffed, puffed, and wiped the sweat out of our eyes, we took in the panorama of the Kennedy Center, the Washington Monument, and Georgetown. What a way to end the workout!
Bottom line: this is way more fun than waking up to slog through your normal morning loop solo. The instructor is energetic, the group is friendly and engaged, and the routes are entertaining. Yes the morning class is early, but it’s worth it. They also have an evening option for those who can’t make it at 6:30 a.m. Out Run is an awesome few miles coupled with important cross training exercises that will make you a better runner and a better athlete. I will definitely be back soon – thanks Roam Fitness!
It has been weeks since my London trip and I haven’t told you about the one true crash I did while there. I searched high and low for a place that would offer a no-joke workout in a location convenient to where I was staying. Our days were absolutely filled to the brim with touring around, and sneaking in a formal workout proved to be a bit harder than I had anticipated. So I was over the moon when I stumbled upon Frame, a boutique studio in the Queen’s Park neighborhood. After pouring over their crazy-awesome class selection (trampoline workout or 80s aerobics, anyone?), I decided to check out one of their signature classes called Frame Camp.
The lobby is bright and airy with fun chalkboard walls and a great collection of magazines. A very chic front desk attendant in a slouchy sweater and darling British accent welcomed me to the space and helped me sign in.The drop-in price for a class is 13 pounds (almost $20)…more expensive than I would have liked, but I chalked it up to investing in a fun new experience. And to be honest, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get the fish and chips kicked out of me for 30 minutes at a trendy London boutique like this, could I?
So what is Frame Camp all about? It’s a high intensity 30 minute class combining 15 minutes of treadmill intervals with 15 minutes of plyometric conditioning. Think squats, push ups, free weights, etc. There were five of us in the class and we split up into two groups. I started out with the plyometrics portion and was crying uncle within just a few moments. I thought 15 minutes would be a breeze…but holy smokes was I mistaken. There was no rest in between sets and we just plowed through. As everything in my body started to shake, the instructor turned up the music and just kept going. Beast. The bell went off to signal the mid-point, and I hobbled over to the treadmill.
Let’s get one thing straight. Words cannot describe how much I abhor these torture devices. Very little makes me hate exercising…but these puppies come dangerously close. So you can imagine my excitement about the second half of the workout involving 15 minutes of treadmill intervals. See this? This is me hitting snooze and excusing myself from class. Bor-ing. But since I was in a foreign country and had already forked over my pub fare for a sweat, I decided to play nice and go with it. It was 15 minutes. I can do anything for 15 minutes.
Let the record show that I was horribly wrong about the treadmill. At least in one respect. While it was still as entertaining as watching paint dry, I found the 30 second intervals to be a worthwhile challenge. Check out the photo and try it sometime, I promise you’ll be in a pool of sweat at the end. The competitive type in me overshot my target “base” pace by quite a bit, so I ended up having a few moments of panic as I realized my feet may not be able to keep up with the belt. But in my mind I was winning. Winning what? Not sure, but it felt good.
Would I regularly pay $20 in the US for a similar class? Probably not, because I like to do circuit training on my own. But it was a great (and time-effective) workout while on the road. I got cardio and weight training, left a tired and sweaty mess (see exhibit A above), and felt re-energized to tackle a couple more days of touring the city. If you are traveling to London and need a fun option to get you out of the hotel gym, definitely check out Frame. If this isn’t your thing, I recommend browsing my new website obsession, Fitness Freak. It’s DC Fit Crasher on steroids and your one-stop shop to working out in London. Even if you aren’t planning a trip any time soon, just checking out the crazy-fun events and studios they feature is entertainment enough. Enjoy!
How do you find workout spots while on the road?
On Sunday, I will finish my last class with Capital Rowing Club’s Learn to Row program. Can you believe it? I can’t – honestly, where did the time go. When I look back over the other posts I’ve shared about my experience, it seems unreal how far we’ve come in just a few weekends. We started off floundering in big, bulky barges and now we’re learning to feather our oars and row as an eight person team. It has been a total blast and I am sad our weekends together are coming to a close.
How cool is this photo one of the coaches took with the panorama feature? It looks like a time lapse of us lifting the boat overhead to walk it down to the dock.
Most of us are feeling more comfortable with getting the boats on the water and ready to row. This includes opening and closing the oar locks, putting the oars in (the right way!), and adjusting the foot stretchers. We’re not fast by any means, but we’re definitely more efficient than we were when we started.
Although, I have to admit, getting into the boat is still not my strong suit. Check out exhibit A in the lower right hand corner. I’m obviously poised for something, but I’m not sure it’s a graceful landing.
Once in, we gave the boat a shove and we were off for our penultimate practice. The man in blue serving as our coxswain was a more experienced rower on the CRC team, and it was great to have his knowledge on board. He was really able to help us focus on keeping our form and composure throughout the practice – reminders we desperately needed as the boat started to pitch and bob when we tried rowing together, eight at a time.
This practice was one of the hardest yet, for two main reasons. One: we began rowing “by eights,” meaning everyone in the boat rows together at the same time. The more rowers rowing at once, the more unstable the boat can become. There were a few white knuckle moments. You get the picture. Two: we also added in “feathering,” which is a word to describe a flicking motion with the oars to help them travel more smoothly through the stroke. Doesn’t sound like much, but it has to be done exactly in sync with the rest of the boat and it has to be done just so…or else your oar gets stuck under water. No beuno.
While it was a rocky practice trying to tie everything together, I still can’t complain about being out on the water in the sunshine. Seriously. We rowed past the Navy Yard, the baseball stadium, and waved at the cyclists at Hains Point. It was a beautiful day and enormously fun. I’m looking forward to celebrating our little group’s “graduation” on Sunday and hear more about ways to stay connected with CRC as part of a regular program.
Here’s a short video of our boats working on feathering and rowing by eights. What do you think?
In the eight months I’ve been fit crashing, very rarely have I done any workout twice. With so many gyms and classes to crash, I didn’t feel like I had the time or luxury to sign up for a whole boot camp session or buy a 10-class pack at a spin studio. I thought it would make the content on the blog less diverse and perhaps less interesting. Boring even. This discussion is something I’d like to explore in more depth at another time, but the point I’d like to make today is that I decided to take my chances when I signed up for the six-week Learn to Row program at Capital Rowing Club.
And I’m so glad I did.
While crashing a crossfit class here and a jazzercise class there is fun, I wasn’t sustaining any level of fitness. I was “crashing” – jumping in and holding on by the skin of my teeth, trying to keep up and enjoy the ride. And I have!
But a part of me missed the routine, the feeling of making improvements, of watching new muscles form and new skills develop. Feeling part of a team and the camraderie of sore muscles, hard practices, and sweat. While only a few weeks long with a few more to go, I have truly enjoyed hitting “reset” with CRC and reconnecting with many of the things I love so much about sport.
Learn to Row class is like a lego set. You learn something one day, and the very next you build on it. And then you keep building and building until you see your Millennium Falcon (or the fictional lego creation of your choice) begin to take shape. And then you start to get really excited and want to build the entire fleet. That’s the best way I can describe my experience so far. In weekends two and three, we did more erging, but began to do precision drills and sets based on stroke rate. In other words, it began to feel like the real deal.
Building on the what we learned about the boats the first weekend, we then started to break big parts down into pieces and get familiar with every little nut and bolt. Literally. We practiced popping rigger spacers in and out, taking riggers on and off the boat, adjusting the foot stretchers, and ever so gently putting the boats back into the boathouse. I still feel like I need to write notes on my arm to remember all of the terms (port? starboard? stern? bow? weigh enough?)…hopefully there won’t be a quiz at the end of class.
And the best part of making it past the first weekend? Rowing in a real boat! Here we are gliding ever so gracefully past the Navy Yard (oh…to have a sarcasm font. This sport is a lot harder than it looks, people!).
Things were a bit shaky as we got used to sitting in that tiny whisp of a thing. We desperately tried to learn how to “set the boat,” which in laymans terms means trying to get the boat to stop rocking for one darn second. If we’re lopsided, it’s really hard to get good strokes in and it’s also really hard not to get nervous about tipping into the Anacostia. I love water, but from what I’ve seen of this river, it wouldn’t be my first choice for taking a dip.
I went into the class thinking that once we got into the boats, practices would consist of a lot of rowing. Fast rowing, slow rowing, in-between rowing…but just plain row row row your boating all up and down the Anacostia. I am pleasntly surprised to say that I was horribly wrong. Practices on the water consist of lots of drills and instruction. This is great because it gives us a chance to translate what we learned on the erg into the boat, and we often have immediate feedback from a coxswain or coach to help us get it right.
Another thing that came as a surprise was that, while there are eight people in a boat, we don’t all row at once. At least not yet - we need a lot more practice before we do that. Sometimes only two people row, sometimes four. We tried six once but…well we weren’t quite there yet. But rowing by two or four means there are periods during practice when you get to take a breather and enjoy the scenery (win!). Here we are floating by the Nationals stadium.
Our Learn to Row class has really lucked out with the weather so far. Boats go on the water rain or shine, but each and every weekend we’ve had clear skies, brilliant sunshine, and warm(ish) temperatures. It certainly has made the hours fly by and, because the boathouse is on the very edge of the District, the class feels like a little mini vacation from the usual DC sweat scene.
I know a picture says a thousand words, but with any sport, video really tells the whole story. Here are a few snippets from one of our practices to give you a better idea of what goes on out on the river. Thanks to Coach Bob and Rachel for snapping the photos/video for me – I couldn’t do the post (in more ways than one) without their help!
I’ll have a few more posts about the Learn to Row program for you in the coming weeks. If you have any questions, leave a commment and I’ll do my best to answer!