San Francisco. Where do I even begin. After spending a week bundled up in cold, rainy, grey Portland and Seattle, the blue skies and sunshine of California were just what the doctor ordered. The city was experiencing a freak heat-wave and temperatures climbed into the 70s every day, making it perfect weather for outside workouts and adventures. Oh January, I could get used to this.
I arrived on Wednesday evening, a full day and a half before meeting up with friends flying in from the east coast for a bachelorette “girls weekend.” The bride-to-be is a dear friend from college, former roommate, teammate, and marathon training buddy. Needless to say, I was over the moon to be there to help celebrate the occasion and send her down the aisle in style.
In my alone time before the gang arrived, I met up with the friendly team at Sweat Guru to chat boutique fitness, sweat, and not-to-miss crashes in San Francisco. So much fun! They shared an extensive list of classes and events to check out during my visit, and even set me up with a gratis crash at “the most unique workout in the city.” Most unique? Music to my ears. There’s nothing I love more than trying out a new class, especially when it’s a little to the right on the zany scale.
Honestly, nothing could have prepared me for what I encountered when I walked in the doors at Informed Body studio. I knew the device used during class was custom-built by the owner. I knew it involved resistance and suspension. And I knew it was one-of-a-kind. But I had no idea just how bizarre the thing would look to me that morning, pre-coffee, jet lagged, dangling in front of me like a taunt. “Go ahead, try me.” I was the fit crasher. On a mission to try everything and report my findings. But…look at that thing!
After introducing myself to the instructor and nervously laughing about my total lack of coordination, I strapped in and anxiously awaited my fate. The unit has space for about four students, and each of us worked two spring-straps around our thighs and two into our hands. It was awkward and unflattering. But I immediately felt a buoyancy similar to being underwater. Okay, I thought, this could be two things. Really fun. Or a total disaster.
The class was similar to a ballet or pilates class, but different for obvious reasons. I mean, you’re strapped into springs hanging from the ceiling, for goodness sake. But the moves mimic sequences done in both ballet and pilates, with a heavy emphasis on dance. Not barre method, but classical ballet. There were terms I hadn’t heard since I was leaping around in pink tights and a tutu. Tandu? Releve? What?
Luckily owner, creator, and dancer extraordinaire Jill Harris was leading the class and giving easy to follow cues. Follow, I said, not mimic. Because holy smokes could that lady bend and leap in ways I could only dream of. The grace! The form! I wish I had a video of my attempts, because it must have been laugh-track worthy. Choreography is not my bag. Choreography while suspended on resistance springs is, well, also not my bag. Those straps demand that you focus on balance, core strength, and stability at all times. Even when trying to lift your leg high in the air and then lower into a plié. I giggled out loud on multiple occasions as the springs snapped my body back to center after falling out of line. It was such a strange and funny sensation.
Bottom line: the workout was really fantastic and my body felt elongated and different when I finished. Similar to how I feel leaving a really intense pilates reformer or gyrotonic class. For those of you who know me, this is huge. I mean, I’m a smudge over five feet tall, so I’ll do just about anything to feel “elongated.” It’s a lie, I realize, just like it’s a lie when barre instructors tell me ten more leg raises will give me those lean, long legs I’ve always wanted. Nice try, sister. These strong yet sturdy legs aren’t going to look like Natalie Portman’s no matter how reps I do. It’s called reality. *sigh* Anyway.
If you’re in the area and looking for a fun, wacky, unique workout that takes your childhood ballet classes to the next level, I highly recommend visiting Informed Body studio. Jill is an absolute sweetheart and couldn’t be more welcoming. Her creative approach to intuitive movement is really worth checking out, especially because we don’t have anything like it here in DC. And don’t worry if you’re not a prima ballerina, even newbies like me were able to follow along just fine. The classes aren’t cheap — new students pay $75 for three sessions — so I am especially grateful to GoRecess for setting me up with this fun crash!
All of the ladies involved in the weekend getaway are super active and athletic, so once everyone arrived, we made a special point to crash a studio together. One of our friends currently lives in San Francisco and recommend coming with her to her newest sweaty obsession, Burn, a studio that combines cardio, weights, and pilates springboard. As the website says:
Our unique Method draws upon the very best aspects of Pilates, Cardio and Strength Training to create a body sculpting, heart-pumping 55-minute workout.
It was everything I though it might be, and a little more. The cardio segments weren’t wimpy. Goodbye boring running in place. Hello burpees, jump lunges, vertical mountain climbers, and surfer jumps. For those who needed low impact options, the instructor made sure they were plentiful and given right along with the other cues. They weren’t treated as an “exception” or a “less-intense option,” just a different way to do the moves. As someone with a cranky left knee that sometimes needs no-impact movement, this was greatly appreciated. The cardio segments start and end the class, with a few sprinkled throughout to jack up your heart rate at different intervals. I was breathing heard from the get-go till the very end.
The hand weight exercises are similar to what you would do in a barre class, but kicked up a notch. I was sweating buckets by the time we moved to the spring board, where we did a series of arm and back exercises before moving to the floor to work on our legs. The burn. The deep, terrible, wonderful burn. Especially in my hamstrings and inner thighs. I knew within 5 minutes of the class I’d be sore in weird places the next day. It just felt like one of those workouts that targeted smaller muscles I have a tendency not to focus on as much. Which is exactly the kind of class I need to be doing.
In just under an hour, every part of my body felt like it was shaking (in a good way) and my lungs and heart felt like they were just put through a treadmill interval circuit. What a fun workout! I just wish they had a location on the east coast (ahem, in DC) so I can go back and try it again.
Other than those two fit crashes, we also snuck in a fair amount of outdoor activity over the weekend. I mean, how could we not when the weather was so perfect! We all went for a day hike at the Point Reyes National Seashore, which was by far the most beautiful beach I’ve ever seen.
I completed two short (hilly) runs from our rental house to a small beach overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. Nothing like this view to get you going in the morning!
On one of my runs, I also passed by an outdoor gym that looked like so much fun to use. Currently trying to figure out how we can get one of these in the DC area, I think it’d be a hit!
And finally, I ended both of my runs with a chicory iced coffee from the local brew shop and new-to-me Picky Bars. How am I just hearing about these things?! They’re fantastic and made of ingredients I can pronounce, recognize, and love. I may need to purchase a case because I’ve already made it through my little sample collection.
Okay, San Francisco, I’ve decided that we should be friends. I’d like to come back soon!
Hello and happy Tuesday! I’m currently on my way back to DC after 12 days on the road. What a trip! I think San Francisco earned the top spot on my list of favorite cities to visit (not only because they had a yoga room at the airport – but it helped!) and I can’t wait to share more about my time there.
But first, I wanted to round out my fit crashing adventure recap from Portland with details about Yoyoyogi yoga studio and the original Barre3 studio in Pearl District.
After the fit crash double header at Firebrand Sports, I was sore. Like, can’t properly walk or sit down sore. Really convenient when spending days exploring a new city and seeing friends and family I haven’t connected with in years. Walking tenderly and taking frequent breaks to stretch on random street benches, I must have been quite a sight. But I was riding on a strange endorphin high after trying two new classes in a new city and loving them both. Kind of like the feeling you get after completing a tough road race and then get to walk around wearing the medal the rest of the day. Oh this unusual swagger? The gentle way I lower myself down into my seat? No big deal, just leftover awesome from dominating the megaformer and real ryder yesterday.
That said, my next fit crash needed to be something a little more low key. Something that allowed me to stretch my sore muscles, simmer down, and take a moment to reflect and quiet my mind while dealing with the craziness of being on the road. Yoga sounded perfect.
But where? What studio? I went to my usual idea generators: GoRecess, SweatGuru, Classtivity, MindBody Connect app, and Google. Luckily, I also had a few suggestions from friends and fellow fitness fanatics, one of whom suggested I check out a cute little hot yoga haven a few blocks away from my hotel. I set out on foot through the cold rain and grey skies, excited to get my ohm on.
First things first: walking into Yoyoyogi is like walking into the home of a long lost friend. I was instantly welcomed, called “hun” and “love” and “dear,” and felt so comfortable that I wanted to kick off my shoes and move right in. What a delicious feeling when being so far from home. It didn’t hurt that there was an adorable puppy hanging out behind the front desk. Always a plus. So sad I didn’t get a pic, I’ll just have to go back for one next time!
Since I was traveling without my typical yoga gear, I needed to rent a mat and towel, bringing my total to $19. I was pleasantly surprised when the mat happened to be the exact Manduka mat I practice with at home and the “towel” was actually a grippy towel made for hot yoga. Perfect! Kudos to Yoyoyogi for having awesomely deluxe rental items. It allowed me to take my mind off of my gear and focus everything on my experience.
The studio is a lot bigger than I anticipated. The entire first floor is dedicated to retail, front desk space, a huge gathering room with dressing spaces and storage, showers, and bathrooms. The two practice rooms were actually up a monstrous flight of wood stairs on the second floor. The room my class was in had gleaming floors, gorgeous exposed brick, and a front center window to lose your gaze in. Really lovely.
The “DETOX – hot power flow” class was an hour-long sweat fest, similar to what you would find at Down Dog Yoga or Studio DC. Athletic, challenging, really great energy. Yoyoyogi plays music during their classes, which I’m not used to but actually really enjoyed. And our instructor Isabel was not very hands-on throughout the class, but had wonderful cues and wove a theme throughout the class about letting go as a way to grow. I left feeling inspired, happy, relaxed, and so very thankful to have found a home-away-from-home in this space.
I woke up before the sun the next morning for an appointment at the original Barre3 location in Portland’s Pearl District. Waking up before 6 a.m. isn’t my ideal vacation crash, but honestly, it was the only slot I could get into during my visit. This place fills quickly, so if you want to swing by when you’re in town, be sure to plan ahead and schedule a week or so out.
I have been to the Barre3 location before in Georgetown and it wasn’t my cup of tea. That said, I was told my experience was unusual due to having a new teacher who needed a little extra training, so I was willing to give the brand another try. Particularly at their flagship studio! The building had two barre studios, a large reception area, and a childcare pen with toys and activities. I was groggy and hadn’t had my coffee yet, but even through bleary eyes I could tell the space was beautiful. More beautiful than what we’ve got going on in Georgetown? I didn’t think so – I’ve honestly never been to a more gorgeous place than that little nook tucked down by the Potomac river. Sorry Portland, guess I’m a little biased!
The 6 a.m. class was packed to the brim, and every single spot was taken on the barre that covered three sides of the large rectangular room. We started with a dynamic warmup and moved right into the usual arm, leg, seat moves you’d anticipate at a barre class. The instructor was lovely and did a good job working the room, providing adjustments, and making sure everyone could see her demonstrations.
We did what felt like 10-15 minutes of ab work on the floor that just really wasn’t doing it for me, and at one point I caught myself glancing over at the clock to wonder how much longer we had in the class. Not ideal. Also, if you happen to love early mornings and join the 6 a.m. class during your visit, be prepared for a mass exodus about 10 minutes before the class is over. It really caught me off guard and I thought the constant picking up and leaving was really distracting. That said, I realize folks need to get to work on time. But….just something to know before you go!
Like other barre classes I’ve attended, I didn’t leave the class sweaty, but did feel that familiar muscle burn in my legs and arms from doing all those little, targeted motions. A drop-in class at Barre3 in Portland costs $20, but my class was paid for by a credit I received from GoRecess as a fun gift to help fund a crash during my travels. Thanks to them for making this crash possible!
I had to post this photo to document the absurd snack I had after my Barre3 class on my last day in Portland. Oh yes, you’re looking at two half-eaten but very delicious Voodoo Doughnuts and a leftover green juice from my purchase at Portland Juice Press. Ridiculous. But somehow, in my mind, it worked as a grand finale to my extended weekend in Oregon.
Up next: running and fit crashing in San Francisco. Until then, enjoy the snow day if you have one!
I recently came across a post by NYC gym-goer extraordinaire Evann Clingan titled “What’s In My Bag: Fitness Edition.” She said the idea is a twist on the ubiquitous “What’s In My Bag” post written by style bloggers everywhere. You know the one: carefully curated contents of designer bags beautifully strewn about just so, captured with a click for all the world to see. This was that same idea, but with a sweaty twist. Well, no surprises here, I was smitten. I mean, as someone who’s constantly on the go to different classes, I loved getting an insider’s peek at someone else’s gym bag essentials. In a non-creepy, oh hey you published it so it must be okay kind of way, of course.
So, without further ado, I’m giving you an all-access pass to check out what’s in my fit crasher go-pack. For what it’s worth, this isn’t a wish list of items I would like to have; these are all things I currently own and use on a regular basis.
REI Stoke 19 Pack ($54) – I originally got this backpack to use for hikes, but it has quickly become my fit crashing partner in crime. I’ve tried the purse-like gym tote before, but it never stayed on my shoulders the way I wanted and fussing with it drove me nuts. With a backpack, I can have my hands and arms free to carry a yoga mat or bike to a studio distraction free. Win.
Extra sports bra ($11) – These minimal Champion sports bras are perfect for changing into after a particularly sweaty class. Especially if you are running errands or have a long commute home afterward. Nothing makes you colder or more uncomfortable than hanging out in wet clothes, so I’ve made a habit of keeping an extra one of these in my bag at all times.
Nike Free TR 4 ($100) – Okay, so these aren’t the same color as mine, but I searched high and low with no success. They are, however, the same model. And I love them. Funny story: these were purchased in heated desperation. I was invited to crash a Dance Trance class with less than an hour’s notice. I was coming back from work and (gasp) didn’t have my gym bag on me. No workout clothes. No workout shoes. So like a total lune, I ran into Nike Town in Georgetown begging for them to help me find shoes in 10 minutes. These were the result, and they were my first-ever pair of non-running sneaks. Desperation aside, I now wear them every day. And who said impulse shopping was dangerous?
GapFit Motion Tee ($45) – I fell in love with the Lululemon Run Swiftly long sleeve tee, but at almost $70, it’s a tad out of my price range for what it is. Plus, the one that I do own started to show wear almost instantly. These Gap tees, my friends, are pretty darn similar but at a price that doesn’t bring tears to my eyes. As a bonus, they’re almost always on some sort of sale. They’re lightweight, have just the right amount of stretch, come in beautiful colors, are perfect for throwing on after class, and the sleeves have thumb holes. Need I say more?
Bobo’s Oat Bar ($2) – I discovered these nuggets of awesomeness at my local Yes! Organic Market and have been an addict since. They’re easy on my sensitive stomach and come in lots of flavors. Half of one usually ties me over until meal time if my stomach is growling before or after class. And they won’t mush as easily as a banana if I leave it in my bag for a day or two.
Razor, Hair Ties, Bobby Pins, Lip Balm – Sometimes you just forget. You’ll thank me later. Trust me.
SPI Belt ($20) – Sometimes a crash involves a run, hike, or other outdoor excursion. This little guy holds my phone, keys, ID, and other small essentials when I’m on the go so I can keep my hands free. I actually keep one in my car for impromptu runs after work.
Yes to Blueberries Face Wipes ($6) – Working out after work is great, but working out with the day’s make up on is not. My face tends to revolt if I forget to wipe everything off before class, so these gentle towels have been a total life saver. I’m not ashamed to admit that at times they’ve also come in handy as a substitute shower after class, too. Not ideal, but they smell great and at least help rid the sweat from your skin if you have to go somewhere after the gym.
Water Bottle ($7) – Still holding on to the Nalgene habit from high school: guilty. This is definitely not an ideal water bottle for crashing, and I really don’t know why I still use it. It’s annoying to spin the top on and off during a workout, it doesn’t fit on spin bikes, and it is really heavy when full. Currently taking suggestions for a replacement!
Your turn: what’s in your gym bag?
Hello from the Pacific Northwest! As I mentioned last week, I’m taking some time away from DC to visit family and friends on the west coast. It has been a wonderful change of pace and I’ve loved the opportunity to explore new cities. The food, the sights, and yes, the fit crashes! Since this blog is dedicated to my sweaty adventures, I would love to share some of the fun studios I’ve found along the way.
:: day 1 ::
My first stop was Portland, Oregon. Home of Voodoo Donut, pinot noir, and a ton of awesome fitness studios. My flight arrived late in the evening, and after spending so many hours cramped in a tiny airplane seat, I was dying to get moving. Unfortunately, there weren’t any late-night classes to crash near my hotel, so I had to get creative. DC-based trainer Deanna Jefferson sent me a link to try out her new high intensity interval workout video last week, so I set up my laptop in the hotel gym and got down to business.
I got a few funny looks, especially from the Montana State men’s basketball team who came through the front door just as I was getting crazy with some star jumps. I’ll be honest, I only made it half-way through the video before deciding to do something else. Not because it wasn’t effective (I was huffing and puffing 10 minutes in) but because the majority of the moves were really high impact and my knee started to feel wonky. Probably thanks to all that airplane time. Like her Nike Training Club workouts, the video is really tough, so I’m hoping to use it again once my knee can handle all of the jumping.
:: day 2 ::
I started day two with a serious bang, singing up for back-to-back fit crashes at Firebrand Sports in Portland’s Pearl District. The studio was enormous and had a refurbished warehouse/industrial loft feel. High ceilings, lots of grey cement, skylights, black window panes. I loved it. Bonus points awarded for having fully-stocked individual shower rooms, clean bathrooms, a fresh juice bar, and plenty of hand towels. Basically, all signs point to lots of sweat going on in here.
Firebrand Sports offers two classes: Pyrolates on the megaformer machine and full tilt cycling on Real Ryder bikes. Talk about a killer combo. I decided to get the most challenging workout out of the way first, so my morning kicked-off with quaking legs and burning arms on the megaformer, a machine I’ve developed a serious love-hate relationship with thanks to crashes at DC’s SolidCore studio.
Unlike SolidCore, which is a smaller space with an intimate feel similar to a personal training session, there were about 20 machines in the Pyrolates room. Add in the high ceilings and expansive windows, I imagined I had plenty of space to hide from those extra lunges and personalized adjustments…or so I thought.
Our instructor Josh was an expert at working the room and making us work, all at the same time. Meaning: no hiding. In fact, he had an uncanny ability to creep up behind me whenever I decided to slack off. Busted! The music was pumping, we were lunging, the sweat was flowing. And boy oh boy, this class was putting me through my paces.
On my sweat scale, I’d put this class at a solid 7. Every little muscle I never knew I had screamed at me, my shirt was sweaty, and I had the sneaking suspicion that in just a few minutes a wave of crazy soreness would set in. But I left with a huge smile on my face, high-fiving Josh and elated about surviving another encounter with the megaformer.
Not five minutes later, I was on a Real Ryder bike in the back of Ellie’s spin class. The cycling studio is just down the hall at the back of the building, and really plays on the industrial loft feel with exposed ducts and gleaming skylights. The bikes are set up stadium-style, so everyone has a good view of the instructor and has plenty of space to move around. As far as spin rooms go, this is by far one of the coolest I’ve ever been in.
The Real Ryder bikes are a challenge on a normal day. They teeter back and forth, keeping your balance is a futile game of cat and mouse, and it takes every ounce of energy and concentration to keep up with them. Bottom line: not the best idea after a megaformer class. My legs were screaming at me, and rightly so. I had just put them through torture and decided to come back for more.
But honestly, I had a serious case of FOMO (as the kids say these days) and couldn’t say no to crashing two really awesome, unique, fun classes. So I turned the resistance knob down low, laughed at my own fit crashing insanity, and sang my heart out to every single song for 45 darn minutes. True story, ask the poor girl next to me. I belted out Wrecking Ball like I was on stage at the VMAs. You’re welcome.
After wobbling my way to the front desk in a sweat-induced fog after the morning’s marathon crash session, I somehow purchased a few too many fresh-pressed juices. Three, to be exact. But I can explain. They were all so delicious, the guy behind the counter was nice enough to let me sample every flavor, and after two hours of sweating I was thirsty and indecisive. So yes, I purchased three with the intention of finishing them all in the same day. I didn’t. But luckily my hotel room had a fridge and I was able to eventually finish off every last drop. My favorite flavor was a blend of carrot, apple, ginger, turmeric, and burdock.
Juices in hand and on a high from such fit crashing fun, I made my way through the pouring rain to Isabel for brunch. If you are ever in Portland near the Pearl District and are looking for a great food spot, I can’t recommend this place enough. My meal was absolutely delicious and the restaurant gets all of the ingredients fresh from their own locally-sourced farm. I had the Omar, which was a heaping portion of egg whites, teriyaki chicken, sautéed veggies on top of brown rice. Add in a piping cup of hot coffee and I was a happy, tired, sweaty camper!
I will be posting updates about day three and four in Portland soon, including my crashes at Yoyoyogi and the original Barre3 studio. Stay tuned, and until then, don’t forget to follow along on social media for instant updates from the rest of my trip!
January is going to be a crazy fit crashing month. Heck, it already has been. I may as well hunker down and hang on for the ride!
Over the next three weeks, I’ll be traveling to four different states and two different coasts to visit friends and family in Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, and Woodstock, Vermont. The fit crash potential is off the charts. I’m honestly having a hard time narrowing down all of the options to just one or two each day. Maybe I could fit in three? I mean, think of all the beautiful boutique studios, crazy workout methods, scenic trail runs, and ski slopes out there just waiting to be crashed. It’s fantastically overwhelming!
Luckily, I have fit minded friends in each city who are generously holding my hand through the selection process. My dear running buddy and Boston Marathon training partner Jane is in Seattle. Fellow DCer Ellen of District Sweats is spending some time in Portland. Georgetown triathlon teammate Sarah and running roommate Dorothy are in San Francisco. And college buddy SB is already scoping out the best slopes in Vermont for when I get there. These ladies are enablers. And I love them.
Be sure to keep up with all of my sweaty adventures in real-time on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I’ll post longer recaps on the blog when I can, hopefully from the comfort of a Seattle Starbucks or Sonoma winery. Because let’s be honest, blogging is always better with a fun libation in hand.
In other fun news…Roam Fitness did and interview with me and I spilled the beans about what strange selections are on my workout playlist. I’ve been attending their classes on and off since opening day and was so pumped when they asked to feature me as “blogger of the month.” As part of the deal, I am so very pleased to announce that DC Fit Crasher readers get 10% off class and personal training packages through February 2nd. How nifty is that?! In case you want a peek at what it’s like to workout with them, click here for a crash report from an Out Run with Roam Fitness.
And now – I’m off to tackle the challenge of packing for this fantastic adventure! No, seriously everyone, how many pairs of running socks and workout capris do you really think I need? Because right now I’m going with “all” as my default choice. The airline folks are going to love me : )