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.
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.