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.
perks: no reservation/membership needed, joint-friendly, 30-minute workout
sweat score: 7 out of 10
wear: anything that’s comfy
instructor: Breelaun Marchai
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!
On the beautiful, warm, spring tease that was Sunday, I joined the folks at Sweetgreen at a tasting event to debut their March salad and soup specials. This event was wonderful on many levels, and here is why.
Thick slices of chewy, crusty brown bread schmeared with ripe avocado and topped with chia seeds. Need I say more?
The mushroom-cumin puree soup special. While I’m not one for spice, this was surprisingly good. I’ve never in my life ordered soup at Sweetgreen, so this was a first…and I’m glad I got kicked out of my routine to try something new.
The March salad. Feast your eyes on mixed greens, sweet potatoes, blue cheese, caramelized onions, candied pecans, and bacon (which I may or may not have gently scraped to the side). While this wasn’t a salad that screamed “spring is in the air!” to me, it was delicious, so seasons be damned. But the real reason I was excited to try it? Because I always go into the store with the intention of ordering something new, only to choke when I reach the front of the line and end up asking for same thing over and over again (aka: I’d like a Santorini grain bowl please). The yummy March salad was just the jolt I needed to break the Santorini cycle.
I loved spending the evening sharing ideas, swapping stories, and sipping wine with lots of health and fitness related folks, including Anne, Heather, and Christy. I can’t believe we didn’t get a gratuitous group shot of the bloggers…but to be honest we were having too much fun stuffing our faces and catching up to strike a pose this time around. Lesson learned. But truly, a thanks goes out to Sweetgreen for hosting such a fun group of people! Made mixing and mingling easy for this introvert : )
And…drumroll please…reason five:
What, like you didn’t see this coming? The cup ‘o Sweetflow was the perfect ending to an awesome meal. I topped mine with almonds, stewed apples, strawberries, and chocolate chips. Needless to say, I went home and promptly retired into a food coma. Success!
Crash Course: This is a 45-minute dance party masquerading as a spin class. I kid you not, the music was so loud and the energy so intense I almost forgot about the sweat pouring off of my face or the burn in my legs. If you’re used to ye olde spin class with muzak and a few boring intervals, this is the wake up call you’ve been praying for. It’s a challenge for any fitness level and, most importantly, a guaranteed good time. Click here to check out the schedule.
Want to know what the Biker Barre studio looks like? Click here for a photo tour and to read about my crash experience at the barre class. I liked it so much I decided to come back and try their signature spin workout with owner Katie Fouts.
I’m not sure where to start with this post other than to say that I had an awesome time crashing Biker Barre’s 9:15 class on Saturday morning. I was sore from the previous night’s overzealous attempts at creating my own bootcamp session, and wasn’t sure I had the mental fortitude or quad strength to make it through 45 minutes of indoor spinning.
But I walked into the studio on that grey, cold morning with great expectations. I have been hearing a lot of buzz about Biker Barre’s spin classes, and was really hoping that my experience would live up to the hype. To say that it surpassed my expectations would be an understatement. Here are a few reasons why:
The energy in the room was off the charts from start to finish. Everyone there was ready to sweat, work hard, and have fun.
Katie’s verbal cues were spot on. She knew her playlist backwards and forwards, and walked us seamlessly through multiple body positions and various intervals. She worked the class like a preacher on Sunday morning, pacing back and forth, sweating like crazy with her hands in the air, as if she was trying to evoke the spirit of spinning to join us for the party.
The music selection. When Mumford and Sons transitioned into Kesha which faded into En Vogue, I knew I was in the right place. The entire 45 minutes was full of dance-inducing hits that made me wish I had a karaoke machine attached to my bike. (I can assure you, those around me were thankful this was not the case.)
If you arrived in a bad mood, there’s no way you’ll leave in one. I finished the class in a pool of my own sweat with an enormous smile on my face.
Don’t believe me? See for yourself:
Also, I was delighted to see that the cold lavender mint towels I liked so much from my barre crash made a reappearance at the end of spin class. These are awesome for wiping away the sweat and totally count as rinsing off before brunch. At least it does in my book, because that’s exactly what I did.
I enjoyed a complimentary Biker Barre mimosa while changing into some dry clothes and then headed off to Matchbox to meet my friend Jenny for brunch. She had originally intended to join me for the spin workout, but Biker Barre classes have become so popular you need to reserve your spot a few days in advance. So she did a running workout and we met in sweaty solidarity for some banana-bread french toast and a veggie omlette. We were so busy catching up and scarfing down our food that I didn’t remember to take a photo until the end. Oops!
And because a visit to Capitol Hill isn’t complete without a stroll through Eastern Market, I happily obliged. It’s one of my favorite spots in DC and on Saturday it was particularly cheery with lots of holiday decorations on display. There were at least four different Christmas tree vendors, a few street musicians playing holiday music, and glasses of mulled apple cider to top it off. Bring on the holidays!
Crash Course: Biker Barre is a boutique studio specializing in–you guessed it–spinning and barre classes. The Open Barre class is 60-minutes of ballet-inspired exercises with a heavy focus on attacking hard-to-reach areas in the glutes, abs, arms, and thighs. Props include bender balls, free weights, and mats. Music plays a large role in the class and helps set a fun environment and upbeat tempo. The workout is hard but extremely low impact. Don’t expect to sweat up a storm. While barre is difficult, and you will certainly feel it the next day (or two), this isn’t a high-intensity cardio workout. The good news? It’s effective and a great low-sweat option for workday lunch breaks or before happy hours. Click here for a full schedule of classes.
how much? first class free with code CLASSONUS, drop in rate is $22
instructor? Kelly H.
The Bike Barre lounge: free wi-fi, storage cubes, dry cleaning pick up, and after-class mimosas.
Biker Barre has a cult following, and after one class it’s easy to see why. The high-energy studio offers fun classes, a cozy and chic setting, and a “welcome to the family” community feel. The location can’t be beat either: just one block from the fun of Barracks Row and a short walk from the Eastern Market metro.
From their website:
Biker Barre is a first of its kind studio on the Hill. Offering intense, music-driven classes on bikes and at the barre, we’re bring our own breed of intense, effective workouts to our favorite neighborhood in DC.
Owner Jane Brodsky opened Biker Barre in May after closing Red Bow Studio and partnering with Katie Fouts, a cycling enthusiast who added the “biker” to Brodsky’s experience at the barre. The combo has been a hit and the studio has quickly become a go-to spot for ladies and gents from around the district.
Drop your gear off in cubbies stationed by the front desk or upstairs outside of the barre studio. Changing space is provided in the lobby or in one of the two bathrooms. There’s ample space in the lobby-turned-lounge to hang out before or after class, and free wifi makes it an ideal spot to send those last-minute emails.
For barre class, head upstairs to the second floor. There you’ll find a second set of storage cubes and a full bath complete with all the necessities. If you want to shower after class, leave your do-dads and bottles at home. Towels, shampoo/conditioner, hair dryers, straightening irons, bobby pins, etc. are all provided.
The most beautiful feature of the barre studio is a large window occupying the entire front wall of the room. Students have a great view of classic Capitol Hill row houses, trees, and blue sky as they tuck, lift, and plie their way through class. It’s a small and intimate studio, but the abundant natural light really does wonders to give the space an airy and open feel.
The 60-minutes started with a music-driven warm up of aerobic-based exercises, including marching in place, high steps, and push-ups. Because barre is low-impact, there was no jumping and all of the moves were gentle and effective.
One of my favorite parts of the class was the seamless transition between stages. Before you knew warmup was over, you had free weights in hand and your arms were burning from a series of curls and presses.
Another highlight was the music selection. In this particular class, the instructor kept the volume control in hand and worked the volume around her instructions. The music was the perfect mix of soft when you needed to hear her and blasting loud to distract you from your shaking legs and burning buns. After attacking the arms, we moved to the barre for the main event.
I’ve been to barre classes that seemed built for ballerinas only. The moves were so complex and the target muscles so obscure, it was disheartening. But consider this the goldilocks of classes. We did all of the signature dips, tucks, plies, and leg lifts without any extras.It burned without bumming you out. After the barre, we finished class with seated abs using the bender ball. If you’ve never used one, I can sum it up in one word: ouch.
After class, we were given refrigerated towels soaked in some sort of cucumber-eucalyptise solution. These could be used to wipe off faces, bodies, and mats. It was a cool and refreshing finish…if only it could extend to the burn in my abs and legs.
refrigerated towel after class. ahhh.
Kelly H. taught this particular class. She was awesome, and her likeness to Natalie Portman a la Black Swan is uncanny. She’s a former dancer who brings precision, poise, and a contagiously upbeat attitude. That’s saying something when you teach at 8 a.m. on a Saturday. Kelly’s music selection also gets an A in my book, with moves set to the likes of Cat Power and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. They delivered a strong beat without being obnoxious. All in all, it was a great class and I’ll look forward to coming back to the barre with Kelly in the future.
With such a great experience, crashing Biker Barre spin class is high on my “to-do” list!