TGIF, right? I don’t know about you, but my past few weeks have been absolutely packed. 2014 flew in with a zing and is still going strong. Despite my best attempts to capture everything in real-time on social media, I thought it’d be good to put pen to paper and document a few of the most awesome moments for blog posterity. So here we go!
1. Escaping Winter at the Lavender Retreat
I was given the most wonderfully generous opportunity to visit the newly-opened Lavender Retreat Wellness Club in Capitol Hill last weekend. With all of my crazy fit crashing adventures racking up major sore muscles, they offered to treat me to an hour-long massage to help work out the kinks. I was elated – what a treat!
The outside of the Lavender Retreat looks like any other traditional row house. But walk in the front doors, and my oh my, you are transported into a colorful, clean, calm oasis. Smack dab in the middle of the DC! Every room is beautifully appointed with bright, gleaming windows and custom decor. No two are the same. I did a whirl through the hallways just to check out all of the nooks and crannies. There are dedicated rooms for massage, skin care, acupuncture, reflexology, and relaxation. It’s an enormous two-level house…you don’t think they’d mind if I move in, do you?
My hour-long session with Bonnie was a dream. I haven’t had a massage in years, so I’m certainly not an expert, but never have I felt so well cared for or pampered. Highlights included: hot towels on my back to help relieve a few stubborn knots, a to-die-for foot massage followed by moisturizer + steaming hot towels to lock everything in, and extra care placing pillows below various joints so I was constantly comfortable.
I was handed a bottle of water after my session and spent the next few minutes chatting with Bonnie and other staff about the studio, life in DC, and anything else that came to mind. There was such positivity, joy, and pride as they described the Lavender Retreat, and I was really impressed by everyone’s professionalism. They really put every effort into making the experience memorable. I can’t way to go back again and try one of their signature skin care treatments. Oh la la!
2. The Joy of an Unexpected Crash
If you follow along with me on Instagram, you may have seen that I was out in Nevada for a friend’s wedding two weeks ago. It was an absolutely beautiful getaway, but any weekend involving cross country flights, jet lag, snow storms, no workouts, and an unplanned overnight layover (sans luggage) would naturally cause a little stress. So when I returned to the office on Tuesday, I was in desperate need of a workout. Not just any workout.
Say it with me folks…yoooo-gaaaaaaaahhh. Doesn’t that sound relaxing? After the hustle and bustle of a weekend away, it was the only thing on my mind. I did a little googling at work to see if there were any studios in the area I could pop into at the last minute. And wouldn’t you know, I came across a cute website for The Source Yoga in McLean, VA. Not only that, one of my favorite teachers from my early days at Down Dog Yoga was leading the class. Win! Where do I sign?
I was surprised – no, scratch that, elated – to have the class almost entirely to myself. The second student was one of the owners, so in reality, it was very much a private session with me, my mat, and I. And with the blustery weather outside, I tucked my bright green mat right next to the space heater and blissed out for the next hour and a half.
Sometimes it pays to go out on a limb and try something new and unscheduled. What a welcome, unexpected gift.
3. Pure Barre Giveaway Winner
And finally – the Pure Barre giveaway!
After crashing Pure Barre in Dupont Circle last week, I can say (for now!) that I’ve visited every barre studio in DC. Hooray! To celebrate my crash, the lovely ladies at Pure Barre were kind enough to offer one of my readers two free weeks of unlimited classes. Thank you to everyone who participated – we had over 200 entries! Woot! And now for the fun part: the winner is…
Crash Course: Atlas Fitness offers a bootcamp class that is unlike any other I’ve been to before. First, the equipment and facility are enough to make any hardcore fitness junkie drool. Monster tires. Atlas stones. Bike trainers. Weighted sleds. Heavy ropes. Sandbags. Kettlebells. Boxing bags. TRX. All immaculately curated and displayed in this Capitol Hill shrine to sweat. Considering how much I love creating my own workouts with any equipment I can get my hands on, I felt as though I had died and gone to fit crasher heaven. The second reason why this bootcamp stands out is the workout itself. It’s creative (read: more than the usual burpees)–which makes it more fun, in my book–and challenging for any fitness ability. Check out the schedule for bootcamp and other classes at Atlas Fitness here.
I feel like Capitol Hill is having a bit of a fitness moment. Or maybe it’s always been a workout hot spot, but word is just now reaching me on the other side of town. Either way, more often than not, I’m finding myself traveling to the Hill for a crash. Last weekend boxing training at DCBFit. A few months ago at Capitol Hill Fitness. This spring on the Anacostia River at Capitol Rowing Club. And just last year I was crashing the newly-opened Biker Barre. So many great options!
Now, I’m adding Atlas Fitness to the list. Hidden just behind Barracks Row, this workout gem is a full service sweat factory for anyone who appreciates no-fuss fitness. Options include metabolic conditioning class, power flow yoga, strength training for endurance athletes, boxing, and boot camp.
Atlas is the brainchild of trainer Tim Bruffy, who wanted to make sure,
anyone can get the same innovative techniques and tools used to train the world’s top athletes. The program I’ve created addresses all five components of fitness: muscular strength, muscular endurance, cardiovascular strength, flexibility and body composition.
In an interview with The Hill is Home, Tim explained his vision of exercise as preventative medicine “prescribed by trainers/coaches that really understand it.” Expert trainers helping you get (and stay) healthy? Music to my ears.
Walking into the gym, I immediately got the sense of being in a top-notch college weight room or professional sports training center. See what I mean?
The variety and quality of equipment alone is enough to make your head spin. Anything you wanted to use in your workout, they had. I felt like a kid in a candy store and had to restrain myself from asking if I could move in. Don’t mind me, I won’t take up too much space. I’ll just be over here by the atlas stones, taking a snooze in the monster truck tire until the next workout.
There are two floors full of equipment to play with. Upstairs is where the majority of the action takes place, and downstairs is set up with boxing equipment, a squat rack, a bike trainer, and a few other surprises. For example, Tim and his team customized one of the walls with rubber coating to be used specifically for medicine ball throws. Cool, right?
So now that you’ve taken the tour, let’s talk about the workout. Our instructor on Saturday morning was Durrell, who started us off with a dynamic warm-up full of hops, skips, hip openers, coordination drills, and runs around the block. It was really well done and a lot of care was put into making sure we got the entire body ready to take on the workout ahead of us.
Next, Durrell walked us through the different stations involved in that day’s session. There were five total, with two exercises at each. The entire workout revolves around timed intervals, so we would do one exercise for 45 seconds, take a 15 second rest, and then move right into the second exercise at that station, and back and forth.
For example, the workout looked something like this:
Station one: rowing machine, sandbag snatches
Station two: push/pull weighted sled, box jumps
Station three: monster tire flip, try rows
Station four: pull ups, TRX dynamic pushups
Station five: heavy ropes on Bosu ball, weighted lunges
45 seconds of work, 15 seconds of rest for each exercise. A total of six minutes at each station. After those six minutes, we all hit the floor for 45 seconds of ab work. And then we’d move on to the next station.
I thought that I would get lost in trying to keep track of all the timing and numbers, but the gym has a built-in interval timing system that alerts you to rest and work periods. In case you need a visual, the clock is displayed on a big screen TV hanging on the front wall (see above). Durrell was also on top of everything, letting us know when to switch and helping us get a handle on each station as we transitioned from one to the next.
For all of the activity going on, the workout was extremely well orchestrated.But logistics aside, it was also a total tush kicking. I started at the station involving intervals on the rowing machine and doing sandbag snatches. Easy, I thought. A great place to warm up before some of the more challenging stations (I’m looking at you, monster tire). But rowing as hard as you can for 45 seconds is not (NOT!) easy. And follow that up immediately with 45 seconds of squating and hurling a heavy sand bag over your head…you get the idea.
I finished the workout at station four: heavy ropes while balancing on a Bosu, followed by weighted lunges. Guys…I was totally cooked at this point. Sweating everywhere. Audibly grunting. Watching the clock tick down. Trying my best to concentrate on one breath at a time. Totally amazed that we had only been there for one hour and had completed so many crazy, challenging things. As the beep went off to signal the end, I had to lay down on the floor in a pile of my own sweat, eyes closed, breathing out through my mouth just to collect myself. Nevermind that I had just met everyone there; l made myself at home on the floor and needed a moment to soak it all in.
My oh my, was that a workout.
After a few cool down stretches, I changed into dry clothes and spent some quality time with the pup pictured above. That’s Atlas, the gym mascot. He’s about 100 lbs of pure muscle and ridiculously friendly. There’s nothing like a little puppy love to help you bounce back after a tough workout. Right Atlas?
So, in closing, a huge thanks to the crew at Atlas Fitness for helping me (a) get my weekly dog fix and (b) introducing me to their awesome operation. Can’t wait to come back and crash again!
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!