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
instructor: Chris Geier
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!
Crash Course: Heard about the crossfit craze but have no idea what it’s all about? Have questions about form, function, and whether it’s the right workout for you? This is the place to start. CrossFit Dupont at Balance Gym in Glover Park offers a free “Intro to CrossFit” session every Saturday at noon, where trainers explain the basics of the CrossFit concept, take questions, and walk attendees through a sample WOD (workout of the day). You don’t have to be a member of Balance gym to attend. Get in touch with trainer Jeff Jenkins on the program’s website to sign up.
where: 2121 Wisconsin Ave. NW
bring: water bottle, your questions
perks: wallet friendly
sweat score: 3 out of 10
wear: what you’d wear to the gym
instructor: Jeff Jenkins
Hang around the fitness world for two minutes and you’ll hear about CrossFit. I promise. It’s one of the hottest crazes in functional training and has become a buzzword at gyms around the country. Here in DC, CrossFit studios (or “boxes”) have been popping up all over the place. Yelp tells me there are eight open for business, and I’m willing to bet there are more in the works. Am I going to try them all? You bet. CrossFit Dupont at Balance Gym is the closest to my apartment, so I decided to stop in for their free intro class to see what all the buzz was about.
Because this program shares space with Balance Gym, it has to work within the confines of the established floor plan. So that means the CrossFit classes are not centralized in one room and have to spread out to a few different areas depending on the exercises and equipment used that day. I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing, but thought it was worth pointing out. From photos I’ve seen of other CrossFit gyms, the typical layout is to have one big, open area instead of subdivided rooms. We met in the main CrossFit room where all the weights, jumping boxes, foam rollers, and kettlebells are stored.
Jeff Jenkins is the main CrossFit instructor and kicked off the session by telling us a little bit about his style and how he runs the program. He is very focused on form and passionate about safe body movement. While I’m sure some in the room thought his detailed explanation of the physiology behind proper squat technique was snooze-worthy, I actually thought it was fascinating. More importantly, it made me feel better about undertaking a program as rigorous as CrossFit – where lifting heavy things is the name of the game – under the watchful eye of someone who is a stickler for form. Coming off multiple knee injuries, maybe that’s just my preference, but I’d rather do it right than tear/sprain/pull/aggravate something again.
After answering our questions, Jeff led us all through a sample Workout of the Day, or WOD. Because it was an intro class, we didn’t do any exercises that included lifting weights, but it was still a doozie combination of air squats, pushups, and sit ups. He walked us through each requirement, again emphasizing the nitty gritty details of proper form, and then let us loose to race against the clock.
Who shows up for an intro to CrossFit class, you might ask? There were six other individuals, all of whom had different fitness goals and levels of ability. It was really exciting to me to see such a range of ages, experiences, and body types sitting around a room and wanting the same thing: to get into shape and improve their health. One woman was old enough to be my mother and played occasional tennis, there was a couple who just had a baby and wanted to find a quick and effective workout program to get back in shape together, one man was there to lose weight, another was a distance runner and triathlete who wanted to improve his performance, and one woman was a former Division 1 field hockey player looking to try something new. Hats off to all of them for coming out and giving CrossFit a go!
Bottom line: this was a fun introduction to the fitness craze I’ve been hearing so much about. It was a welcoming environment and an awesome place to start my CrossFit crashes. That said, I am now ready to move past the intro classes and get down to the business of actually getting my keister kicked by a full WOD. So, where should I go next?
What’s your favorite CrossFit box in the DC area?
Hello fit crashers! Just a short update to share a few photos from my first Saturday Long Run (SLR) of half-marathon training. The plan I am using called for a six miler last weekend to kick things off. This is longer than I have run in quite some time, and despite the knot in my stomach about re-entering the love-hate obsession that is distance training, I was excited to rev up my legs and see how they’d do. They held up great during the 4 mile hill run and the 3 mile speed workout earlier in the week, so we were on a roll, these legs and I.
I set an early alarm and ran over to the trails in Rock Creek Park. It was a frosty morning with blinding sunshine and intensely blue skies. My nose was running faster than I was, my toes were cold, and I had a sudden twinge of regret about not sleeping in a bit more. But there’s something about the solitude of the trail, the crinkling of the leaves, and the soft ground that always calms my nerves. It’s some of the best medicine there is. Before I knew it, all those mental fidgets quieted down, replaced by the methodical sound of my thumping feet with my breathing chiming in to sing back up.
I was exploring a few new twists and turns in the trail during this run, and mile three brought me to a completely new site: the remnants of Fort DeRussy. It was a Civil War fort constructed in 1861 and played a major role in the Battle of Fort Stevens to defend the nation’s capital. I had no idea this was here, did you? Always love a good history lesson during my runs. Thankfully, DC is full of them.
The trails started to get crowded as I headed back. No matter what time of year, and no matter what the weather, Saturdays and Sundays bring the runners out of the wood work here in DC. All sorts of runners. While not everyone smiles and waves back as they pass me by – yes, I’m the one waving at you and saying “good morning!” – I can’t help but get a surge of solidarity from seeing everyone out there getting their miles in. It’s inspiring to see and definitely gave me the juice I needed to round the bend and head home. Six miles wasn’t easy, and there were a few walk breaks. But this early morning run was just what I needed to feel confident about the next 10 weeks of training.
On the schedule for next weekend: seven miles. Let’s do this!
I have to ask: is the “runner’s hello” not cool around these parts?
Happy Friday! Before we all head out for a weekend full of resolutions-keeping and new beginnings, I thought I’d share a few photos of how I started 2013. I woke up early to set off on a trail run through Rock Creek Park with a good friend. It was full of cold crunchy leaves, dog slobber, velvet horse noses, good conversation, gray skies, juicy oranges, watching our breath, and frozen toes. Don’t know about you, but it was the perfect way to say “bring it on” to this new year of ours. Hope you had a great day, too – now go get your fit crash on!
Some people wear sparkly sequence and high heels. Others pop champagne and twirl noise makers. And then there are the few dedicated crazies who lace up running shoes and ring in New Years Eve with a race in the dark and frigid cold. Can you guess which category I fell into this year?
Ta – da! If you picked “crazy who ran in the freezing cold,” you’re right! My friend and long-time running buddy Jenny introduced me to the Fairfax Four Miler event, and without giving it a second thought I realized it was the perfect way to fit crash the New Year. We met up at the Pacers store in Fairfax to pick up our numbers and keep warm before the start of the race. Looks like everyone else had the same idea because the place was packed!
After walking back to the car to drop off my bag and sweats, I realized I had left my handy-dandy SPIbelt at home and had no pockets for stashing my phone during the race. I like to keep it on me so I can take pictures to share with you all, but it’s not very convenient to hold on to while working out. So, I caved and purchased another belt, just for the occasion. I’m going to keep this one in my car for when I have another no-pocket emergency down the road.
I wore long tights, a tee, a thick pull over, gloves, and my reflective headband. Overkill? Absolutely. But I have become somewhat of a cold-weather wimp now that I don’t train full time, and am always happier to have too much on rather than too little. Jenny’s boyfriend Joe took the alternate approach – shorts. Although, I must say, the calf sleeve sock things are an inspired touch. He reported back that they indeed kept his calves nice and toasty during the race. I’ll have to pick up a pair for next time.
The event was extremely well organized and all of the volunteers along the course were happy, helpful, and upbeat. That’s saying something for folks who spent an hour standing in the cold just to help us get in our daily dose of endorphins. The four mile course was relatively flat and wound its way around the George Mason campus. There were certain spots where lighting was an issue – as in, there wasn’t any – so if you sign up next year be sure to keep an eye out. Also prepare yourself for the fact that there are lots of kids in this race, and many of them will be faster than you. I’m pretty sure Fairfax has some sort of underground training program for the 2020 Olympic Games, because the number of Bieber-lovers who beat me was out of control. Just an observation.
Which brings me to the next portion of this story: the one involving the guy in the head-to-toe beaver costume, complete with neon fanny pack and aviator sunglasses, who smoked us all. I was okay with the future track stars of America leaving me in their dust, but this? This was just too much to handle. Ladies and gentlemen, behold…the speedy beaver guy who ran a ridiculously fast time and beat us all.
In case you were wondering, he dry cleans the costume after each race and has to request special care with the hat portion because the teeth are delicate. I may have had way too many clothes on, but at least I can throw my duds in the washing machine. Let’s be practical, people. That said, I was more than happy to support his efforts for the benefit everyone’s entertainment. How can you not have a fun time when running with someone dressed like this? Race on, beaver man!
Despite signing up at the last minute and not having any real race-day plan, I was over-the-moon with my finishing time of 31:09. It was a solid showing and gave me the confidence boost I need going into my half-marathon training this month. Speaking of which, I’ll be posting my day-by-day 11 week training plan soon so those of you who are running the Rock ‘n Roll half can follow along.
How did you ring in 2013?