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
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!