I hadn’t planned to go to the LBC/Sin Workouts Event at Peak Performance, but when I got a text from Vanessa of SinWorkouts the night before the event asking if I still wanted to come, my immediate answer was “HELL YES!”. Any event that Sin was going to be throwing at Peak was bound to be an awesome, fun and kick-ass time and I had already regretting the fact that I hadn’t signed up.
This week I finally made it up to Exceed Physical Culture to take a class. I have been hearing about how great the UES studio is for ages, so even though the “full body” description was a little vague, I knew I would be in good hands with one of the founders, Ed Cashin.
Ed has 25-years of personal training experience where he specializes in TRX, Russian Kettlebell and sport-specific training. Exceed Physical Culture was started because of his belief that “clients should have a facility that allows them to vary their workouts in an atmosphere that inspires results.” I don’t know why but I was shocked when I made it to Exceed and found the stunning street level studio. The main space is large with a glassed-off space in the back where the group classes are held – the space even includes Monkey Bars! The rest of the space that includes another downstairs studio, is used for personal training. When I got there on Monday morning, the studio was filled to the brim with people working hard – always an inspiring sight to walk into! I hurried downstairs to the changing room, stashed my stuff and made my way back up to class. I was ready to work.
I met Ed and he gave me a brief overview of how the class would go before it started. We were going to be doing 4 stations per round – rowing/jump rope, TRX, Bosu Ball and a Kettlebell station with a pushup “break” in between each round.
After a brief dynamic warm-up session, we were broken into groups of four and did each exercise for time. The change up in this class was that the time at each station was based on whatever group was doing rowing. Each time, the rowers were given a distance in meters to hit and everyone else went at their station until the rowers covered that distance!
There were 18 people in the class – which seemed huge for the small group space but once the class started, it never seemed crowded at all. I started out on the Bosu ball. Ed described the first move, a push up with one hand on the Bosu ball with a belly slap with the other hand when I came up. I knew I was in for a fun, ass-kicking session if that was the starter move! Next station, I was on the jump rope and got a chance to scope out the room. It was a fit crew and each station had some fun, challenging move – at TRX there was a one legged squat with leg lift, Kettlebells started out with a squat with press up. For the following rounds, each station had a new move that Ed would explain during our pushup “break.” I was so impressed with his ability to mix in so many creative and challenging moves using so few props!
This class kicked my ass and I loved every single minute of it. In each round there were moves I had never tried before –and I loved the competitive cardio on the rower thrown into the mix. Knowing that the whole class was counting on me to get those meters done so they could move on made me haul ass. It was so fun to have all of these challenging new moves and really see what I could do. At each station, for every round, I was impressed with Ed’s ability to always be there, checking everyone’s form constantly – that kind of attention and focus on form is what makes a challenging class absolutely amazing. I can’t wait to go back… and I really want to try out those monkey bars!
Photos and awesome video by Eric Stafford, Stafford Sports Media
A few weeks ago, I received an email from Pilates ProWorks about an awesome event, two days of free classes sponsored by GapFit. It got even better though, since not only were they sponsoring the classes but everyone who attended got a pair of free pants too! Seriously? The first time I read the email, I assumed I’d read that part wrong but immediately shot over to their site to sign myself up for some of the fun! I mean really, I LOVED Jenn’s class the first time I took it and have been dying to go back. So I immediately booked a class with her but then I also booked a TRX class with Will Arrufat, since I friend whose opinion I totally respect recently raved about him. I knew the free classes would fill up in a second….
For this event, we checked in, then talked to the GapFit Girls, who offered us one of three styles of pants. I chose the slim boot cut version since I have a lot of capris and really need some longer pants. I figured they’d be fine, but I was stunned by just how flattering they were! Seriously, the GapFit pants are slightly compressing and made me look really long & sleek. SCORE on the cute free pants!
The TRX classes take place in the smaller of the two Pilates Pro Works studios, so after slipping on my new pants to wear, I made my way into class. When I walked in, Will was already explaining how to use the TRX to two other students and asked me if I’d used TRX before. My answer “Yes, but not enough to know how to actually move the straps!” A true and slightly pathetic description, because in every TRX class I’ve done, I’m always the one fiddling with the straps for far too long. He just laughed and then after the entire class assembled, went over how to adjust the straps. It was easily the clearest and most helpful, concise description I’ve ever heard in a TRX class, which immediately made me like him.
Will is a Personal Trainer, TRX STC Instructor and a 2012 Nike Ambassador from NYC and just all around fun. I mean, how can you not love a trainer who bounces around the room for the entire class, yelling encouragement (and occasionally bad 90’s phrases like “show me the money!”) all the while leading you through a ridiculously challenging class. We would do three rounds of an exercise with a break for mountain climbers or jumping jacks. The hardest part by far though was the ab section at the end. It was ridiculously brutal. With our feet in the straps, the crunches, pikes and oblique twists made me want to cry…. and come back constantly until it didn’t. We ended with a killer set challenge of 20 each of crunches, oblique twists, shoulder shrug/ pikes and then finished off with weighted burpees. Brutal! I finished third of the group, shockingly….
By the end, the windows had steamed up and Will bellowed “WELL DONE! THAT IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT! I get to write my saying now…” And on the steamed windows he proceeded to write…EN FUEGO and truthfully, by the end, I did feel like I was on fire. It was a well planned class, where Will left me in a whimpering puddle by the end, but not so that I was so sore the next day that I couldn’t move… an almost impossible balance!
Recently, I got the chance to check out Body Space Fitness when they offered a few free trial classes for their upcoming “Training for Warriors” program. This training gym, which offers a few weekly small group classes but is mostly used for personal training, is one of the coolest gyms I’ve seen. It includes a couple of my favorite fun gym tools – the Prowler and battling ropes, but the coolest thing is the fact that half the space is covered in Astroturf, which is just awesome and practical.
“Training for Warriors” is a training system developed by expert sports coach Martin Rooney “from his numerous years of experience working with combat and team sports athletes.” It is a system designed to take you through metabolic challenges and strength work to teach athletes cutting edge techniques to keep them at their best. Body Space Fitness is getting ready to start an intensive, 8-week small group program for TFW that will meet 3 times per week.
The first class trial I went to, taught by founder of Body Space Fitness Kelvin Gary, I dragged Julia from FitJourney with me. We had such a ridiculously good time that we arranged to bring a fierce fitness crew to check out BSF the following weekend. It was just too good not to share. So on Saturday, we went there with Holly Rilinger, SinWorkouts and Jolene, which made for a ridiculously kickass group. Kelvin had us all start out with foam rollers since we had all come from other workouts, while he told us about the TFW workout.
We started out with some dynamic stretching and a brief warm-up before moving into the workout. This class was slightly different from the first one and included 6 stations that we rotated through three times. It included the Prowler- which I always love to push around, battling ropes, TRX back rows, an agility speed work ladder, and this awesome but ridiculously hard plank move with sandbag pull-through. We did 40 seconds of work, with 30 seconds to rest/rotate to the next session. It was one of those awesome crews were everyone is really focused but also super supportive so there was a lot of hooting, hollering and high-fives. Does it get better than that when you are getting your ass kicked? For the final section we finished with a round of sprints on the treadmill, medicine ball twists and bicep curl/shoulder presses. The class FLEW by and by the end I was wiped out but seriously happy to have gotten to workout with such a fierce crew.
Kelvin was awesome, just like in my first class with him, motivating everyone and keeping an eagle eye on form at each station. His passion about training and about making sure that people are getting the most out of their session with him is always evident. Body Space Fitness is his vision and he is dedicated to keeping the classes small so that people get that kind of personal attention in any class that happens there. In a training group where you are being challenged like in TFW, that is huge. I can’t even imagine the amazing results people are going to get from 8 weeks of the Training for Warriors challenge…but I can’t wait to see!
Photos and video by Eric Stafford, Stafford Sports Media
On Monday, I got the chance to try out Plank Pilates, the LES studio that I have wanted to check out for a while. I knew it was a “small” studio since almost every single review mentions it but I didn’t have any idea how teeny-tiny this studio is until I showed up at the front door. The way the space is set up, you walk directly into the studio, slip off your shoes and then cut through the space to the stairwell to get down to the reception area. When I got there, a private session was going on so I quickly made my way to the back and down the stairs where I found the cozy, spa-like reception area. It is small but lovely with cucumber/lemon water jars, a large changing room with warm Eucalyptus and cold Lavender towels prepped to use. It was such a pampered introduction to Plank, I briefly thought the class would be a breeze. I was VERY wrong.
All of Plank’s group classes are based around the Tower, an awesome wall-mounted apparatus that gives studios the ability to do some of the traditional super-effective Pilates machine moves in a group setting, without the need for the larger Cadillac machines. Plank has 5 of them lined up against one of their walls and they take up the majority of the studio. When I finally made it upstairs, after thoroughly enjoying the pampering touches downstairs, I snagged a Tower and settled in for class. I always feel like I am suffering through a Pilates mat class but once springs are involved, it is a whole different story. Pilates designed machines using heavy springs that you pull and push in varying ways and it is that resistance that makes all the difference. I have loved every Tower class I have ever gotten the chance to take and was really excited to get to try another one.
Leading our Tower class was Julia Fouts, who actually created Plank’s signature “Plank 360” class. On top of her Pilates certifications, Julia is certified in Sports and Personal training, which I have to say, now makes me really intrigued by the 360 class. One of my absolute favorite things about Pilates in a boutique setting is how focused on form and good at corrections instructors are – Julia was no exception. She had the ability to spot even the smallest miss-alignment and correct it. Her verbal cues were clear and helpful but more often than not, I would just miss the mark of where I was supposed to be and she would come over and deftly fix what I was doing wrong. Julia moved the class through a fluid series of movements, using the arm and leg springs and the roll down bar – while never allowing the class to feel choppy as we changed from one set of springs to another. I loved her take on the leg series, too, with a couple of fun versions of my favorite classic Pilates machine moves. It was a challenging, quick hour and by the end I felt thoroughly worked out from head to toe. I really just wanted to lay there on the mat and bask in that happy good workout bliss but another class was already making its way downstairs to get ready for their class, so I hopped up and wiped down my Tower mat instead. I walked out of Plank with a new spring in my step, just a little happier to have found this gem of a studio in the hustle and bustle of the city.
This weekend, as part of the “Sweaty Saturday” event, Peak Performance opened their private training facility to put on 3 very special classes. The one I took was led by none other than Joe Dowdell. Seriously, if Joe, the founder of Peak, celebrity trainer and go-to fitness authority for magazines like Men’s Health, Shape, Women’s Health and Fitness (to name a few), is teaching a rare class for the masses, I am goin to be there! That said, I really didn’t have any idea what a metabolic training class would actually consist of when I signed up…
It was my second class of the day and when I made it up to the amazing Peak Performance, I was heavily in one of those moods where I just wanted to bag everything and call it a day. However, the minute the elevator doors opened on the awesome, loft-like space of Peak and I see the smiling face of Kindra, Peak’s General Manager, I snapped out of my funk. This was going to be fun – no matter what the class was really going to be! The group that had gathered for the rare treat of a Peak class was a solid group of 14 fellow fitness fiends who knew what a treat this was and came to work. We paired up and then got around to working out. The first few minutes were a dynamic warm up section before Joe got around to explaining the class. The class was a basic HIIT class, 30 seconds on, 30 off, but ramped up with all of Peak’s killer toys. There were 8 stations and we were set to go for 3 rounds. As Joe went through the stations I got more and more excited. After he was done with the quick run through, we were all sent off to pick a station to start with – I ended up at the battling ropes as the lead-off station. My partner, who had run to the lockers and saw where we were starting, sort of looked at me like she wanted to kick me but quickly rallied. We cheered and clapped for each other for the entire class, it was surprisingly awesome to have a partner because it meant that you had someone rooting for you all the way through!
Our circuit was:
1. The battling ropes
2. Treadmill sprints with the machine in dynamic mode (which is when you have to move the belt with your own power)
3. A 10 lb medicine ball slam and catch station
4. The Prowler
5. A weighted sled rope pull
6. TRX squat
7. Powermax 360 (a push-pull machine often used for fight training, that I did not love)
8. A low box shuffle-squat
Of the stations, I found almost all of them both ridiculously challenging and freaking awesome. There is something so satisfying about pushing yourself that hard. I also loved that there were other trainers on the floor checking on our form every second. During the weighted sled pull, there was a trainer pulling the rope out from under us, so that the minute that the sled hit our feet, we ran to the end of the rope to start again. The whole time though, our form was being coached – “chest up! Squat deeper!” – I love that kind of attention to detail. During the medicine ball throw, Joe would yell to really get our arms above our heads and “slam it like you mean it!”.
Midway through the 2nd round I wondered how I could possibly make it through another round. That 3rd round was brutal but at each station, when I knew it was the last time I would face it, I pushed harder. As I told my partner – if I sit down, I am not sure I’ll get up – I have to keep going. It was awesome. It was a challenging hour and I haven’t worked that hard in ages.
I loved every second of it.
Top photo and headshot of Joe Dowdell from the Peak Performance Facebook page, bottom quote a little internet goodness….
On Sunday morning, I finally made it into one of Steven Little‘s weekend Flywheel classes. I have loved every single one of Steven’s hard “own your ride” style classes but have always wondered about this class since it is the one that is packed from almost the moment the booking window opens. It was just as awesome as all the others but with a palpable feeling of engagement from riders who really respond to Steven’s brand of really expecting you to rise to your very best. It was a great, challenging class and Steven pushed us hard, which wasn’t even a little bit of a surprise, but also completely awesome. Even though I knew it would be a really hard class, since I had made it into his Flywheel class, I also really wanted to try and take his new TRX class afterwards at Pilates Pro Works, since it is so perfectly spaced to do afterwards. It really just seemed like it had the potential to be a killer double – plus I really wanted to check out the new studio!
After grabbing a much needed and ridiculously yummy latte at Joe & the Art of Coffee (seriously, a good latte always makes my day) I made my way over to Pilates Pro Works for the first time. I swear in Google, it was listed at 45 W.14th Street, but when I got to that address, I was greeted by a Golden Palace take-out spot and was briefly confused. Thankfully, I noticed the big poster on the door of #47 and figured out where I was really supposed to be! I was buzzed in, and climbed the stairs to the second floor to the surprisingly large, airy, open studio. Jenn, Head of their Pilates program, was manning the desk and greeted me like an old friend as I walked in the door. It was such a good first impression that I immediately wanted to be at the studio all the time. There are two main studios, the largest is the one with the Pilates-inspired machine class and then a smaller studio where the barre and TRX happens. There are lockers with keys, 2 bathrooms and one changing room. As they get busier, I think that having only one changing room may become an issue…
TRX, which I have only had the briefest chance to play with, is one of those tools that when done right, is amazing but is SO very easy to do wrong. The anchored straps are a devilishly simple concept, using them at different angles, you can use more or less of your body weight in a seemingly endless variety of exercises. The thing about TRX is that you really need to know what you are doing to actually get a great workout from it and not just hurt yourself by being too extreme. Steven not only is an amazing trainer, always striving to make you really challenge yourself, but ALSO a sticker on form -so I knew he would be the perfect person to take my first TRX class from! It is a small class format, with 10 TRX stations, and Steven thoroughly covered the basics of the set up and using the straps, since there were a lot of newbies in the class. First off, if you are taking this class – bring a towel! They mention it in the notes for the class but seriously, bring a towel. You will get sweaty. I realize that my class before made me sort of a sweaty beast from the start but my classmates who didn’t bring a towel were seriously glaring at me any time I went to my towel to wipe off. The class was an interval-based class that kicked my ass. Steven did sets, that mostly were 2 moves on the TRX straps and then one on the floor (pushups, mountain climbers, star jacks..basically some sort of plank-based move) and each set done 3 times. On the TRX straps we did moves, leaning away from the straps, into them and even with our feet suspended in them. Ouch. He was so good about correcting everyone’s form throughout the class, from where your feet should be in a squat to the angle you were coming off during a leaning bicep curl, that there was never a chance for cheating. Steven is all about the proper form being done, whatever your level is in any given move. I never once worried that I was going to hurt myself, but I did know that with Steven I could push myself to work extra hard. It was a class that I really felt the next day. in the best possible way! The class flew by. I was stunned and slightly grateful when he finally announced it was time to stretch. I was sore, wiped-out and slightly giddy from getting my ass kicked. If I could, I would add it to my routine every week, since really, with a tool like TRX and an instructor who pushes you that hard, I think could produce some crazy impressive results…
Top image from Flywheel’s website , second image just something that is always true for me, middle image of Pilates Pro Works NYC very pretty lobby, and final image, a little bit of internet goodness.