Fired Up & Inspired: Gabby Reece’s BodyWise at Exceed

GR at Exceed 2My very first reaction when I got the notice that one of my fitness icons, Gabby Reece, would be leading a workout at the always awesome Exceed, was that there was absolutely no way I could miss it. Held on the Sunday morning just before the Sports Bra Challenge, I knew it would be a lot to do on the same day, but really, how often is the chance to train with Gabby going to come along?
GR at Exceed 4After checking in at Exceed, I made my way to stash my stuff and caught my first glimpse of Gabby. She is a tall, striking presence and as I watched her explain the workout to the 2 Exceed trainers who were going to be assisting, I knew this was going to be even harder than I expected. Her program, BodyWise, is a 75 minute total body workout that combines cardio, resistance training and functional movement in a rigorous training circuit and is a workout that Gabby leads in a large warehouse space near her home in Hawaii. This event was capped at 30 people, but in Hawaii, it apparently can swell to 75 people! The group that had gathered on Sunday at Exceed was a fiercely fit crew and as she ran through a demo of every move we were going to be doing that morning, everyone seemed a little in awe of the fact that we were going to get to work out with her. There were 22 different moves for the 75 minute class and as I watched her go through each one in succession, I knew I was in trouble…not just because each one looked challenging but mostly because I was NEVER going to remember all 22!  Gabby paired us off and we all made our way over to the first station. In my head, I thought we were doing the same exercise as the people we were following. So not the case!  Less than a minute in, she came over and yelled at us –“WHY are you all doing the same exercise??” and all I could think was “Oh damn, I am already in trouble with Gabby!”  After sorting out what exercise we were supposed to be doing, and understanding that we were moving to whatever station the people we were following behind just finished, we got down to business.

GR at Exceed 3

Due to the size constraints at Exceed, the stations were in both the main classroom and the personal training area, so the stations couldn’t really be laid out in any sort of pattern that might have made it easier to see where we were going next. But there were 2 extra Exceed trainers in there to help make sure everyone was doing what they were supposed to be doing at each station. Still, there was a lot of peering across the room to try and see what the group we were following was doing… but I was lucky the pair we were following included Claire Gould, TRX trainer at Pilates Pro Works, who was amazing. She would wait briefly before moving from her station and give us a quick demo of the two moves that station consisted of – seriously, I could have hugged her for that.
GR at Exceed 1Gabby moved constantly around the room, correcting form and pushing us to work much harder at every single exercise. There is absolutely no slacking allowed around an athlete of her caliber – and it was like she could spot when we were not giving it our absolute all from a mile a away and would be in our faces or by our sides pushing us to be our best. We worked with body weight, kettlebells, battle ropes, stability balls, and weights and moved to a new station every 3 minutes. It felt like the class was flying by, which is always the sign of an awesome workout. The BodyWise workout was challenging and seriously crushed me but I loved every minute of it… but the best part was getting to workout with Gabby Reece. She is amazing – pushing everyone to be the best we can be at every moment because really, she always believes we have a little more to give and won’t take less than our best.

I walked out fired up and inspired.

All photos by Eric Stafford from Stafford Sports Media

As One: The Work of Believing

On Monday morning, bright and early, I made my way to As One in it’s new home, fully prepared to have George Vafiades kick my ass again. I wasn’t really awake when I finally got there and it took me a minute to realize that Mark Merchant was there as well, geared up and ready to go – and both Mark and George looked worrisomely devilish.

The class started off with the normal As One warm up, which George took the lead on. After the warm up, Mark split us into pairs, with each pair alternating exercises. 3 pairs started on a box jump/jump rope split and then 2 pairs were sent to start with a circuit that involved the evil Airdyne bike. I was in that second group, paired with my friend (I so love having a buddy in my class) and Mark paired George with one of the superstar regulars. Our circuit was 40 seconds on the Airdyne, split squats with a sandbag on our shoulders, pushups, bent-over rows with the sandbag again and for good measure, seated rotations.  Somehow, I ended up doing the entire rotation, basically just doing whatever George was doing. He fixed my form in my pushups (so not low enough…) and would look at me sideways when my split squats slowed down and I would kick it up again. I didn’t even pretend to try and keep up when we went to the Airdyne though… he is a beast on that damn thing! After our roughly 4 1/2 minutes, we swapped with the box folks. This round was deceptively easy at first, 20 box jumps and then swapping out with your partner to jump rope while they box jumped.  Even after the first 4 1/2 minutes, this seemed like the easy portion but by the time the 3rd round came around, it was starting to seem ridiculously hard. Mark was, of course, super precise about form and anytime time he mentioned that I had good form on some move – mostly the back row, once, on my jump roping form – I got slightly, irrationally proud of myself. Of course, being proud of myself when jumping rope meant I would totally lose focus and then whack myself solidly with the rope… I really am so smooth. The funny thing was that I didn’t really notice when Mark was explaining the routine to us, how there was no rest in it at all – or as Mark called it “40 minutes of straight work”.  By the fifth and final round, my partner and I were cracking up because really, it was either laugh or cry at that point. It always amazes me how good they are at As One.  Kicking my ass with things that seem so deceptively simple at the onset.

We ended the day with three rounds of pull-ups. It is amazing how much better I have gotten at them since I started training at As 1. For the first round I figured I would need the heavy band for help since I “suck” at pull-ups.  Turns out that isn’t quite as true anymore! After that realization, I dropped down a band with each round. That last round was a little pathetic but it was awesome to test myself and really know how much I have improved.  Next time, I won’t doubt myself so much. I totally see full-unassisted pull-ups happening soon!

Top picture from Daily Candy Deals which is having an AMAZING deal for As 1 -check it out! Bottom picture just a little motivational reminder…

Brynn Jinnett & finding the church of the Refine Method…

Wednesday night on a whim, my friend and I went to try a Refine Method class uptown. We had been in one of those twitter chains where EVERYONE seemed to be raving about Refine Method and specifically about how amazing Brynn Jinnett is. I had been to a class before, in the then under construction new studio in Union Square but it wasn’t with Brynn, the founder of the method, and I REALLY wanted a chance to get to take class with her. So, when the opportunity popped up to take a class with her, I jumped on it – for both of us! Luckily, my friend is game for almost any fitness class, so I knew it was safe to rope her into this one.

With the address to the studio in hand, I headed to the UES. I knew it was little and in the bottom of a building, however, when I got to the address, I was faced with a church.  Thankfully, there was a plaque on the window for Refine but no separate entrance to get into it.  I braced myself for seemingly breaking into a church as I walked in, but then I heard my friend laugh through the first metal door on the left and knew that I really was in the right spot. Phew – no altercation with an angry church worker for me that evening! Seriously though people, that is worth mentioning… “studio is in a church, don’t be weirded out by walking right in!”

The studio itself is tiny – like a NY studio apartment tiny- and every inch is used. As I walked into Brynn and my pal chatting, I tossed my stuff into a locker and sat down at a station.  In a few minutes the room was packed and every station was full – and almost all were regulars. As soon as we started, I knew why everyone raves about Brynn.  She is funny and slightly relentless in her teasing about the correct form. It is done with love, but it took me a minute to get into the constant teasing about form – you have to love her or you would just want to punch the beautiful, graceful, former ballerina. I chose love and by the end, I am pretty sure my friend did too – although it was touch and go there for a while when Brynn kept taking about her “pregnancy Lululemon top” making it too hard to see her form. I really like the basis for Refine, the move away from the barre to more functional fitness. Bynn is very good at transitioning people in this way, she absolutely knows her crowd and how to motivate them to move away from the barre! As someone who absolutely prefers functional fitness over most barre classes , I think that is a very good thing. The class consists of lots of cardio circuit moves mixed with lots of lunges with kettlebells and work at the specialized pulley system and planks for good measure. Brynn is amazing about form, shockingly good at corrections (one of the best I have seen) and passionate about her method. It was inspiring to watch her and I can see why she has a devoted following. It was a challenging, fun method – midway through the class I was dripping sweat and ran to the bathroom to grab a towel – that is always a good sign for me!

I am glad I got to see the original home, and will definitely be taking Brynn again, but I will be going back to the spacious Union Square studio for my next session!


(Top image of Brynn Jinnett from the blog section of the Refine Method site which is full of interesting back story on the development of the method and bottom image a little internet goodness)