Closing out this year, I am sick, which means that I have far too much time to reflect on all of the amazing experiences I have gotten to have this year. I have done a lot of workouts, done a huge variety of classes, and written about a lot of them here. When I think about my top 5 experiences, it becomes a challenge…because I write about the things I love. So, narrowing it down to a top five was a little daunting, but it turns out that there ARE a top 5 that really stand out for me when reflecting on 2011:
Jesse Alexander’s 1 Year Anniversary Ride: At that point, I had just taken a handful of classes with Jesse but it fully cemented him as one of my absolute favorites. It was one of those perfect classes, where everyone there was completely, raucously invested in the ride AND the instructor was completely in the zone. At the beginning of class, no one knew why this one was so special, but there was this moment of awareness when the place erupted with love – it was awesome to witness and changed my love of Flywheel to a flat out love of the community that has been built there.
Holly Rilinger’s Training Camp: Holly is awesome. Plain and simple. In fact, one of her Flywheel classes was the reason I finally started my blog. It was the very first thing I posted about. She just has that sort of effect on you. However, it isn’t the class that I think of anymore when I think of Holly. In September, I was chosen by Health Warrior to participate in one of her Training camps. It was 4 weeks of getting to workout with one of the best trainers in the city, in a small group setting. It was easily a highlight of my year. It says a lot that this night owl woke up voluntarily at 4:30 a.m. to attend – and never missed a class or was late – and that by the end, I really believed in my inner athlete.
AS 1 – I didn’t know what to expect, really, when I got there but the one thing I didn’t expect was to love this workout. It is one of my absolute favorite classes I tried this year, hands down. As 1 is definitely going to be in the mix in the New Year. It was hard, exhausting AND made me feel like a bad ass. I love the minimal space, the exacting coaching and the functional based training – PLUS whacking those big ropes against the ground rocks. I left tired and invigorated – the sign for me of the greatest kind of class.
Brick Workout v. 2 – This year I did two Brick workouts, sponsored by the Lululemon 66th Street and Flywheel. I loved the idea of indoor cycling and running back-to-back, and it was just as hard as I thought it would be. The first one was on a perfect, beautiful, crisp fall day and was great challenging fun. The second one though, is the one I loved, since it was during the season’s freak snowstorm in October. The indoor cycling portion with Aleah Stander (Flywheel rockstar instructor) was packed, but only 4 of us made it over to the park for the 3 mile run in a snowy Central Park with Abby Bales, the run coach who amazingly motivated me to keep going in the snow AND made it seem like fun. It was a workout that made me feel like both a bad ass and an athlete. It also made me think that maybe in the new year I should try and get some more running coach time in – it made a huge difference that day!
Soul Cycle with Danny Kopel: A friend of mine invited me to my second Soul Cycle class (I had really enjoyed my first with Jenny Gaither, too) and it was ridiculously fun. It felt more like being at a concert and it made it easy to see why Danny has groupies – but it was also a just a good sweaty workout too. Of the handful of Soul Cycle classes I have taken, this one was the most fun and was the one that made me know I’ll be back at some point next year.
Images: 1. Internet goodness 2. Flywheel’s Flatiron location for one of my many visits 3. Our first Training Camp session from Holly’s Facebook page with our Health Warrior goodie boxes 4. The As 1 space from their website 5. Another bit of internet goodness 6. Union Square Soul Cycle studio from their website
Last week, I got a message from my Soul Cycle friend that read “I booked a second bike in Danny’s Dance Party – it is yours if you want it.” My immediate response was: “Hell, YES!” The first class I took with Danny Kopel at Soul Cycle had felt more like a party than a class, so the fact that there was an actual dance party class sounded like a damn fine way to begin a Saturday night. The first class I took with Danny, he didn’t ride the bike at all and I couldn’t really picture him on one since he has a frenetic and boundless energy that seemed almost impossible to keep in one spot for 45 minutes.
Danny was, of course, fabulous on the bike and off it too. He still bounded around the room like a rock star on stage, but also held the room on the bike. He is so magnetic and impishly charismatic that it is almost impossible to not get caught up in the vibe Danny is creating. The packed class felt more like a club with a star DJ at the helm of your evening, and the music was a little more club/techno-y than the first class I took with him. There was lots of “dancing” on the bike – the Soul Cycle pushups and dips moves that sometimes I got and sometimes I just didn’t – I am not the most coordinated when it comes to those things! The class certainly had more “moves” and chorography then the first one. It was fun, but some of the moves, I just didn’t get at all. However, my absolute favorite part of the class wasn’t the strobe light (which Danny WORKED) but the bubble machine. It was so ridiculous that it had to be loved, because seriously, how often do you get bubbles in a class? Plus, Danny has a signature high kick move, that really is damn impressive, and several times he popped the bubbles with a high kick. I loved that. This class FLEW by… I swear it felt more like 20 minutes then 45. Total sweaty fun.
Trying to describe Danny’s Soul Dance Party is like trying to tell someone about the amazing party you went to that never sounds as fantastic as it was – the class was a ridiculously good time. It was a good workout AND a fantastically good time. Afterwards, I was in a great mood and headed back to Brooklyn to get ready to go to my friend’s Holiday party – the class really was the perfect kickoff to a festive evening! A workout improves my mood, but this one also made me feel like partying was in order, too. And during this season, that makes it just about perfect.
Last week, a friend of mine asked if I wanted to join him as a guest for a ride with one of his favorite instructors at Soul Cycle. Considering that I have been hearing my friend and so many others RAVE about Danny Kopel’s class AND the fact that I am never one to turn down a free ride, it was a no brainer that I would join him for a late night class on Monday. I have only been to one other Soul Cycle class, at a different studio, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect at all.
The Union Square studio is much smaller than the Tribeca studio that I had been to previously, but still very Soul Cycle – all white, bold graphics and a very pretty, nice, front desk staff. I made it there before my friend and checked in with the front desk, where I expected to get the third degree about signing in as someone else, but obviously, people bring their friends a lot and it was super easy. I rented my shoes for $3, since I don’t own my own pair, and was handed a brand new pair of shoes – sweet! Then, I headed downstairs to change in the gleaming white changing room and drop my stuff off in a locker. By the time I got back upstairs, my friend was there and I joined him in line to wait for the studio to open up. We had front row bikes and he warned me that it might be intense (the front row is expected to bring their A game apparently). This didn’t worry me at all though, since really, what is the point of going to class at all if you aren’t going to give it your all? The only part that DID worry me was that Soul Cycle classes have a lot of chorography and my friend warned “Danny’s REALLY into choreography – and will call you out when you are in the front row.” Greeeeeeeaat. Let’s take a moment here to get one thing clear: there is a reason I don’t take dance classes. I REALLY suck at choreography. I can follow along well enough – kind of – if watching, but if I have to somehow manage to attempt it on my own? Well, it just is not a pretty sight. So, I took the least of the front and center bikes and just decided not to worry about it at all.
The interesting thing about Soul Cycle is that they often have other people ride the instructor bike – which I have always found really weird and yet in Monday’s class, it didn’t really seem that strange at all. Danny bounded around the room the moment the class started, with a kind of frenetic energy that seemed like it would be hard to contain on a bike anyway, so it was nice to have someone on the bike to watch the whole time. The choreography wasn’t nearly as hard to follow as I had feared and I didn’t feel like a total spaz doing it either, although I was by no means as rhythmic as the more seasoned riders! It was fun and felt like dancing on the bike and was a nice distraction from how hard we were working. The class was a sweaty, fierce, ridiculously fun thing that I just couldn’t help getting swept up into. Danny had that room wrapped around his little finger and it was awesome to witness that sort of rock-star energy up close. It is no wonder he has groupies!
(Photo: Soul Cycle’s USQ studio from their website, because none of the pictures I found of Danny did him justice!)