As One Effect : The Power of Ten

On Monday morning, I headed to one of my favorite places to kick off the week: As One’s 8:45am class. Not only are George Vafiades and Mark Merchant so very good at what they do, but that specific class on Monday mornings is filled with a group of kick-ass, inspiring people. Between George and Mark kicking my ass every single time and that great group, I always leave completely inspired. Is there a better way to start a week? Every time, though, I leave and think to myself – “That was the hardest class EVER.” One of these times, that has to give but for this last class, George and Mark once again planned an amazingly intense workout that tested my limits. They are so good at keeping an eye on form and keeping the workout safe that every single time I go as hard as I can to try and live up to their challenge. I don’t always succeed but I try.

This week, the workout was called “The Power of Ten”, or at least, that is what I think Mark said at the beginning. They don’t normally give fun names to their routines, so I might have made that up, since I am never fully awake when we start! As with most As One classes, we were paired off, with each partner sent to their section to start in. I started on the floor while my partner, my awesome super fit friend, started on the evil Airdyne bike. The floor section was 10 reps each of squats with the sandbag, a split squat (10 per leg) where your back foot was up on a box, alternating back lunges (10 per leg), burpees, pushups, pull-ups, weighted back rows with the sandbag, rotational planks, and situps. The ten pull-ups smack in the middle of the rotation were killer from the very start.  We moved from pushups to the bar but we were given our own bars to go back to every time, so we could have the right band to help us. Mine was a heavy, single black band and the first set I flew through, only lightly cursing the last rep.  In that first rotation on the floor, I was super confident in my ability to rock this workout. When we finished, we then swapped out with our partner, who moved to the floor. The Airdyne section was a deceptively simple 30 seconds of going as hard as possible, 30 seconds off, and then repeat until our partner was done on the floor, again, the first round of that section gave me a bout of “Oh, I’ve got this!”.  That didn’t remotely last through the next round, though. By the middle of the second round on the floor, my cursing on the last rep of the pull-up had gotten a little more intense and I was sweating up a storm. My super confidence was fading fast and by the time I moved through the Airdyne section and back to the floor for my 3rd round, I was totally wiped out and only 1/2 way through. My new goal, get through the workout without throwing up, suddenly seemed like a really solid goal. The fourth and final round was brutal but I made it through, and more impressively (for me anyway), completed all 10 pull-ups… although,they were accompanied by a very loud “fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck” as I struggled to get my chin over the bar that final time. Thank goodness, George was there to help me get my foot out of the strap at the end since I was pretty stuck, too tired to manage to pull the strap down to lift my foot out of it. As he helped me, George did a mighty fine job of not actually busting out laughing at me being totally stuck. I managed my final round on the Airdyne with slightly more grace and was grateful for my speedy friend who was the first to finish of her group, meaning we were totally finished.  After a high five, we toweled off and went over to grab our foam rollers. It is always amazing to me how rolling out after class feels like such a sweet reward for all of your hard work! It doesn’t hurt that it basically means you get to flop down on the ground, and really, at the end of one of As One’s classes, I almost always just want to fall down. Rolling out is so much more dignified than the falling down that I envision in my head every time!

I am inordinately proud of making it through that class… and those 40 pull-ups. My goal is to be able to do them without the band. For the first time ever, I think that goal is totally possible… Mark & George make me believe.

 

(Top image, one of my favorite quotes, bottom image of the new As One space from a recent Daily Candy deal)

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…

As One’s amazing new studio & the joy of synchronized burpees…

On Monday morning, bright and early, I went to As One – it was their very first day in their new space and really, I just couldn’t wait any longer to check out the new studio.  So, my friend and I made a date to see it the first chance we got.

The new digs are just around the corner from the old space, and are actually ON Broadway now. When I first heard they were moving into this building, I had assumed they would be on the first floor, so when I got there, I was a little confused by the still empty storefront.  They are actually on the third floor. The new studio is easily twice as big as the old one, with exposed brick walls, thick, nice mats covering the floor, lockers, and bathrooms with showers in the studio.  No more traipsing down a hallway to an office floor’s shared bathroom! My favorite new addition, though, are the pull-up bars hanging from the ceiling in the middle of the studio – although it does mean there is no more wall to help you anymore!

Our class was small, only 6 of us.  I think most people probably thought that the move wouldn’t actually be finished by Monday, so they were giving it a few days, but I am sure the numbers will swell again. I loved getting to scope out the new digs with so few people, though!  George was a little sleep deprived, since apparently he had been up all night finishing the move and for a brief moment, I thought that meant the workout would be a little easier. That wasn’t the case at all. It was by far and away the hardest As 1 class I have been to yet.

The first section was 1 minute rounds of the evil Airdyne bike, squats with a sandbag on your shoulders, box jumps, planks, bike (again), deadlift with sandbag, box jumps (again) and finishing with pushups – this circuit was repeated 3 times. George, although a little goofier than normal due to sleep deprivation, was on all of us about form, as always.  There wasn’t even a moment of slacking allowed. Even though the new space has a great cross-breeze, by the end of that section, I was wiped out and dripping in sweat.  I also knew we had too much time left to actually be done. The second section was a circuit of 30 seconds of burpees, pull-ups and my favorite, the heavy whacking ropes. We paired off and my friend and I managed to get through the first round pretty straight-faced and focused, but by the 2nd round, things got a little goofy. I mean, seriously, synchronized burpees are just funny. George called us out, telling us “Ok, keep the routine going!  Now let’s see you tap feet on the pull-ups!” which we proceeded to do, although, it made that round of pull-ups just silly hard. The ropes are always fun but after burpees and pull-ups, they felt ridiculously heavy. By the third round, my pull-ups were sort of sad and pathetic but I did manage to do a few and not just hang there, which I was totally proud of.

After this especially challenging workout, I was glad that every workout at As 1 ends with a dedicated recovery session with the foam roller – I am pretty sure it is the only reason I was able to move the next day! Once again, As 1 kicked my ass and I can’t wait to go back…

 

Photo of George from As One’s Facebook page and bottom picture just a little internet goodness. Photos of the new space will be in my next As One post, since they weren’t finished completely setting up yet!

AS 1: Tabata is not my friend.

Part of my kick-off-the-year-right plan was that I scheduled as many classes that I was excited about as possible around New Year’s Day. This might have been a slightly over-ambitious plan since it included 3 spin classes with my favorites at Flywheel (Jesse, Alison, and of course, Holly), a new barre class and THEN rounding it out at As 1 on Tuesday night with a session taught by George Vafiades.  I LOVE As 1 – I think it is one of the best workouts in the city but, admittedly, after all of those classes, I was a little nervous walking in on Tuesday night. I know how tough a class can be and I was just getting over the sore from the Flybarre and Flywheeling adventures that I rang in the New Year with.

This class was packed for the small As 1 space, although, everyone got sorted into their own corner of the mat quickly.  While George got all of the stragglers situated into their spots (myself included – damn MTA), Lisa, another trainer there, led the warm up. She also teaches a yoga class at As 1 on Saturdays, and it was interesting that some of the standard warm up moves actually did feel more yoga-like when she was teaching them. Then, George took over, telling us with a mischievous glint in his eye, that I now know means trouble, that we were going to be doing a “Tabata” workout.  Turns out that Tabata is basically a workout where you go full-out for 20 seconds and then rest for 10, for a total of 4 minutes per round. It is high intensity training at its most extreme – which I love.

There were 4 minute rounds of weighted squats, burpees, back rows and dead lifts. The ‘easiest’ round was one that alternated between push-ups and sit-ups – since it was the only round that by the end didn’t make me feel like just falling over. It is truly amazing how LONG four minutes can seem! The worst was easily the 8 minute alternating split squat section (4 minutes per side, apparently) – which left me really shaky by the end! The 4-minute rounds didn’t end at that point but we moved onto the props section – box jumps, jump ropes, wind bikes, stair running and my favorite thing of all time, the ropes! I LOVE whacking those ropes on the ground…I know I’ve said this before…but it really is just the best sound and was the only round I wished was longer! We ended the Tabata with another 4 minutes of burpees and by the end, mine were vaguely pathetic but I did them and didn’t fall over – a win in my book! Class always ends with some foam rollering, which I think makes all the difference. My legs are sore but not ‘whimpering-sitting-down’ sore, like they should have been with that many split squats!

The class flew by. I am always amazed at As 1, how a class so challenging can seem to go by in the blink of an eye. I love being pushed like that and challenged to do more.  George is so good at assessing everyone and keeping an impressive eye on everyone’s form. You know you are in really good hands while you are being challenged to do more and work harder then you ever thought you could.

(Top image: Internet goodness, Bottom image: George at the rope station from As 1′s Facebook page)

As One, take 2

On Monday morning, bright and early, I went back to As One and brought a friend with me. I had thought the class would be totally up her alley and even after reading my post about my first class, she was totally game. I love that! I knew we were in for trouble though when George said with a glint in his eye “Good news: no stairs today!  Bad news: no stairs today!”  Although he looked deviously amused, he wasn’t kidding at all. I will say up front that while I didn’t think it was so at the end of class, this one kicked my ass even more than the first one – it just sort of snuck up on me as opposed to being totally wiped out at the end like the first time.

We started with the same dynamic warm-ups while holding a wooden pole:  roll-downs, side lunges, squats and then jumping jacks and planks for good measure.  My friend had that “I am so not sure about this” look but it quickly changed as we got into the real deal of the class.

At As 1 most things are timed, for short bursts of maximum effort, so basically, you go all out for 20-30 seconds, rest for 10 and repeat, trying to get more reps in each time. On Monday, each of the exercises we did 5 times. First, there were squats with sandbags hoisted up on our shoulders. George made sure all of our forms were perfect, which of course meant that the squats really got HARD after about the 3rd round! Then we moved on to the section that destroyed me:  pull-ups. I really suck at pull-ups. We were all in pairs, so one round you did pull-ups, then off the bar for sit-ups. Each of the bars had bands attached and standing on a box in front of the bars, you stepped into the band, either one or two of them depending on how much assistance you needed. I, for some reason, chose one band and in each round it got harder and harder to get myself over the bar. George of course came over to correct my form and it helped a lot but I still sucked at them! I managed to get at least 5 in all 5 rounds though… which isn’t totally shabby. But the next day, my shoulders, lats and even armpits hurt! I obviously really need to work on pull-ups more…

The next section included bent over rows with the sandbags, then split squats and pushups. During the split squats, George came over to adjust my back heel since I have a tendency to drop it – apparently you are supposed to be more on the ball of your foot with your heel up. That slight adjustment made the exercise so much harder but also obviously more effective…which I loved!  It is so easy for things like that to slide and not be noticed in a group setting and that just doesn’t happen at As 1. Everyone is watched and corrected and it makes all the difference.

The final rounds included box jumping, jumping rope, this crazy bike with arm levers and my very favorite thing – the ropes! The sound the ropes make when you whack them against ground is completely motivating. My friend after class told me “I read what you wrote about the ropes and it really is true!  The sound is the BEST!”.  It’s nice to know that it isn’t just me!

It was a great class and was surprisingly harder than the class with the stairs last week. I didn’t think that was possible. It is truly amazing what a great trainer can get done in a small space and George Vafiades really is one of the best I have ever gotten the chance to work with. He truly knows his stuff and obviously adores what he does, and for me, it doesn’t get better than that.

(Photo: The As1 Studio via Facebook)

As One: An awesome kick-ass, hardcore workout…

I wasn’t really sure what to expect from As One, but on Tuesday night, heading to the studio, I was a little nervous. A friend on Monday warned me that she could barely walk for days afterwards, which, having just taken Barry’s Bootcamp with her, scared the bejesus out of me; she seemed fine after that! Calling As One a studio is a little weird, though, since really, it is just a box with pull up bars and a few exercise bikes, some benches, sandbags and two heavy ropes cutting the room in half.  I wasn’t really prepared for that sparseness, so made the rookie mistake of needing to change when I got there. Big tip: come in your workout gear since changing involves a tiny office bathroom down the hall! On the plus side though, I got the chance to talk to one of the women in the class who was older, and not really someone I would have pegged for this workout, and she RAVED about it – although she also warned me about not being able to walk after.  Seriously, people. Stop it!  That isn’t so helpful to hear before you go into a class!

My instructor, George Vafiades, was really welcoming, although admittedly, had a slightly mischievous glint in his eye as he did a quick run through of what the program was about. He was passionate about the program but clearly knew he was going to kick my ass. The warm-up involved a bar that you held while doing roll-downs, squats and side lunges.  Then it was on to 5 rounds of 25 jumping jacks and 5 burpees.  Normally, I really hate burpees with a passion, but for some reason, they just seemed fitting in that setting and didn’t annoy me at all. Go figure!

After the warm up, we were split up into 2 groups of 5, which at first seemed random but once the groups were together made a lot of sense. It was based on fitness level.  We were put in groups that mirrored our strengths so that each group pushed each other to be stronger. I loved that – it is good for the strong and good for the still working on getting there.  This section of the class was made up of 5 exercise stations that you cycled through before doing a stair run. George went through each station, explaining proper form for each. 3 of the 4 were using really heavy resistance bands making the squats, backward rows, and deadlifts super challenging to keep correct form on. My favorite thing about the whole class was how on top of everyone George was about maintaining form. Making tiny corrections and adjustments whenever you were slightly off, which makes ALL the difference -it means the day after you will be super sore, but not hurt and that is key. The other two stations were a seated twist with a sandbag, where you lifted the damn thing from side to side while holding your feet off the ground and pushups. The fact that the pushups seemed like the break in the round was just so wrong! After the first round we headed to the stairs. Holy Moly! As One is on the 7th floor of the building, so you run down to the basement, tap the wall then run back up all the way to the top, which is on the 12th floor and then down to 7th for the next round of stations. I was pretty speedy on the first round and made it back in the top 4, so we were told that next round we had to go down to 5th Floor before returning. Eek!  All in all there were 4 rounds. They were crazy hard but I love being pushed like that!

The last part was with the ropes. I have never used ropes before although I have seen them used and was really excited to try them. George came over and gave me a brief description of how to do it, which basically boiled down to use your whole body when trying to get the wave going, because if you just use your arms you are screwed. Got it.  I was really good at the ropes, mostly because I really liked the thwapping sound they made when you did it right!  What can I say? There is something sort of cathartic about whapping big heavy ropes against the ground. Then there were sit-ups, more burpees and a little rest before your rope turn again.  I really, really liked the rope section – so freaking fun!

The class ended with rolling out on foam rollers, which was painfully amazing and I am pretty sure made all the difference in how mobile I was after the class. I am also pretty sure that As One is the hardest class I have ever taken – which I had been prepared for.   What I wasn’t prepared for was how much I loved it.  75 minutes after I walked into that room with such trepidation, I left on a complete high. It was truly a kick-ass, hardcore sweat fest that pushed me and made me feel like a rock star by the end. As One was totally, awesomely addictive and I can’t wait to go back.

(image: George Vafiades from the As One website – I was too wiped out at the end to remember to take a picture! )