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…

A Perfect Mix: hard work & taking care of yourself….

On Monday morning, I met up with three of the fittest women I know at one of my favorite spots in the city, As 1. Of the 4 of us, we had two newbies, but I was absolutely sure they would both love the workout. I knew they would kick ass!  I found out that George wasn’t going to lead the group this time, Mark Merchant would be. It would be my first time with Mark.  I had heard he was amazing but tough, and I was a little nervous about whether or not this would change my love of the As 1 experience. In pictures, Mark looks far more like a drill sergeant than George does, and I was a little worried that he was just going to be very, very serious. Turns out, in person, Mark is very warm, open and just very committed to what he does – exactly what I should have expected from one of the founders at As 1. I liked him immediately and then he proceeded to kick my ass.

The first half of class we did a routine based on a plan Mark had designed for Esquire magazine. It was 5 rounds of 20 seconds-on-5-seconds-off of the following moves: squats with a sandbag on your shoulders, push-ups, sit-ups, burpees, split squats, bent-over rows with the sandbag, a move called the Dolphin (basically a plank with a raising up to a pike –over and over), and then another set of burpees. It sounded simple enough, but proved to be a killer! As with every workout, there we were, all watched like a hawk and throughout the whole thing, Mark made constant corrections to form as we went through each round. The second half of class was made up of another 5 rounds.  This time, it was pull-ups (to failure or 8,) one-armed rope whacking while squatting (this was virtually impossible for me, sort of like patting my tummy and rubbing my head is,) switch arms-repeat, then end the round running down 7 flights of stair and back up. Those stairs ARE hard, but the best part was that my partners in crime kept hooting and hollering as they passed one another – which made it wildly more fun than it should have been!  Plus, I was really grateful every time they passed that they weren’t just cursing me for getting them into that crazy stairwell!

I was crazy wiped out after class on Monday (As 1 was my 5th class in just 48hrs) and was really sore and really just wanted to lie down. Instead, I headed off to see Dr. Gregory Shure at Madison Square Wellness to talk about the importance of stretching and preventative wellness care. Turns out that really, it was such a random stroke of good fortune that his office had contacted me about coming in to talk to Dr. Shure last week! I have a lot of people I know and trust completely who have been saying pretty amazing things about Dr. Shure, so I jumped at the chance to go talk to him. I was fully expecting an office lecture (I don’t stretch nearly enough) and that maybe if I looked like a total hot mess, maybe he would crack my back (I have never been to a Chiropractor, so really, I didn’t know what a first appointment would entail). I just really didn’t know what to expect but knew it would be interesting at least. Mostly, he didn’t lecture me at all, but gave me a lot of solid advice.  He also didn’t call me a hot mess but did go on to give me a massage/realignment thing that was just out-of-this-world amazing. It wasn’t scary or aggressive cracking that I thought might be what happens in a chiropractic office, but more pulling and pushing to straighten me out a little. It was amazing!

I left feeling a hundred times better than I had when I walked in and feeling like I had found a really great resource for staying healthy and on my feet.  The very next day in my mailbox, I received an email from Dr. Shure as a follow-up that included a variety of stretches that I should incorporate into my daily routine, with links to demonstrations of the moves. It was such a cool and thoughtful follow-up and I was shocked – and completely grateful. I totally see why my friends have raved about him, since obviously, now so do I!

(Image of Mark from As 1′s Facebook page. Image of Dr. Shure from Madison Square Wellness Facebook page )