Sweaty Saturday at Peak Performance With Joe Dowdell: A Prowler, Sled, and Battling Ropes… Oh My!

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….

Kira Stokes & her amazing small group class….

This week, I got the chance to try another one of Kira Stokes‘ classes, from her “Stoked” series.  This time, I took “Stoked 360 MAX”, the small group version of her classic class. I had loved the Stoked 360 class I tried a few weeks ago and was excited about getting another chance at training with Kira. I love small group programs, both for the individualized attention that the trainers are able to give and also for the participants’ dedication – which is a given when you have someone like Kira Stokes, who is such a stickler for form and has such an intense loyal following, I had a feeling it was going to be a good class. I didn’t expect it to quite as awesome as it was though!

On Monday morning, I ran into the Reebok Sports Center, stashed my stuff in a locker and hurried upstairs to class. Kira had told me to head upstairs to the 6th floor and grab a medicine ball before joining the class, however, by the time I got there, only the 2lbs balls were left so I grabbed one and then promptly realized that the class wasn’t starting in the normal studios where I thought it would. After a quick look around, I noticed a group of really fit women jumping rope on the basketball court below and realized that HAD to be Kira’s group so I ran down the stairs to join them. As soon as I hit the door, I had an immediate moment of “oh shit” the group was so super fit that I knew this is going to be even more hardcore then I had bargained for. I steeled myself as I entered the room, expecting the group to be annoyed that I was crashing their class, since it was at the tail end of a session.  Turns out I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Kira introduced me to the group and I was immediately met with warm smiles, welcomes, and a little teasing about if I knew what I was getting myself into. I promptly realized this group was going to be amazingly fun to workout with for the next 90 minutes.

As we jumped rope to warm up, Kira told us we had 20 minutes on the court and then would be heading up to the studio, so we better make those minutes count. We did suicide sprints, threw the medicine ball at the wall and then catching it in a squat on the rebound, and this overhead throw at the wall and mountain climbers with your feet on gliding disks thing. The final exercise in this group was the killer though- a moving plank to pike move that I thought might just kill me.  With our feet still on the gliders, we pulled up to a pike before walking our hands forward back into a plank, finishing with a pushup each time as we inched our way to center court. Nothing has ever seemed so far away. By the time the 20 minutes were up and the 3rd round completed, I was shaking. During each round, Kira kept telling people that they could switch out with me for the lighter ball if their 6lbs got too heavy, but no one took her up on that and by the end, I was really grateful that they had taken pity on me!

As we made our way up the stairs, the women laughed and told me I was doing good. I might have been holding my own but good was a long way away! The second section included lots of jumping rope, stair runs, so many variations on push-ups, lots of multi-directional movements and Kira’s version of the walking lunge with 8 lbs weights in each hand. In her version, there is a reach out and pause at the bottom of the movement, which effectively robs you of any moment you could build, making it so much harder to pull up into the standing bicep curl at the top. It hits everything. It is an amazingly simple and effective move – crossing the floor both directions in each round. We went about half an hour over -which I am always for in any class, but in this one, I was actually concerned that if there was another round of those lunges I might just keel over. We wrapped up with a core section that I liked, mostly because by that point, I really just wanted to lay down and whimper and at least I got to lay down!  Whimpering I would manage to hold off ’till the next day… when I actually did whimper going up the stairs at the subway station!

It was one of those classes that just entirely kicked my ass BUT was filled with such awesome, funny, impressive women that I couldn’t help but love every minute of it. I knew Kira was good. A master trainer with an impressive ability to focus on form while challenging you with new and interesting moves, but those women, her core group, show just how great she is. They follow her from program to program because she is great, inspiring and truly cares about the people she trains. The group on Monday included all ages, but all were really fit, funny and welcoming…just like Kira is! If I could, I would join that group every Monday. They just ROCKED!

(Top image of Kira from her website, of how a pushup is supposed to look! Bottom image just a little internet goodness.)