FBS’s Sweaty Intel: January Edition

A few months ago, I heard a solid report that Soul Cycle had signed a lease in Brooklyn, near the Borough Hall stop in Brooklyn Heights/Downtown area.  I was pretty sure at the time that this was true, but when I saw the recent posting on Soul’s Career section looking for Front Desk peeps for “Brooklyn Heights, CT” I knew it had to be getting close. CT has no Brooklyn Heights… but BROOKLYN’S Downtown/Brooklyn Heights area is ripe for an awesome Indoor Cycling option and given the lease report, I’m now counting down the days ’till it’s officially announced. The Downtown Brooklyn area is massively lacking in fitness options and the studio that gets to this area first is going to have such a stronghold by the time ALL of the huge new buildings go up, it’ll be hard for anyone to compete. I’m not even a little surprised that Soul would see an opportunity and swoop in.

Soul Cycle Saying

 

One of my VERY favorite yoga studios – I.AM.YOU in Nolita is beginning to offer community classes (donation based) on Wednesday nights at 7:30pm. This loft-based studio is just freaking cool – athletic flow and awesome music. These classes will be taught by one of I.AM.YOU’s finishing school trainees, but knowing Lauren, she wouldn’t have anyone teach in her space that wasn’t amazing.  I’m so hitting this up.

IAmYouMats

In classes that seem both fascinating and slightly terrifying –  STREB has started to offer German Wheel (aka the giant hamster wheel) as a weekly class. This used to only be offered as special workshop but now you have the option of dropping in – for $35. Flip, roll, swing and invert yourself inside this giant metal wheel – it encompasses all of the fun and excitement of gymnastic tumbling without the high impact. These classes are taught by Chris Delgado, a certified German wheel instructor who has over 4 years of teaching experience and STREB says it’s open to all levels from beginner to competitive level training. I’m both curious and terrified of this one…

German Wheel Chris Delgado

 

Images from Soul Cycle & I.AM.YOU and Chris Delgado‘s Facebook pages.

Epically Good: Soul Cycle’s Charlee Atkins

Recently when I fessed up that I had never been to a Charlee Atkins class, one of my Soul Cycle friends was horrified…. his exact response was “that is unacceptable” followed the next day by a list of classes he was going to be taking with her the next week. Turned out there was really only one that I could make, her Saturday night class in Tribeca – which is easily my favorite of the Soul Cycle studios. I am always game for any new class and always have fun at Soul Cycle, so I immediately wrote back and said “I’m in!”

soulcycle Charlee AtkinsWhen I got to the studio, my friend had already checked me in and after a brief moment of horror at realizing I was in the front row, I shrugged it off and snagged a pair of shoes for the ride. When I turned around there was Charlee, sporting a bright red baseball cap worn backwards, who really is stunning in person but also has a wide, disarming smile. I’d seen so many serious, smoldering fitness shots of her that the smiling, sweet, open person asking me how I felt about “aggressive rides” in front of me threw me off a little. In those first few minutes of meeting her, I realized that my preconceived notions of what this class was going to be were just completely out the window.

In the room, I got all set up and waited for the class to start. My friend was across the room so I sat there in the front row and just took in the scene, which was filled with regulars (always easy to spot) and a few newbies to the class like me. After everyone got settled, Charlee immediately got down to business. The music was aggressive but in the best possible way and I immediately was sucked into the ride. The songs had us riding on a heavier, slightly slower beat than a lot of the Soul Cycle classes I have been to, so with the heavier resistance and more seated work, it was a class that just felt GOOD – hard & challenging but good.  She also did a thing I loved, she broke down the pushup moves. Charlee would start the pushups in a slightly slower tempo section and then would allow the music to ramp up the speed of them naturally. It made so much sense to me that I was pretty close to being able to do all of the chorography – even the clapping pushups towards the end! It was like a miracle – I was in the front row and didn’t feel totally hapless!

CAtkins

Charlee was just amazingly charismatic – on the bike or when she would get down off and move around the room- she pounded out the beat with her whole body. I totally get now why my friend was so horrified that I hadn’t taken her class…I walked out of her class completely blown away and trying to figure out when I would get to take another one.

Charlee really is just epically good.

Charlee Quote

Photos of Charlee from the Soul-Cycle Website & quote from their Facebook page

Sports Bra Challenge 2013: The Full Recap Of An Amazing Day

On Sunday, April 13th, I took off my shirt in the middle of Union Square and joined 300 other riders at the 3rd Annual Sports Bra Challenge, in a celebration of acceptance and positive body image. A challenge that started in a Soul Cycle classroom a few years ago, when Jenny Gaither couldn’t bring herself to ride in just her sports bra, has grown into a huge charity event to support her SEAK Foundation’s mission to provide programming that improves young women’s self-esteem.

Sports Bra Challenge 2013 1

The event, which took over the North side of Union Square Park, was in full swing by the time I made it there after my workout that morning with Gabby Reece at Exceed. I checked in, snagged a pair of shoes and got ready for my class to start up. I was tired but so excited to be there. Thankfully, Zico Coconut Water was a sponsor, so I grabbed one immediately, knowing it would help my second wind kick in. I saw so many people I knew – bloggers and instructors from other studios (places like Exceed, Body Space Fitness, Uplift, Pilates ProWorks) who had all showed up to support the cause. It was an inspiring group.

I am not a “sports bra only” sort of a person and the first few minutes of sitting there on my bike waiting for our class to start, I was acutely aware that I was not wearing enough clothes for this workout. Thankfully, I had worn my new Moving Comfort Juno bra that is cute and doesn’t move at all, so it didn’t take me that long to get used to it!

Sports Bra Challenge 2013 2Our class session of the Sport’s Bra Challenge was led by Jenny Gaither and Ayana Curtis. They were a powerhouse of a team – both Soul Cycle Rockstars who just radiate the love they have for what they do. This event is Jenny’s baby, and watching her take it all in for those first few moments was amazing.  DJ GB lit the place up right away with a fun, eclectic mix and Anya & Jenny launched into a fun, challenging class. After the first song though, watching Anya and Jenny rock it out on stage, taking in the crowd, I let myself just get totally swept up in the class.  It flew by and at the end, when the whole crowd sang along to Mumford and Sons’ “I Will Wait For You” – I almost cried it was so beautiful. It was truly impossible not to be captivated by the joy and positivity of what was happening that day.

Sports Bra Challenge 2013 3I am so grateful that I got the chance to be part of an event dedicated to empowering everyone by sharing that moment of complete acceptance, of yourself, just as you are. It was a beautiful, joyful day – I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us next year!

 

Photos and video by Eric Stafford, Stafford Sports Media

The Sports Bra Challenge 2013

This year was the 3rd annual SEAK Foundation’s Sports Bra Challenge. The session I went to was lead by the amazing Jenny Gaither (SEAK founder) & Ayana Curtis -it was filled with so many awesome people and was just an epic, joyful thing to be a part of…

sports bra4Check out the video of this amazing event held Sunday, April 14, 2013:

 

Video by Eric Stafford from Stafford Sports Media

Kicking Off The Sports Bra Challenge 2013: Soul Cycle Rockstar Jenny Gaither’s Inspiring Mission

On Friday night, I went to the kick-off event for the Sports Bra Challenge 2013, a 45 minute Soul Cycle class led by the awesome Jenny Gaither, a Soul Cycle Rockstar and one of the founders of the S.E.A.K. Foundation. S.E.A.K (which stands for “Strive, Embrace, Achieve, Know”) grew out of a challenge that Jenny issued for herself 3 years ago to be comfortable in class in just her sports bra.  It was a huge leap in self-acceptance for her and she wanted to be able to share that sense of empowerment that she found in that Soul Cycle room with the help of others. That original, seemingly-simple goal, forms the base of what S.E.A.K is all about – “promoting fitness as a platform for women to build the confidence they need to feel empowered and comfortable in their own skin – exactly as they are.” I love S.E.A.K’s mission and jumped at the chance to attend the kickoff again this year!

SEAK FoundersWhen I made it to Soul Cycle’s Union Square studio, it was packed with women who were there to support the cause and each other. I checked in, got my cute bright orange NB Sport Bra Challenge tank, and ran into a friend of mine all before making my way downstairs. It was, of course, packed in the women’s locker room and since I had on my workout gear already, I stashed my bag and got ready to head back upstairs.  I then realized that I needed to change into the new tank I still had in my hand. Then, I did something I’ve never done before – In the middle of a studio hallway, I stripped off my old tank, tossed it in the locker and threw on the new one before I headed upstairs to wait for the class to start. When they finally flung the doors open, all the bikes were decked with whistles, glowstick circles and SEAK towels. Thankfully, I was in the back row and made quick work of setting up my bike.

Kickoff of the Sports Bra Challenge

Jenny launched into a ridiculously fun, challenging class that was filled with lots of choreography. We were out of the saddle, doing a million push-ups on the beat and rocking it out. Jenny called out encouragement as people pushed themselves to keep up with her insanely infectious energy. As we rode, she told us all about the beginning of the Sports Bra Challenge and told us if it scares us we definitely need to do it. I struggled to keep up with the choreography but loved every second of the class. Jenny’s joy, passion and commitment is inspiring and on Friday night, every single person in that room left feeling more confident as they walked out. Just like last year, on Friday, Jenny made every single person fall fully in love with the principle of the S.E.A.K… that everyone is special, unique and amazing, exactly as they are.

The Sports Bra Challenge this year will be held on Sunday, April 14th in Union Square.  Even bigger than last year, this year’s celebration will consist of two free kids fitness classes taught by SoulCycle’s Senior Master Instructor, Stacey Griffith, and one led by Exceed Physical Culture, and two, 300-bike SoulCycle classes taught by four of SoulCycle’s rockstar instructors: Stacey Griffith, Melanie Griffith, Ayana Curtis, and of course, the amazing Jenny Gaither.

Sports Bra Challenge 2012 Book your bike here and join in for this amazing day dedicated to women, to empowering one another to feel comfortable with their bodies- exactly as they are!

Photos from SEAK Foundation’s Facebook page

Lululemon’s Community Class: A Chance to Ride With Ryan Steinman At Soul Cycle

On a ridiculously cold day, I bundled up and made my way up to the Soul Cycle Studio on 63rd and Lexington for the very first time. It’s been almost a year since I was on a bike at Soul Cycle but thanks to one of Lululemon’s awesome community events, I got the chance to ride with one of Soul’s newer instructors, Ryan Steinman.

Ryan Steinman Soul Blog Photo

When I got to the front desk to check in for my class, it turned out that I’d gotten moved from the random bike I had signed up for in the store. For a brief second I thought somehow I’d gotten knocked off the list and trekked out in the freezing cold for nothing – but it turned out I had been moved to the front row. Eek! I am not the most coordinated person, so in Soul classes with their notorious on-the-bike choreography, I usually try to hide in the back.  After a brief moment of front row panic, I sucked it up, initialed by my name and asked for some cycling shoes for class. Turns out that because we were there with Lululemon, they were free! Free class AND free shoes at Soul Cycle?!? Score!

Soul Cycle’s studios are always ridiculously pretty, with their clean white spaces, dark slate floors and bright yellow logo accents – the 63rd Street studio is no exception. I changed and headed into class to get ready for the ride. Thankfully, I managed not to bust my ass on the slick slate floors as I made my way into the studio– they really are so pretty design-wise but SO impractical! It’s been so long since I’ve ridden with Soul that this was my first time on their “new” bikes. I was shocked by how much better I liked these bikes – they are smooth, easy to adjust and had a better angle than the ones before… I was seriously surprised. I didn’t have any problems adjusting my bike but the Soul staff rushed around the room helping everyone who looked even slightly confused.

Ryan introduced himself to the group and proceeded to get us started as he put on his cycling shoes – turns out he was a corporate lawyer before finding Soul and changing paths. Almost immediately, he was on the bike and launched into the Soul pushup choreography and I was briefly concerned that I wouldn’t be able to keep up. Turned out, though, that Ryan was so easy to follow that I forgot how ridiculously uncoordinated the choreography normally makes me feel and just found myself grinning like crazy and having fun. Ryan’s music was great and eclectic –by far my favorite was a mash-up by DJ Robin Skouteris that included almost a full minute of opera. It was shocking and strangely, went perfectly with the isolation move he called out. The idea of the isolation is to use heavy resistance and to only have your legs move while keeping your upper body perfectly still – a brutally challenging move. Then, as the opera faded into a faster more kickass tempo, he called out for us to let it go. It was awesome. The ride flew by and was filled with talk of finding your soul, making choices, deciding to push yourself, and taking ownership of what you do in every moment; the exact kind of thing I’ve come to expect at Soul and love every time I hear it. I totally get why people love Soul Cycle. Last Sunday, Ryan’s class was exactly what I needed – a sweaty reminder that following you own path can truly be amazing.

Soul Cycle SayingTop image from Soul Cycle’s Blog, bottom image from their FaceBook page.

S.E.A.K Foundation & Jenny Gaither’s joyful mission…

On Friday night, I made my way to Soul Cycle Union Square, for only the 3rd time ever, but this time was for the best reason of all…to support the S.E.A.K. Foundation (which stands for “Strive, Embrace, Achieve, Know”), a new initiative founded by Jenny Gaither. Jenny was inspired to try and help others after facing down her own personal insecurities last year.  Her goal was to get to the place where she could accept herself fully and workout in just a sports bra in a class.  After enlisting the support of others, Jenny realized how much bigger she wanted to take the idea of pushing past your comfort zone and letting go of insecurities. I LOVE the idea behind the foundation that “once you let go of the insecurities that hold you back, both physically and mentally, you can achieve anything.” So there I was on Friday night, with almost 60 other riders and supporters, for the kickoff ride of the upcoming “Sports Bra Challenge” – a huge event that will be held in Union Square on May 17th, with the participants of 2 Soul Cycle classes, involving 100 riders each, and a 150 person yoga class (registration starts on 4/16 if you want to participate).

My very first Soul Cycle class was with Jenny Gather and her joy is infectious. I have been meaning to make it to another one of her classes for ages.  This seemed like the perfect time to make that happen, when the price of a class would be going to support such a good cause.  When I walked into Soul Cycle and checked in, I was handed a kick-ass Under Armor “SEAK Foundation” tank, a bottle of water and shoes. YAY! Although I am not one to wear the shirt of the thing I am doing, I immediately knew that night would be different. My bike was in the very back row, but I was really grateful for that.  I was one of the lone non-Soulers and am always such a hot mess when it comes to their brand of “dancing on the bike”. The other thing about the back row in the Union Square studio is that it is actually raised up, so you can actually SEE the instructor from back there – so I got to watch the whole event unfold in front of me. It was awesome. The joy in that room was seriously magical. Everyone filed in and almost all decked out in their grey tanks, got their bike set up and were just completely open to whatever was about to happen. The two bikes next to me were occupied by Soul Cycle instructors (easy to spot since one of them was Danny). It was fun get to feel their energy  as they supported Jenny, whom they obviously love. Instead of the normal single bike on the stage, there were two instructor bikes. The class started off with Jenny and Melanie Griffith. Melanie is one of the 4 instructors who will be teaching at the SBC and she is amazing. Melanie, who has overcome a cancer diagnosis and is beloved by the Soul community (for very good reason… such a kick-ass, in-charge energy on that bike), took the reigns to begin the class. The mood of the class was set – you can overcome anything, with joy, acceptance and love. Every rider in that room roared as she talked and only got louder as the class went on. It was such an outpouring of joyful, love from every single person who believed in the mission of the night, that REALLY anything is possible if you believe in yourself. In the course of an hour, five instructors took the bike… and all where completely in the moment, filled with joy, love and a magical energy. As they would rotate off the bike, they would bound around the room, dancing with the riders and each other. It was amazing. Jenny was on fire but really, it was watching every single person fall in love with the mission of acceptance that was awe inspiring.  She started something really special and on Friday, every single person was fully in love with the principle of the night… everyone is special, unique and amazing.

The ultimate magic of that event, though, was that everyone walked out of that room empowered and filled with love – it doesn’t get better than that. We should all hope to let someone feel that….

(Top image detail from the SEAK Foundation Website , center image from SEAK Foundation’s Facebook page, bottom image just a little internet goodness that sums it all up perfectly…)

FBS’s top 5 classes for 2011

 

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:

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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!

  1. 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

Danny Kopel’s Soul Dance Party

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.

(Image from Soul Cycle’s Facebook page)

Soul Cycle with rockstar Danny Kopel

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!)