No Rest For The Motivated: Kira Stokes Joins BFX Studios

Kira Stokes has taught a killer “Stoked” series of classes for years at Reebok Sports Club/LA, the super swanky and expensive UWS gym, developing loyal and rabid fans of workouts that kick your ass from head to toe. The problem was that really only the people at Reebok had access to that awesomeness on a weekly basis – this week that all changed.  Kira joined the new Boutique fitness venture BFX, which offers both monthly membership options and single classes.  This is a VERY good thing.

Kira Stokes BFXInvited to preview week, I didn’t even think twice & signed up immediately for both of her Monday night classes. It’s been ages since I’ve taken even one of Kira’s classes and even longer since I’d tried a double – I don’t know what I was thinking! On Monday nights she’ll be teaching her C3 Barre Max class and her signature Stoked 360.  I’d taken 360 (and loved it) but her Barre class was the wild card, so I knew I had to try it.  In my head I figured it would be just a lot of barre with Kira’s spin on it but that I would be fine.  I was wrong – those 3 C’s stand for Core, Cardio and Conditioning.  In the first few minutes of class, she told us that this class used to be 75 minutes, so really, she just had to make sure that we thoroughly felt it in 60.  10 minutes in, when we were still on planks and pushups, I knew that this double would be much harder then I’d anticipated.  My recent Pilates work made the roll-up/c-curve portions of the class my strongest part. We planked, did multiple variations on push-ups, did mountain climbers on sliders, c-curve pulses with weight, and did a few plyometrics for good measure. It was about at the halfway mark before we even touched the barre, and I knew I was in trouble with this double.  The barre work really consisted of maybe 6-10 minutes, because really, Kira didn’t need that prop to get to every tiny little muscle in your body. I was sweating buckets by the end of that Barre class.

1623678_1494765160740176_5429448453707692703_n I steeled myself for the next class, Stoked 360, and tried hard to regroup. There were a group of us doing the double, mostly Kira’s diehards who would follow her anywhere and trained with for years, and then me, who hadn’t been to a class in ages.  I’d taken it before and knew that on it’s own it is tough, but with all of my training recently, assumed I’d be fine. The idea of 360, is to hit all of your muscle groups with compound movements done in sets, then repeat it three times before moving on. One: first to learn the move, two: to understand it and three:  perfect it.  As Kira would explain each new set, we would jump rope. It was that cardio spike that made it so there were absolutely no breaks built into the workout.  As Kira said in the middle of class “I don’t cue rest breaks”- if you needed one, you had to take it yourself, she wasn’t going to give you the permission.  Stoked 360 is awesome because it hits everything – and is constantly changing so that you are always challenged. Half an hour in, Kira announced, “We have 45 minutes left and we have a lot to get done. Don’t stop now.” I must have looked visibly stunned, since she looked directly at me and said “YES, this class is 1 hour and 15 minutes and I expect you to give it your all.” Everyone hooted and hollered but I literally wondered if I would just fall over before that full 75 minutes ticked down. It was amazing how many people had followed her to her new spot… but really, considering how good Kira is at challenging you in a way few can, it isn’t THAT surprising.

She's Mad but she's magic

Kira’s BFX classes are going to be capped out at about half of the size of some of largest Reebox classes.  They are going to be hard to get into because Kira’s crew will follow her there. That said, now there is at least FINALLY a chance of training with this master in her field – and really is there better fitness news than that?


Top photo from Kira’s Facebook page and bottom just a little internet goodness.

The Stoked Trilogy: Kira Stokes’ Primal, Abs & 360 at Reebok Sports Club/NY

It’s been almost a year since I first caught a glimpse of Kira Stokes‘ “Stoked Primal” class and somehow in all of the recent talk about Primal, I had forgotten how HARD I thought it looked. So on Monday night, when I arranged to finally go check it out, when Kira said “Come, but really, you want to do all three right?” – my immediate response was “Of course!”

KIra Stokes Primal PantherThe Stoked Monday Trilogy at the awesome Reebok Sports Club on the UWS starts at 5:30pm with the 30 minute Primal. Described as “an intense 30-minute conditioning class utilizing your own body weight.  Glide, crawl, jump, push and pull your way to a more powerful, agile and toned body.” Based on animal movements, you spend the majority of the class on all fours going back and forth across the room. There were lots of moving variation planks with pushups and low crouching squat jumps onto all fours. As Kira demonstrated each of the successive moves she always looked amazing, strong and graceful. I did not. However, I had a lot of fun trying! It is a class where you really just have to get over how you look while trying out the fun and challenging Primal moves, because for the most part, I never looked once like Kira’s inspiring demonstration! I was ok at Gorilla, Bullfrog, Bear and Monkey, basically any of the least plank-like moves, but anything that resembled a low plank/pushup combo I was terrible at. Apparently, I also lack any sort of cat-like grace since my Panther was a lumbering, gimpy beast! I always think that 30 minute classes aren’t challenging enough to be a class on their own but Primal thoroughly kicked my ass. I do think that some of the moves could benefit from making the class 45 minutes – just so that there was more time to break down the moves into pieces. A little time with some of the set-ups would be helpful, although I doubt even that would have helped my sad panther! The “Primal” moves though, in that quick 30 minutes session, hit every single inch – 15 minutes into the class my legs, core and arms were quivering, I was dripping in sweat and having a ridiculously good time!  Of course by the end, I wondered how I was going to make it through the next two classes….

Next up was Stoked Abs, another short class, this one only 15 minutes. Kira is ripped and this class is filled with her signature Ab moves. For a brief moment I was really excited that we got to lay down for a little while, but I swear, Kira gets even harder when she knows she only has you for a few minutes and we immediately launched into a tough ab routine that killed me. Filled with so many crunch variations, constant unique moves to hit each section of your abs and ending with pike-ups with your feet on gliders.  It was an intense quick workout!

believe you can and you are halfway there

The third and final class of the Monday night Stoked series is Stoked 360. It is a 75 minute, “All-encompassing total body workout. This class combines elements of traditional and functional conditioning, with high intensity cardiovascular intervals and body weight exercises.”  I’ve written about this great class before, here, but once again I thought it was awesome. Kira does every set in this challenging class 3 times – “Once to learn it. Once to know it. Once to exhaustion.” A stickler on form, Kira’s constant attention to what everyone is doing and making sure all class members are doing each move correctly is always awesome to see. Each set has 3 moves, strength, plyo and a stretching/balance version and in each set all the moves are planned so that they flow easily from one into the next. While she demonstrates what the next set will be, everyone jumps rope to keep up their heart rate, which is always my least favorite part since it is hard for me to really focus on what she is showing us without just continually whacking myself in the legs. It is, of course, a meticulously planned class, as all of Kira’s classes always are, and every single muscle is targeted from head to toe.

Each class was fun, challenging and intense and I was ridiculously proud that I made it through all three but I’m really going to have to practice some of those Stoked Primal moves before I go back! My Gimpy Panther just isn’t cool….


Top photo Kira Stokes demonstrating how the Panther is supposed to look from her Facebook page. Quote just a little bit of internet goodness.

Kira Stokes & Stoked Surf 360: Rising to the Challenge

On Saturday, I finally got the chance to try Kira Stokes‘ take on a SurfSet Fitness class called Stoked Surf 360.  Going into the class, I just KNEW it was going to be a good one, although, I was a little worried that there wasn’t a class scheduled afterwards because Kira really loves a little overtime push! I have gotten the chance to try a few of her classes in the Stoked 360 series (both the regular version and the small group version and I LOVED both) and assumed that this class would be in a similar vein. It was so much more than that, though.  It wasn’t just a retread of those great classes, but really took into account the uniqueness of the surfboard apparatus. It is always such a treat to get to train with someone like Kira, who is so inspiring and passionate about what she does and loves to challenge those she trains – and herself! The SurfSet Ripsurfer X (a surfboard balanced on top of three small exercise balls with handles attached to resistance bands for use in paddling) is such a fun, unique tool, that it was fun to see someone really push it to the limits of what it could be used for. She obviously LOVED getting to play with using a new tool and how to get an intense workout while using the board to its full advantage. Kira demonstrated the form of every single move, breaking it down so you knew where you were supposed to be throughout the whole movement. From the simplest of moves to the most complex, Kira is all about form. I know that by the end of any class with Kira, I will have been pushed, challenged, thoroughly worked out but I won’t ever leave hurt because she is watching every move too closely for that.

It was definitely a Stoked class, with every circuit done 3 times like in her other classes -once to learn it, once to master the moves, once to fatigue – but each was tailored to include one strength, one surf and one core move for each round. Kira was, of course, a complete stickler for form – even if you are on a wobbly surface she has a knack for really watching everyone’s form on every single move. In her normal classes, when she is demonstrating the next circuit, you jump rope or do jumping jacks – in this class, it was all about paddling. Each circuit, though, also contained a move that made me go “whaaaaaaaaat?” as she was doing the demo. In the first set, it was a burpee move that included a jump at the end, which in the first set, was completely out of the question, but by the third, I was actually managing at least a small hop at the end. In one set, it was a brutal combo move that went from a squat to a one leg deadlift, then to an upright row on one foot…all while holding the handles. In another, there was a frog move (which I sort of loved even though it was in a tricep set that made me want to cry) where you popped off the board with your feet on either side into sort of a modified dolphin push up with way more movement, then back up onto the board, straightening out your arms.  Kira made it look effortless but it was SO hard! By the time we got to the final standing section, I was dripping with sweat and shaky, but also loving EVERY single minute of that class. It was hard, but all the sections flowed into one another in a way that made perfect sense and built into a solid base for the final standing series that was the pop-up section. It was awesome and I was flying high from it, because all the prep for getting there made the pop-ups seem really natural – which has never been the case for me!  The very last section was the core section and was super hard, of course. Have you seen Kira’s abs?? None of my moves were nearly as graceful as the ones she demonstrated but really that isn’t a shock – she is RIPPED and her core strength is no joke!  Mine, not so much.  Must add that to the list of things to work on…

The entire class was on the board – all 85 minutes of it. It was so awesome to see someone really embrace the opportunity to really change up their core classes and create a class that was so focused on really being on the board and using it to its full advantage. Kira’s class was awesome, inspired and just really fun. I wasn’t surprised but Kira loves what she does so much that it really was a treat to get to watch her play with something new – and still be just as amazing as always.


(Photos taken by Eric Stafford for FBS)

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.)

The Stoked Method: Kira Stokes & her massive following…

On Monday evening, I trekked over to the Upper West Side to check out Kira Stokes and her “Stoked” series at the Reebok Sports Club. I was planning on going to all 3 of them that were scheduled that night, but my slowpoking it out of Brooklyn didn’t let that happen – which was probably a good thing. I arrived on the UWS just a few minutes before the first class was going to start and headed over to find the gym.  It turns out that the Reebok Sports Club is a HUGE, gorgeous gym.
I took the elevator up to the reception desk and when the doors opened, I was surprised to see the super fancy, but very sweet concierge who greeted me.  After a brief once over of the interloper who obviously didn’t belong (sigh, I never remember to dress up to GO to the gym,) the Jeremy Renner look-alike found my name on the guest list and proceeded to turn on the charm. It was such a fitting introduction to the fancy gym – and holy moly, was it FANCY.  The nice thing was that, because I was a little late and missed the first class I was aiming for, I was able to take my time in the locker room and get up to the studio. The locker room was open, immaculate and pretty, which is rare – and the women in there were chatty and friendly. It felt a little like I had entered the other side of the looking glass.

After passing through all of the beautiful floors of shiny equipment, checking out their climbing wall (belay only, phew – something I didn’t like!) I finally made it up to the studios where I got my first glimpse of Kira Stokes. Now, mind you, I had seen pictures of Kira, looking all fitness-competition-fit but I had sort of assumed that isn’t what she walked around looking like. You know the type you see in Oxygen magazine and tell yourself  “they don’t really look like that.” Kira really looks like that in real life. As I sat there watching the class I had planned to be in “Primal Stoked”, I was floored at how hard it looked – and what a sight it was to behold. Kira was doing all of these crazy moving-across-the-floor plank variations. The people in that class were all in great shape and it was fun to watch everyone push themselves. The next class on the menu was “Stoked Abs”, a 15 minute ab intensive. It was fun, hard and full of weird variations that completely fried my abs in that one little quick session. When I had gone in with all of the teaming masses (this is a wildly popular class and the studio was packed to the gills,) I didn’t really think about where I was, I just made sure that I had a clear eyeline to Kira and staked out my space for the longer class. I really should have paid a little more attention, since it turned out that durning the long class, I was directly behind her – and in HER eyesight for the class I had really come for “Stoked 360” (see a theme here?). Which meant there wasn’t even a moment of slacking that was going to be allowed for the next 75 minutes. Kira has been a trainer for 18 years and is a stickler for form. Really, she isn’t going to let you get away with anything, and had I really thought it through, I would NOT have positioned myself right behind her! As Kira handed out jump ropes to a few of us, and yes, I did try to hide from that, she explained to us that we were to keep moving throughout the whole class.

Each segment was made of 3 moves that were done 3 times – once to learn it, once to know it, and once to failure. All were done to push our endurance. They were all compound moves that were challenging but really fun – lots of plyometric moves and changing directions. She corrected me a lot which I loved, but I wasn’t the only one by any stretch – when she said she was a stickler for form, I should have believed her! In a class that large, to really be so passionate about form in everyone, was awesome to see.  She kept the rowdy guys in the corner in check and still kept a keen eye on the inspiringly fit pregnant woman in the front. It is no wonder that Kira has such a following – she loves what she does, creates a hard, fun, challenging class AND keeps an eye on you? You really can’t ask for much more.

Now if I can figure a way to sneak back into Reebok Sport Center, I am totally trying that “Primal Stoked” class…plus, maybe that “Stoked Abs” again…but I now know that a third one on the same day would be the death of me!

(Image of Kira Stokes from her website. Bottom image from ESPNW’s Facebook page)