Fluorescent lights beam through a dark room, full of dancers in neon attire that glows in the black light. Music pulsates as their hands flail in the air.
What sounds like a typical Saturday on U Street was instead the scene Monday night during black-light Zumba at Ignight Fitness in Sterling, Virginia. Zumba fitness isn’t new, but Ignight puts a spin on the 15-year-old sensation by offering its classes in a “clublike” atmosphere lit solely by black lights.
I headed to the studio, located near Dulles Airport, for a 6:10 session, which was packed with more than 40 people. After welcoming everyone (especially newcomers to Zumba), instructor Mark Lewis yelled, “Are you ready to work?” as he cranked up the music. The mass of dancers—ranging from novices to experts—started jumping up and down as Latin beats filled the air.
If you’re uncoordinated or too shy to dance in front of others, this is the class for you. The use of black lights is key for the studio’s atmosphere, as it helps participants feel comfortable, says Alexa Tsui, who, along with Lewis, started Ignight almost two years ago. She and Lewis also decided against putting mirrors in the studios, “so people would pay more attention to how dancing makes them feel rather than how they look.”
Five minutes into the workout, my heart was pumping and my clothes were drenched in sweat. The interval-based class, broken up by songs and choreography, is nonstop, but participants could take breaks as often as they needed. Each hourlong sessions includes 16 choreographed routines set to songs such as “Love & Party” by Joey Montana and “El Teke Teke” by Crazy Design and Carlitos Wey. The first three songs compose the warmup, focused on large muscle groups, cardio, and smaller muscle groups. The next ten songs accompany routines ranging from very high intensity to low intensity and incorporate exercises focused on specific body parts. The 13th song is the “last-chance workout,” the hardest routine of the class. It’s followed by a breather song to lower heart rates, and then the lights pop back on for a post-workout stretch. Throughout each song, Lewis kept up the energy, encouraging everyone to keep moving and reminding us to breathe.
Despite my previous dance training, the cha-chas, hip circles, and shimmies were still a little difficult to catch first time around. Novice dancers might need a few sessions to really get the moves down—but the lights being off means if you can’t get it, you can make it up! The instructors cue the choreography breakdown and encourage the dancers to get crazy—what happens in black-light Zumba stays in black-light Zumba.
And that’s the beauty of Ignight Fitness. I never once worried about what people thought of my moves, leaving me free to focus on having fun—and burning calories.
Ignight Fitness. 1323 Shepard Dr., Suite C, Sterling; 703-473-7075. Prices range from $50 to $180 for passes and $5 for a drop-in. The first class is free.
Earlier this summer, we brought you a roundup of free workouts to do in DC every day of the week. Now, as promised, here are even more options in Maryland and Virginia.
Beat the beginning-of-the-week blues with this 6:30 PM Monday Runday starting at Lost Dog Cafe in Merrifield. Boost your endorphins with a three-mile run, then head back to the cafe for extended happy hour the rest of the night.
For a twist on your workout, try Study Body Logic’s barre body ballet workout, which combines classical and upbeat music. A free class is offered in Arlington at 8:15 PM on Monday, July 14, and on Monday, July 21, at 5:15 PM in Alexandria.
Running enthusiasts can meet at City Sports Bethesda for a 6:30 PM route tracing the Capital Crescent Trail or exploring nearby neighborhoods. Follow a Sport & Health trainer in a cross-training workout to intensify your run and enjoy a post-run cool-down with discounted drinks from Mussel Bar—both partnerships begin July 1. Also try a 6:15 PM Pilates class with Studio Body Logic at the Alexandria location on August 5.
All yoga levels are welcome to join Evolve Yoga + Wellness at 5:45 PM for a peaceful stretch. If you’re looking for a faster-paced workout, get your heart pumping with the Capital Striders Running Group at 6:30 PM along the W&OD Trail. Meet at Vienna Caboose.
Rise before the sun and head out to Old Town Alexandria for an energizing group run. The Pacers group meets at 5 AM in front of Starbucks, so there’s time to grab a cup of coffee and still make it to work on time.
Plunge into the weekend with Knockout Fitness, which leads a boxing boot camp at 8 AM. Or bring out your inner salsa dancer during Zumba with Canton Club at 9 AM. Both classes are part of the Waterfront Wellness Series taking place all summer at West Shore Park.
Combine power lifting, running, and rowing and conquer CrossFit with Ballston CrossFit at noon, or ease into the morning with 7:30 AM yoga with BelovedYoga. Want to start the day off with a bang? Hustle through 8 AM FreeStyle fitness boot camp with Rezults Fitness that uses bodyweight for a high-intensity workout.
For a different kind of workout, try Xpose Fitness’s noon introduction to pole dancing class that enhances flexibility, strength, and aerobic capacity. You can also join Pulse Fitness at 10 AM as Ochieng Asugo leads a group run to improve running techniques for all levels. Meet at the reception area, and bring a water bottle. And to really spice up your regular running route, jump, climb, or skip over man-made obstacles through the city during Parkour with Urban Evolution at 9 AM as part of the Waterfront Wellness Series.
Humility is necessary in life—sometimes you need to be knocked off your high horse to regain it. In my case, the high horse was a stationary bike at Bethesda’s PureRyde studio, and while I never actually went flying off, I certainly got my fill of humble pie as I realized I’m not nearly as coordinated as I thought.
PureRyde opened in Bethesda in May, the only East Coast branch of the boutique fitness studio that offers +Pilates classes and cycling on RealRyder bikes, which have movable frames that simulate riding outdoors. They’re known for making difficult indoor-cycling classes even harder by engaging more of the body, and burn 20 percent more calories than riding a standard stationary bike.
PureRyde co-owners Laura Cronberger and Kelle Ilitch started their studio because they wanted to give patrons one-on-one attention and a community feeling with their workouts. While PureRyde is not the only area studio with RealRyder bikes—a technology employed by studios such as Vida, Pulse, and Level Fitness, the Courts at Huntington Station, and Launch Sports Performance—its unique fusion of +Pilates and cycling provides a targeted total-body workout.
As I walked into the 1,900-square-foot studio (the smallest of their four locations) in Bethesda’s Bradley Shopping Center, the camaraderie was palpable. The space—a small lobby area with a few shelves of workout gear for sale, two bathrooms, a little locker nook, the +Pilates studio with nine Allegro 2 Reformers, and the cycling room with 18 RealRyders—made the studio feel welcoming, rather than cold and intimidating as some studios can.
The 50-minute class started with a helpful introduction by instructor Katherine Driggs on the speeds we would be using (baseline, medium, hard, sprint—never slow); then the lights dimmed, and we were off. Driggs led us on a series of jumping, turning, and speed resistance, using the turning flexibility of the RealRyders and moving her legs at the speed of a sewing machine, all while keeping up a steady stream of commentary somehow unhindered by any panting. The music was loud, but not in a claustrophobic, head-pounding way, and Driggs’s precise use of the beat was extremely helpful. Though she certainly helped keep us motivated, encouraging us to keep pushing and maintain technique, she employed a certain element of fun and support as opposed to a “no pain, no gain” philosophy.
Near the end of class, Driggs dismounted and handed us each a set of weights (two pounds for the normal, four for the brave), dancing along as she led us through a series of overhead presses and bicep curls.
Then we had one song to do whatever we needed to prepare ourselves for the last push, which involved half the class sprinting for 30 seconds while the other half of the class pedaled standing out of the saddle, and switching off for the entirety of Rihanna’s “We Found Love.” I certainly didn’t find love, but I did find a last little push in my hopelessly sweat-drenched body. After my cooling eucalyptus towel—a nice touch—I left the studio feeling light and good about myself. That is, until I hit the Bethesda Metro stairs and my legs started quivering.
PureRyde Bethesda. 6910 Arlington Rd., Bethesda; 240-743-4049. Cycling classes range from $18 to $22 per class, and +Pilates from $28 to $35 per class, depending on purchased package. First time ryder specials: two +Pilates classes or 3 cycling classes for $45. Towels and shoes are complimentary.
Summer officially started on Saturday, which means swimsuit season is officially upon us. Want to get in shape without dropping a lot of dough on a gym membership? Here’s how you can work out for free seven days a week. Check out the roundup of DC offerings below, and stay tuned for options in Maryland and Virginia.
Train like a dancer when yoga and Pilates meet barre at 6:30 Monday evening in Lululemon Georgetown’s upstairs studio. Bring your own mat and work on flexibility and core strength as Lava Barre instructors lead you through a series of isometric movements.
For an even more intense burn, try Nike Georgetown’s 8 PM boot camp. Push yourself to the limit with a high-intensity workout led by different trainers each week. Reserve a spot through the Nike Training Club app, and come prepared ready to get your heart pumping and body sweating.
Get a jump on your day with 7 AM boot camp at Vida Fitness at the Yards. Not an early riser? Enjoy a soothing 5:45 PM yoga class complete with water views and chirping birds at Yards Park.
Join the Capital Striders Running Club for a scenic run looping around Capitol Hill. Alternating routes include views of the Reflecting Pool, RFK Stadium, and Navy Yard, and you can pick a distance and pace that suit your fitness abilities. Meet at 6:30 PM in the center of the park Lincoln Memorial Park next to the Lincoln Statue. Or join the club for its weekly run through Great Falls Park, with beautiful views of the Potomac River. Meet in the parking lot past the visitors center at 6 PM. Women can also try a three- to five-mile Fleet Feet Fun Run in Adams Morgan, starting at 6:30 PM.
Shimmy and shake through the evening with a 5:30 PM Zumba class at Vida Fitness at the Yards. Exotic beats will keep you moving for a workout that’s both fun and effective.
The CrossFit curious can head to Balance Gym in Thomas Circle for an introductory class offered at 1 and 7 PM. It’s fit for anyone from exercise novices to seasoned athletes. You’ll learn a few basic CrossFit movements and progressions and then integrate them into a workout at the end.
Cycle through the rolling hills of Anacostia with BicycleSpace every Saturday with rides starting at 8, 10, and 11:30 AM. Bring your bike and meet at the store on Seventh Street.
Meridian Hill Park provides the backdrop for a relaxing yoga class with Bikram Yoga Dupont at 5 PM. The studio invites a different instructor from across the area each week, so you can experience a range of practices. Bring your own mat. Other options: Fleet Feet Sports Fun Run at 9 AM through Rock Creek Park in Adams Morgan, yoga at Lululemon Georgetown at noon, or Kali Yoga at 4 PM in Columbia Heights.
Other summer bonuses:
Sculpt DC has added free community classes throughout the summer. Scheduled classes include yoga on Tuesday, July 8, at 7:30 PM, and Thursday the 10th at noon, and Sculpt DC’s total-body cycle class on Saturday, July 26, at 11:30 AM, which uses weights and core exercises to improve strength, stability, and coordination while increasing endurance in 45 minutes.
Joe’s Movement Emporium is offering an entry class for seniors Wednesdays at 11 AM.
The Golden Triangle Business Improvement District is bringing back its free outdoor workout series again this year, running from May 6 through June 19. Yogalates classes will take place at Farragut Square Park on Tuesday from 5:30 to 6:30 PM, and Pilates classes will be held on Thursday at the same time. Bring your own mat and plenty of water.
For more information, visit the Golden Triangle BID website.
I’ve imagined many things to get me through particularly tough workouts. Rather than tackling a climb during an indoor-cycling class, I’m pedaling my way up the Rocky Mountains. Jabbing and hooking my way through a kickboxing routine, I’m suddenly a prize-winning boxer.
At Sculpt Studio in Bethesda, my daydreams went in a different direction. I was stretched in a plank position on the patented Megaformer machine, straining my core to maintain the hybrid plank/crunch we were currently executing. As I thought about dropping my knee for a rest, I imagined the sliding carriage I was dragging with my feet snapping closed and my leg getting tangled in the spring loads of the machine below me. Suddenly I felt a lot more motivated to stay in position.
Sculpt Studio, which opened in January, is the first studio in Bethesda to offer the popular Lagree Fitness Method. Instructor Mary Farber helps clients through intense, core-burning workouts on the Megaformer machine, whether it’s during the Intro Sculpt class or a Mega Mommas session, geared toward new and expectant mothers. The Bethesda studio holds ten machines, meaning Faber has room to focus on each participant during her classes, offering adjustments and help with the machines to those who need it.
As this was my first time participating in a Megaformer workout, help was definitely needed for some of the more complex exercises. Targeting every muscle group from shoulder to quad, Farber incorporated a number of standard exercises (squats, glute kickbacks, side planks) into the class, all using the added resistance the Megaformer provides with its spring-loaded sliding carriage.
That resistance fatigued many of my muscles halfway through the class (cue that “motivation” fantasy), which cofounder Danielle Tate says helps promote increased calorie burn and muscle tone. The workout is designed to keep the heart rate high with short breaks and back-to-back action, the goal being to stay in the fat-burning zone the whole time.
The strategy means the method lends itself well to multiple sessions a week. I could see how some of the harder moves would become more approachable after a few classes strengthening lesser-used muscle groups. Days after the workout, my core was still tender, from my lower abs all the way to my ribs. But the mantra Farber shared seemed true for the regulars executing the more difficult moves next to me in class: “It doesn’t get easier; you just get stronger.”
Sculpt Studio. 4900 Auburn Ave., Bethesda; 240-600-0730. First class is $20.
Confession: The last time I attempted the highly popular workout video Insanity, I was motivated less by a desire to get in shape than by the unhealthy mix of tequila, triple sec, and lime. After arriving home from a margarita happy hour, my roommates, the tequila, and I thought it would be a great idea to take on a 50-minute cardio fat-blasting workout. Turns out we were wrong.
Touted on its website as the “hardest workout ever put on DVD,” the video followed a group of insanely fit students led by an insanely fit instructor named Shaun T. Using short intervals of bodyweight exercises, the program aims to keep your heart rate at a constant, fat-burning level. This translates to three or four blocks of four exercises, repeated three times. From burpees to high knees, it seemed like virtually every exercise I dreaded in gym class was packed into this 50-minute session.
Which brings me back to the margaritas—or rather, my utter failure of motivation halfway through the DVD. Despite our gung-ho beginning, 20 minutes in my roommates and I were stretched out on the floor, deaf to Shaun T.’s most adamant encouragements. What harm would it do if we skipped the burpees—or the crawling pushups, or the diamond jumps? What Shaun T. doesn’t know won’t hurt him.
That type of pick-and-choose workout definitely would not fly in Shayna Eisenberg’s Insanity class, held at the Sport&Health gym in Ballston. The class was hosted in an open exercise room with about 20 others, and the peer pressure alone kept me motivated through exercises I could have easily fast-forwarded through on a DVD.
Following the format of the Insanity videos, Shayna first led us in a warmup, followed by a quick stretch. We then headed into the first exercise block, consisting of 30 seconds of squat jumps, lunges, and the infamous burpees, repeated in that order for three rounds. Performing each exercise in quick succession—and the fact that each move is done for just 30 seconds—helped me get through even the toughest of rounds.
The first half of the class focused on power cardio, and the second on strength and balance. Halfway through a second set of triceps dips, I remembered the class was only 30 minutes long—a bit disappointing, as I felt I could easily go for another 20 minutes. Shayna acknowledged the class may be a little short for some, but pointed out that Sport&Health also offers 45- and 60-minute Insanity classes, which burn approximately 500 calories and are offered at ten locations.
Though the session was short, I left with a strong feeling of accomplishment as I compared my performance with my lackadaisical approach to the Insanity DVD. Conquering those difficult moves made me more confident and energized—no tequila necessary.
Insanity. Available at various Sport&Health locations in Washington. Nonmembers can sign up for a free seven-day pass.
The first official day of spring is Thursday, and gyms and fitness studios are jumping right into the season with plenty of new workouts and classes. Read on to find out what workouts they have in store to banish your winter blues.
Free Cardio-Flow Classes at Atlas Fitness
For the rest of March, head to Atlas Fitness in Southeast every Wednesday morning to try out Cardio-Flow, a hybrid class that involves a 35-minute cardio workout followed by 35 minutes of yoga. It’s free on Wednesday from 5:45 to 7:45 AM. Regular daily classes begin April.
Early-Bird Classes at Ride DC
Starting Thursday, March 20, the 14th Street indoor cycling studio with a live-tracking system will offer 6 AM classes on Thursdays. Dubbed RhythmRide, the classes are choreographed to top 40 tunes.
Mother-Daughter Date Nights with Lil Omm Yoga
The Tenleytown yoga studio that promotes family-friendly yoga is offering three mother-daughter date nights in March and April ($40 per mother-daughter pair). Daughters ages 3 to 12 are welcome to join their moms for yoga and dinner.
Cherry Blossom Yoga on the Mall
This year’s cherry blossom yoga on the National Mall will be Saturday, April 5, at 10 AM, led by local instructor Mimi Rieger. Bring your mat and a friend and join thousands of others for this outdoor practice, hosted by Lululemon.
All-Day Yoga With Sri Dharma Mittra
Yoga District hosts an all-day affair with the founder of the Dharma yoga practice, Sri Dharma Mittra, at the Washington Convention Center on April 6. Sign up for the all-levels yoga practice, a challenging master class, or various classes focused on meditation, relaxation, chanting, and philosophy. Bonus: No one will be turned away for lack of funds.
Meditation for Beginners
Georgetown Yoga, now in a new location at 2805 M Street, Northwest, offers a Meditation Monday class at 7:40 PM. It’s geared toward those who are new to the art of meditating.
Happy Hour Rides at Zengo Cycle
Zengo Cycle in Logan Circle now offers Friday-night happy-hour-themed rides at 6 PM. On schedule this week: a “divas” happy hour ride.
Aerial Yoga at YMCA Anthony Bowen
Soar to new heights while amping up your yoga practice during the YMCA’s aerial yoga classes, now officially on the schedule. Try a class for free via Sweetgreen Passport on Saturday, March 29, at 4.
Free Barre Classes at Lululemon
All spring, Lululemon Georgetown offers free barre classes in its second-floor studio with Rosslyn-based Lava Barre. Just bring your mat to the store every Monday at 6:30 PM.
Sure, the current weather doesn’t exactly scream, “Bathing suit weather!” But it’s never too early to start getting in shape for summer, right?
In our never-ending pursuit of six-pack abs, we turned to the pros for some advice. While they all say crunches alone won’t result in the flat tummy we so desire, there are certain exercises that can put you on the right track. Read on for exercises that local personal trainers promise will work you to your core.
Bosu-Medicine Ball Spider-Man
Perform for one minute with or without pushup.
Get in plank position, with your hands gripping the Bosu ball and your feet on top of a medicine ball. Slowly bring your right knee to your elbow. Release and repeat on the other side.
This tongue-twister of an exercise is one of Chris Perrin’s favorites. “I love doing core exercises on an unstable environment like a Bosu or Swiss ball,” he says. Doing so targets more of your core muscles “as your body fights to regain stability.”
15 reps for beginners, 30 for intermediate, and 50 for advanced.
“Not only does this exercise work your core,” says personal trainer Errick McAdams, “but it also works as cardio.” Keep your hips low and drive your knees to your chest while keeping your core tight.
3 sets of 10 for 20 breaths each
Chances are your plank form needs some work, says Josef Brandenburg of The Body You Want in Georgetown. Remember, you should feel it in your core, not your neck, shoulders, or lower back. Once all of your joints are aligned, start breathing. Says Brandenburg, “Hold your plank for breaths, not for time.” (Check out our five plank variations to up the ante.)
The Bicycle Crunch
Two to three sets of 20 to 30 reps on each side.
How does Nike personal trainer Deanna Jefferson get those rock-hard abs? The bicycle crunch. “The key to a bicycle crunch is being sure one leg is fully extended and focusing on bringing your shoulder—as opposed to your elbow—toward the opposite knee for the ultimate contraction,” she says. Why it works: It targets all of your core muscles, including the transverse abdominis, which are the deeper ab muscle fibers.
Bonus: The Alphabet
The alphabet is one of our favorite ways to end a workout. Lie on your back and place your arms at your side (for extra support, place your hands under the small of your back). With your legs in the air, trace the entire alphabet (or your full name). As your legs move, it’s your core that will be doing all the work.
As a former dancer, I started my Pure Barre class in Bethesda with an overly confident attitude. For years I had heard about the class and its elusive promise: to give you the body of a dancer without ever busting out a plié or pirouette. A dance-based program that excludes the very moves that make the art so exhausting? Pretty sure I have this.
Ten minutes into the hourlong class, after our instructor and the studio’s owner, Katie Shearin, led us through a quick full-body warmup, my arms were already straining with the effort to hold up two-pound weights to finish an upper-body sequence, as I pondered how this seemingly minuscule weight could give me so much trouble.
The answer lies in Pure Barre’s technical philosophy. Focusing on small, isometric movements rather than high-intensity cardio exercises, each class aims to strengthen four key areas of the body: thighs, abs, arms, and the seat. Each set of exercises is performed on the floor or at the barre for a considerable length of time with the hope of pushing the muscles past the point of fatigue. I still wonder how such small movements managed to be so painful, causing my legs to shake with the intensity of a Jell-O mold.
As we moved from thigh to ab to glute workouts, Katie had us use a variety of tools to help maximize every workout. A small red ball squeezed between the thighs worked both the outer muscles and the glutes, while a band helped us stretch out our aching muscles after each exercise. This strength-then-stretch routine was repeated with every body zone, a practice adapted to help create long, lean muscles.
While I felt the effect of this isometric technique during some exercises, other sections of the class—specifically the abs portion—left me lost. Fitting ourselves under the barre with our back to the wall, Katie had us grab the rail above us and perform a series of pelvis tucks and leg squeezes. I looked around the class, wondering if my tiny movements were correct. Katie informed me they were—but I failed to feel the strain that usually comes with a long set of core exercise.
Still, Pure Barre’s low-impact workout certainly showed results in some areas. Two days after my class, I still felt the strain of raising my hand for a weak high-five. Forget my earlier arrogance; I definitely, at least then, did not “have this.”
Pure Barre Bethesda. 4930 Hampden La., Bethesda; 301-642-2864. First class is $15.