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Focus on wellness with a fitness class series, healthy menus, and athletic apparel shops. By Caroline Cunningham
Image courtesy Sam Kittner.

Starting June 8, the Georgetown Business Improvement District (BID) is kicking off a summer-long series of health and wellness programs as a part of their “Healthy Days of Summer in Georgetown” promotion. There are free fitness classes hosted in neighborhoods across Washington, but this summer campaign will expand beyond sweat sessions by partnering with Georgetown restaurants and businesses.

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Posted at 12:26 PM/ET, 06/03/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Three of the biggest players on the spinning scene cater to different kinds of people. By Caroline Cunningham
Photograph of cyclist and SoulCycle courtesy of SoulCycle; Flywheel by Audrey Amelie Rudolf; Zengo Cycle by Greg Powers.


Although it’s new on Washington’s spinning scene, Flywheel has already made a name for itself in New York as SoulCycle’s archrival, and it’s guaranteed to bring out your competitive side as well. Perfect for Washington’s type-A crowd, Flywheel broadcasts the top 20 spinners’ stats on a screen during the class, so everyone knows who’s pedaling fastest and whose resistance is cranked up the highest. The Dupont Circle studio, which opened in March, also offers barre classes so patrons can mix up their sweat sessions with some low-impact workouts.

Individual classes are $28. 1927 Florida Ave., NW; 202-830-0755.

Zengo Cycle

For those who are serious about spinning but who still want a hip studio setting, Zengo is the rock ’n’ roll to all the Top 40 studios out there. It’s an intense routine that’s more about calories burned than it is about looking cool. You’ll find the same low lights, motivational playlists, and full-body workout, but without any kitschy catch phrases such as “tap it back” or “find your soul.”

Individual classes are $22. 4866 Cordell Ave., Bethesda, 301-312-6658; 1508 14th St., NW, 202-588-1600; 215 Kentlands Blvd., Gaithersburg, 301-330-8333.


This popular studio from New York has built a cult following—and we mean cult. Group sessions are referred to as “riding with the pack,” and classes target empowerment almost as much as improving your physical fitness. Expect to find strongly scented candles, a slew of inspirational slogans, and many SoulCycle-swag-clad ladies. If you’ve always been “the hot girl,” these are your people. If you’ve always wanted to be one, you have your chance at the two area studios.

Individual classes are $30. 2301 M St., NW, 202-659-7685; 4931 Elm St., Bethesda, 301-803-7685.

This article appears in our April 2015 issue of Washingtonian.

Posted at 06:00 AM/ET, 04/08/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Take advantage of warmer temps at these alfresco sweat sessions. By Caroline Cunningham
Image courtesy CityCenterDC.

Ready to get in shape for your summer vacations? Now that spring is officially here bringing milder temperatures with it, there’s no excuse not to ramp up your workout routine. And CityCenterDC wants to help, hosting free yoga classes on their outdoor pavilion, The Park.

The classes will run every Tuesday night April 21 through May 26 at 6:30 PM, with instruction by VIDA Fitness trainers. From power yoga to vinyasa to hatha, each week’s class will focus on a different yoga variety, except for May 5, when they’ll run a special Cinco de Mayo Zumba fiesta.

Swing by on your way home for a workout, and take a swag bag filled with CityCenterDC, VIDA Fitness, and City Sports goodies home with you.

CityCenterDC, 825 10th St., NW; 202-289-9000.

Posted at 05:13 PM/ET, 04/07/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
The indoor cycling studio's DC debut will be later this month. By Ryan Weisser
Flywheel classes are set up stadium-style with screens at the front, which display riders' Torqboard statistics. Image courtesy of Flywheel Sports.

Just when you think Washington couldn't handle another indoor cycling studio, Flywheel swoops in.

The stadium-style studio is opening its largest location—with 60 bikes and FlyBarre sculpting classes—in Dupont Circle.

Washington is no stranger to the indoor cycling trend. Big brands with cult-like followings—SoulCycle, Ride DC, and Zengo Cycle, just to name a few—have been in the area for years, and Washingtonians swear by the exercise routines.

But Flywheel isn’t just another indoor cycling hotspot to pop up in the District. It's mixing technology with fitness to make exercise routines personalized and trackable through Torqboard.

“Riders won’t have to worry about the numbers on their display,” says Kate Hickl, a Flywheel master instructor. While students need to look at their monitors while they take classes, “they can focus on how they feel during the workout and then track their progress online.”

Or, if you have competitive nature, you can choose to display your Torqboard stats to the entire cycling class and challenge yourself to achieve the top time, speed, distance, and torque, or resistance. When you’re finished with a class, which typically lasts around 45 minutes to an hour, you can save your Torqboard stats and look at them later online or with the Flywheel Sports mobile app.

The app also eases the frazzling stress of running late to class and having to forfeit your spot.

“You can simply check in on-the-go,” Hickl says. “You’ll be able to walk in, grab a bike, and get started.”

FlyBarre sculpting classes will be offered at the DC Flywheel studio. Photo courtesy of Flywheel Sports.

And don't worry about not getting a strength training at Flywheel. There are four to five minute sequences of arm exercises, using two- to four-pound weights, and be prepared for a lot of reps. Hickl says the sequences are meant to be "high repetition, low weight" to avoid muscle fatigue. The DC location will also have FlyBarre, Flywheel's version of a sculpting and toning class.

“Flywheel is the cardio portion of your workout, and FlyBarre works to lengthen your muscles and build up strength,” Hickl says. “Each class will work together to make you stronger.”

Flywheel is set to open in Dupont Circle (1927 Florida Avenue, NW) on March 31, and will offer morning, afternoon, and evening classes ($28 per class).

Correction: In an earlier version of this post, Kate Hickl's last name was spelled incorrectly as Hicki.

Posted at 01:00 PM/ET, 03/19/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
I tried out Sculpt Pilates’s free self-defense class. Here’s what I learned. By Kelsey Lindsey
Image via Shutterstock.

No one wants to imagine themselves landing in a situation that would require them to use self-defense. But rather than crossing your fingers and hoping that never happens, it’s better to be prepared. That was my aim when attending a free self-defense class at Sculpt Pilates in Bethesda, taught by former Marine Lubomyr Murashchik. There is no definitive school of thought on how to respond to attack and how much force you should use, but despite the conflicting schools of thought about self-defense, almost all of them line up with the basic advice Murashchik covers in his workshops.

Here are my four main takeaways from the class.

Be aware.

Murashchik encourages his students to practice being aware at all times. This includes walking and running without earphones, avoiding walking while texting or talking on the phone, and always being conscious of who is walking behind you and coming near you while walking alone. He says one of the worst things someone can do is ignore the uncomfortable gut feeling that may come from someone being too close in public places or saying inappropriate things. If you ever feel threatened, reroute and try to shake them off; if that doesn’t work, head to a public area and confront them in a loud, no-nonsense voice.

Have a plan.

As soon as you start experiencing an uncomfortable interaction, visualize a plan of attack and/or escape. Hopefully you won’t have to use self-defense moves, but it’s better to have them on your mind then be caught unprepared if someone does try to hurt you.

Practice the moves.

Murashchik recommends that his students (very gently) practice self-defense moves on their friends, some of which we practiced during his class. These included eye jabs (aim for the eyebrow when practicing), elbow jabs, kicks to the knees, and stomping on the foot. Partnering up in the class, we each practiced a series of three consecutive moves on our “attacker” so we could get the feel and rhythm of the moves in a safe place.

Use fear to your advantage.

Murashchik encouraged his students to work on offensive rather than defensive behavior when practicing self-defense moves. While most movie scenes depict fights as long, drawn-out ordeals, he says that it usually takes three seconds of confrontation to combat an assailant. This gives you three seconds to either pull out the moves you’ve trained with, or be seized by fear and fail to fight. Visualize situations where you would need to use self-defense moves and what moves you would use in each one. That way, if you ever find yourself in these situations, you hopefully won’t freeze up and know what to do.

Posted at 04:05 PM/ET, 02/25/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
A first-time rider shares foolproof tips for failing at the class. By Caroline Cunningham
Photograph courtesy of SoulCycle.

Since SoulCyle opened its first franchise in DC earlier this year, it’s been cheering on class-goers with “SoulCycle-isms,” the inspirational slogans intended to encourage riders—or, as they’re referred to in class, “the pack”—to crank the resistance a bit higher and pedal a bit faster. Using phrases like “the more you give, the more you get,” the studio preaches that the only thing standing between you and a better, strong body—is you. But what becomes obvious after trying a class is that there are myriad ways to get in the way of your own SoulCycle success. Sessions can be confusing, and a bit overwhelming, for first-timers—so much so that this fall, SoulCycle introduced Soul 101, a three-class package that walks beginners through the basics of the course.

We tried it out—our first experience—and came away with nine things to do should you want to fail spectacularly at SoulCycle.

Set up your bike wrong. Riding supposedly gets more comfortable over time, but it may be a while before you get used to the hard sliver of plastic. In the meantime, try to set the seat at a notch that leaves too much space between handlebars and seat, and you can spend the class awkwardly hunched over, trying to bring your unfortunately short arms closer to the handlebars. Raise the seat higher than the handlebars, and you can enjoy putting all your weight on the bruising bike seat instead of balancing your weight on your forearms.

Wear shorts. SoulCycle recommends “form-fitting pants or shorts,” and we suggest the latter if you want to spend the class wincing as your thighs chafe against the seat. SoulCycle sells athletic tights in the studio lobby—which would eliminate this problem—but that would require arriving a bit early to procure some. Which brings us to...

Arrive late. SoulCycle suggests you arrive 15 minutes early for a class to change into appropriate footwear and locate your bike. But you are a chronically tardy rebel, so you arrive your customary five minutes late in order to better enjoy stumbling around a dark studio to the tune of the instructor barking over Ariana Grande, trying to find the bike you reserved ahead of time. Once you find it, spend another few minutes attempting to adjust the thing to fit your body—a fiddly process in the best and most fully lit of times (see first tip)—without the benefit of the advice the instructor dispensed before class began.

Drop your towel. The handlebars of each bike are conveniently draped with a clean towel for mopping up sweat during this high-intensity workout. Go ahead and knock that baby onto the floor immediately, ensuring you’ll spend the rest of the class drenched in perspiration. Don’t worry about the studio’s four fans ruining the sauna-like effect, either—they’re conveniently shut off so the temperature of the room can steadily creep upwards throughout the duration of the class.

Get on a bike with no weights. Let’s be honest: You didn’t really want a full-body workout, and toned arms are overrated. To avoid participation in the upper-body exercises, enhanced by two-pound hand weights that hang beneath the bike seat, choose a bike that’s missing a set before the class starts. If you change your mind, you’re going to have a blast getting from your bike to the box of extra hand weights beside the instructor’s podium: your feet are clipped into the pedals, and unless you’re a seasoned cycler, dismounting is awkward and impossible without the exact knee-turns-in-ankle-turns-out twist that causes the clips to release.

Develop an allergy to scented candles. Get a little tummy-toning action going by sneezing your way through the class, thanks to SoulCycle’s custom grapefruit-scented candles. They’re the first thing to hit your senses when you step into the store, and when the lights go dark for the class to begin, the room is lit by the cluster of candles that line the instructor’s podium.

Have sensitive ears. We weren’t kidding about the instructor having to shout through a headset to be heard over the pounding remixes of Beyoncé or Taylor Swift. Forget your earplugs at home so you can enjoy leaving the studio with the same slightly shell-shocked sensation you have after a rock concert.

Be musically illiterate. You’re great at clapping—on the offbeats—so when the instructors direct you to ride with “the pack” and to synchronize your swaying, twisting, and “tapping it back” with the other cyclers, you’ll have no problem being the only one moving right when everyone else leans left. Even better: You can keep an eye on your complete lack of coordination in the wall-size mirror that faces the class.

Put yourself on a tight “fitness budget.” Slim down with the SoulCycle “diet” by swapping your weekly food allowance for class registration fees: $30 per session, $3 for shoe rental, and $2 to $3 for water. The locker rental is free, though.

SoulCycle DC. 2301 M St., NW; 202-659-7685.

Posted at 02:00 PM/ET, 11/13/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Join instructor Nya Alemayhu for vinyasa every weekend this month. By Caroline Cunningham
Head to Union Market for a free Sunday yoga class throughout November. Photograph courtesy of Flickr user Angela N.

On Sundays throughout November, local yogis can drop by Union Market’s Dock 5 at noon for a free class with local instructor Nya Alemayhu. The Yoga Alliance-certified Alemayhu—who teaches at Buddha B Yoga, the Studio DC, and Georgetown Yoga—will lead participants in vinyasa, an energetic yoga style that emphasizes coordinated breathing with flowing movements. The class is suitable for all levels; participants should bring their own mats and blocks and arrive 15 minutes early.

While the class is free, a $5 donation is suggested. After your workout, refuel with offerings from one of Union Market’s many artisans; check out our definitive guide to the space for ideas.

Posted at 01:20 PM/ET, 11/06/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The studio celebrates the grand opening of its second location with gratis workouts starting Saturday. By Caroline Cunningham
The new Fuse Pilates studio includes a Ladder Room. Photograph courtesy of Fuse.

Fans of Fuse Pilates, time to clear your weekend schedule: The Dupont Circle studio’s first sister location opens Saturday, and to celebrate, co-owners Roxanna Hakimi and Mariska Breland are offering free classes at both outposts.

Fuse, which has earned devotees for its blend of traditional Pilates with high-energy music and other types of exercises, is expanding into a 2,500-square-foot space on the second floor of 1401 14th Street, Northwest. The new location features two large group fitness studios and a third for one-on-one classes, rehab, and health coaching. One of the group fitness rooms is equipped with 11 ladders for the Fuse Ladder full-body workout, which involves climbing, hanging, lunging, and squatting on the apparatus; the second will be used for mat classes, such as Fuse Toys, which uses weights and balls in the all-levels exercises.

The weekend kicks off with gratis classes on Saturday and Sunday starting at 10 AM at both Fuse locations and continues with a free lunchtime class on Monday at noon and three Thursday “happy hour” classes—including an ’80s-themed session at 8 PM—at the 14th Street studio. Wrap up the Pilates party with an actual happy hour with snacks and drinks Thursday night. (See the full schedule online.)

Also good to note: If you sign up for a five- or ten-class package this weekend, you’ll receive 30 percent off the regular price.

Fuse Pilates. 2008 Hillyer Pl., NW, 202-525-3767; 1401 14th St., NW.

Posted at 01:48 PM/ET, 10/23/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Call this the treadmill class for people who hate the treadmill. By John Scarpinato
Photograph by Jason Madara.

As someone who would rather run in freezing cold weather than set foot on a treadmill, I wasn’t too sure I’d enjoy Precision Running class at Equinox Bethesda. But this class, created by running coach David Siik, is more like a workout you would find in a track-and-field practice: It uses targeted interval training to make you stronger while also helping you break your personal record (PR) for speed.

Siik began the class by explaining the Balanced Interval Training Experience (BITE) that he used to design the class. The method is an alternative to high-intensity interval training that allows you to get the same burn with less impact on your body, thanks to small changes in speed and elevation throughout the workout. 

After Siik’s brief lecture, we got on our treadmills and began walking. We were instructed to use our towels to stretch our backs and get our arms warmed up. Next, Siik told us to think what our 30-second PR sprint was. It would be the core of the workout, a goal we would work our way to. This is when I started to panic. I hadn’t been on a treadmill in years and had no idea how fast I could run. Siik explained that on average, people tended to max at about 8 or 9 miles an hour, with everyday runners maxing out at about an 11 or 12. I decided to set my PR at 8 and hope for the best. 

Once everyone decided on a personal PR, the running began. We set our treadmills to 1.8 miles per hour lower than our PR speed. The idea was to work up to my PR by slowly increasing the speed and elevation of the treadmill in 60-, 50-, 40-, and 30-second intervals. Siik called the run the “good cop, bad cop.” We ran each interval twice—once without an elevation (the good cop) and the other with (the bad cop). 

As I got to the higher speeds and elevation, my starting speed began to feel like a welcome rest. Everyone in the class began to sweat, and Siik joked that the building’s air conditioning was cranked up, only confirming we were all receiving a good workout. 

The intervals lasted about 30 minutes, and then Siik guided us in some core exercises. One move, which he said has become increasingly popular with track-and-field teams around the country, involved holding our legs at 90-degree angles, placing our hands on our thighs and pushing to lift our shoulders off of the ground. I had never seen this exercise before, but I could feel my back and abdominal muscles working. 

Perhaps the best part? As the class is lower-impact than other running workouts, Siik mentioned we probably wouldn’t feel sore the next day. Yeah, right, I thought—but despite working muscles I haven’t used in some time, the day after the class my body feels great. 

All in all, it was a pleasant surprise to find an indoor running class I actually enjoyed. I felt the benefits almost immediately, and with colder weather coming, this is a solid alternative to my usual outdoor routes. 

Equinox Bethesda. 4905 Elm St., Bethesda; 301-652-1078. Precision Running is only open to members; it begins October 1 in Bethesda and is already offered at Tysons location. Membership is $142 to $147 per month. 

Posted at 04:40 PM/ET, 09/29/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The Sterling studio turns off the lights and turns up the music. By Dora Grote
Image via the Ignight Fitness Facebook page.

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. 

Posted at 11:40 AM/ET, 07/23/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()