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.
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.
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.
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.
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.