ZenGo Fitness Offers a Safe Haven for Teenage Girls

A new cycling class exclusively for teens encourages fitness and self-confidence.

By: Brooke McEwen

ZenGo's Tuesday classes aim to inspire teenage girls to channel their inner athlete. Photograph by Brooke McEwen

 Calling all athletes, band geeks, and any girl feeling the pressure of adolescence: At ZenGo’s teen studio cycling program, there are no grades in the classroom. There are no popularity contests, no judgmental remarks—and no boys.

ZenGo, a Bethesda-based fitness boutique, created the class as a safe haven from the angst and anxiety of growing up. The studio, which opened in October, saw a need for exercise opportunities that encouraged every girl’s inner athlete, no matter her fitness level.

The class is geared toward girls between the ages of 12 and 17 (but an eager 11-year-old and a pleading 18-year-old were allowed to participate in the inaugural class of 15 last Tuesday). Instructors take extra time to teach girls how to click in and out of the pedals and adjust the bike’s resistance. Positive affirmations abound throughout the 45-minute workout.

An energetic instructor, Melissa Cohen, 29, led Tuesday’s session. The girls received her enthusiasm with uncertainty at first, but their not-so-tough facade cracked as she guided the group through handlebar presses and mini sprints.

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“It’s okay to come in, be a little silly, and have fun,” Cohen says.

Participants chose the class’s music and grooved to the beat of what Cohen calls the “iPod in action,” a fitness soundtrack that’s designed for and by the girls for their workout. Last week’s Adele-heavy mix of tunes inspired some sing-along cycling.

Overall, the class and Cohen earned good marks from the newbies, who ranged from soccer junkies to non-athletes. The initial hesitation of “Is it hard? My mom made me come.” melted into “Mom, I want to come back next week!”

“I want them to have fun, leave happy, and be proud of who they are,” Cohen says.

ZenGo Fitness (4866 Cordell Ave., Bethesda; 301-312-6658) offers Teen Cycle every Tuesday at 4:30 PM for $15 a class. By January, the studio plans to add Saturday classes for girls who have afterschool activities. Stop by the studio or visit the Web site to reserve a class.