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.
In most fitness classes, glaring at the instructor is frowned upon. But at Ride DC, this behavior is accepted, even encouraged.
Although it wasn’t really Richard, my instructor, on whom I fixated throughout class—it was the screen behind him tracking my energy expenditure number. Earlier this month Ride DC became the first indoor cycling studio in DC to offer live-time tracking classes. Each bike in the 14th Street studio is outfitted with a cycling power meter that measures users’ average revolutions per minute (RPM), power (a combination of RPM and bike resistance), and energy output.
During the 45- to 60-minute class, riders’ stats are projected on the screen in the front of the room, ranking each rider based on total energy output. Britney beats and ’90s music blared through the speakers as I closely monitored my numbers while tackling rolling hills, climbs, and sprints.
The live ranking meant there’d be no hiding if I slacked off during a particularly tough climb—it would decrease my total energy, thus dropping my rank on the board. I’m not the most competitive person, but the knowledge that everyone in the class could see one another’s effort certainly motivated me to push myself.
And it’s not just the sweaty cyclists who benefit from the energy-tracking system. The instructor, Richard, explained to me how the computer helps him personalize his class. If he notices lower average energy levels among the cyclists, he might pump up the music, while higher levels might call for tougher climbs. The effect: I left class energized rather than exhausted (my normal post-cycle mood).
At the conclusion of the class, a leaderboard projected the names of the cyclists with the highest average energy of the 45-minute session. With the hope of building friendly competition among repeat guests, Ride DC keeps an updated communal leader board of riders with the best average energy of the month.
The tracking didn’t stop at the studio. At home, I received an e-mail giving me a rundown of my ride. Users can create an online profile though Ride DC’s website, where past class performance is neatly charted—nifty for all those resolution-minded athletes looking to improve with each ride.
I’m not normally one for crunching figures when it comes to my fitness regimen, but after experiencing the enthusiasm those onscreen stats infused into my ride, I might become a convert.
Let’s Ride DC. 2217 14th St., NW; 202-558-9307. $22 per drop-in class.
It’s hard to believe Tony Horton, the creator of P90X, is turning 55 in July. Especially when he’s performing a set of explosive burpees and 360-degree squat jumps in front of you at 8 AM.
“I’m actually pretty tired,” Horton admitted before the outdoor workout began. He had just finished filming another set of workout DVDs for P90X and is about to embark on another worldwide tour.
But not before giving DC a serious lesson in high-intensity, functional training. For the second time since September, Horton brought his grueling P90X workout to the outdoor plaza of the Embassy of Canada as part of the embassy’s efforts to promote health and fitness. On Tuesday morning, I found myself doing more pushups and planks than I can remember alongside 100-plus diplomats, military service members, and the DC Metropolitan Police Department.
Vida Fitness’s cycling class left me feeling like most spin classes do: sweaty and exhausted. But there were a couple major differences: It lacked the claustrophobic conditions typical of small cycling studios, and sunscreen application was just as important as hydration. The class, after all, takes place outdoors.
Vida Fitness on U Street is the first gym in the area to offer cycling classes on a rooftop. For those tired of riding in the dark, the outdoor stationary cycling class is a nice alternative just in time for summer in Washington.
Race season is upon us, and to get local athletes ready for the first Nike Women’s Half Marathon in Washington next month, the company has started both a running club and a training club out of its Georgetown store. We stopped by the Nike Training Club—or NTC, to those in the know—on Monday night to give the workout a try. An hour later we were sweaty and thoroughly exhausted, as we’re told we were supposed to be. “When you leave, I want you to feel like you can’t do one more pushup or one more squat, like you can’t jump one more time,” the instructor told us afterward.
NTC has met Mondays at 8 PM since January, and each workout is run by a pair of local trainers. Throughout March, Deanna Jefferson and Chris Perrin administer the torture—they’ll be replaced come April but will be back later in the year, as each of Nike’s three pairs of trainers works for a month at a time. This means that the class varies week to week, but it’s always a mix of strength and cardio that works several muscle groups.
Messy. Messy, and interesting--those were the first words that came to mind after trying a neti pot for the first time. But more on that in a moment.
Although nasal irrigation is a centuries-old custom and saline is a well-known sterilization method, the neti pot is enjoying a curious revival of late. According to the brochure enclosed with the model I bought, this ancient nasal cleansing method is one of six purification practices used to prepare the body for yogic practices. In recent years, it's seen a resurgence among Western cultures for its ability to clear pollen and other airborne irritants that send us into a day-disrupting allergic fit.
"I've been in practice for more than 20 years, and back when we were in residency we trained and instructed people to do salt-water irrigations, so to me, it's how things have always been," says otolaryngologist Eric J. Furst. "But people are definitely coming in and asking about it more."
There are so many yoga studios in Washington that we barely bat an eye when yet another one opens. But the newest spot to join the ranks, Dupont Circle's Epic Yoga, is already impressing yogis who walk into its expansive 5,000-square-foot space above Mad Hatter and Yola DC.
Living up to its name, Epic Yoga boasts three practicing studios dedicated to yoga, barre yoga, and recovery, respectively. Exposed brick and hardwood floors are found in every room, and plenty of natural light shines through the windows and skylights. The reception area offers wi-fi and space for yoga happy hours, and in the future will include a juice bar cafe and retail boutique with yoga clothes, jewelry, and locally-made candles. His and her locker rooms includes showers and space to change and freshen up after a class.