I should never have eaten a cheeseburger for dinner the night before—that was the last thing I wanted to think about while trying out FlyBarre and Flywheel, on the same day. The new Dupont fitness boutique doubles as a spin and a barre studio, and both workouts are intense enough in their own way that you’ll hope the only thing in your stomach is water, and lots of it.
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.
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.
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."