I am a 33-year-old man who runs on a daily basis, played sports in high school, completed six half-marathons and practices yoga. Before this story I had never taken a workout class.
Snow happens. Even in Washington, D.C., there are some days where it is very difficult and very unsafe to run outside. During Snowmageddon I wasn’t able to run outdoors. Since treadmills suck, I decided it was the perfect time to take a exercise class.
As a newbie, I wasn’t sure what I’d like so I sampled 5 classes: spin, strength, cardio, yoga and fundamental movement patterns. Before and after photos are below to show that I actually took these classes and I actually sweat.
I like riding bikes. I am not a cyclist. I don’t have a racing bike or racing shoes or racing pedals. I use Bikeshare and never take out my Jamis because I bought a lock and chain that’s too heavy after my old bike was stolen outside the Portrait Gallery and it’s a long story. Anyway, I didn’t go into my first spin class with high hopes.
Flywheel is on the higher end of spin classes. Along with Soulcycle, they attract a type A, get in and get out type of clientele. The first lesson I learned in this experience is I prefer a type A clientele. The people that take classes at Flywheel don’t have time for fraternizing or waxing philosophical about why cycle is good. They’re there to work and get out.
Flywheel was the darkest of the five classes, which is great for newcomers like me and anyone that doesn’t want to show off their sweat to strangers.
The instructors and staff were also what I prefer. They’re there to help, not philosophize. My instructor was Alex Robinson. I didn’t realize the importance of certain instructors until taking this class. Robinson was helpful and present but not overbearing. I’d happily take his class again and since Flywheel lists instructors for their classes, each have followings.
The worst part of the class was the music. It was horrible. Other than one Beyoncé song and one Kanye song, everything else sounded like the stereotype of a shitty spin class. And while it may be industry standard to play generic EDM in a certain BPM range, there’s no excuse. Just play Beyoncé and Rihanna and Kanye and Big Freedia everyone will be happy.
Takeaway: I can’t justify a membership to Flywheel since I’d go weekly at most, but it’s perfect for out of towners and dedicated cyclists. The facilities are fantastic, the space (a converted movie theater) is great for people that like privacy and the instructors are what help set it apart.
Vida on U Street attracts a gay and gay friendly clientele. My friend Brian Moylan refers to me as gay obese. After visiting Vida on a weekday night, my friend Brian has a point.
The Vida RX class is a barbell based program that helped show me that I do not know how to do a correct squat. More on that later.
The clientele at Vida isn’t as in and out as Flywheel. Since it’s a real gym that has a plethora of classes, it’s possible to actually have gym friends. So class started a few minutes late due to mingling and tear down, which was completely fine with me and the rest of the class.
The class was led by Kip Plaisted. He was also great. I had to ask my workout partner if this was the norm. She said nope. I was getting lucky. Plaisted didn’t take anything too seriously and also noted the horrible music. Oh yeah, this music was also horrible. More stereotypical nothing music with a high BPM. Whatever. You have to get over that quickly or you’ll never finish a class.
I have a bike but I don’t have barbells. Most of the moves were new to me and I found myself lost a good amount of time. It didn’t help that the person in front of me was facing in the opposite direction than me and the instructor faced us. It was like trying to figure out how to tie a shoe by looking at someone else tie their shoes in a mirror on an angle.
Takeaway: If you’re into sampling classes and live relatively close, get a Vida membership. It’s one of the best deals for gyms that include classes in the city. Yes, it’s more expensive than the Y (and the YMCA on 14th and W is very nice), but if you regularly take classes and are training for a race or marathon, it’s well worth it thanks to the wave pool, multiple floors of machines and expansive class list.
I thought I would hate this class. It has a horrible catchphrase (Define Your Sexy) and name. I loved it. I’m going back this Friday.
Sweat bills itself as a fitness party. That’s not a total lie. It has a DJ and Coach G, real name Gerard Burley, is sort of a host but it’s also 60 minutes of sweating and that’s not really a party. It’s more like a soccer, basketball or football practice that doesn’t have balls. For someone that played sports, it was great.
Coach G was the best instructor of the group. Once again, I asked my workout partner if I was lucky. Kind of. She did the vetting. Coach G is a former European basketball player. He’s an athlete, not just a trainer or instructor (not that there’s anything wrong with just being a trainer or instructor).
Sweat is in the most convenient location of the classes I took. It’s in the basement of the Wonderbread Factory. BYT is on the 4th floor.
Of the 5 classes, the music was the least objectionable. It was also the loudest. An actual DJ was there to aide Coach G in instruction. But so were some assistants that filmed clips for Sweat’s Facebook page, which is an unfortunate evil. I like that Flywheel is dark. I did not like that Sweat is bright and people are producing content for social media. But it’s understandable and not a hidden feature. If you check out the classes before you take them, you know this is part of the deal.
Takeaway: Sweat is the most likely I’ll attend again (see above). It’s a circuit workout that I’d never do on my own led by a person that’s able to appeal to a wide array of ages and body types. It was the most diverse and well worked class of the bunch.
I hate feet. I didn’t know that until taking a hot yoga class.
I occasionally practice yoga. When I began running 5 years ago I made sure I did yoga at least three times a week. I’d watch YouTube instructions but mostly utilize the podcast 20 min. Yoga Sessions from YogaDownload. I thought I’d love hot yoga. It was the one class I looking forward to taking. I did not love hot yoga.
I’m relatively tall and thought I was relatively foreign to correct yoga poses so I took a spot in the back, near a wall. This was a mistake. 10 minutes into our hour of stretching in a 95 degree room, a woman took a spot in front of me. But the class was at capacity and she didn’t really fit. So her feet ended up on my mat a good amount of time. And since I was new and didn’t know it’s OK to interrupt very quiet people (which is something that genuinely creeps me out, people that instruct in a whisper), I had a strangers feet very close to my face.
It’s important to note that every time warrior pose was mentioned I thought of this:
But it was not that and I wish it was.
Hot Vinyasa is not for me. There’s no way around it. I don’t like feeling like I’m going to touch someone else on accident, I don’t like quiet in a crowd and I don’t like yoga that views itself in an ancient light. It’s a set of tools that can help a body perform better, not a path to enlightenment. Maybe if this was warrior pose there’d actually be enlightenment:
Takeaway: I hate feet. I’ll continue to do yoga alone or outside where there’s ample space to wander away from stranger’s feet. And don’t tell me about the universe. Yoga is glorified stretching. It’s very important to prevent cramps, it’s not necessary for soul maintenance.
I want to focus on my upper body. Running is great but each race is a little less fun, a little more hard on my joints. I also know I’m not doing everything correctly and will inevitably hurt my knees. I’ve been using the Men’s Health app occasionally but I’m not executing moves properly. My workout partner suggested taking a class with Brian McGee. He was the polar opposite of my yoga instructor.
McGee doesn’t talk about the soul or inspiration. It’s all about how to do things correctly. As I mentioned before, I do not know how to do a correct squat. McGee noticed this early on. Throughout the basics class, Foundation-FIT, he came back to my form, critiquing in a fair and honest way. It was the most hands on and the least BS.
Also, the music wasn’t that bad.
Takeaway: Great for the person that wants to do it alone or with quality supervision. McGee knows his stuff and he knows his gym. The small Mount Pleasant space is accessible 24/7 for members, an ideal feature for driven individuals with busy schedules.