Studio Review: FlyWheel

When using ClassPass you get unlimited classes but you can only visit each studio three times. FlyWheel is one of the few studios that kept me coming back more than once.

My first experience left me slightly confused whether I liked it or not. I enjoyed the instructors music choice and although I wasn’t familiar with many of the songs they always provided a great beat to match your pedal stroke with. The bikes were comfortable, the spin shoes were great and they have a digital screen that allows you to see how fast you are pedaling and how much resistance you have on. This is partially why I felt confused. The instructor would gives us a range like set your resistance between 15-20 so we had a range to work within but I couldn’t feel any resistance until I had at least 25 on the wheel. So based on that I was never in the right range but I think it is just a guide and you really have to figure out what works for you. The second thing that left me unsure of whether I liked the class was due to the instructor. For one song she told us to find something to get really angry about. The whole song she kept telling us to get angry and use that to push harder, dig deeper. Maybe it is the yogi side of me but I have no desire to get angry and actually find it difficult to get angry about anything anyways. I just thought it was a little odd to use anger as a motivation in a fitness class. I think it would have been great to visualize a goal we deeply want in life and push hard and be determined to get to the top of the hill and reach our goal.

My second experience left me impressed. The instructor was absolutely amazing and there was nothing I could critique or would have wanted any differently. The other unique part of FlyWheel is that there is a score board up front that lets you know where you ranked in the class. I think it takes the amount of resistance and the speed and turns it into a number to gauge how hard you are working. The first class I was in sixth place and the second class I was third. I’m not sure that really is a good gauge in how fit you are because really it is based on the people you are in class with but maybe I got a little stronger/faster! I got another great workout and left knowing that I would try FlyWheel again but I will definitely look for this specific instructor.

For my third class I decided to check out their Barre Class. The instructor was extremely friendly and actually took the time to check in with each person, learn their name, and check for injuries. The class was challenging because it worked the smaller, weaker muscle groups in the core, hips, glutes, and shoulders but I didn’t break a sweat. I was lying their thinking that this could never be the only workout I do but I do think it is a very nice compliment to spinning. It will help people balance out all the spinning by strengthening the muscles you need to engage in a spin class.

All in all, FlyWheel is a great studio. I don’t think I will get a membership here but I may drop in for an occasional spin class with the instructor I loved.

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Studio Review: The Handle Bar

the-handle-bar-spin-studio-bostonThis is one more studio I won’t bother visiting again. The studio is nicely designed and pretty, the bikes were great, the spin shoes were old (mine had a hole in the toe), and the lighting and sound are good. Essentially it has the makings to be a great studio so it all comes down to the instructor.

I honestly don’t think I am the only one that does this but when an instructor walks in the room I definitely “check her out”. I want to look at her body to get a glimpse at what this workout may effect aesthetically and see if she is a role model of the lifestyle. Upon first glimpse all I see is terrible posture. She has severely rounded shoulders and forward head which is very common in cyclists with poor form. I know I definitely made a judgement at that point that this may not be the best workout. The workout began and it was filled with all the “choreographed” bike moves that aren’t actually supposed to be done on a bike and the disappointment began. Most studios I have felt comfortable modifying and not doing these moves that I know are horrible for posture and can cause injuries. At The Handle Bar I was the only one not doing them and it made me feel a bit awkward. The other thing that bothered me was the instructor taught by telling you to add a half turn of resistance onto the wheel. This is a terrible method of teaching because each bikes brake pads are different and each client has a different level of basic leg strength so I never really knew what level I should be working at.

Between the music, the instructor, and the workout there was just nothing special here. I could try going back with a different instructor but I just don’t feel the need for a second chance.

Studio Review: REPS Fitness Studio

This morning I signed up for a 30-minute spin followed by 30-minutes of abs in hopes I wouldn’t get stuck with an instructor trying to squeeze in an entire muscle conditioning class on a spin bike. Sadly, I was disappointed and found another studio I won’t be coming back to. This journey with Class Pass is definitely helping me eliminate a lot of studio options!

I was greeted by the instructor as I arrived and she was friendly and helpful but the first issue for me was the model of spin bikes. I really don’t enjoy LeMond spin bikes. I feel like the set-up is a little funny, the resistance never feels quite right, and the pedals have jagged edges that destroy your sneakers and cut into the arches of your feet if you are not wearing cycling shoes. This is probably the main reason I will not revisit this studio. You could be a spectacular instructor but the bikes ruin it for me personally.

The instructor seemed “new” to me. I felt like she might not be very experienced for a variety of reasons. She did cue proper form but she counted a lot, used the same verbal cues over and over, the same “motivational” cues over and over which mainly consisted of saying “dig” to the beat of the music.

  • There was an entire song that she counted from 1 to 20 and then 1 to 10 and repeated that for the entire song. Her monotone counting drowned out the actual great beat of the music. Once I noticed I worked harder when I ignored her and went to the beat of the music.
  • When she told us to get out of the saddle and sprint for two minutes it was another sign of inexperience. The maximum amount of time the average person can sprint is approximately 30 seconds before the body switches over to a different energy system and physiologically has to slow down.
  • The last song was slow and she had us finish with a sprint which was poor playlist planning.
  • She never told us what level we should be working at and instead told us to add half turns and full turns. Resistance on every bike is different depending on the wear and tear of the brake/resistance pads so adding turns on is not the best approach. She barely had any resistance on while I was climbing the steepest hill – it would have been nice to say whether we were on a flat road, windy, climbing, etc.

Between the bikes and the instructor I noticed myself checking the clock three different times hoping the thirty minute bike portion would be over soon. The core workout was okay. She basically repeated the same four exercises for thirty minutes and threw in about three other exercises. There was a lot in the plank position and she kept telling us to keep our butts up…the opposite of where you want it to be so that seemed quite strange to me. She didn’t use very many form cues during the abs and when I looked around peoples form was terrible and could have used either adjustment or cues to help.

All in all, I won’t be back. This is starting to become a trend in Boston spin studios! I have been using Class Pass for a week and I think by the end of the month I may be able to pick just one studio I actually want to join.

Studio Review: Cyc

This class reminded me of the TV show “Psych”. I felt like they were subliminally saying that although we thought we were going to a cycling class to get our bodies in better shape “cyc” – fooled you – we are going to do stupid things you should never do on a bike to compromise your body and possibly injure you.

It was probably the worst customer service of any of the studios I have visited. The front desk personnel was on the verge of being rude and could definitely not be considered friendly. The instructor was nice though and she seemed to have our best interest at heart.

The bikes were nice and the studio was nicely lit but the bikes were more cramped together than comfortable. The music was decent but it wasn’t memorable. The ride was ridiculous. They had us out of the saddle with only one hand while the other hand was doing rows with a two-pound sandbag. Exactly how much of an upper body workout do you really think you are going to get from rowing two pounds compared to the risk of injury from torquing the body in order to balance while pedaling and rowing. We also sat on the bike and boxed with the sandbags, did bicep curls, front raises, tricep extensions and push ups. Did I feel like I got an upper body workout? No. Did it make the class more interesting? No. Did I feel like I was going to get injured? Yes, which made me stop at certain times and do what I was taught in my certifications. I was the only one not doing the exercises and I suppose because the studio lighting was a bit brighter than others this time I felt a bit guilty.

I honestly don’t really understand this trend in spinning. The traditional spin certification teaches us that all these moves are unsafe and unacceptable. If you want a cardio workout go to a spin class, if you want a total body and cardio workout then go to a boot camp class. I looked around at people’s form during the exercises and it was horrific. I wanted to take a video sooooo badly. I think there is more than one reason that cell phones aren’t allowed in the room.

Studio Review: Lyfe Cycle

IMAG0279Today I decided to stay local and try out a spin studio in my neighborhood with the added challenge of running to and from the studio. The mile and a half run was a great warm-up but I was pretty beat on the way home!

Lyfe Cycle is a small studio with 16 Schwinn bikes that have monitors so you can track your RPM’s, mileage, time and calories. The studio had a feminine vibe about it – not to say that men wouldn’t be welcome. There are no mirrors, it is pretty dark, and you definitely can zone out into your own world without judgment. They offered complimentary lavender towels to refresh and cool down at the end of the ride.

I definitely felt like I got a much better workout here than at Turnstyle. The instructor was awesome. She had great energy, put together a well structured ride, gave us cues on form, and had the music and microphone at just the right volumes so you could clearly hear all instructions.

She added in the “choreography” that I hate with push ups on the handlebars and standing crunches but told us we didn’t have to do anything we didn’t feel comfortable with. I tried one set of the push ups but I really felt that my legs were going so fast and keeping my core engaged and shoulders pulled down made it pretty difficult to get much out of the push ups. I don’t go to a spin class for an upper body workout, I go for the cardio. I think it would be much more effective to do a set of push ups and crunches before and after class than to do it on the bike with your legs spinning away. I looked around the room to check out the form during push ups and although there was no head banging there was pigeon head. I am not sure you will understand what I mean but a pigeons head bobs back and forth which is what happens when any one with rounded shoulders or forward head posture tries to do a push up on a spin bike. I even see it at the gym when people are using the eliptical. I’m not sure what has changed since I got certified but none of these moves used to be allowed because of the risk for injury. I still think it is for entertainment value so people don’t get bored. I felt very comfortable doing my own variations during the periods of choreography though.

Overall I thought Lyfe Cycle was great! It was the best spin class I have been to in a long time and I will definitely be back.

Studio Review: Turnstyle

Today I went to my first spin class in months and my first class in Boston in years. I definitely hold Boston fitness classes to a higher standard than when I am in a small town in Maine or off in a third world country. Unfortunately, my expectations may have led to my disappointment.

I arrived to the studio and was delighted the front desk staff was so friendly and inviting. She provided me with shoes and asked if I needed any help with my bike set-up. Generally I always arrive to classes early but I had trouble finding parking and was right on time. This meant the lights in the classroom had been turned off and it was almost impossible to see. I felt around in the dark for the knobs so I could adjust my bike seat and handlebars. I am not used to such a dark studio but it definitely ensures nobody will be gawking at you or judging you during your workout.

The playlist was perfect for my taste and that is a major key in my spinning motivation and really keeps me from getting bored or tired. The only issue was that the music was louder than the teacher’s microphone so there were many times I couldn’t hear what she was telling us to do but quickly figured it out.

My main disappointment was caused by the “choreography”. The class quickly began out of the saddle and with what looked to me like head banging push ups on the handle bars. I immediately cringed. All I could think of is the unnecessary stress the instructor was putting on her body and the terrible form she was encouraging her students to mimic. This was a trend in the class. There were several different moves that didn’t really improve the workout but I assume they were put in to keep people from getting bored. I tried a couple of the moves but found just focusing on my form and truly engaging my core gave me quite the workout without adding in any compromising moves. We did one song with light dumbbells but only did front raises for about five minutes straight. We brought our arms straight in front of us at shoulder level and just pulsed at different tempos. It seemed silly to only work our shoulders when there are a wide variety of exercises that could have been used but I’m not sure what to think after just one class.

The instructor gave us words of encouragement but not a single cue about form. Most people are in a seated position most of the day, have a forward head from looking at screens and phones, and tight hips that pull on the lower back which means spinning just replicates these bad postural problems. Without proper alignment spinning can do more harm than good, especially when you add in crazy push ups and jerking the head forward.

I have to say that I felt comfortable doing what was best for me and not what the rest of the class was doing, I got a sweaty cardio workout and felt great driving home. I will try Turnstyle again but I will be checking out other instructors in hopes that they do care about form and injury prevention.

Staying Healthy on a Road Trip

A few of my clients travel for work and have the hardest time maintaining any sense of routine because of the challenges that occur when being away from home. Today I am driving to Montreal and here is my plan for success to both stay awake while driving and stay healthy while traveling.

My road trip snacks are baby carrots and grapes. Both are low calorie and very easy to reach in and pull out of the bag while paying attention to the road. I also have carrot, apple, ginger, lemon and bell pepper juice I made this morning. I brought my shakeology with me if I need a smoothie along the way. It has a tendency to thicken because of one of the fruits in it so I wait until I am ready to drink it and just stop at a store for some coconut water or ice coffee to mix it with.

Once I get to Montreal my first stop before I even get to my hotel will be the grocery store. I purposely booked a room with a fridge so I can get fresh fruits and veggies to nourish me without daily trips to the store. I know my basic routine will be to have a shake after I workout, a banana and an apple for snacks, and I will make a salad to bring with me for lunch. Dinner will be slightly unplanned. Montreal has a lot of amazing vegetarian restaurants and enjoying life has to be factored into the daily routine!

I already completed my workout this morning before I got my day started and my scheduled rest day is tomorrow so I have a day of rest if I need it. I am doing the Insanity: Asylum workouts so I will stick to my schedule and do that in my hotel room each morning. I am staying at a hotel that is one mile away from the massage school I will be attending so my plan is to run there and back each day too.

Hopefully this will be a successful plan! I have found that making a plan is the key to success but being flexible with your plan is often times even more important. You never know what curve balls life will throw you so being open-minded to changing your plan is sometimes just as important as having a plan.

The Importance of Stretching

flexibility (2)I hear the complaints of not being flexible all the time but very rarely do I see anyone that is actually motivated to do something about it. I can only assume this is because people don’t understand the importance of stretching and flexibility.  I also know stretching can feel more like a chore than pleasure and if you don’t know what you are doing then you won’t see much progress.

Stretching has not only physical benefits but also mental, spiritual, and psychological benefits. Some of the tops benefits for me are:

  • Flexibility determines what movements you are able to make and how fast, accurate, and powerful they can be. If you are involved in sports this can be a key to getting an edge over your competition.
  • Flexibility helps your posture become more upright without mental reminders and your body become more relaxed as it reduces overall tension in the body. Better posture also helps you breathe deeper which improves overall health.
  • Flexibility relieves pain, prevents injuries, and helps relieve stress.
  • Flexibility teaches you how to embrace being comfortable with the uncomfortable.

Stretching
This is something you can do on your own whenever and wherever you want. All you need to know is the top five stretches that work for you. You could do a google search or you could ask a physical therapist, massage therapist, personal trainer or fitness instructor for recommendations based on your body. I also do skype sessions with clients to teach them a stretching routine and make personal youtube videos for them to follow along with. A small routine can take anywhere from 10-30 minutes a day and will make you feel so much better.

Yoga
Try it on your own, go to a class at a local studio, try a class online with YogaGlo or Gaiam. This is an arena that it is best to do your homework first. Yoga can help you become more flexible but depending on the style of yoga it could be a slow road to progress. Holding a stretch for longer periods of time is when the muscle actually has the time to relax and go further into a stretch to help increase your flexibility. Classes that are quickly moving through the poses will generally take a longer period of time to increase flexibility than classes where postures are being held for over a minute.

Assisted Stretching
This is a one-on-one technique that you will need a professional for but it is a way to get instant results. You get what you pay for! All you need is a thirty minute session so it should not be a large financial burden or if you already get personal training you could ask them to do this for the last fifteen minutes of your session.

Thai Yoga Bodywork
This is also a one-on-one technique that you will need a professional for. With my experience this is the quickest way to increase your flexibility. I used to do this for the NBA and saw players get more progress in the first week than doing a year of yoga. If increasing your flexibility is important to you and you want lasting change then this is the approach for you.

I hope you find a technique that works for you. Flexibility is important and it is one more thing we begin to lose as we age. Don’t procrastinate on this! It is so simple to add into the daily routine. Start with just one stretch in the morning when you get up and one before bed at night.

Guilt Free Indulgence

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The weekend is here and you feel like you deserve a treat! I know how easy it is for one cheat meal to turn into an entire weekend of indulgence with the mindset that Monday will be a brand new start. That isn’t the best approach though. It is better to try to find healthier options so that you can indulge without the guilt and without any setbacks in your nutrition and exercise routine. This is a recipe I use often when craving a sweet treat.

1 frozen banana
1 can of coconut milk (just the cream)
1 heaping spoonful of peanut butter
1 handful of cacao nibs
Blend until smooth and freeze for about thirty minutes to an hour. Top with any superfoods you desire – I used roasted coconut flakes, cacao nibs, hemp seeds and chia seeds.

I tend to over buy bananas because I like to keep them on hand for quick snacks and I like to freeze them for smoothies and “ice cream”. As they start to turn brown because I haven’t eaten them in time I just break them into small chinks and throw them into tupperware in the freezer and I always have some on hand when I need them.

Regarding the coconut milk: If you place a can of coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight or about eight hours, the coconut cream will separate from the coconut water. I turn the can upside down to open it and drain off the coconut water for a future smoothie and use the coconut cream for the dessert I am making.

Make sure your peanut butter is organic and just peanuts and salt. Many companies add sugar or high fructose corn syrup which is completely unnecessary. Other than that, enjoy an all natural version of Chunky Monkey ice cream!