Text

My First Time: Pink Iron (Lean and Mean)

I’ve been hearing rave reviews about Pink Iron from a couple of my fit gal pals since it opened. The classes offered are bootcamp-style circuit training, which I have come to realize is the fastest way to lose weight that i have yet to try. As I much prefer to deal with these classes with friends, I suck it up and wake up early to join one of my raving gal pals for a 7AM Lean and Mean class. I will note that while I feel leaner after, I am also most CERTAINLY meaner due to insufficient sleep. I can’t fault Pink Iron for this.

The studio is located in the same strip mall complex as the famous-even-in-the-flyovers Barry’s Bootcamp. There’s also a Jiu Jitsu studio there. Perhaps there is a zoning law in West Hollywood that puts all the pain together. In any case, when I arrive at 6:45, there are already people in the complex working hard.

Pink Iron is the ladies only fitness facility in the complex. This is accented by the miniature poodle that greets me at the door (the name is Barbell - adorbs), the incredibly clean and sparkly locker room with shampoo and hair driers, and the fact that the really heavy weights are pink. The idea behind this girls only rule is to facilitate a supportive environment where women don’t have to dress up to work out (I don’t own any Lulu Lemon; this has never been a concern for me), and to offer workouts that are specifically catered toward the majority of women’s fitness goals (read: toning vs. bulking up). I’m all for it.

There are six people in this class (love), which is taught by an encouraging coach who is socially-spazzy in the best possible way. The spazz-factor lowered the intimidation factor of the impending boot camp. She walks us through the plan and the proper form for all of the strength exercises, and then we are off to kick it off with a warmup run.

Here’s something I just love: the cardio intervals are outside. Not on a treadmill! Just a quick run out of the studio, down the street to Barney’s Beanery-adjacent, and back up. This really punctuates the workout in such a refreshing way; and it’s nice to feel outside air in the middle of a killer workout.

The strength cycle starts with 20 reps of five exercises, followed by outdoor running in between each cycle. The first cycle is mini bell jumps (jumping from the floor onto a stack of barbells and back down), double arm kettlebell snatches (I had to look that term up too) with a 17 lb kettlebell, grand plié squat reach and jumps, thrusters with two 8 lb weights, and finally burpees - the bane of my workout existence. Each subsequent cycle cuts off the first exercise of the previous cycle, therefore the strength cycles go down to four, three, two and finally just those damn burpees in the last cycle. The strength exercises are quick and keep the cardio up; pounds of sweat are coming off me from the very beginning. 

After everyone finishes all five cycles and runs, we do a quick Tabata that alternates four 20-second ab twists and four 20-second planks. Not to be a martyr, but I would have loved a few more minutes of abs to end the workout. It was the one area that didn’t really feel fully burned out at the end of the workout. I was not about to be the girl in class that raised her hand when the teacher forgot to assign homework, so I keep my mouth shut.

The workout was fantastic. It was fast-paced and challenging, but not rushed and too strenuous for proper form. Each class varies, which keeps it fresh and effective. It was one of the better workouts I’ve tried in the past few months, and that fact that it’s “girls only” shouldn’t indicate otherwise.

For whatever reason, there is a perception of female-focused workout classes that they must be easy. You know the classes I’m talking about: any class that incorporates the word “bar,” “physique,” or “pilates,” or any class that talks about toning, as opposed to bulking up. I’m not sure where this perception comes from, but I’ve heard guys scoff at them, and I’ve even heard the ladies dismiss them as “not my thing - I prefer hardcore workouts” before giving it a shot.

Listen. I’ve done the dude classes, and I’ve done the lady classes, I’ve dragged dudes along to the lady classes, and the consensus is: they’re all hard. Just because Sweat Garage (which I love) has a wider selection of heavier weights, doesn’t mean it’s any better of a workout than Pink Iron (which, as indicated above, I also love). Unless you’re looking for body-builder type strength (to each his own, but it totally went out in the 80‘s), you probably don’t need to max out on the heaviest weights in the gym. Weights that provide a challenge, but that aren’t so heavy that they prevent correct form, are going to be the better route. So lay off the ‘tude about lady classes. 

Burst of exercise-feminism has passed; back into the details. The first trial class is free, monthly unlimited memberships are $149/month, and individual classes start at $20 (working all the way down to $13/class if you purchase a 30 pack). The other classes offered at Pink Iron are yoga and Group Training (less boot camp, more strength training). More deets, you ask? 

The Deets:

Pink Iron

1106 N. La Cienega,
West Hollywood, CA. 90069
310-360-7465

http://www.pinkiron.com/

Takeaways: Free parking in garage off of La Cienega, towel service and yoga mats provided, not a place to scam on dudes, 800-1000 calories burned during Lean and Mean

Text

My First Time: Cardio Barre

I have a healthy obsession with bar workouts. I went to my first Bar Method class in 2009, and haven’t looked back. It sounds super 50 Shades of Grey (though better written), but I get great pleasure out of the exquisite, lingering, self-inflicted pain that comes with a ballet-inspired workout. Love.

When I saw a Groupon/Living Social/whatever e-mail it was I read that day deal for 10 Cardio Barre classes for $40, I signed up immediately…and finally got around to redeeming it a month later.*

The plan is to meet up with a friend who had bought the same daily deal, but her boss works her too hard and she can’t get out for the 8PM class. I am on my own.

There are no advanced sign ups, so I arrive 30 minutes prior to the class, as recommended by the studio. I probably could have made it in if I got there 15 minutes prior, but they are known to sell out. While it’s nice to not have to plan this workout days in advance, I’m not crazy about spending 15-30 minutes of downtime waiting for an hour class. I hear this is even more of an issue amongst the actually-employed.

I am prepared to go through the same strength workout as Bar Method/Pop Physique, but this turns out to be much more old school aerobics, with a ballet strength twist. We start with some fast moving stretches and warm ups, including many ballet variations on calf raises and plie releve. All of the balance holds wake up my inner ballerina, who then proceeds to lose her balance and fall. The pace of the class stays fast throughout.

The instructor indicates that “bar thighs” are the hardest part of class. During this, we do a standard fold over at the bar with lifts and bends angled at different sides of the classroom. Just as it starts to really burn, the exercise is over. I want an extra minute during all of these exercises because I am a horrible sadist.

The arm workout is high in cardio, but I never get to a point where my form is quite there. The 8 counts quickly go down to 4 counts and 2 counts and singles, and I spend a good amount of time looking around figuring out if I am supposed to be doing tricep presses or shoulder extensions (we go back and forth between the two). This might get more effective the more classes one takes, but it really does move so fast that I don’t know how anyone can really focus too much on form.

We do a series of standing abs and twists that target the abs; I am semi-concerned I’m going to throw my back out the whole time. Perhaps this is paranoid, but speedy twisting of the torso just screams disaster to my ever-aging body.

The lying down floor workout gets a little Jane Fonda, but she still looks great so who am I to judge? We  lie down on towels and do a series of side lying leg lifts that I feel moderately in my hips and outer thighs, and pretty strongly when we adjust to target the inner thigh. The abs use old school bicycles, among other exercises, and it does the job.

The stretch to end the class is longer than in most classes, which is probably a great thing. Low impact or not, this is a class that contorts the body in ways that are out of the norm.

I’m sure I am missing a few exercises from the hour class - but I think that’s the point. Nothing truly hurt or challenged to the degree that I could remember it 12 hours later. What I missed from this class was the huge sense of “good lord I can’t believe I got through that” after the class, or even the most challenging exercises. My soreness factor is non-existent the next day, which I suppose is not always a bad thing when the primary focus is cardio. Granted, this is coming from someone who has been really piling on six days of running or exercise classes each week lately (only pause a moment to hate me for having the time to do this, then go back to pitying me for not having an income), and it’s also worth noting that this was a beginner class. This class is a great way to get back into exercise if there has been a personal lapse in fitness and the other classes seem too scary to start.

I will note that after discussing the class with a workout buddy who has attended a few sessions, it appears as though the beginner classes vary significantly in difficulty level. I must have inadvertently signed up for one of the easier classes. Not crazy about that lack of consistency, either, but I’m hopeful I can get more out of the rest of these classes by finding the “hard” teacher.

I’m also hoping I can find a teacher who doesn’t play the worst music I’ve ever sat through for an hour. We’re talking war criminal torture music. It grated on my nerves for a solid 80 percent of the class. I have a wide range of music I can tolerate, including pop, cheesy rock ballads, and even a corgi cover of Call Me Maybe. This music, though: my God. I think we heard every song that Mark Wahlberg ever participated in, except for in club remix form and at like 4X speed. Every song you forgot from the 90s, but that it’s ok that you forgot, ended up on that playlist. I can’t speak to how often they change that up, but there is a very real possibility I’ll be wearing an iPod for my remaining nine purchased classes.

The Deets:
Cardio Barre - Beverly Hills (multiple locations)
469 S. Robertson Blvd
Beverly Hills 90212
(424) 777-0032
www.cardiobarre.com

Takeaways: It’s more Cardio/less Barre, bring a (beach) towel, consider bringing headphones (only half kidding), arrive early for pre- and post-work classes, class difficulty varies, street parking.

*On that note, I have 30 pre-purchased classes for various fitness studios around LA that expire on dates ranging from September to December. I am on lockdown from purchasing classes until that number goes down to 10.


Text

My First Time: Sweat Garage

        

The mission to lose 5 pounds has been upgraded to 10 pounds thanks to a “oh forget health” road trip this past week.  At least my fat is tanned.

So off to Sweat Garage we go.  

My workout buddy and I have hit up all things unhealthy in that plaza (shots of the day at Fat Dog, pretentious coffee at Commissary, fatty meat at Lindy & Grundy, om nom pizza at Pitfire).  Although we’re regulars for Bada Bing juice,  oddly enough, we had yet to attend Sweat Garage.  Since it opened in July, we’ve been trying to ignore that guilty feeling when we catch a glimpse of Sweat Garage on our way to hot dogs and rock shrimp, so it was only a matter of time before we surrendered.

And surrender we did, thanks to a free first class from our friends at Broke Girls Guide!

Generally pumped for a workout, I am mourning my third (THIRD!) parking ticket of the month, and really not in the mood to bring it.  What sets me off further is Sweat Garage’s lack of towel service, which I maintain should be provided when towels are mandatory (Yes - I am bitching about spending $7 on a towel when the class is free.  I know, I know)*.  This aside, I don’t think Ryan Gosling can relieve me of this mood if he handed me a stack of towels wearing only a towel.  I am just exuding negative energy this morning.

Sweat Garage to the rescue: the next hour will strip me of any energy I could possibly put toward negative thoughts.  I guess that’s what happens when you burn up to 600 calories in a one-hour class.

Sweat Garage runs off of the DECABODY workout, which essentially means using 10 different types of exercise to achieve body-improving results.  Those 10 workouts are listed as running, weight training, resistance training, plyometrics, jump rope, endurance training, kettlebells, core conditioning, interval training and Tabata training.  Each individual workout varies (which keeps it fresh); we used all but kettlebells in this class.

The class du jour is Max Out.  It is exactly as it sounds. We picked quite the day to start.

The garage door goes down, indicating the start of class.  I’m sure there is an exit, but something about the garage door being shut as class starts really solidifies that we aren’t going anywhere until this is through. 

Owner and trainer Christopher Slevin heads up the class.  I have to say, he is a refreshing change from a lot of the “explore what feels right for your body today” subscribing trainers I’ve had in the past.  If giving up or slowing down feel right for my body today, they are still not options.  This is not to say that he doesn’t provide individual attention and modifications to each person in the 20-person class, it just means that those modifications are still going to reach the max of what each individual can physically achieve.

The class starts with a four minute warmup on the treadmill.  The first minute is a jog, and moves up 1MPH each minute.  For me, this is 5MPH - 8MPH; I believe there are people who doing 4-7 and 6-9.

After this, we switch places with the other half of the class, and continue the warmup on the floor.  For this section, we complete two minutes jumping rope and two minutes of ab bicycles.  That damn jump rope still trips me up, but I am improving (not quite as good as when I was 10, but we’ll say I’m back at age 7 level of dexterity).

My workout buddy and I give each other a look after this.  That was the warmup?  We’re already soaked with sweat.  This is going to be rough.

The body of the Max Out class is broken into 90 second intervals, switching back and forth from the treadmill to the floor with weights.  We do seven treadmill intervals and seven weight intervals.

The 90 second treadmill intervals are set at the fastest pace we reached during the warm up, or the fastest each of us think we can maintain.  Incidentally, this is the only area where you can choose your own adventure.  Once you have committed to a speed (which Christopher surveys on the first sprint), that’s it.  You are committed to this.  Love the accountability**.  As we know, I revere fitness instructors as godlike beings for the duration of classes, so I stick to the 8, even when I think I’m going to be flung off the back of the treadmill, and even increase each interval by .1.  This makes me feel pretty proud, but also (unfortunately), intensely nauseas.  I think that means it’s working.

The one element I am too terrified to try is jumping on the treadmill from the sides at the max sprint pace, and jumping off when the sprint is over.  I fell off a treadmill on a cruise ship once (true story), and this risk is just not worth it to me.  To ensure I still sprint for the full 90 seconds, I bring myself up to the sprint during the brief rest, and bring myself back down after it’s stopped.  This extra running is motivation to learn how to jump on and off of the treadmill at some point soon.

The 90 second weight workouts bring the body to total fatigue.  Trust - 90 seconds lasts longer than it sounds when you are committed to one weight workout at a time.  Using 10 pound weights, we do seven different weight intervals: bicep curls, skull crushers, boxing, shoulder presses, chest presses, overhead tricep extensions and burpees.  I am at the point at 60 seconds into the later intervals where I can’t will my arms to move.  Christopher gives me a couple modifications after I told him I have a bad shoulder from when I tripped over a dog running (another true story), and I somehow make it through.

By the end of the intervals, my body is truly maxed out.  This seems to be the case for everyone else in the class as well.


The class prices start at $20 for an individual class, and work down to $12/class if you buy a 50 class series.  If you can make the 50 class commitment, it’s quite a steal for the individual attention and intense workout.  There is also a current special (on sale until June 8th) for 30 days unlimited at $175.  My body couldn’t handle more than a couple classes each week, but if yours can, this is another great deal.

Unrelated to anything exercise (other than, ya know, creating an environmentally sound planet where we can safely exercise outside), Sweat Garage incorporates a number of green/environmental initiatives in the gym.  Respect on that front, for sure - take note greenies.

The deets:

Sweat Garage

801 N. Fairfax Ave

Los Angeles - 90046

323-852-9800

www.sweatgarage.com

The takeaways:  Free parking!  Bring water and a towel.  Don’t throw up.

*The towel was absolutely necessary (and in the policies listed in the pricing page on the website).  You win this one, Sweat Garage.

**If we’re being real, I hate it at the time but love it when it’s done.


        

Text

My First Time: Boxing

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I am incapable of turning down an invitation for a free workout.

This was tested when the caveat was that this free workout would be one-on-one boxing training (no hiding in the back row!), and that I would be filmed for a promotional video while the workout was happening.  Excessive sweating plus camera shy blogger does not a good video make, but ultimately my dedication to fitness on a budget, and the charmers at Skilloop, won this battle.

After applying enough make up to withstand fluorescent gym lights on camera, but not so much that I would appear so shallow that I put make up on to work out, I was off to Culver City.

Tucked into a particularly industrial corner of Culver City is The Gym@Hayden.  It’s housed in the same building as a dance studio that I promise to check out if a free workout is ever offered to me there, or, ya know, when I get a job.  On this midmorning weekday session, the gym is virtually empty, save a few folks meeting their trainers (and not a crew of videographers).

I am a boxing virgin.  I’ve made it to third base with boxing activities on several occasions, including a stint with cardio kickboxing in high school (our crush on the instructor kept us going 4 days/week), complemented with my mom’s Tae Bo VHS tapes (Billy Blank motivates like no other). It turns out, however, that borderline-boxing a decade (plus) ago is not enough to prepare me for the real thing.

Nick hands me a jump rope, which I stare at quizzically.  This thing looks familiar, although I don’t think I’ve jumped rope since age 10.  A couple minutes into the jumping, I realize that both the coordination and cardio-challenge of jumping rope are harder than I remember it being in 5th grade.  I think my legs were shorter then - definitely thinner - and my ability to jump without tripping over the rope was much higher.

Already worn out by this brief stint of cardio, it is time for Nick to teach me a few combinations, but not before wrapping up my hands and putting on boxing gloves.

Having my hands wrapped up by a trainer makes me feel truly bad ass for no real reason (other than mentally retained scenes from Million Dollar Baby and The Fighter).  I already look much tougher.  The boxing gloves really add to the intimidation factor, although I can tell Nick is only humoring me when he admits that he is intimidated.

Boxing. Is. Hard.  Nick is very patient with me as I continuously forget even the simplest of punching combinations, and promises that I will be ready to win a bar fight when all is said and done.  He also says that the key to staying youthful is chocolate, wine and coffee - this is my type of trainer.

I practice my new moves on Nick (and his protective gloves), and really go to town on the punching bag. I’m, perhaps, not THE most coordinated boxer, but I can confidently say that I’m not the least coordinated either.

As you will see in this video, I did improve throughout the class, and the cardio was a killer.  I don’t know if I’m quite ready to face off with Mark Wahlberg’s fighter, but I think I could definitely kick Hilary Swank’s ass after that (to clarify: the 90210 years when she was dating Steve Sanders, not the Million Dollar Baby years when she had been trained by Clint Eastwood…give me time on that one).

Regardless, I’m loving Skilloop.  Although I’m going to mainly hit it up for the one-on-one fitness training sessions with experts, they’ve got everything (cue SNL Stefon voice).  Instructors for surfing, guitar, Adobe, cooking, styling and even authoring a book.  Seriously, everything.  I debated a private fire breathing lesson (no lie, it’s on there), but I super value my face.  

The deets:

Skilloop.com - specifically Boxing with Nick

The Gym@Hayden

3625 Hayden Avenue, Culver City 90232

(310) 202-0003



     

Text

My First Time: Soul Cycle

       


An east coast transplant, I get excited when anything comes west.  Granted, this was mostly true about the Dunkin Donuts that recently opened at Camp Pendleton, but, to a lesser degree, applies to Soul Cycle in West Hollywood.

Soul Cycle, for those of you who don’t follow the fitness preferences of Lady Gaga, Tom Cruise and all of my New York Facebook friends, is a full-body workout that revolves around spinning.  Because intense bursts of cardio do not make riders sore enough the next morning, there are also elements of core strengthening, and arm weight exercises involved so you can burn out your muscles while simultaneously spinning the calories away (not the easiest feat for the uncoordinated).  It’s the it-est work out in New York right now, and recently opened in West Hollywood in the shadow of Equinox and H&M.  Of course: I needed to try this.

Armed with a “First Class Free” coupon, my two workout buddies and I walk into Soul Cycle on a Monday evening.  It is a free ride for SoHo House members (which I am not) and their guests (thank gawd for friends in high places).

The lobby is bright, the locker room clean, and the staff could not be nicer.  It’s things like this that make a brutally tough workout manageable.  The only (huge) concern comes up when the class before us exits.  I have never seen such in shape people have redder faces or more sweat.  It is too late to turn back, but we take this as a sign of what was to come.

We are given new-looking spinning shoe loaners, which make all the difference in the world.  The friendly staff help us into our bikes (in the back row, natch), the lights are lowered (probably so no one has to look at the amount of sweat on their neighbor) and off we go.

Anytime a fitness instructor gets all spiritual on me, I completely buy into it - especially if they are on an elevated platform surrounded by a religious-looking candle display.  Yes, I will leave my worries outside of this room (in one of the digital lockers, no less!)!  Yes, I will contribute to and feed off of the energy in this room!  Yes, I can push myself to the limit!

I am totally buying into the hype: it’s so much more than a stationary bike ride.  Soul Cycle is a mind-clearing, calorie-burning, body-changing experience.  Maybe it’s the lighting, maybe it’s the candles, maybe it’s the (at times deafening) music.  Whatever it is, I just keep upping the resistance of that bike anytime the motivational fitness teacher tells me to. I am at one with the pedaling mass in the darkened room, and I am reaching a new plane of consciousness…

…Then 10 minutes go by and I’m done being spiritual, and the only function my body can accomplish is to sweat profusely.

Up and down the hills we go (actually - I don’t think there are any downhills on this course…), and in and out of the saddle we ride.  There are bursts of pushups along the ride (which seem super dangerous, but again, I do whatever fitness instructors tell me to do), and there is even a Carly Rae Jespen mashup.  It’s far enough into the ride that it just feels right, which indicates the exercise-induced delirium we are experiencing.

Balancing during the arm weights is a challenge for us beginners, but not as much of a challenge as the actual arm weights.  It’s amazing how heavy a two-pound weight can feel during isometric holds.  Magic weight…dark magic.

The class sections are broken up very well, and for that reason seems shorter than 45 minutes.  What feels like the beginning of a cool down is actually the beginning of a 10 minute slow climb, but I don’t mind being fooled during a workout class if it distracts from the pain.

By the time we get out of the saddles, we are as sweaty and red-faced as the class before us.  But we made it.

I read on a decorative napkin once that calories don’t count if you share food with friends.  I followed that advice and unfortunately it turned out to be incredibly untrue.  What is true, however, is that working out with friends burns double calories.  Go with me on this for a second.  The way I see it, when you work out with friends, you are not only burning calories during the workout, but you are saving the calories you would have consumed partaking in usual activities with said friends eating and drinking.  Undeniable benefit, right? This is especially true if the workout happens during happy hour, which, in this case, it did.  AND we were too sweaty to even get a celebratory marg at Rosa Mexicana after, so the calorie benefits were exponential.

I’m going to voice my one Soul Cycle complaint (other than the pain): the class pricing math is kind of ridic.  A single class is $25, which makes sense in this market.  But the class “packages” advertised are the same price per class - no discount for Soul Cycle (or apparent benefit of buying more than one class at a time).  The 50 class “supersoul” package for $3,000 actually prices the classes at $60/class.  Apparently this package includes priority sign ups and a concierge service, but I’m just going to throw out there that this concierge service seems like a really expensive bottle of Smart Water with every ride.  I wonder if Anderson Cooper buys that package.

Regardless, the class is totally thin-inducing, and bans cell phone usage in the studio (respect).  I’m pretty pumped at the thought of their theme rides (Robyn! Britney! Steve Jobs? Broadway!), so we’ll consider adding this to the mix if the next day butt pain fades in a reasonable amount of time.

The deets:  

Soul Cycle

8570 Sunset Blvd

West Hollywood, CA 90069

310-657-7685

Takeaways:  Spinning shoes are required but available for rent, bring water