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My First Time: Cycle House

It always makes me feel old when I describe a restaurant or bar as “You know, the place that used to be [insert restaurant that was the place to be for six months and then it died but the new place at which we’re about to totally overpay for drinks and mediocre food totally won’t follow that same path.]”  Especially when I have to insert cringe-worthy names like “Privilege,” “Area-then-Industry” or “Guys?  Guys and Dolls…I don’t remember: the one we typically walked by on our way to stuffing our face at Dominick’s.”

Interestingly enough, however, my first time having to do this for a gym just made me feel really athletic.

In what used to be the uber-run down cycling studio at Train, the brand spanking new Cycle House has emerged.  And no, this is not just a fresh coat of paint, new sign, call it a day takeover: this is a full renovation into a completely new studio.

The place is beautiful.  From the shoes, to the bikes, to the decor - everything is brand new, and they spared no expenses in making it a luxury fitness destination.  If you are using the studio’s shoes - as I did - they are waiting for you at your reserved bike when you arrive with a fresh towel.  It’s those details that really add to the experience.

The class is 45 minutes, and starts off with a statement from the instructor that makes me realize I’ve probably been spinning wrong for years: In order to get the workout benefit of riding along a FLAT road, the resistance pads need to at least be touching the wheel.  Not a hill…a flat road.  Take a look the next time you’re spinning…just touching the wheel is more resistance than you would expect.

There is nowhere to hide, as my fitness friend Lauren has us in the front row center (bless her, probably for the best).  That means that every time the instructor has us turn the resistance up, I’m turning it up - and no sneaking any decrease resistance turns.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: spinning, when you’re really following the “turn the resistance up” commands from the instructor, is the most intense workout there is.

The 45-minute spin is mostly out of the saddle, a lot of hills, and just a few sprints toward the end.  The music is well-suited for the ride, and can best be described as the playlist your hip, music-aficionado friend would make for you knowing you like pop music, but hoping you can appreciate some more quality jams in there.  In addition to a mix of hills and some runs, we do five minutes of light (2lb) weights, but that really serve to fatigue the arms for some decent toning.

Between the music and the variation on challenges, the class really flies by and I’m surprised when it’s over.


I will say one thing:  the whole look, feel and routine is a little - shall we say - derived from SoulCycle. The lighting, the motivational signs, the light weight workout at exactly the same time it’s done at Soul Cycle, the instructor-turned-DJ running a playlist of a laptop in the front - everything right down to the LED candles around the instructor platform screams “We’re not messing with a formula that works.”  As I have no monetary investment in SoulCycle, I’m fine with this.

The first class is discounted 50%, which makes trying it totally worthwhile.  The prices, however, were also ripped off from Soul Cycle - as in super ‘spensive. The 45 minute classes start at $26, and go down to $22.60 if you purchase 25 of them.  Granted, this is all inclusive of the shoes, the parking, towel service…but the pricing is the one thing I miss from Train.

The rusty bikes, not so much.

The deets:

Cycle House

624 North La Cienega Blvd

West Hollywood

(310) 358-0888

http://www.cyclehousela.com

The instructor: Jason

Key Takeaways: If you like SoulCycle, you’ll like Cycle House, if you don’t like the SoulCycle prices, you won’t like Cycle House prices

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My First Time: Swerve Studio Vinyasa Flow

You know what does a number on your body?  Running a half marathon at 5 AM…and then spending the rest of the day at Disneyland.  I truly can’t tell which destroyed my body more, but that back to back body breaking action on Sunday had me down for the count on Monday and Tuesday, and ready for some yoga on Wednesday.


Enter Swerve Studio.  I previously reviewed their signature class - Yoga Booty Ballet - and found it fun, but very soft.  After aforementioned weekend, I was down with some sort of soft workout, so off to Swerve I go.

I bring along the boyfriend, who you might remember from the Pop Physique incident of 2012 (yes, dear, pink weights ARE heavy).  He experienced the same running/Disney mashup on Sunday, and is similarly ready to stretch.  So ready to stretch that he could be seen doing downward dog at the hotel bar days earlier.  We are both relatively-novice when it comes to yoga, and he, in particular, is about as flexible as the GOP (what up political zinger!?).

Swerve offers a 12:30 Vinyasa Flow community class, which is $10 instead of the regular class price of $18.  Love it.

Being an Unemployed Angeleno, I’ve hit my fair share of midday workout classes.  They are generally surprisingly full, especially if they are offered at a discount.  Not the case with this particular class: it is just the two of us.  For a mere $10/each, we get a private yoga lesson.  You just don’t find deals like that on Groupon.

The instructor, Susannah, is very attentive, and doesn’t have that “Yoga is so serious you better be thinking about world peace the whole time” attitude that makes me so uncomfortable with some other instructors.  Sure, yoga is for the soul, but I’m primarily into it for the physical benefits.  I would much rather have an instructor discussing the nuts and bolts of a pose than leading the group in a chant.  But that’s just me.

We focus on breathing at the beginning of the class, but it is not heavily guided through the rest of class.  Instead, form and pose correction are paramount.  The more I practice yoga, the more I realize that seemingly simple poses like upward and downward dog, in fact, have a whole lot of nuances to them that change the whole workout.  With this in mind, this class’s attentive correction will benefit future yoga practice.

Being that we are, again, the only two people in the class - we get a lot of personal attention, but not so much that it seems overboard.  She focuses on the safety of the more advanced moves, which my finicky shoulder and tight hamstring muscles are grateful for. 

Although the class doesn’t have a designated level, I would rate it at early intermediate (I am making up levels now).  We ran through most of the same poses as an intermediate/advanced class, but held the poses for less time - fatigue didn’t set in until toward the end of class.  The sweat factor was moderate.  I’m sure if the two of us had been stumbling over ourselves, or (less likely) jumping into headstands, the class would have been adjusted accordingly.

The majority of the class is set to Bon Iver - which is a total win in my mind.  I leave the class uber-relaxed, with the pain of Disneyland almost faded.  Almost.

The Deets:

Vinyasa Flow Yoga at Swerve Studio

8250 West 3rd Street, #205

Los Angeles

http://www.swervestudio.com 

The Instructor: Susannah Hall


Key takeaways: Yoga mats/blankets/blocks all provided, towel service available, allot time to find street parking, small mid-day class size, not for the spiritual yogi, don’t go to Disneyland for 10 hours after a 13.1 mile race.

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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

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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.