Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Boutique Fitness Trend That's Arrived in Denver


For the longest time those seeking an indoor option to sweat it out and build muscle generally had one basic option - a gym membership. I use this term loosely because a wide range of gyms fall into this category - from the body builder haven of Gold's Gym to the social club known as Lifetime Fitness. But in more recent years, we've seen a huge uptick in the number of boutique fitness studios. Now those seeking to take a range of yoga classes or Pilates, Zumba or Spinning, can take classes from teachers who are specially trained and focus on that specific type of physical activity.

Great, right? All our fitness woes are solved!? 

Not quite. These boutique fitness studios have two big disadvantages. One: People crave variety. Two: Memberships tend to be pricey - especially if classes at the studio supplements a traditional gym membership, or you go to more than one studio. So over the years a number of startups have jumped into the game to fix this problem.

First to hit the scene was FITiST back in 2011 - allowing fitness enthusiasts the option to purchase a membership and book classes at multiple studios across NYC (and LA) in one place. Since then, ClassPass, Athletes Club, FitClub, and likely others, have joined in, each bringing their own spin to the industry.

Last December as I was perusing my news feed on Facebook, I noticed an ad announcing that ClassPass was coming to Denver. 

While I loved taking various classes in New York, my experience with classes here in Denver has unfortunately been fairly limited and through very unscientific research while attempting to take classes a few times, I found a lot of studios offering yoga, Pilates, Barre, and Bootcamp classes but not much else. So when I heard about ClassPass I was genuinely curious as to if there were 1) enough studios in Denver, and 2) enough variety of studios, to make such a service work.

Little did I know at the time I'd get the chance to find out for myself. 

When ClassPass reached out to see if I would help with the launch of the service in Denver, I couldn't pass up the chance to check out as many studios as I could fit into my schedule in one month. When I logged onto the site for the first time, I admit, I was a bit surprised to see how many studios were available! That said, with a closer look my assumption that there are a lot of yoga, Pilates, Barre, and bootcamp/crossfit studios in this city appeared to be true. 

Now half way through the month I thought I'd share with you a rundown of the studios and classes I've tried so far:

Several years back I took a weekly Zumba class at NYSC that I loved. The energy was addictive, the music was fun, and I couldn't help but love the fact that everyone is accepted in a Zumba class no matter your age, experience, or natural rhythm. I took this class on a Sunday morning after a snowstorm. While it was a little difficult to get to the studio (and find it), the class filled up and once I let myself loosen up a bit and not care so much about getting the choreography just right, I had a great time.

If You Go:
- Studio Thrive offers several types of classes beyond Zumba including TRX and Bootcamp
- Melissa (who teaches Zumba Friday evening & Saturday morning, and periodically fills in at other times) is a fantastic and energetic teacher
- Their is a drinking fountain but it's best to take a water bottle with you
- Located on Blake Street, the studio isn't far from great eats and in walking distance to public transportation, including Union Station. There is a good bit of street parking in the area, especially on Sunday mornings! 
- A few blocks away is Buenos Aires Pizzeria - great pizza but go for the empanadas!

CP Tone Arms & Abs - Club Pilates - Cherry Creek
I was new to Pilates using a reformer and picked this specific class because of the focus on arms and abs. With the studio not overly far from our house I chose to run to and from class to get a few miles in towards our 2,015 goal. Turns out the class was a new offering at the studio - which is the only Colorado location of nationwide chain. Our instructor - Jennifer - was very welcoming and took time to walk me through what the different pieces of equipment would be used for and a general idea of how to use it. My class was quite small - only four other students - but I enjoyed seeing a range of ages among us. As I went through the class I realized Pilates must be a great form of exercise for people to stay active as they age. 

If You Go:
- The studio is located in the garden level of a shopping complex within Cherry Creek North; you won't see it from the street so it can be a bit tricky to find
- They offer a range of class types, and a full schedule throughout the week so you're sure to find something to try
- The studio was undergoing renovations to add an office and private lesson space. 
There are a ton of great restaurants and coffee shops for post-workout refueling. One of my favorite restaurants in Denver - True Food Kitchen - is just steps away

Again I ran to class but this time it probably wasn't the best idea. This was a tough one and I'm thankful Woody picked me up after. Two days later and it was still difficult to walk! Sign of a good workout, right? I've found that a good number of studios offer combo classes like this. When I arrived, I found a large, bright studio with spin bikes on one side, rowing machines were on the other. We started on the bike with a warmup and the pace picked up quickly. We alternated between the spin bike and the rowing machine, spending about a half hour on each. It was a circuit workout of sorts, keeping things interesting. This is a great option for those who want a low-impact high-intensity cardio workout that targets all muscle groups. I thoroughly enjoyed this class, even with all the hurt!

If You Go:
- Towels are provided; be sure to bring a water bottle, you'll need it!
- Merrit was an awesome teacher - she's figured out the right balance between pushing and encouraging to make the class really tough but also enjoyable
- This studio is on the 2nd floor of a building (that has a parking lot) surrounded by used car lots, restaurants are sparse (unless you're looking for a 1960's bar/lounge) but it's not overly far from some of the best coffee in the city at Kaladi Coffee Roasters
- They offer a range of classes at several studios across Denver and periodically, Parent's Night Out (drop the kids off for the evening & go out to have some fun)!

Candlelight Vinyasa Flow - Infinity Yoga
I'm energized by exercise, so I often have trouble taking cardio classes later in the day which is why I chose a relaxing yoga class for a Thursday evening. This class was small - only four students - but the studio space was also small so it worked out nicely. The instructor, Lindsey, led us through a series of poses - as is usual with yoga classes - and the pace was a bit slower than I had expected. That said, once I adjusted my expectations, I found the class to be very relaxing and a solid hour long stretching session. 

If You Go:
- It can be a bit difficult to find the studio as Infinity Yoga is a relatively new studio that's currently sharing space with a massage therapy office in the basement of an office building. 
- The building is in a prime downtown location close to lots of restaurants, shopping, entertainment and offices. Another student mentioned she has taken several classes during her lunch break. Head over to Union Station to relax in the main hall with coffee & a pastry from Boxcar Coffee Roasters or a nice local beer from Terminal Bar.
- They're offering an amazing package - 10 class punch card for just $30! I think it's nearly impossible to beat this deal

More reviews coming after I finish out the month, along with my general thoughts on ClassPass!

Do you use a service like ClassPass? * Do you prefer group fitness classes or doing your workout on your own? * What is your favorite fitness class?

Disclosure: ClassPass provided a one month membership to try the service and classes, however all opinions are mine alone.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Cold Hard Truth I Learned From Fitbit

Whenever I visit a new doctor for the first time, I check the "moderately active" box on the questionnaire. While I run and workout at the gym 5 - 6 days per week, I also spend most of my day sitting - at my desk typing away on a computer, in meetings, commuting, or plopped in front of the TV after a long day. So I generally like to think of myself as "moderately active."

Then, I bought a Fitbit.

A primary reason why I purchased the Fitbit Charge just before the new year was to track my steps. When we lived in New York I walked all the time. It was second nature and necessary. Walking was a constant part of life. I'm fairly confident that during the nine years I lived there, I spent much more time walking than the average person on the vast majority of days. I basically made it my mission to see how much of my normal day I could spend walking. But life has changed a lot since moving to Denver. Much for the good, but one thing I don't do enough of anymore is walk. It's very easy for me now, especially during the colder months, to spend very little time on my feet.

We've all heard about the golden number - 10,000. The minimum number of steps (approximately 5 miles) we should take each day, according to the American Heart Association and other health organizations, to improve our health and decrease our risk of heart disease - a top killer among women and men. We also need that 30 minutes of activity most days of the week to optimize health. 

Now with Fitbit, I can see in big numbers and bar charts, the cold hard truth. This is what last week looked like:
I think you can see what happened. Tuesday and Friday? Dismal failures. These were my rest days. In other words, if I'm not cranking out 30 or more minutes of exercise, I'm not hitting the minimum 10,000 steps per day. I really need to step it up. 

To start, I'm adding mandatory walks - even a quick one to the market or coffeehouse near my office - during the work day. I've also started using my "standing desk" again, after getting lazy over the holidays - while a standing desk doesn't equal steps, it's still much better than sitting all day. And lastly, rather than using the restroom on our floor of the office building, I'm heading upstairs. Small changes, but helpful ones.

Clearly, I'm not doing a horrible job at hitting 10,000 steps, but I could greatly benefit from improving my habits on my rest days. 

As I'm still learning the ins and outs of my Fitbit Charge - what it has to offer and its quirks (be sure, there definitely are some) - I'll be sharing my thoughts on the wearable tracker soon.

For now though, it's time for me to get off my bum and start moving!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

A New Beginning with the Team

I had comfortably settled into my 30th year of life when it finally happened. While I had dreamed about it in my younger years, long before this I had made peace with the fact that it likely wouldn't happen and was just fine with it. The closest similar experience for me was my four years of marching band in college, but while an incredible experience I knew it wasn't quite the same (although some, including myself if I wanted to, could argue against this). 

Then, one magical summer day in Seattle, it all changed. During a tour of headquarters* - when it was one small-ish room and the shipping warehouse was another room down the hall - an opportunity arose and I jumped for it. This was probably one of the few times when I didn't have to think about the pro's and con's. I knew I wanted it and went for it. Less than a month later I was officially on the team. Oiselle Team.

For me, being part of the team is much more than wearing my singlet at races or adding the #flystyle hashtag to social media posts. I've had the opportunity to meet incredible, strong women from around the globe who bring to the team, and to running, their unique stories, goals, and personalities. Beyond this, I've made new friends and have received encouragement through tough times and loud resounding cheers in good. Being part of the team has given me another reason to test my limits and strive for things bigger and better.

Yet over the several years I've been part of it, I've felt like there was a bit of a void. That in-person connection with other birds wasn't as strong as I'd wished it would be. And for this I will definitely take some responsibility for because all it really takes is initiative (and time). 

With the addition of The Flock in 2014, our Colorado team has grown a lot but we hadn't done much to bring everyone together. Wanting to connect the local (as in all of Colorado) team, I hosted a "post-holidays holiday party (and cookie exchange)" at my house on Saturday. While a number of birds couldn't make it, the nine of us who got together had a great time!

Meeting these women (only two of whom I knew IRL before Saturday), talking about our running - and non-running - lives, sharing our goals, and plotting our plans for group runs and races added a shot of inspiration and excitement to the new year for me.

I'm excited for this new year and the new opportunities to connect with the team. Getting advice on things - or empathy - from my teammates will be an especially huge help as I work with my other team towards our goal of 2,015 miles this year (I'm 22 miles in)! Saturday alone I learned about races I hadn't heard of before and we bonded over our differing levels of anxiety about running on ice (which is currently unavoidable around Denver).

Wondering what made our list of individual goals? 
Stay consistent & believe in me! * Run my first 10 mile race and stay healthy * Organize Every Mother Counts events in Denver, raise more $$$ for EMC, & stretch more * Marathon PR, have fun & stay healthy * Run sub 4:00 marathon, 50M ultra & explore Colorado! * Stay injury free, marathon I feel proud of, more group runs * stay healthy and run sub-3:20 at Boston!

And, we ate cookies, really delicious cookies. Needless to say, Woody was not unhappy about all the cookies in our house after the party. And he deserves them because he was a huge help in getting ready for it!

Looking ahead I currently have two races I'm planning on: Cherry Creek Sneak 5 Miler (April 26) and the BolderBOULDER 10K (May 25). Plus, we're talking about organizing a few Colfax Relay Oiselle Teams!

Have you started picking your races for 2015? Have you already run a race this year?

*Please excuse the small photos and text. I've learned a lot about blogging since I wrote this post!