Portland Fit Fix: Feeling the MegaBurn in the ‘Burbs

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Moving to the ‘burbs has certainly had its perks: Baby’s own room. A good night’s sleep. A yard.

But it’s also got its drawbacks: Chain restaurants. Urban sprawl. Fewer/farther fitness options.

Until now, that is.

Just as I was mourning the loss of my studio-hopping days in the city, one of my favorite Portland instructors, Ellie, and her business partner, Carolynn, brought the heat to Beaverton in the form of MegaBurn Fitness.

The industrial-chic studio’s high-intensity, low-impact Megaformer M3S workouts are known for utilizing slow and controlled movements instead of momentum, which makes this a full-body burn that’s also friendly for joints.

Haven’t been properly introduced to the Megaformer yet? Think of it as Pilates on steroids at the hands of a medieval torture device (er, spring-loaded “carriage”). No matter how good of shape I think I’m in, the Megaformer always brings me back to reality.

So, yes, if you can’t already tell, I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with this machine. Sure, working out with it will sculpt your core, tone your legs, increase flexibility and chisel your arms like no other. But there’s also a good chance you’ll be shaking with muscle failure and mentally swearing up a storm in the process (trust me, it helps).

Luckily, though, Ellie and Carolynn are as motivational as they are knowledgeable, which translates to constant movement and quick transitions during class — including counting into and out of exercises — so none of those panicked moments where you’re left wondering, “How much longer?!”

In fact, both ladies specialize in choreographing seamless transitions between moves in an effort to keep your heart rate up throughout class. No fumbling around here; it’s a fast-paced and, dare I say, fun way to improve endurance while testing your mental mettle.

Just don’t let Ellie and Carolynn’s kind faces fool you; they’ll have you begging for mercy in a matter of minutes…yet coming back for more when you realize just how efficient and effective this workout can be.

For more info, visit MegaBurnFitness.com.

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10-Minute EMOM Lower-Body Burner

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We tried a new (to me) format in one of my strength training classes recently, and it was A) so challenging and B) so much fun, that I wanted to share it here so you can jump on the bandwagon, too.

EMOM stands for “Every Minute on the Minute.” It’s a type of training where you complete a specific set of movements or exercises at the top of every minute, rest until the end of the minute, and then start all over again once the next minute begins.

EMOM workouts are not only time-efficient, but they’re also focused on quality over quantity; instead of racing the clock and getting sloppy, you simply do your predetermined number of reps, then recover until the next minute comes around. Many people find that EMOMs help with pacing, too, because there’s minimal rest between sets as the clock keeps on ticking.

Here’s a sample I’ve created if you want to add some lower-body zing to the end of your workouts a few times a week:

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EMOMs are also butt-kickers, I might add. While not meant to totally replace your workouts — that defeats the purpose with this type of short-form interval training — they’re a great supplement to your usual routine when you want to kick things up a notch in the strength, endurance and cardiovascular departments.

And don’t forget to use rest periods to analyze your performance each minute. How were you feeling? How was your form? Is your pace slowing? Each new minute is a chance to refocus, track progress and set goals, which is a fantastic motivator for workouts.

 To EMOM or not to EMOM — what’s your take?

January Jump-Start: Full-Body Stability Ball Workout

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It’s January, so there’s a good chance you A) made some kind of resolution to lose weight or get in better shape, and B) are already sick of fighting the crowds at the gym this month.

We’ll I’ve got some good news, and it comes in the form of an at-home workout that’s effective, adaptable for all levels and — dare I say — fun?!

That’s right; it’s tough to keep a smile off your face when you’re playing around on a giant bouncing ball. Yes, even if you’re drenched in sweat and feeling the burn.

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All you need is a stability ball and access to your favorite piece of cardio equipment, which could also be a set of stairs or the great outdoors if you’re determined to steer clear of resolution-goers this month.

At home, feel free to try this in front of the TV or break it up into chunks throughout the day. If you don’t happen to have a ball, no problem — just grab one at the gym, find yourself an uncrowded corner and get to work.

And if you really want a treat, finish off your workout with a few of these stretches. Not only do they feel great, but they’re also a good way to support your body so it can really settle into the positions and properly relax. Ahhh…

Are you doubling down on gym time this month or avoiding that place like the plague?

ClassPass-ing in Portland: Round 3

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After our initial #30ClassesIn30Days ClassPass challenge, Carolyn and I have settled into a nice rhythm with our weekly workouts: We hit up our favorite spots for cycling, strength training and yoga each week, but pepper in some new studios here and there to keep our fingers on the pulse of the Portland’s ever-growing fitness scene.

Not familiar with ClassPass? Check out my previous posts on it here and here.

And just as I’ve said it’s tough to get a bad meal here in Portland, we’ve learned pretty quickly that it’s just as difficult to find a poor workout here, as well.

Whether you’re looking for the precision of Pilates, mobility work for recovery days, an array of options for cardio or strength training, or simply functional workouts with the effectiveness of CrossFit with a tad less intensity — this city’s got it all; just pick your poison.

Although the sustainability (and longevity) of this business model remains to be seen — both for ClassPass and for participating studios — I’ve found it to be a useful discovery tool. We’ve stumbled upon places we may never have otherwise heard of, and it’s helpful for comparing and contrasting different studios before committing to class packages or monthly memberships.

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Here are a few recent highlights:

Pearl Pilates: Offers both individual and small group Pilates and Gyrotonic sessions by highly-trained instructors

Pedal PT: Full-service physical therapy office with a specialty in bicycling and running injuries

Portland Fit Body Bootcamp: Personal-trainer-designed workouts in a fun, safe, high-intensity group environment

Recreate Fitness: Trade mirrors and machines for hopscotch and hurdles in a friendly, supportive environment

YAS: Dedicated to the combination of Yoga and Spinning to combine cardio, strength training, stretching and alignment

Stay tuned as we explore more great Portland fitness spots in the coming months…

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Wanna check out ClassPass? Here’s a list of cities where it’s currently available.

How’d you stumble upon your favorite local studios?

The ‘Lazy’ Gal’s (or Guy’s) Guide To Getting Fit

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An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. -Newton’s first law of motion

My girlfriends and I were discussing workout habits while on a group run the other morning, and I joked about being one of the “laziest active people” around. Yes, I work out — probably more than the average person — but I’ve also learned how to make it easy on myself.

Easy? Well, there’s a bit of effort required, but the concept is simple: Make the path of least resistance the one that leads to fitness.

Huh? Ok, allow me to explain.

You see, years ago my workout routine consisted of dragging myself to the gym after work and halfheartedly hitting the elliptical machine for a half hour (while reading a magazine) before calling it a day. I was too tired to cook well, bedtime would get pushed back, I’d sleep in to try to catch up, etc.

Repeat again and again with the exception of a few races. I’d schedule and train for them, but fall off the wagon in between.

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It wasn’t until my fall marathon in 2013 that I finally decided to stop the vicious cycle once and for all. I was sick of training hard into injury, then spending months healing and recovering…only to find myself back at square one.

You can only play Jenga with yourself so many times before the excitement of seeing how high you can stack the pile before everything comes crashing down loses its appeal.

Instead, I vowed to take a new approach, one that would allow me to once and for all create a solid foundation. Step one was deciding to make fitness a lifestyle — something that I live and breathe every day — instead of an option. Step two was to figuring out a game plan. And step three was putting it in action and conservatively building on successes.

So here’s how I started offsetting my sedentary habits for good:

1. Stop thinking, start doing.

Get up! Quite simply, sit less and move more – and once you start, don’t stop. It began with a nightly walk around the block with my dogs, then I started building up my mileage and adding strength training between races to push my fitness threshold.

Weekend runs were no longer just a means to an end (i.e. the same five-mile loop to our farmer’s market for fresh kettle corn); they became part of a bigger plan of slowly building a larger base so I wouldn’t have to start from zero each training cycle.

2. Watch your mouth.

As in, what you put in it. You are what you eat, and it’ll translate into your training, so make it count. Avoid processed foods, practice portion control and aim to incorporate more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

Once I started seeing food as fuel and feeling the impact of my choices — both good and bad — I wanted to give my body what it needed to get stronger and stay healthy. Rather than viewing it as extra work, I got excited when I saw how it was so closely connected to performance.

3. Ask for help. 

It can be intimidating starting a new routine, so seek out people on whom you can rely for advice, motivation and inspiration. Join a local running club or swim team for coaching, or enlist the help of friends who are seasoned athletes and can explain the finer points of various training concepts.

You’ve got to know yourself and what works for you; I get bored easily, so I knew I’d need to mix things up. I started adding cross-training in the form of different classes, which not only challenged my mind, but also made me a stronger runner. My November Project tribe was also immensely helpful when it came to staying motivated; there was always someone doing something — or someone who was game for anything.

4. DIY at home.

You can thank Jane Fonda for this one. After inspiring a home video fitness craze among millions of baby boomers, she paved the way for P90X, Insanity and a host of other DVD-based workout programs in our generation.

Let’s face it, we all get our days when we’d rather hit the couch than the treadmill. So I made a deal with myself that if I didn’t get to the gym for a workout, I’d at least move around at home with one of my workout DVDs (I happen to love Beachbody’s, and they don’t pay me to say that).

5. Sign up for a race.

A mere two months of three 20-30 minute sessions per week stand between you and the finish line, so it’s totally doable. Check out my couch-to-five-miler plan, which takes you step-by-step through the process if you’ve got your eye on an event this season but don’t know where to start.

When all else fails, having a deadline can be very motivating. And once you have that race date in the calendar, the key is to back out from that day and create a training plan (the actual length will depend on your current level of fitness and the race duration).

I put my marathon plans front and center on the fridge and even make check boxes so I can cross off runs as I complete them. Take it one step at a time, one workout at a time and before you know it, you’ll be living — and actually looking forward to — a more active lifestyle.

How do you motivate yourself out of a workout slump?

ClassPass-ing around Portland: Month Two

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Yep, what started out as a one-month experiment has now quickly become a verb. My workout buddies and I “ClassPass” around town each week, testing different workouts, meeting with studio owners, spreading word about new places and making all kinds of fit friends in the process.

If you’re not familiar with ClassPass, I wrote about my initial experience with the service here. During our first round, Carolyn and I threw down the gauntlet for #30ClassesIn30Days, but now we’ve issued each other a much more sustainable challenge: hitting a handful of new (to us) studios each month.

Aside from one hiccup at a Saturday bootcamp where the class was overwhelmingly large and somewhat unruly, we’ve had nothing but excellent experiences across the board. Portland’s really stepped up to the plate when it comes to delivering quality sweat sessions.

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Here are the latest and greatest from round two:

The Grinning Yogi: Warm yoga haven whose mission is to provide consistently accessible, affordable classes for all levels

Fulcrum Fitness: Bootcamp and personal training gym featuring a mix of exercises that work different body systems

Hot Yoga for Life: Fusion of sweat and serenity, this place promises to strengthen your body and leave your spirit softened

Vibrant Studios: Lively community of movement classes, workshops, musical concerts and nutrition-based food events

Yoga on Yamhill: Non-competitive approach to yoga that fosters health and well-being and is accessible to everyone

Can’t wait to see what’s in store for month three!

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Wanna check ClassPass out? Here’s a list of cities where it’s currently available.

Are you a creature of habit when it comes to workouts, or do you like to mix things up?

Living the Sweaty Life with ClassPass: 1 Membership, Unlimited Workouts

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Ring the bell; ClassPass is in session and schooling us on the art of discovering the best boutique fitness classes in 30+ cities worldwide!

What is it?

For $79 – $99 a month (price varies by city), ClassPass’s monthly membership program will give you access to thousands of classes, including cycling, Pilates, yoga, strength training, dance, martial arts and more. Members can take up to 30 classes per month and can visit the same studio up to three times per monthly membership cycle.

Do the math; when we’re talking drop-ins that cost anywhere from $15-25 a pop, as well as memberships that run upwards of hundreds of dollars per month, it’s easy to see why ClassPass has taken the fitness market by storm.

Why Portland? 

As much as we like to pretend it’s not happening, the city is booming in just about every facet. And with a studio scene that rivals cities twice its size, Portland — aka America’s Fittest City — is a prime spot for ClassPass to set up shop.

Although I’ve officially been here since last August, I feel as though I’ve barely been able to scratch the surface of what’s available for us fit-minded folks. So when ClassPass asked me to check out their service and give my thoughts, I recruited my workout buddy Carolyn and we embarked on a #30ClassesIn30Days personal challenge.

Like kids in a candy store, we explored the entire workout spectrum of Stumptown. From unleashing while kickboxing to finding release through meditation, from swinging kettlebells to swinging through the air in aerial yoga — you name it, we’ve tried it. And had a blast in the process.

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Where’d we go? 

Read on for a sampling of all the spots that Carolyn and I were able to hit during our first month using ClassPass.

Our goal this next month is to keep branching out; not only is the variety a breath of fresh air, but it’s fantastic to be able to connect with — and support — some of Portland’s sweatiest hardest-working small business owners!

9Round: Get an efficient, yet effective, full-body kickboxing workout in just 30 minutes

a-wol Dance Collective: Fly through the air with the greatest of ease in aerial dance classes

The Bar Method: Reshape your booty body in an hour in an upbeat, barre-based class

The Bhaktishop Yoga Center: Celebrate yoga in a warm, friendly, bhakti-based practice

CorePower Yoga: Exhilarate body and mind; be prepared to sweat buckets in the process

Firebrand Sports: Don’t make more time to workout, just up intensity at this place. ‘Nuff said!

Honest Training: Focus on finding your personal best (bonus: owned by Coeur pal, Paisley)

Hush Meditation: Better your mind through simple and accessible guided mediation classes

Pil-oga-robic: Receive a balanced butt-kicking in a yoga, Pilates, cardio & strength combo

POINT: Train hard indoors here to build functional strength so you can play hard outdoors!

Revocycle: Transcend cycling with this moving meditation that works both mind & body

Skogg System: Convert your body’s vulnerabilities into strengths with kettlebells

Studio Blue Pilates: Develop strength and find your center through yoga and Pilates

Xtend Barre: Strengthen, lengthen and chisel your body with dance, ballet & Pilates

Yoga Pod: Rejuvenate your body, refresh your mind and replenish your spirit

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Too good to be true?

By now you’re probably wondering, “So what’s the catch here?”

Well, while some question whether or not it’s a sustainable business model, others say ClassPass is worth its weight in gold when it comes to advertising and customer acquisition, especially for new studios looking for traction in a crowded market.

From the consumer perspective, I’ve found it to be an excellent discovery tool — not only for studios I’d never heard of, but also for workouts I may not otherwise have tried. Plus, if you’re like me and like to keep your body confused with all kinds of crazy cross-training without completely emptying your wallet, it can be the best of both worlds.

Wanna check it out?

Here’s a list of the cities in which ClassPass is currently available (if you’re not on it, don’t fret — they’re adding more all the time).

And if you’re ready to take the ClassPass plunge, I can sweeten the deal — simply use this link (good for ANY location but expires tomorrow, 3/24) to sign up and get $25 off your first month!

What’s your take on the “boutique fitness membership” movement?