Portland Fit Fix: Getting Back in the Saddle at Starcycle

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If I could give my fellow moms out there one piece of solicited advice, it’d be this:

Forget about the shoulds, and celebrate the dids.

Case in point: I’m ashamed to admit that it’s been more than two years since my last Starcycle class; in fact, the last time I was in the studio, I was newly pregnant with Wyatt.

Since then, my once uber-disciplined (hello, Type A) fitness regimen has been a lot more…well, fluid.

First it was sleep deprivation. Then it was a move out to the ‘burbs. And the icing on the cake has been a hip stress fracture sustained after training for and racing a half marathon this past spring.

Needless to say, running and I are currently on a break. Not permanently, but indefinitely while I figure things out.

So when Starcycle reached out about a special ride to commemorate their latest news, I jumped at the chance to pedal along with some inspiring local ladyboss mamas.

The ride itself was very similar to what I remember in the previous class – a high-energy, heart-pounding workout in a candlelit room where you can clear your head – but what’s evolved is my awareness and appreciation of the studio’s commitment to work(out)/life balance (read: childcare!).

Trust me: Being able to take a few minutes for yourself while knowing your little one is in good hands is practically priceless. Starcycle not only offers solid 45-minute sweat sessions, but the studio makes working out easy and realistic for riders, especially moms.

And now there’s a good chance you’ll get to experience it yourself since the brand’s new leadership hires will support franchise operations and studio expansion as part of the Starcycle’s national growth.

Sure there’s a time and a place for metrics, mantras and mechanics…but when you’re in need of a much-needed mental (and mama) break – to break a sweat – Starcycle is just the ticket.

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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.

Portland Fit Fix: Strengthening ‘Mommy’ Muscles at Mod Physique

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Entering into a new phase of fitness has taught me a lot these past few months, not the least of which being that there’s a serious lack of attention paid to prenatal programs for women who want to work out — thoroughly, safely and effectively — while pregnant. From what I’ve seen, most of the options out there seem to fall into one of two camps: Either wing it in your usual classes, trying to modify and keep up where you can, or hit up a prenatal yoga class, which ends up just being a lot of slow stretching.

That feels lovely, yes, but I can’t help but wonder about the functionality beyond learning to control breathing and practicing relaxation techniques. Both are important tools for labor, sure, but what about properly prepping the body and strengthening those special muscles to aid in getting Baby from point A to point B on delivery day?

This is something I’ve been especially focused on during my weekly MYMA Mama prenatal movement classes; both the exercises we do and don’t do come with the specific purpose of helping to ease our bodies into the idea of labor. So when my friend, fellow blogger and LUNA teammate Tiffany mentioned she’d heard about a new series of similar prenatal workouts in the area, we both jumped at the chance to check ’em out.

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Tiffany’s about 19 weeks along, and I’m 24 weeks, so we’ve both hit what I’ve been calling the “sweet spot” of the second trimester where workouts are fun again — and not just an energy suck like those first few months where our bodies were working overtime to turn a tiny ball of cells into something! We both also enjoy a good workout; so when Jessa Freeman, founder and owner of Mod Physique, invited us to her studio last weekend to take a Mod-Mama class, we hoped it’d hit the mark when it came to expectations.

The first thing I noticed when we stepped into the room was a lack of mirrors. This is by design, as Mod Physique prefers that students gain more body awareness by able to “feel the movement” in their bodies versus being distracted by their reflections.

Fair enough, especially now with an expanding belly — once in a while I’ll catch a passing glimpse in a mirror and have to to a double-take because I don’t recognize my shape-shifting self!

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Instructor (and soon-to-be-new-mom!) Kerri Maskol started the class by explaining that we’d be addressing some of the alignment and postural changes that occur during pregnancy. That means strengthening the core to help support the lower back and getting those glutes firing to help balance things out as the pelvis starts its forward tilt.

In layman’s terms, this means ballet barre and Pilates-based mat and resistance training with props — all of which are done with the philosophy that “just because you can’t do crunches doesn’t mean you can’t keep your core strong and your body healthy.” Amen to that. 

After leading us through a gentle, cardio-based warm-up to help loosen up our muscles, Kerri wasted no time in getting us into some of the more advanced (read: challenging!) moves. Think upper body strength work for holding baby, core and pelvic floor work to prepare for pushing and recovery, hip stabilization from fine-tuning surrounding muscles, as well as some soft stretches in between.

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This was no walk-in-the-park prenatal class by any means, though. Both Tiffany and I were laughing as we found ourselves doused in sweat and grunting as we felt the burn of the isometric holds and floundered our way through the stability work while trying to navigate our now-changing centers of balance.

Kerri kept a keen eye on form throughout, slightly adjusting us during each exercise for maximum impact and safety. And at the start of each exercise, she’d remind us to “hug baby in” in order to keep our cores engaged and lower backs out of the equation. This turned out to be a really helpful cue!

We ended class with a 90-second squat at the barre, which she reminded us would be the length of a contraction during the more intense part of labor (Huh?! Cue slight wave of panic). It’s not only a thigh-burner of a stretch now, but it’s also a great position to practice for later when we want to help open up the hips so baby can more easily pass through.

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I appreciated the variety in class, as well as the fact that “prenatal” didn’t translate to “we’ll just sit and stretch.” And I’m even more excited to have found another fitness option to add to my pregnancy repertoire.

The lesson in all of this? It is possible to get an awesome workout that’ll challenge your body, as well as help prepare it for what’s to come in just a few short months.

And despite not getting down on the mat to do traditional ab work, my core was pleasantly sore the next day. They’ve also got a post-natal series, which I’m looking forward to checking out once Baby H makes his/her debut in the spring.

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Oh, and the only responsible thing for two preggos to do after burning a bunch of calories during a weekend workout is to re-fuel, right? At least this was Tiffany’s and my reasoning when we stopped off at Pip’s Original on the way home…

Pips’ has earned the reputation of being one of Portland’s best doughnuts shops; I usually don’t buy into the hype, but after trying them I’d wholeheartedly have to agree. Made-to-order, these mini bites of heaven are perfectly spiced and crispy on the outside with a nice, fluffy cake-like center.

They remind me of my favorite cider mill doughnuts back home in the Midwest. Totally worth the wait (and there usually is one) if you’re in Portland anytime soon!

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Have you found any good ‘prenatal’ workouts? And, more importantly, what’s your favorite way to refuel afterwards?

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?

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?

Portland Fit Fix: Lift, Tone and Burn at PureBarre Pearl District

Credit: PureBarre Pearl District

Credit: PureBarre Pearl District

Who knew you could sculpt a strong, lean physique by barely moving a muscle?

Well, you can; it comes in the form of PureBarre, a total-body workout that fuses together elements of ballet, Pilates, yoga and pure shake-inducing wonderfulness into one 55-minute session.

Founded by dancer, choreographer and fitness guru Carrie Rezabek Dorr, it’s actually the largest, most established barre franchise in the nation, with more than 200 studios across the country, and more opening every month. Who knew?!

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Now, I’ve got to admit when I first caught wind that a new barre studio would be opening in the Pearl District this winter, I remember thinking that Portland needed another barre studio like we need more fixed gear bikes, waxed mustaches and Mason jars.

But soon thereafter I was introduced to Ally Coucke, owner of Pure Barre Portland – Pearl District, who assured me that her studio’s method emphasizes more “athletic” movements — so much so that pro footballers, such as Brent Celek of the Philadelphia Eagles, take classes in their-off season to help hone their strength.

My ears perked up at that. Ok, I’ll keep an open mind (a.k.a. if it can make me a stronger runner and help lift, tone and tighten, it’s worth a shot). 

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Sure enough, Coucke was true to her word — my skepticism has been turned into fanaticism after just a few classes with the lovely ladies at this studio.

You see, PureBarre utilizes the ballet barre to perform a series of small, isometric movements that are focused on lifting your seat, toning your thighs, abs and arms — basically, all those trouble spots in need of targeting.

After starting with a brief warm-up, which utilizes some light weights for arm work, the structure of each workout is the same although the the exercises vary from class to class: thigh work, seat work and core work followed by a glute sequence (my favorite!) and some final stretches during the cool-down.

And while we all know there’s no such thing as isolated spot-toning, when combined with a healthy diet and exercise regimen, PureBarre has been met with consistently rave reviews when it comes to sculpting muscles, improving posture and creating an overall leaner look.

I can vouch for this myself — after just a few weeks of classes, I’ve certainly felt a difference in the way I feel and how I carry myself. But I’ve also noticed that my hips, thighs and butt are also, ahem, carrying themselves a bit differently, too.

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But that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to some of the other benefits you can experience when bellying up to the barre:

  • Since the technique is low-impact, your joints are protected by avoiding any bouncing or jumping
  • Each strength section is followed by a stretching section in order to create long, lean muscles without bulk
  • The concentration needed gives mental benefits similar to those obtained by the practice of yoga or meditation
  • All classes are the same level, as the technique was designed to work for people at all levels of fitness
  • Instructors keep things fresh and exciting by adding new moves and constantly changing music

And did I mention just how great the instructors are?!

Credit: PureBarre Pearl District

Credit: PureBarre Pearl District

Having people at the helm of a studio who are warm, approachable, knowledgeable and who don’t take themselves too seriously has created a strong sense of community and makes PureBarre a safe haven for those in search of a supportive, effective, fun workout experience.

Coucke also knocked it out of the park when designing her space; from the custom-made front desk, bench and storage cubbies made of reclaimed wood to the vintage lighting and decor in the hallways to the Edison-inspired chandelier in the classroom, it’s something you’ve got to see for yourself to fully appreciate.

Transform your body, balance your mind — and challenge whatever you thought you knew about barre in the process.

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Single classes are $25 a pop, but new students can sign up for a month of unlimited classes for only $99. PureBarre also offers multi-class packages and specials for brides and new moms, which you can view here.

For more information on the technique or to find a location near you, visit PureBarre.com.