Physique 57 Review

I have no idea what took me so long to write this review. Maybe I just assumed it was too obvious. Maybe not talking it up was a futile attempt to keep my beloved 6:30pm classes from getting filled up. Whatever it was, I’m sorry. It won’t happen again. Part of the reason I write this blog is because I want to share my love of health and fitness- and hopefully inspire others to love it a little more too. Physique 57 is the kind of workout that gets you hooked. And although it’s by no means a newbie on the fitness scene, it still rocks my (grippy) socks, and deserves a shout-out on any blog I sign my name to.

Physique 57 is a barre method class with studios in both NY and LA, as well as a growing DVD series. Hopefully if I write a glowing enough review, they’ll open one in San Francisco in the near future. (HA! Look at my jokes. But seriously, please guys?) Physique has streamlined its class offerings to focus on what it does best: hardcore barre workouts offered in 4 flavors depending on experience level: Beginner, Mixed, Intermediate, and Advanced. They also offer a handful of other classes including Physique Mat (a barre/Pilates hybrid), Yoga, Formula 57 (a great class with a focus on core stability), Prenatal, and a new Cardio class that I’m dying to take. I’m going to stick to the bread and butter barre workouts here, because a) I love them, and b) I’ve taken like 500 of them so I feel like if there’s anything that I’m qualified to talk about, it’s this.

About 2 years ago I set out to get in tip top shape for my wedding. (You can never be too fit while wearing a tight white dress. Never.) My friend Christine suggested I try out her beloved studio, Physique 57. It was expensive, but I figured I could justify it as a short-term wedding expense and then go back to my dank but free basement gym in a couple of months. WRONG. I got hooked. And I’m not even a little sorry for it. Not only does it give me a fabulous workout every time, but I also leave class practically euphoric- giggly from the endorphins, great music, and satisfaction that I get from conquering round-back chair.

Ok, enough jibber jabber. Onto the workout.

Though the specific exercises performed in each class vary a little, they follow a strict formula that keeps all your major muscle groups engaged throughout the 57 minute workout. First, arms. Using 5-8 pound weights, each major arm and shoulder muscle is worked to the point of fatigue. It’s a fast and furious segment that ensures arm jiggle is a thing of the past.

No matter how strong I think I am, the thigh section of Physique 57 class murders me every time. Typically performed facing into the bar in various chair, water ski, or curtsy positions, this section is dedicated to pulsing in small movements to take your thigh muscles to the point of total decimation. Pulsing “up an inch, down an inch” is excruciating, but the personal satisfaction that comes from staying in the exercise through the entire series without breaking is really empowering. (An epic love/hate relationship…) The section ends with a sassy little exercise called thigh dancing: propped up on your shins, you use quad and core strength to pulse/dance through a 60-second burst of calorie torching. After that, you’ve definitely earned your stretch. Savor it, however brief it may be. And foam roll when you get home. Your quads will thank you.

Playground ball + foam roller = BFF

A seat workout comes next, in which various tush muscles are isolated and pulsed to the point of fatigue. This is often the segment in which I really appreciate the instructors’ corrections, as little shifts in your positioning and posture go a long way to working the correct muscle group. As with all exercise, form is critical, and can mean the difference between a super effective workout and injuring yourself. P57 instructors are really wonderful about making gentle corrections, too. They lovingly shame you into lifting your leg higher, pointing or flexing a little harder, and eliminating that last bit of bend from your knee. My personal favorite seat exercise is the pretzel. My attempt at an explanation will likely make it sound like cirque de soleil, but easy this tutorial will get you pretzel-ing like a pro.

Final push: abs, which is choreographed in 3 parts to ensure all parts of the core are hit. Part 1: you lie flat on the floor under the barre, arms holding onto opposite ends of a stretching strap, legs in the air and lifted in various toe taps, scissor kicks, and bicycle curls. This segment targets the deep lower abs. (AKA my arch nemesis since around the age of 13.) Part 2: round-back. The standard position in this exercise is with your upper back up against the wall, lower back slouched in a c-curve, arms pressed up against the bar, legs held up by your ab muscles. This position has never felt good or effective for me or my hip flexors, so I (along with nearly half of the class) perform this section flat on my back, head propped up by a playground ball, hands gripping the sides of the mat for extra core engagement. More foot shuffles, taps, and scissor kicks ensue. It doesn’t get easier over time. Sorry. Part 3: With the aid of a yoga mat, a squishy pad for lower back support, and sometimes the playground ball and stretching band, the final abs segment of class is an intense pulsing marathon made up of modified crunches, kicks and turns. Class ends with some back exercises, a few rounds of hip thrusts, and a lovely final stretch.

How the Physique 57 instructors keep a smile on their faces through the entire class is beyond me. They are upbeat, encouraging, and SERIOUSLY impressive. I don’t care about the fact that they all have careers as dancers and fitness instructors- when I’m in class I want to be as good as them.  If only there weren’t mirrors everywhere proving otherwise, I’d swear I’m almost there. (I’m not. Not even close. In fact, the woman in her third trimester next to me in a recent class put me to leg-lift shame. I should just stop talking now.)

One final note- The NYC instructors are all top notch, but I highly recommend taking classes with Lindi, Cassie, Alexander, Antonietta, and Brigitte  if you have the opportunity to do so. Also, P57 recently launched new online workouts, available on demand. I’ll miss the helpful in-person correction, but am really excited to give this a try.

It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but for me, a steady rotation of a barre method class (like Physique 57), an interval/strength based workout (like Refine Method), and good old fashioned cardio (like running or elliptical-ing) makes up my exercise sweet spot. What’s yours? 

I heart NY

I have been circling a number of posts from overhead lately, intending to finish and publish them last week. But then last week happened, with all its hurricane force fury, and now anything health or fitness related seems downright trivial in comparison. Other bloggers and writers who experienced Hurricane Sandy first-hand have been able to string their thoughts together far better than I can here, and I’m impressed with their eloquence (per usual). However, as a newly minted San Franciscan, Hurricane Sandy has been a strange experience for me. And for once in my verbose life, I’m having trouble finding the right words, so I’ll go with a picture.

I keep getting comments from people about how lucky I am to have moved out of NYC when I did, since my apartment was located squarely in SoPo (South of Power). But I don’t. I’ve been glued to Twitter and every news outlet out there for information and signs of hope in New York and New Jersey. It’s hard to be a New Yorker and not live in New York right now. I’ve given monetarily to Red Cross relief efforts, but it still feels like a cop out. I want to be out there volunteering my time, donating my blankets, being a Helpful Harriet. But I’m many many many miles away. So instead, I’ll use my internet connection and my credit card to help house, warm, and feed people who have lost everything. You should too. Here are a few resources to help you out in that department:

New York and New Jersey are tough cookies They will rebuild. Let’s help em out, team.

Exciting News!

I have some pretty cool news to share. No, I’m not pregnant. (Sorry, Mom.) That would be good news too, but this is still great news.

WE’RE MOVING TO SAN FRANCISCO!

There. I said it. On the Interwebs. It’s officially real. Yes, after 8 years of being an NYC dweller, I’m moving on to (literally greener) Pacific pastures. Hubs works for a Cali-based company, got a great new role there, and so we’re moving out of our shoebox apartment and saying farewell (for now) to our beloved city. I’m slightly petrified, but mostly SO incredibly excited about the new adventure.

Like most New Yorkers, I have a polarized love/hate relationship with the city. Here’s a good example: this one summer day I got an amazing (whole wheat everything) bagel for brunch, and brought it to a park for a picnic with friends. The weather was perfect, and I was pretty much the happiest girl in the world just sitting there, chatting, eating my carbs. Then something from above hit me square on the top of my head and ruined not only my meal, but my perfectly straightened hair as well. POOP. Gross. My careless summer day thwarted by an evil pterodactyl-sized pigeon. (Seriously.)

My point is that I love NYC but sometimes it poops on me and I hate it. Over the past few weeks of thinking about the move, my reflections have come to me in list form (obviously), so I thought I’d share them with you here. So…

Things I won’t miss about NYC:

  • Dive bomber pigeons. I’m pretty sure I know where the inspiration for Angry Birds came from. I became especially sensitive to this after the scenario described earlier. So gross.
  • Trash day in the summer. Ugh. So much stink.

you can almost smell the stink through the screen, right?

  • Being slammed against other bodies during my morning commute to work. Enough with the pushing, people!
  • February and March. This Florida girl is officially not ever going to love the dead of winter. Good riddance!

poor frozen car

  • Astronomical prices. Only in NYC can you pay $7 for a box of Apple Jacks and not bat an eye.
  • Ambulance sirens. Fire truck sirens. Police car sirens. Dear lord so many sirens. And always when I’m trying to talk on the phone. Whhyyyy??

Things I will miss dearly about NYC:

  • The ability to get/do anything, anytime, anywhere. NYC is incredible like that.

photo credit: Lee Crook Bruner

  • The magical first summer dress day of spring. That day feels like cotton candy.

I knew engagement photos would have a use case one day…

  • My view from my couch. I mean, there are entire websites dedicated to the NYC skyline. It’s pretty magical.

#nofilter

Lole/Fitist Summer of Fitness

  • Running into people from random walks of life nearly daily, even though it’s inevitably when I have kale lodged between my teeth.
  • My dear friends, who I know can’t wait to come visit the left coast (right?!)

Our move date is set for the end of September. It’s a huge life change, but I’m SO excited. I can’t wait to trade my MetroCard for a bike, have an apartment (slightly) larger than a shoebox, and be reunited with palm trees. NYC will always occupy a skyscraper-sized space in my heart, but I have a feeling that our left coast adventure is going to be pretty spectacular.

On a final note, my giveaway for a free class at Uplift Studios ends tonight! Just because I’m leaving NYC doesn’t mean that you can’t win NYC class swag. Get after it!

Question: Have you ever made a long distance move? Any San Fran based bloggers/readers out there? Say hi (please!!)

Uplift Studios Review + A Giveaway

There’s a newcomer in the Flatiron District fitness scene. Her name is Uplift Studios, and she’s a sweetheart.

She cheers you on with uplifting mantras at every turn.

She gives you a little juice if you’re running low.

She even feeds you water bottles and snacks for a little pre and post workout fuel. At any given hour there is trail mix, granola, fruit, and an assortment of mini Luna bars laid out for your snacking pleasure. Sometimes there’s even wine. What a gal.

I tried out a couple of Uplift’s signature classes over the past few weeks, and am pleased to report that not only does the studio boast incredibly gracious accommodations (seriously their bathroom is nicer and better stocked with beauty products that my own), but it also has some great fitness classes.

Of Uplift Studio’s many classes, I have tried (so far): Summer Shape-Up, Tighten and Tone, and Power Yoga. My overall conclusion is that I would happily return to all three. In fact, I already have. Here’s a brief overview of my experiences:

Summer Shape-Up: A seasonal offering taught by a real live surfer girl, (who hails from Alaska, amazingly) Shannon. The class is meant to simulate summer sports: surfing, stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking. Shannon is bubbly, encouraging, and just downright adorable. She also effectively guides the class through the use of its many, many props. (dumbbells, weighted balls, stability platforms, resistance bands, and “magic circles”- I think it’s the most props I’ve ever used in 1 class.) The exercises tap into muscles that are ordinarily left underutilized, and left me sore for days. (I love when that happens!) Sadly, the end of summer means the end of Summer Shape-Up as well. Good thing the fall class lineup looks fantastic…

Tighten and Tone: This class blends elements of the Lotte Berke method, pilates, ballet, and good old-fashioned resistance training to form a 55 minute full body toning session. Also, Patricia may be Fitness Barbie. Seriously, she is the happiest fitness instructor that I’ve ever met. Her demeanor can’t help but make you smile- even as you power through your thousandth weighted leg raise. The many props make another appearance in this class (weights, resistance bands, magic circles…) and are all used to help work each major muscle group to the point of fatigue. This makes the final figure four stretch especially glorious.

Power Yoga: I was lucky enough to take this class with only two others, so it felt like a semi private yoga session. Our instructor, Amanda, asked what muscles each of us would like to focus on that day, and we replied with hamstrings, hips and core. (Core was my vote, if you were curious.) Amanda used those cues to divide the 55-minute class into thirds, addressing each of our needs and providing an intense sweaty yoga workout. The class was athletic in nature, and the poses were held for longer periods of time than in a “regular” yoga class. I emerged feeling toned but limber- an incredible feeling.

These classes all get a thumbs up in my book, and I’m looking forward to trying even more. In my mind, however, what really sets Uplift apart from the crowd is the way it blurs the line between working out and socializing. It’s a women-only studio that bills itself as a “fitness and social movement.” The check-in station is set up like a bar, complete with counter seating. One of the studio’s three owners (Leanne Shear, Helena Wolin and Katie Currie) can usually be found behind the counter, striking up conversations and offering up treats and beverages. Nespresso by day and generous wine pours by night. Yes, that’s right. Get your sweat on, and then chill out with a glass of vino and snacks. Prior to visiting Uplift I was impressed by a water bottle or an apple. The bar (or barre, har har) may be officially raised in my mind.

There are those times when I just want to workout and get out, but more often than not, I appreciate the opportunity to relax with friends, meet new people, and hang out in a place where a head-to-toe Luon outfit is socially acceptable. It’s a wonderful message: working out is fun. YES! I couldn’t agree more.

Now, the part I know you’re excited about: the giveaway!

Uplift has generously offered to give a free 55-minute class in their NYC studio to one HealthyPantz reader. To enter, simply comment with your favorite “uplifting” quote. You can enter with a new quote each day to increase your chances, but you must leave a separate comment for each. I’ll randomly choose the winning quote next Thursday evening. Please keep in mind Uplift is a women-only studio. (Sorry, fellas.)

Good luck!

Edit: The winner of the free class giveaway is comment #5, Jen! Congratulations! I’ll pass your info along to the lovely ladies of Uplift. Enjoy your class! Your quote makes me smile, too:

“Remember, ladies, you are only truly helpless while your nails dry — and even then, you could still pull a trigger if you needed to.”

 

Though Uplift provided the free class to be used as a giveaway, I was not compensated for this review; all opinions are definitely my own.

FlyBarre with Kara Liotta

If you didn’t catch my post about last week’s Summer of Fitness workout, here’s a little rundown of the program: Every Tuesday in June, July, and August, LOLË and FITiST are offering free outdoor fitness classes. Each week spotlights a different (stellar) NYC fitness studio and instructor, and classes are taught outdoors in Tribeca. It’s a magical NYC thing.

Speaking of magical NYC things, walking down Pier 25, I caught a glimpse of Freedom Tower. It feels like it was so slow to go up, and then BOOM, it’s suddenly there.

It has been two days since I attended the FlyBarre workout in Hudson River Park, and my obliques are STILL. SO. SORE. Kara Liotta is no joke, man. She’s fun and upbeat, plays great music, and she loooves planks. And obliques as well, if you didn’t catch that already.

FlyBarre is a great barre method class which utilizes light weights for an upper body workout, and a ballet barre + mat for legs, tush, and ab work. The class format is very similar to other barre method classes in the city (like Core Fusion, Physique 57, Figure 4), and like the others, it has its own unique features that set it apart from the crowd. One of FlyBarre’s most unique quirks is the “dynamic arms” section which is sort of a dance routine done while holding up light weights, choreographed to a super upbeat song. The routine changes monthly, and it’s a funky little way to jam out a little while toning up. I dig, but that’s me.

While we didn’t have a ballet barre out in the park, we still had a tough workout. We started with a plank that felt like it was held for 10 minutes. Maybe it was. Likely I’m exaggerating. But it really did feel super long. (Even my friend Christine, who has abs of steel, gave me a wide-eyed look of despair during the plank- signaling that I’m not as much of a wuss as I thought.) We were given light dumbbells for the class, which we used for an arm series, then the dynamic arms dance, and THEN an oblique push. Weighted side bends get me every time, especially when they’re done in a wide plie. Makes me want to stretch just thinking about it… The rest of class flowed from an intense thigh section (lots of pulses and plies), to a seat section performed down on the floor. And then there were more abs. I quickly forgot about my burning obliques, however, when Kara cued us to “point your knees toward the Statue of Liberty and look up at the sky.” Really cool New York fitness moment.

Then, finally, my favorite part: stretching. The sun was going down, the weather was perfect, I was so in the endorphin zone. Love that.

Summer of Fitness is taking a break this week for the July 4th holiday, but will resume the following Tuesday. I’m off on my Turkey and Greece adventure tomorrow (SQUEEEE!), so will have lots of fun things to share with you upon my return. 

I hope you all have a FABULOUS week. What are your plans for the holiday week/weekend?