When I first heard about ClassPass, it only existed in New York. (Or at least that was my impression in the first article I read.) The idea seemed pretty simple: members pay a flat fee for access to classes, studios (and gyms and boutique fitness places) listed only the classes they knew they would not fill with their own members. Each studio got to choose which class and time slot to list, and how many spaces they would offer. Since these were spaces that would otherwise go empty, having a ClassPass member there meant some income–not the full price of the class, but not $0 either. Since ClassPass members could only attend 2 classes at the same location per month, they would have to pay full price to the studio for a third class in the same month; maybe they even liked it so much that they decided to join the studio. I signed up for their email updates, followed them on social, and thought this system was a brilliant win-win-win: win for the studios (making money on what would otherwise be empty spots), win for the students (getting classes at a discount), and win for ClassPass (making money by connecting the two). It seemed easier than organizing a Groupon, with less work for the studio.
Like most tech and tech-related businesses, ClassPass was heavily subsidized by outside investors (venture capitalists, etc.) and did not make a profit for several years. That didn’t bother me, as lots of companies start out that way.
When ClassPass first started offering California options, I was living in Oakland and I jumped on it immediately. In a region where a single class might cost $30 and a monthly membership was $150 and up, the flat-fee, all-you-can-eat ClassPass was a dream! While I don’t remember the exact price, it was definitely under $100. Even if I only took 4 classes each month, I was totally scoring a deal. Plus ClassPass offered flexibility: I could go to Pilates on Monday, spin on Tuesday, yoga on Wednesday, HIIT on Thursday, all at different locations. I could take a class on one night when was able to get into San Francisco after work. I could use ClassPass when traveling in other cities (ideal and better for me than a single studio location because I was on the road for work A LOT). Also, I can’t lie, the $20 “flake fee” (for not showing up to a class you booked) kept me getting out and working out. I followed ClassPass on social, tagged them in my Insta photos, and was generally a gigantic fan.
From Unlimited to an Allowance–Both Ways.
I was still a member when ClassPass changed to a “credit” system. Basically instead of unlimited classes you now had a credit allowance to spend. More popular classes at better times cost more credits, and less popular classes at what I consider “awkward” times cost fewer credits. So the same class with the same teacher might be 2 credits at 3:00 p.m. and 9 credits at 6:30 p.m. I’m not sure exactly when this change took place, but I didn’t mind. They also introduced multiple
While putting members on a “credits allowance” (potentially fewer classes per month), ClassPass also removed “allowance” of only 2 classes per month at the same studio. I don’t remember exactly, but I think you had to pay a small premium to take a third (or fourth, or fifth) class at the same location. (I never did.) Since those additional classes still cost less than buying a membership to any single studio, plenty of people took advantage of this to pay ClassPass less than they would pay their local yoga studio, spin studio, etc. for a monthly membership–with none of the hassles of trying to cancel a studio membership.
Around this time (the switch to a credit system), I later learned that ClassPass changed how studios added class spots. ClassPass began to require studios to add spots, and then add more spots, and more spots in their “prime time” classes–the ones that the studios knew they could easily fill with their own members or students buying class packs or punch cards. This meant that instead of using ClassPass ONLY to fill slots that otherwise would go empty, ClassPass was pressuring studios to add slots that were normally full. In other words, ClassPass was asking studios to voluntarily take a loss on spots in their most popular classes. This seemed obnoxious, but maybe it was a reasonable price for the benefits of having so many new students come in through the door?
At some point near or after this, ClassPass also started adding gyms to the app. Instead of booking a single class at a studio, you could book an hour of time at their partner gyms. I’m not sure how this worked (did the front desk chase you out after an hour?) but it seemed like a good way for gyms to fill their extra space as well.
I just learned that in 2018 ClassPass had started to experiment with an algorithm called SmartRate to identify how much to pay studios for each spot. My understanding is that at first, this was optional, but eventually you’ve got to figure ClassPass could force studios to join (at the end of the current contract, for example). According to Vice (article linked below), the pay to a studio per class spot was as low as $7. They also started pushing something called SmartSpot, which would decide which classes (and how many spots) to allocate to ClassPass, supposedly also promising to NOT take spots from classes that studios were also filling. Now students aren’t idiots, and when you’re paying $20-30 for a class and the person next to you is paying $10 for the class, that doesn’t seem very fair, does it? It only makes economic sense that some students bailed out of their studio memberships and signed up with ClassPass, paying less to keep attending the same classes.
In December 2019 (see Vice article) studios were told that the SmartSport and SmartRate would become mandatory. In order to keep up with a new California law, ClassPass also issued a new policy that prevented studios from using ClassPass members’ contact information. This was a huge sea change, as when ClassPass started, studios could use a ClassPass visitor’s email and phone number to add them to their mailing list, offer a new member special, and otherwise try to “convert” a ClassPass attendee into a studio member (or a person paying the studio directly for classes). Now one of the major benefits of ClassPass–“lead generation,” or finding people who might become future customers–was gone.
And Then We Had A Pandemic.
To be fair, ClassPass did not cause the pandemic. It seems a little unfair though, that ClassPass has survived just fine (and was just acquired, the dream of every tech start-up) while many of their studio partners (and other similarly-situated fitness businesses) have not not.
During the pandemic, when many studios were forced to close, ClassPass froze memberships (no charges for members and no new credits). They also made the ClassPass streaming classes free for everyone. (I don’t remember when those started, or whether you could buy a streaming-only membership pre-pandemic.) While this seemed like a pretty awesome thing to do, it was also very practical: no one likes to be charged for a service they cannot use, and while everything was closed it wasn’t possible to spend credits.
This kindness shown to ClassPass subscribers, however, was not extended to ClassPass member studios, all of whom are now stuck with the “Smart” tools controlling their income and available slots.
But before I go there, let’s take stock of what happened to fitness facilities while we were all busy with “stay at home.” While things were shut down I’m sure you watched many small businesses panic. One of my own yoga teachers was extremely frustrated about the closure of her physical studio, wanting to teach her classes to her students in-person–hey, we all want that, right? Unfortunately workout spaces are pretty perfect for spreading an airborne virus: most have fans or vents that blow directly on people which is a huge no-no and HVAC systems they do not own/manage/maintain so they cannot adjust air exchanges per hour or up the MERV rating on the filtration–two things that are actually effective in preventing spread. (All that wiping and sanitizing? Well that’s LONG overdue in a sweaty environment where dude-bros don’t wipe down the equipment, but COVID isn’t spread by fomites; primary transmission is through the air.) Confirmed spread of COVID happened at yoga studios and cycling studios (though none of them local to me). In Portland I watched as multiple yoga studios closed their doors. For some, the pandemic was their landlord’s last tool to push them out of unprofitable leases in now-gentrified neighborhoods. A few are now “studio-free” yoga studios, holding classes here and there and in public spaces and temporary homes. Others just shut their doors. The pain wasn’t limited to yoga studios, of course. CityRow Portland opened in 2019 and did not survive the pandemic. There are empty storefronts where I used to see personal training gyms. You get the picture.
When ClassPass “unfroze” memberships, members still had the option to “press pause,” I did that (and I have 44 credits banked for when the risks of indoor exercise are lower than they are right now with the Delta variant still circulating). Eventually I
How Will Studios “Bounce Back” After COVID?
Frankly, many of them won’t.
I’m a certified personal trainer (NASM), group ex instructor (ACE plus specialties), and yoga teacher (RYT 200 with many more hours of teacher-specific training). I have friends who teach, and who own studios and gyms; they are struggling. Even those that received some COVID-related small business aid may not survive in the current reality (public health and the economy). Many of us are not ready to go sweat it out indoors in a group, especially when mask compliance is spotty (lots of chin diapers and nose-dicking going on) and I haven’t found any place that either requires all attendees to be fully-vaccinated OR has overhauled their HVAC system to meet the CDC and ASHRAE recommendations, so I’ll be working out at home and outside.
My insurance (through work) offers discounted ClassPass credits and free livestream ClassPass classes, but I’m not buying any ClassPass credits until I start to see studios consistently benefitting from ClassPass by earning more dollars per student. ClassPass will be just fine without me–studio scheduling software behemoth MindBody just bought ClassPass (valued at a billion dollars, billion-with-a-b, in October 2021 according to TechCrunch).
To paraphrase the NYT (link below) We need to support small businesses if we want to see them thrive, instead of relying on an app to subsidize the lifestyle we want to have. When I return to indoor exercise, I’ll be paying studios directly. Will you?
Disclosure: I’m sharing these resources because I want to encourage you to STAY HOME. The links provided below are not affiliate links. I am a paid subscriber of some of these services, but I’m not getting any kick-back or brownie points or whatever for sharing about them. I have not excluded services I haven’t tried.
As of Wednesday last week, I was kinda non-plussed about people fleeing the gym. For one, COVID-19 isn’t transmitted through sweat. For two, at least at a gym I have access to wipes (unlike at the grocery store). Here’s the thing though, if you are going to go to a gym–and really, you shouldn’t–“be under no illusion. These are places where germs and bacteria of all kinds can thrive[.]” That’s true of the gym, that’s true of your CrossFit box, that’s true of every flavor of studio from aerial to zumba.
Initial steps are NOT enough to protect you. My inbox has been aflutter with emails during the past week, promising extra deep-cleaning of the studio, asking people to bring their own yoga mats and props (offering discounts to help people acquire these), limiting class size, spacing the in-use reformers and megaformers further apart, and more. It is really tough for a small business to close, especially when they have staff and teachers they are worried about. But these measures are not enough, and even the ordinarily irrelevant Yoga Alliance has recommended studios close.
Using lots of wipes is NOT enough. As you should know, the COVID-19 virus is primarily spread by “droplets.” Like when a person who has the virus coughs. Here’s what we know:
Asymptomatic people can spread the virus. This means you can give the virus to other people before you know you have it. It takes 2-14 days before you start to show symptoms.
Today I’m focused on streaming fitness. That’s anything online, or available via Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, Amazon Prime or Amazon Fire. (Initially I said I wasn’t doing apps, but some streaming services are also apps, so…yeah, I started to add them in.)
Support Small Businesses First
Yes, there are some large corporately-structured gyms and studios. Please remember that many of these that you see as “big corporations” are actually franchises–meaning your local location is owned by an individual member of your community (or a small business). I am not personally familiar with what type of financial assistance or relief is available to franchisees, but I do know that many of them will be forced to shut their doors.
Speaking of shutting their doors, yoga and fitness studios are taking a hit. If your local studio is closed, please support them if you can. This means (1) supporting and sharing any online offerings, and (2) keeping your membership active, even if there are no classes to attend. If you’re taking a hit financially and can’t afford to help, no worries. If you’ve got $5 or $20 and appreciated the option, please support your local and other small-businesses.
Free Options on Social
Instagram. Update (April 20): I cannot believe I didn’t include Instagram when I first write this post about a month ago. If you are active on Instagram, go follow the fitness studios, types, and brands that interest you most. Many are using Instagram Live to broadcast workouts from 10 minutes to 60 minutes long. Check out Flex & Flow, ButiYoga, and Modo Yoga, all of which go live on a pretty regular basis. Some studios (like Modo and its affiliates–like Modo Yoga Portland) post the daily schedule in advance. Others seem to just throw up a class here and there–but if you are following them, Instgram will notify you when they go live. If your local studio is doing this, please throw them some dollars if you are able? It helps to keep the lights on and keep their instructors paid.
YouTube. Since anyone can post here, the workout options are definitely a mixed bag; some are clearly trained exercise professionals, others are scary and dangerous. Most of the trainers and channels you’ve heard of (PopSugar fitness, Leslie Sansone, Les MIlls, anyone who has released a DVD series) have a decent offering from 10 to 60 minutes. Yoga with Adriene is a popular channel with good instruction and lots of options. Redefining Strength has shorter videos that focus on technique.
Facebook. If your local gym or studio has a facebook page, they might be using the “facebook live” feature to stream classes. These are generally also available as recordings.
Please Donate to Local Studio Offerings if You Are Able
Below are the free and low-cost options I am aware of as of Monday, March 16, 2020. If you know of others, please leave a comment. Due to my current schedule, I can’t promise to keep this updated. (I’ve been lightly-updating. Seriously, not enough hours in the day.) Currently I’ve identified my faves, and listed everyone else in alphabetical order (or close to it).
Small Studios/Local Fitness
Flex & Flow. This is a locally-owned yoga and HIIT studio in Portland, Oregon. During the closure, they are offering free livestreams via Instagram. Please donate if you can to help keep the teachers paid and the studio open. https://www.fitapproach.com/ffy for details BTW: my friends own this studio, and while I’m not a member, it’s a Top Pick.
The Craft of Teaching Yoga/Yoga with Adrienne. Free online rituals. The first one is Wednesday March 18; follow them on Instagram and Facebook to find out about future options.
Derek Beres yoga. Equinox is closed, and Derek is offering live stream classes on his YouTube channel. Classes are free, donations are appreciated. Please find more details, including a schedule, here: http://www.derekberes.com/yoga/
Get creative. You do not need any gym, studio, or streaming service to get your workout on at home. Running on the Fly has some suggestions for you!
Hot Pot Studios. This is a locally-owned dance studio in Sacramento, CA. They currently have a dance class scheduled for Wednesday March 18 at 7:45 pm PDT. Here is their message: “Hey Y’all believers in Science who are staying home: We are getting our Dance Party on with an anti apocalypse I.T.S. Jam! @sarah_unmata Has set up the Virtual Classroom Join Sarah & April Via Zoom Classroom on Wednesday 3/18 $10 for one hour of Dance 7:45pm pacific time via PayPal Sign up by pm [see facebook link] or email April hollon verbatim at gmail dot com Where’s the money go? To cleaning supplies and the utility bills, helping the studio survive the social distancing. https://www.facebook.com/hotpotstudios/photos/a.150142574997245/3122173151127491/?type=3&theater
Love Hive Yoga. This is a locally-owned studio in Portland, Oregon that has responsibly shut the doors temporarily. Please check their website for updates on streaming classes and how to support them, and enjoy free videos until they can stream: https://www.lovehiveyoga.com/
Now Foods Ambassadors. NOW has compiled a range of workouts from their wellness ambassadors. You can find the collection here. All free. I’m generally a huge fan of Now Foods for making high-quality products at a reasonable price, and for supporting fitness challenges by Sweat Pink.
Soul Yoga. This is one of those small, local yoga studios that is closed. Like many studios, it is trying to jump online as fast as possible. Classes are free, but how about throwing in a donation so they can stay in business through this? https://www.soulyogafenton.com/online-content
The Yoga Space. This is a locally-owned studio in Portland, Oregon. They will be offering livestream classes at theyogaspace.live This is being offered as a free gift to the greater community for the first few weeks, and then will be made available as a benefit for members and for individual class purchase. Confirmed classes so far are Tuesday, 4pm PDT (Vinyasa with Allison Duckworth) and 6pm PDT (Intermediate Vinyasa with Ian LeMasters). The Yoga Space is posting updates on their Instagram account @theyogaspace
Below are a list of general online options to get your sweat on. Not all of these have a special deal going on, but they do have a free trial period. If you are clever, you can work out for free for quite some time before you commit to just one. These are presented in no particular order. If you usually support a local studio please go back when the threat of COVID-19 has passed!! Please note that streaming services sometimes offer coupons, discount codes, or other deals (e.g. subscribe for a year and save). I don’t have all that information for every service 🙂
Athletes for Yoga. In addition to the 14-day free trial, Athletes for Yoga is offering 50% off your first month. Essentially, you get 6 weeks for like $5. Here’s how to do it: go to athletesforyoga.com Use code HOMESTUDIO when you create your account. In addition, there’s a free recovery meditation here: https://video.athletesforyoga.com/videos/recovery-visualizationA Top Pick (I’m a member) for always unwinding my hips when I need it!
BUTI Yoga. This is not your mama’s yoga! Yoga with dance and other movement. Offers a 14-day free trial. Regular price is $39.99/month or $399.99/year. butiyoga.vhx.tv I wasn’t sure whether to put this under yoga or dance….
CorePower. This studio chain has an online service called CorePower On Demand. Regular membership is $19.99, though CorePower studio members have free access. A selection of classes are available for free each week.
Down Dog App. All of their programs are free until MAY 1 (extended from April 1). Programs are free for teachers and students (K-12 and college) until July 1. Programs are also free for healthcare workers until July 1. More information on the website. https://www.downdogapp.com/
Gaia. Offers a 1-week free trial. Regular price is $11.99/month. If you choose an annual membership, you pay $99 each year ($8.25/month). Gaia also offers a “Live Access” option at $299/year (or $24.92/month) with online workshops, live chats, and other benefits. Like Glo, there are lots of big-name teachers here. www.gaia.com
Glo.com. Formerly known as YogaGlo. Offers a 15-day free trial. Regular price sis $18/month when you register through glo.com or $22.99/month if you register through the Glo app (because then iTunes manages the subscription); you get the same content either way. Hosts a number of big-name/famous yoga teachers. www.glo.com
ROMWOD. Not technically yoga, but this seemed like the most appropriate category. ROMWOD means “range of motion workout of the day.” These are videos targeting range of motion, recovery, and strength. Free 7 day trial, regular price $13.95/month. (There is also a slightly more expensive “affiliate” membership option that allows for group streaming.)
Stretch Lab. This isn’t yoga at all, it’s literally stretching. Since it isn’t practical to have one-on-one stretching right now, and group stretches are also off the menu, they’ve moved to the Stretch Lab Go Facebook page. Follow the page for information on virtual events, and get your stretch on–some sessions are just 10-20 minutes. A strap and foam roller will be handy, if you have them.
Strala/Tara Stiles. If you’re not familiar with Strala, it’s like yoga with more emphasis on the movement in your body than the yoga poses. The library of free practices has meditation and movement. In addition, Tara is offering 50% off all classes. class series, and at-home retreats through the end of March. Use code PRACTICENOW at check-out.
Y7. This is a relatively new corporate yoga brand. They have both live and recorded classes available on Y7 Online. There is a 7-day free trial, after which membership is $16/month.
Yoga Download. If you go to the site a pop-up will offer you a free video. Unlike other sites, some of the Yoga Download classes are available to download, not stream. That means you get to keep them even if you cancel your subscription. Regular pricing is $12/month (2 downloads, unlimited streaming); $18/month (unlimited downloads); $120/year. They also offer 3-month and 6-month options. Easy to sort classes by style.
Yoga International. Offers a 14-day free trial. Regular price is approx. $20/month, though you can save up to 50% by paying for a year in advance. www.yogainternational.com
Peleton. I’m told the app is now free for 90 days (thanks, Jennifer!) for everyone, if you sign up by April 30. The app has a variety of classes, not just those for cycling, and not just those using a bike. There are now strength, yoga, outdoor running, etc. Here’s the website.
The Sufferfest. AltRed is sponsoring an additional free month. The Sufferfest is primarily a training tool for distance cyclists, but there are also a bunch of other videos including strength training and yoga for cyclists. To access a full six weeks, first download The Sufferfest. Then create your account to start your 14-day free trial. Next, go to Settings > Manage Subscription and choose the monthly subscription option. Enter promo code ALTREDSUF30 to get a free month (in addition to the 14-day free trial). Wile you do need to enter payment information for the code to activate, you won’t be charged if you cancel before the end of your free month (which is really six weeks).
Ballet Beautiful. One of the more expensive options, but rooted firmly in ballet (not “fitness”). This is the site of the professional ballerina and trainer who worked with Natalie Portman for Black Swan. There is a two week free trial, using code 2WTRIAL. (If you can’t make it work, try Instagram or Facebook, where they are running an ad for a 15 minute download class for free, and the two week free trial.) You you can get a discount on your first month with the code on the website (currently BBMARCH20). Regular price is $39.99/month. balletbeautiful.com
Barre3. I have a soft spot for Barre3 as it was created by a Portlander, who was affiliated with YogaWorks, and (most important!!) is a body-friendly, anatomically sane barre workout. You don’t need a barre to do the home workouts, though some incorporate small hand weights and props. If you’ve never tried it, there is a YouTube channel. The streaming service at barre3.com/trial for a 15-day free trial. Regular price is $29/month.
Blogilates. One of the original online Pilates workouts (and an app), still free. Sign up for Cassie’s email list to get a monthly workout calendar. She’s also made a special 14-day quarantine workout. Most of her videos are on the Blogilates YouTube channel as well.
Physique 57. You may have seen Physique 57 studios, or perhaps you caught the DVD package back in the day. Now they offer a streaming service with new classes added weekly. Offers a 7-day free trial. Regular price $24.99/month or $249/year (essentially 2 months free). ondemand.physique57.com
Pilates Anytime. Currently has 1,582 mat videos, 812 Reformer videos, and 193 Wunda Chair videos, among others (barre, small props, tower, and more). Offers a 15-day free trial. Regular price is $18/month. pilatesanytime.com
Pilates Interactive. This is a project of BASI Pilates. Unlike other sites, this is both written instruction and video. It is aimed at Pilates professionals (teachers and trainers) and includes breakdowns for the exercises. Offers a one month free trial. Regular price is $10/month for BASI Repertoire or Polestra Repertoire, $15/month for both. (Client management software is also an option.) I’m not a Pilates professional, but this looks like a screaming deal to me. pilatesinteractive.com
Pilates on Fifth. Like most Pilates options, this site has both equipment workouts and those that use no equipment. Also includes some barre, cardio, and strength-training. Offers a 14-day free trial. Regular price $12.99/month or $129.99/year (includes some products with annual membership). pilatesonfifthonline,com
Pilatesology. Focused on classic Pilates, this site has both equipment workouts (e.g. Refomer) and non-equipment workouts. Offers a 16-day free trial. Regular price $20/month or $179/year. pilatesology.com
Sleek Ballet Fitness. Sleek is a ballet-based workout. Offers a 7-day free trial. Regular price is $19.99/month or $199.99/year.
Yoopod. Formerly known as “Pilates on Demand.” This service focuses on Pilates, yoga, and mindfulness practices. Offers a 14-day free trial. Regular prices are posted in British Pounds Sterling–you do the math. yoopod.com
Body Groove. Another dance-based workout, this one uses HIIT theory. Offering a 30-day free trial. https://www.startbodygroove.com/hiit.htm Regular price is $9.99/month or $59.99/year (basically half price if you choose the year membership).
Gym-style and mixed variety group exercise
Body FX. JNL Fitness and Figure 8 workouts, among others. I hesitate slightly to recommend this one, only because several years ago they were planning to launch an MLM to compete with BeachBody, and I don’t know if they will try to upsell you a bunch of supplements (they do make a protein powder) and nonsense (there’s a recipe for something called Sueperfood Detox Soup). Offers 30 days free, regular price is $11.99/month or $84/year. https://bodyfx.com/home-workout/
Centr. Who doesn’t want to work out with Chris Hemsworth?? HIIT, boxing, yoga, strength training, MMA. Offering six weeks free. Regular prices is $29.99/month, $59.99/3-months, $119.99/year. https://centr.com/join-us
City Row. The City Row studios (which to my knowledge are all franchises) are closed. They are posting workouts that require no equipment on their Instagram page; follow them at @cityrow for details. The City Row GO app (which is separate from the scheduling app) is free for a month with code 1MONTH_FREE. It has rowing workouts (in case you own a rower) as well as strength, yoga, and mobility. Psst! There is apparently a whole family of “[insert name here] GO” apps.
Daily Burn. A little bit of everything. Actually a LOT of everything. Whatever you like, they have it. Offers a 30-day free trial. Regular price is $19.99/month. dailyburn.com In March, they upgraded all members to premium, and changed the free trial to 60 days (both are temporary).
Get Healthy U TV. Started by Chris Freytag, with powerhouse Amy Dixon and others! Kickboxing, strength training, yoga, and more. A whole year is $9.99 right now (“regular” price is $59.99) https://go.gethealthyutv.com/a21445/
Grokker. Grokker is free through April 30. Classes include yoga, meditation, indoor cycling, pilates, and more. After April 30, regular price is $14.99/ month (and I’m sure there is a yearly subscription discount, I just can’t find it). grokker.com Grokker also added a COVID-19 Coronavirus Preparedness program that is FREE to everyone, and you don’t need a Grokker account to watch it.
Jari Love/Get Ripped. Jari is relasing free workouts via YouTube. You can find the workouts on her channel, starting with this one. The workouts require dumbbells/weights, and you can use a step or the floor. She also released “Slim and Lean” on Vimeo.
Jillian Michaels. Her fitness app offers a 7-day free trial. More information at https://www.jillianmichaels.com/ Note that Jillian offers nutritional advice that is sometimes way off the mark (at least in terms of evidence-based practice). She’s publicly pooh-poohed keto and vegan diets, and promotes misinformation about organic products. If you’re going to use her app for nutrition tracking, just be aware you might want to take her advice with a salt lick.
OpenFit. This one appears to offer specific programming both live and recorded. (If you’re wondering where gixo went, OpenFit bought it.) The programs are Xtend Barre, Xtend Barre Pilates, Rough Around the Edges, Yoga 52, 600 seconds, Tough Mudder T-Minus 30, and Sugar Free 3. I’m only familiar with Xtend Barre, which I personally recommend as one of the top barre programs for attention to form. Offers a 14 day free trial. Regular price is $96/year ($8./month), $60/6 months, or $39/3 months).
Pvolve. This is a streaming service that uses custom equipment, though I think you could hack most of it from other equipment (e.g. using a band instead of the gloves with the band). They offer a variety of packages of equipment and their streaming service. Whatever you do, do NOT pay full price. At any given moment I see at least a dozen different ads or influencer campaigns for 20% off. https://www.pvolve.com/
Redeem. I’m not personally familiar with this one, but the site does have some religious references that hint at Christian religion, and may make non-Christians uncomfortable or annoy them (e.g. a woman’s “God-given” beauty, being “faithful with our bodies”); the Instagram live currently also has a question about incorporating faith into fitness. It might be perfect for you. Use this sign-up form and REDEEM1 to get 30 days for free.
SCW On Demand. SCW produces the fitness Mania events where your teachers go to get their continuing education credits. Offerings include personal training type videos plus active aging, yoga, and aqua. $19.95 month-to-month; $9.95 with an annual commitment (but you pay one month at a time); $99/year (paid all at once). https://scwfit.com/store/on-demand/
Sissfit. Sisters Lauren and Kelly are offering free access to the Sissfit app (which they apologize is only available in iOS right now). Click here for 30 Days Free Access. (Offer is only for new users.)
Suzanne Bowen Fitness. I kinda love that you can click ‘surprise me’ and the site will choose a workout for you! This site also has a workout builder, and a collection of prenatal videos. Offers a 24-hour free trial. Regular price $14.99/month, $129.99/year, or $74.99/6-months. suzannebowenfitness.com
TRX. I haven’t seen any specials on the TRX app (yet). If you own a suspension trainer, sign up for their newsletter to receive free weekly workouts.
Gyms With On-Demand Programming
24-Hour Fitness. The 24GO app has the workouts you are used to seeing at the clubs. According to the website, that includes Les Mills, Zumba, yoga, and active aging programming. There is also a 24GO Live on YouTube. These options are currently free for members; as near as I can tell, they are also free for non-members.
Crunch Live. You know the gym chain called Crunch? This is their streaming service. If you belong to a Crunch gym, you can use this for free (unless you are on the base membership plan). Offers a 10-day free trial. Regular price is $9.99/month o $90/year. www.crunchlive.com
Gold’s Gym. The Gold’s Gym AMP app is currently free through the end of May if you use code FIT60. AMP has a collection of hundreds of video and audio-only workouts.
Lifetime Fitness. Workouts online, on demand, free for members and non-members. According to the site, new workouts are added daily. Choose from cardio, strength, yoga, cycle, family classes, and small group training.
Planet Fitness. A new “work-in” streamed live on the facebook page daily (4pm Pacific, 7pm Eastern). These then go to live on the Planet Fitness YouTube channel, where there’s a decent collection waiting for you.
YMCA. Free workouts on the YMCA: 360 page, including kids’ yoga and some basketball drills. Also has an assortment of pilates, kickboxing, boot camp, and more.
What did I miss? Drop a comment with what you are offering, or how you are supporting your trainers and teachers when their studios and gyms are closed!
The Roses on the River event was originally slated to start on the west side of the river. For those unfamiliar with Portland, the Willamette River runs through town, separating the west side from the east side. (Not to be confused with the Columbia River, which runs east-west and separates the north-most part of Portland, Oregon form the south-most part of Vancouver, Washington.) Downtown Portland is immediately adjacent to the river, and there is a paved promenade/walkway next to the water in addition to Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Part of the draw of the Roses on the River run is that the race is sponsored in part by the Portland Thorns, our winning women’s soccer team (which played short several team members at the beginning of the season as they were busy kicking butt as part of the U.S.A. women’s national soccer team…you know, the national soccer team that actually wins World Cups). This is a BIG draw to the event; instead of yet another race shirt, participants receive Thorns scarves (that’s what soccer fans wear) and a ticket to the Thorns game.
This year, the racist groups Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer decided to come to Portland from out-of-state and hold a “rally” on the same day as Roses on the River, a decision they announced what seems like just a few days before the race. For those of you not playing along at home, Portland fancies itself to be a liberal and inclusive town. In a state with a significantly racist history, modern Portland is at least trying. This makes white supremacists angry enough to don matching polo shirts and/or riot gear, board rented school buses, and head to Portland to…find people to beat up? I’m not sure what they actually plan to do, because they just seem to end up brawling in front of local businesses and breaking windows downtown. Maybe they want their closeted-white-supremacist-brethren to “come out” as modern Klansmen? Maybe they just wanted to mess with Roses on the River? At any rate, they aren’t local, and they seem to show up to antagonize protesters who identify as anti-fascist (some of whom are also not-from-Portland violent thugs, so at least they have that in common).
Race organizers for Roses on the River reacted by moving the entire event out of downtown, and over to the east side of the river (which does not have a gigantic stretch of park like the west side, but which does have a paved multi-use trail for running, biking, etc.) to what is apparently called the “Eastbank Festival Plaza.” This was entirely sensible, leaving the Portland police less to worry about downtown and providing runners with a ton of free parking. It also put the starting line within walking distance from my apartment.
The Thorns? They pulled their sponsorship of the race. That’s right, no Thorns at Roses on the River. While runners still got a ticket to the Thorns game, they did NOT get the limited-edition Thorns scarf—one of my big reasons for signing up for the race. The Thorns officially cited “liability,” which is a bogus excuse given that (1) all participants sign a liability waiver, and (2) the race moved across an entire river, away from the “rally” area, and police shut down the bridges. I suspect the REAL reason the Thorns pulled out is that they were afraid people would lose or abandon their scarves, which the white supremacists might grab on their way to the brawl, and therefore might end up in pictures of rioters and thus become “bad optics” for the Thorns. Nevermind that they could have avoided this by only handing scarves out at pre-event packet pickup (and changed the rules to DQ anyone wearing one), or mailed or otherwise made them available only a day or more after the event. Nope. They just pulled out. Race organizers didn’t even have time to change the website to show that runners wouldn’t get a Thorns scarf—I found out AT the race!! (I later found out the Thorns also forbid the race organizers from handing out any leftover scarves from 2018. Seriously.)
Due to the change in location and change in space, I suspect several companies that had planned to be at the start/finish area also pulled out of this year’s Roses on the River. Like I didn’t see Jersey Mike’s, which was supposed to give finishers a half sandwich (not that I cried over this too much, since races often don’t provide vegetarian sandwiches). It almost makes no sense, since there was MORE parking, and plenty of space under the bridge. I was very pleased to see my favorite race supporter, the Franz bakery grilled cheese truck! After the race I grabbed a grilled cheese bite and a loaf of delicious glutenous goodness to take home.
I arrived about ten minutes before the starting time. (I want to say the race had self-sorting heats, with the walkers starting first, but I wouldn’t stake my life on that.) There was no line to pick up my bib and attached timing chip, and no worries about where to put my scarf because I didn’t get one.
The race was a 5k only this year (some past years did have a 10k option) starting from the Eastbank Festival Plaza, just north of the Hawthorne Bridge. The course was an out-and-back, south past OMSI, past the Ross Island Bridge, and a bit further south before the turnaround and return north to the start. The path was not closed to other uses, but the few other runners and cyclists out there were pretty reasonable.
In the spirit of “I am supposed to be training for the Chicago Marathon–and you should definitely donate to my fundraiser for Team Imerman Angels–I had intended to run/walk intervals. Unfortunately, I was still learning how to make the intervals on my watch work, and so the entire event was timed as a warm-up. Oops. After I realized my mistake I did some self-timed intervals. The plan was to run 3, walk 2, but my lungs were not game to play, so I did more run 2 or 1, walk 1 or 2. Near the end I got inspired to kick my own butt and turn on the speed, and ran right past some folks mustering for the riots under the Hawthorne Bridge before I crossed the finish line. (I later went back to look at them, and took a photo—super obviously, not even trying to hide it a little—to post to facebook so my friends would avoid the area. It was hard to tell who they were as a few had on MAGA hats, but there was also a riot medic—something I associate with the left—and some punch-out Donald Trump masks that were a very unflattering parody, along with lots of black commando-style gear and bandanas over faces and a big show of going to shake hands with the police officers babysitting them.)
I did appreciate that the walkers got to go in the first heat, and not just because I got to sleep in a little. Many had finished by the time I started, and the ones left on the course had spread out. There were also plenty of walkers, as Terrapin Events (the race company) is serious about making walkers welcome. While out on the run I saw plenty of families, and also parent-kid combos, and high school track runners.
Then I collected my cider—2 Towns Ciderhouse and Widmer Brothers Brewing provided post-race adult beverages—and my grilled cheese bite. There was music and some people were dancing as I picked up samples of vitamins disguised as a fun-sized candy bar, after which I sauntered down to a nearby restaurant to eat brunch with some of my peeps.
Would I run it again? Maybe, if (1) I’m actually going to get the Thorns scarf I was promised, and (2) there is no sissy-boy “I’m exerting my First Amendment rights” nonsense going on. (Yes, I’m still a bit sore that the Thorns didn’t make any effort to get the promised scarves to runners, especially since I bet they were ordered well-enough in advance that they exist somewhere.) It would also have to be on a weekend when there are no competing events, as I run up and down the sides of the river on a fairly regular basis. The race organizers and the runners and vendors were great, and created a festive atmosphere. If you are looking for a low-key 5k that is also timed, Roses on the River might be your Portland race.
Disclosure: As a member of the official Blue Ridge Marathon blogger-ambassador team, I received a free entry to the Slow K. As always, all opinions are my own.
Everyone knows you shouldn’t go straight from being very active, or running long miles, to couch-potato-worthy zero. Yet that’s what most of us do the day after a race. Worse, for destination marathons that fall on a Sunday, many runners hop an airplane back home the same day. Yikes!
Another problem avid runners face is the non-running-significant-other. It’s fun to have your spouse or boyfriend or whatever come along on race weekend, but I’m not sure how much fun it is for them when the entire weekend revolves around an event they aren’t participating in.
This year, the Blue Ridge Marathon races brilliantly solved both problems with The Slow K: an untimed 5k-ish event. It was brilliant.
The Slow K started across the street from our hotel, so we thought we’d walk over. Minor issue, part of the path was shut-off by a chain-link fence, so we had a little pre-5K parkour event. Upon our arrival, we found a super chill pre-brunch scene.
Upon checking in each not-runner received their number on a flower lei (not a bib), and a coffee mug. Pre-“race” there was plenty of coffee and hot cocoa, as well as some donuts to snack on. (Don’t judge. Most of us had just done a mountainous race!) The event was fairly small–this was the first year–and there was plenty of space to mill around, chat, and meet other runners.
It was fun to see runners just as stiff and sore as I was hobbling around and trying to get the juices flowing again, while non-runner husbands and girlfriends who were not walking like zombies filled coffee mugs. There were a few strollers and plenty of walking kiddos as well. That’s the great thing about a “Slow K,” it is literally for everyone. Exactly zero people were there to race, or even run!
Off to one side was a mimosa bar where, for a small donation, you could DIY your own combo with sparkling wine, juice, and fresh fruit. I’m pretty sure the idea was to grab one after the Slow K, but the mimosa cups fit inside the coffee mugs so perfectly that some of us just couldn’t help ourselves! They also had fancier coffee (in case the more pedestrian coffee that came with the donuts wasn’t up to your standards). Through the magic of square, I made my donation (I should have taken notes, I want to say this was for an arts or music program), selected some pineapple juice, made a little more room in the cup, and added fresh strawberries. Not a bad way to start a “run” (quotes intentional, as no one was running).
The added bonus of a slow event where you’re trying to get people to move but not run, and where you hand out coffee mugs instead of medals: it’s really, really hard to run with a coffee mug in your hand and not spill all over the place. At least as the event started, most of us still had full or semi-full mugs in our hands.
The weather was slightly soggy, but not really rainy–sort of a continuation of the weekend’s theme. The loop course wound along the river, through some park areas, and back to the start. There were a bunch of cute signs close to the start/finish to cheer on the “runners” too.
The Slow K was so much fun that I’m a bit confused as to how every race isn’t doing this. It’s a brilliant way to end a weekend and celebrate everyone’s accomplishments.
As you may have guessed from my lack of blog reviews on the 2018 Rock ‘n’ Roll Series, I had a less than amazing experience for much of the year. Combine the lacking and lackluster race experience with the most frustrating ambassador experience I have ever had, and I just decided my blog didn’t need it. Out of an abundance of caution–I knew I could not return to the ambassador team (RIP Rock ‘n’ Blog) if I didn’t see some serious changes–I bought a bib to Rock ‘n’ Roll San Francisco 2019 at the expo, so I wouldn’t lose my legacy status.
Pro tip: If you are an Active Advantage member–that’s the membership you pay for, not free usage–do NOT buy pre-sale bibs at the race expo. You WILL be charged the Active fees (which you get for free as an Advantage member) and the free tee shirt probably isn’t worth it.
Pre-Race Expo. San Francisco is an easy town for public transit, and the Uber/Lyft/app-cabs are plentiful. I flew into SFO and took BART to Embarcadero, then walked from the BART station to the Expo out at Pier 35. The weather was lovely, so I didn’t mind a walk, especially after a flight. My expectations were low for this expo; frankly, the expo has sucked since it left the Moscone Center. (Originally I assume the expo moved because Moscone was under construction; no clue what the story is now.)
Bib Pickup: Status Same-Old. Once again, the race did not sell out in advance (as it did the first three years at least) so you could register at the expo. I’m guessing the City of San Francisco granted a permit for 8000. There were only 7000 numbers, and one of my friends who registered at the expo was given number 7575, a little underwhelming. The bibs are the same gigantic papers they have used for years; their enormity has led many to fold them or pin them somewhere other than “completely covering my entire torso,” though at least they now have integrated timing chips AND a station at the expo to test and make sure they work. The race waiver is now two separate waivers, and though they send out like ten pre-race emails about them (“remember to sign your waivers!”) almost no one does–like who even owns a printer? Bib pickup also included an LED light wristband (more on that later).
Race Shirts…Better Design, Cheaper Quality. I really wanted to like this year’s race shirt, especially after the horribly generic shirts that Ironman offered to Rock ‘n’ Roll participants in early 2018. While the design is much better, everything else is worse. First, the shirts came individually wrapped in plastic. This is unnecessary on the consumer end, but may indicate that the shirts have changed country of origin. (Federal law requires fabric goods from some countries be shipped individually wrapped in plastic. When I worked at Macy’s we literally filled a dumpster with plastic bags each time we unloaded a truck.) Second, the shirt quality is cheap. The fabric isn’t pleasant to the touch, and it is rather sheer. Third, there are tags sewn into the collar of the shirt, and they are not the easy-tear-away tags found in most athletic clothing. Fourth, the shirts are sized even smaller than previous years. I always order a women’s XL so that the shirt isn’t too short and isn’t too tight. This year, the women’s XL is both. When I took it out of the bag and flattened it, it wasn’t even shaped–it was a rectangle/box like a man’s shirt. Finally, the design placement is weird and unflattering on every body I saw with a shirt on it. Verdict: unwearable. They could cut costs by offering a tee-shirt-quilt panel instead of a shirt.
Race Bags: Still Plastic, Still Awful. When I first started running Rock ‘n’ Roll races, the bags were durable drawstring bags made of gym bag type fabric. Themed races–Los Angeles/Halloween, Vegas/Strip at Night–had themed bags. The series later changed to cheaper fabric bags that were not as durable–the hard edge of a box might cause a tear–black for every race, no themed bags. Eventually the series switched to plastic bags that tear if you look at them funny (though they are durable enough for a few uses as a post-race laundry bag). Allegedly these are for security, but they are frosted and not sheer, so I don’t believe that’s the real reason. They must have ordered a billion of them. When I have time to plan ahead, I bring an empty one so I don’t have to take yet another plastic bag. The contents are as tired as the bags: sample of shave oil that claims to be the best invention since shaving, sample of Calmoseptine (which I find uncomfortable and stinging, but my friend Andrew uses it so he takes all my samples), discount card for a boxed meal service, discount card for produce delivery. The better way to do this would be to put these items out at a “help yourself” station (where I would take ALL of the Hemp Hearts samples!). Or at least have a space at the expo to dump the stuff we won’t use. It’s such a waste.
Merch: HUGE UPGRADE. Last year the race merch was sparse and poorly designed, and included a rack of what I guess you would call “stuff we found in a warehouse somewhere and ought to try to sell.” The only potentially interesting race-specific merch were the Ironman-style shirts with all of the participants names on them. (Personally, I do not see the appeal, but that’s because the last shirt I had like that was a 1980s elementary school fundraiser.) This year there were several options I liked, and many more that even I can see are a HUGE upgrade: a wall of trucker hats, racks of beanies, shorts, tights, quarter zips, tanks, long-sleeve, short-sleeve, and more. There is also a line of tie-dye themed stuff (socks, knock-off Flip Belt, etc.) to match the Brooks Rock ‘n’ Roll shoes released last year (and the shoes are back). The people working at Brooks weren’t that helpful though, as there was a bra sale and a friend of mine wanted to try a bra on but couldn’t get anyone to help her–at the end of the day, when the expo wasn’t busy.
Expo, Sponsors: Sparse. So other than Brooks and United Airlines (which has its own special medal this year for those doing a race in 2 of the 5 United hub markets), I’m not sure who is left. Toyota is gone, and there is no car company replacement. Geico wasn’t there (though I’ve heard a rumor that Team Geico no longer gets post-race massages anyway). Oh, I guess Michelob Ultra still sponsors the beer, but honestly most runners would rather have a local beer sponsor. United did have a cool photo op with a backdrop, and a pilot and flight attendant (or people dressed like a pilot and flight attendant).
Expo, Exhibitors: Improved. Last year, the expo was at least 1/4 and probably more like 1/3 empty tables/booths. I bought nothing (or at least remember nothing beyond how weird it is to have an expo with so many empty spaces). This year I was really thrilled to see a booth by Potatoes USA! In addition to freshly cooked multi-colored creamers to eat, they had a recipe book, stickers, and lip balm. I took advantage of the Pro Compression expo special to buy some of the new spring designs, and tasted the Honey Stinger offerings (though I didn’t buy, since I just stocked up at the Shamrock Run expo). I was glad to see Run Club SF and Marathon Matt, the race pacers. There were also a number of footwear, running gear, and race booths. Verdict: still a small, unimpressive race expo, but MUCH better than last year.
We Run Social Shakeout Run! This year, We Run Social and lululemon Cow Hollow co-sponsored a 5kish shakeout run. We started near the expo, took the obligatory groupies, I handed out RunGum, and the piled up our gear to be Ubered to lululemon. The rest of us took off on a quick run over part of the race course, up Lombard Street–which inexplicably appeared on the 2018 medal, even though no Rock ‘n’ Roll course has ever gone there (but it should!) and then headed over to lululemon. Once there, we had a mini-party! Hostess-with-the-mostess Ashley, founder of Every Runner Counts, greeted us with hint water (which I love!) and snacks, as well as a discount on certain items. I shared RunGum with the other staff working the store to thank them for putting up with us, and there were raffle prizes including We Run Social multi-function headwraps and Pro Compression socks! Afterwards a bunch of us headed to Amici’s to carb up.
Exhaustion sets in! At that point it was maybe 8:30, but I was Done With Saturday. The disadvantage of a fly-in, fly-out race weekend, I suppose. Since the first corral started at 6:15 a.m. I knew the morning would come all too quickly. I slept well.
About Those Corrals: Do Better. The theory behind the new corral system was very sound (that’s a pun, wait for it…): the City wouldn’t allow amplification (for music, for pre-race announcements, etc.) and, I’m told, didn’t want “crowd noise” outside for an extended period before the race started. The “well, they meant well” solution was to move the pre-corral hanging out portion to inside Pier 35, and use an LED light bracelet system to alert people when it was their turn to line up outside. Let’s talk about the logistics first. Pier 35 is north of The Embarcadero and has two doors: one to the west, and one to the east. ALL of the readily available parking, and nearly all of the hotels, are to the west of Pier 35. Rather than think that through–or maybe no one on the logistics team was local to San Francisco–the race set up the WEST door as the exit to the corrals. As a result, the massive wave of people I was walking with were stopped before the west door to let the first corral out of Pier 35. Not only could we not reach the entrance (the east door) until the entire corral had passed, but shorter people were elbowing their way up from behind me–hey, it’s not like we were standing around chatting, there were hundreds of people ALL FACING THE SAME DIRECTION who ALL STOPPED AT THE SAME TIME–and pushing people forward even though we could not, in fact, move forward. Hot mess, and uncomfortable, too. Once inside (after the corral left and the crowd got to the east door) the logistics crew bombed again. The tiny “stage” with the pre-race DJ and announcer was WAY in the back and poorly lit. It made total sense to put it in the back, since they wanted to keep everyone from cramming up near the corral exit, but since it was not well lit and tiny, it was difficult to find. It would have made much more sense to build a bigger stage, place it on the west wall (the east wall has a sort of separate room, and the restrooms, so that’s not an option) and throw some real lighting on it. Instead, people heard the sound system up front and stayed up near the corral exit door, creating a traffic jam. Also the pre-race bananas and water were BEHIND the stage–like yards behind it–so most people don’t know they were there. I only knew because someone in my group chat posted that they were all the way at the back.
Corral Bracelets: FAIL. This year, the race implemented a new corral system copied right from a K-Pop concert: LED light bracelets that can respond to a transmitter and pulse colors with the music. These should have been an excellent crowd management plan, but they were not. Let us count the reasons why:
Runners are stupid. Despite the signs on the wall at registration and the pre-race email that was only about the corrals (okay, maybe people ignored that since Rock ‘n’ Roll sent like 27 other emails about signing waivers), most people had no clue how the system was supposed to work. Thus when it malfunctioned, no one knew how to respond. (Add to this that like many electronic things with batteries, there was a plastic tab you had to remove to contact the battery and make the bracelet active, and many runners did not do that.)
Like I need something else on my arm for the race? If you’re a runner, you probably don’t need to do this, but if you’re not, take a look at Instagram and the runners there. One of the most popular post-run shots is a picture of your running watch (showing the run’s stats). Take a look at enough of them, and you’ll see that many runners have quite the arm-party going on: race watch (mine’s a Coros), Road ID, Momentum wrap(s), regular jewelry, charity rubber band(s), and maybe those temporary paper bracelets (Rock ‘n’ Roll uses them for the Remix weekends, and for pre-race ID to enter the beer garden in states where that’s allowed.) A big fat piece of plastic? Really?
OUCH. The bracelets are NOT adjustable (unlike their K Pop predecessors.) Now I don’t think I have particularly well-developed forearm muscles, but I definitely do not have dainty lady-arms. The bracelets were like the silicone charity bracelets you’ve probably seen (thing Livestrong) but about 40% was attached to the light/battery part, which was hard, inflexible plastic. I put the thing on my wrist and it pinched my skin. Since there was no way to adjust it, and that thing would not stretch, I ended up clipping my Orange Mud pack strap through it. Other runners just ditched theirs (as I saw many runners without them on race day).
SO. MUCH. PLASTIC. WASTE. Since the bracelets have tiny little screws, you can clearly replace the battery. This means they are reusable. I had hoped, pre-expo, that there would be collection bins at the finish line, to re-use or recycle the bracelets. NOPE. Unfortunately, it is cheaper to throw them away than it is to change the batteries. So every runner now has a useless plastic gadget with a battery to dispose of, and you can bet that 0% of runners disassembled the thing to remove the battery for proper disposal. They can’t be recycled in your recycling bin. Between the plastic bags on the shirts, the plastic race bags, and the uninteresting stuff inside the plastic race bags, I just don’t understand why Rock ‘n’ Roll hates the environment so much. HEY ROCK ‘N’ ROLL! DO BETTER!
Ridiculously overcomplicated. Pre-race, the bracelets were supposed to change colors and pulse with the music. (Mine didn’t do that more than twice.) There were 9 corrals, and each corral was assigned a different color. So when the first corral was supposed to head out, their bracelets were supposed to turn red. Only a bunch of them turned blue instead, and blue was assigned to the second corral. So the folks at the exit were trying to turn people back, because the had the wrong bracelet color, but they in fact had corral 1 bibs. I’m still puzzled as to why they didn’t go with the obvious solution. Since the bracelets could be programmed to only respond to some signals–the corral 9 bracelets, for example, did not turn red or blue or any other solid color when it was time for corral 1 to go–the obvious would have been “when your bracelet lights up solid green, go to your corral.” No need to remember what color your corral was assigned. We all know that green means go. They could have even removed green from the pre-race program, so that no one saw green until it was time to go.
Many dud bracelets. As I was getting pressed uncomfortably forward into the exiting corral 1, waiting to enter Pier 35, my bracelet did nothing. Not one light. The pattern around me seemed random, with some bracelets flashing colors, other with solid colors, still others like mine with no lights at all. Mine didn’t light up at all until I’d been inside for 20 minutes. Then it did a color change maybe twice.
The extras were meh. One of the on course activations–oh right, smart races don’t use that term because only crazy social media people and those in the industry know what an “activation” is–was for the bracelet to turn blue during the Wear Blue: Run to Remember mile that honors those who have died in service to our country. This could have been cool, but by the time we got to that mile it was broad daylight (cloudy, but daylight) so it was barely noticeable. It might have been cool at a night race, like the David Moo-nlight Race or Rock ‘n’ Roll Vegas, but during the day it was meh.
Verdict: epic fail. Look, I get that this was a test-drive, and there are bumps and hiccups the first time. I can excuse some of those (at least for the bracelets–I’m sorry, but reversing the Pier 35 openings to west is entrance and east is exist is a total no-brainer), but there was no need to make it so complicated.
Race course: Decent as Usual. People are allegedly drawn to this race to get to run over the Golden Gate Bridge. My understanding is that the City, or bridge authority, or whatever, will no longer issue the race a permit to close down one lane of the bridge; personally, I hate running on the sidewalk and really miss the days when one lane of traffic was closed for runners to go north, and the southbound return was via the sidewalk. At least that way I got to see many more runners I knew, plus it avoided the descent and ascent necessary to pass under the bridge to return south on the west sidewalk. (The current course goes north on the east sidewalk, and south on the west sidewalk, which requires passing under the bridge on the Marin side.) The course is, otherwise, largely an out-and-back; this is an effective way to keep the permitting and costs down, as you have to close (and police/staff) fewer roads. It’s also nice to see Chrissy Field from two perspectives. It would be nice to change up the on-course photo ops–they have used the same few for the past several years–but if the data show that this is largely a “one and done” race (as opposed to one with repeat participants from year to year), then perhaps the expense doesn’t justify it.
Race Course Aid Stations: Well Done. For the first time in my Rock ‘n’ Roll experience, every aid station had what it promised to have. When I got to the gel aid station, there was plenty of gel, and even a selection of flavors. There was plenty of water and gatorade, and the volunteers were actively handing it out. (Some races, the volunteers get bored, and next thing you know you’re hitting an aid station with a bunch of kids on instagram.)
Finish Line Experience: Improved, but… This year the finish line had the usual finisher chute and odd little beer garden (part of the street, blocked off to traffic, and fenced in to keep the alcohol police happy) there were two new experiences. One was a stretch zone with yoga mats and straps, sponsored by Smile Direct. They also had wipes to detox the mats after the runners got off of them (because sitting in someone else’s sweat is gross). Inside the beer garden area there was also a recovery zone with those inflatable pressure boots, the thera-gun, vibrating rollers, and more. I didn’t spend much time there, but Briana did, so you can ask her about it. The beer garden also had a “pay to charge your phone” station. It was a nice touch, but the majority of people I know carry a power pack these days. Now, the finish line itself…I finished late in the game, for reasons of my choosing (one, helping someone, two, I really needed that Philz Truck coffee). The course has a 4-hour limit, and like my friend Ashley, I strongly believe that Every Runner Counts. I don’t care if you walked every inch, if you finished, you should be celebrated just like every other finisher. (Several years ago I kicked my butt, hard, to finish Rock ‘n’ Roll Philadelphia, only to find zero food, zero water, zero hydration, zero anything in the finisher chute, despite seeing faster runners walking around with literal boxes of post-race food.) Super mad props to the volunteers handing out medals, the whole flock was still there and ready with medals. I was also happy to see plenty of bottled water (well, not happy it was bottled, but races have limitations) and Gatorade. MAD PROPS to Team Chocolate Milk for still having enough chocolate milk for us slowpokes! I also thought the snacks were good–bananas, Cheez-Its, and Ghirardelli squares with caramel–until I caught up with my faster friends at the beer garden. Some of them had multiple full-sized chocolate bars, not just one, as well as instant hash-browns (which I assume came from Potatoes USA, and they might still be learning). Also, there’s never a good way to carry your post-race snacks and you can’t re-enter the chute to get more once you’ve left. I need to remember to stuff a bag in my race pack.
Overall…I am biased.I started running Rock ‘n’ Roll San Francisco the very first year, when they had purchased race permits from another company. The original expo was huge, fun, and better than most other races. I’ve seen two good shirts, a few good medals, and lots of runners. Since I’ve run it every year, I’ll keep running it. It’s fun to head back to the Bay Area now that I don’t live there, and since I know so many runners who show up to this race it’s always worth the trip.
Soooo…. If you ran Rock ‘n’ Roll San Francisco, what did you think of 2019? If you’ve run in the past, but didn’t run this weekend, why not?
It’s January, a new year, and time for All of the 2019 Things, which includes participating in #RIOTS. #RIOTS is an acronym for “Running Is Our Therapy Sisters” (or “Running is Our Therapy Squad”) and I, along with five strong, amazing bloggers, are throwing #RIOTS every week. You’re totally invited to play. While there isn’t an A in #RIOTS (I leave you to decide what kind of “A” we might want to exclude, ha ha!), the true meaning of #RIOTS is Accountability. #RIOTS was born when Anna Louise of Gracious Warrior Princess reached out to us and proposed some ACCOUNTABILITY for all of the great goals and works we have planned for the 2019 calendar year. We’ve all got goals, and together we have a #SquadGoal which is to band together as a support network so that we each reach our 2019 goals.
Here’s how it works: every Sunday (or whenever afterwards we manage to get the blog posts ready), we share both victories and setbacks. We are counting on each other to keep on track this year and the results are going to be epic!
If you want to play, head over to Jenn’s blog, Runs with Pugs. Grab our graphic, drop your link in the linkup, comment on the host blogs and as many others as you can, and play along!
This week I’m recapping my running and fitness goals. I have plenty of other goals–dutifully outlined in my 2019 planner–but let’s start with these! I’ll start by saying I am having total FOMO as all of my friends head off to Florida for the Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend. This is my first year NOT running Dopey, and it sort of breaks my heart to lose that “perfect” status. I’m trying not to dwell on it by setting other goals and planning for other cool events.
Blue Ridge Marathon. I’m returning to the FootLevelers Blue Ridge Mountain as an Ambassador! This is the only race I have taken a HARD “get on the bus” DNF. To be fair, the course was black-flagged (due to lightning), but in all honesty the race was kicking my butt. I’m going to write more about that later. In the meanwhile, plan to join me in Roanoke, Virginia on April 13, 2019. (Psst! There’s a discount code on my deals page. Use AMBASSADORBAIN20 for 20% off!) How it’s going:It’s day 8 of the year as I write this. I have run three of those days (2.1, 6.2, 3.1–not necessarily the distances I had planned!) and not the five days called for in the training plan. On the one hand, I could beat myself up. On the other hand, that’s three more days than I would have run without a training plan.
Chicago Marathon. This year I joined Team Imerman Angels to run my first World Marathon Major: Chicago! I made a pledge to raise at least $100,000 in my lifetime to fight cancer and to help those who are fighting it, in honor of Mom. In 2012 I ran the Detroit Free Press-Talmer Bank International Half for the American Cancer Society and raised almost $25,000. I’ve raised $10,000 for The Susan G. Komen Foundation by participating in the San Francisco Bay Area 3-Day Walk for Breast Cancer. I raised $2,500 for Noah’s Light Foundation to fund a cure for pediatric brain cancer at the Walt Disney World Princess Glass Slipper Challenge. This year, I’m helping Imerman Angels connect those fighting cancer to an “angel” who knows what they are going through. How it’s going:I set up my fundraising page (though I accidentally deleted the big, long post I wrote so I need to re-do that) and successfully guilted both of my brothers into donating to my fundraiser! Now it’s your turn: Give Money Here. I have raised $170 of my $2,000 goal, which is about 10%. (i will donate $205, the cost of a bib for the race, this fall.) If I can hit 10% every month, I’ll reach my goal.
Run The Year 2019. Every year (well, this is the fifth year), Run the Edge has a “Run the Year” challenge. You can choose to run 2019 miles (or kilometers) yourself, or with a team. You also don’t HAVE to hit 2019. There are no prizes for reaching the end–the medals for this year have a spinner where you can insert a special coin when you reach various mileages, and they came out already so they can motivate us!–and no penalties. The entire point is to join a limitless running club where people are helpful and positive. (And “positive” includes things like, “Dude, do NOT trust ‘pixie dust’ to get you through a race you are not trained to run.”) How it’s going: So far, I have just under 12 miles. I am tracking on a poster on my fridge, and the RTY challenge poster is on my wall. I’m also the “Lead FITster” for Portland, so I’m moderating the Facebook group and keeping it positive. It’s not too late to join us, and if you use my affiliate link you get $3 off (how much you spend depends on which swag you choose). My actual goal is 1200+ miles, because the Oregon Road Runners Club has a 1200 mile challenge and if you finish, you get a sweet 1200 miles club jacket. (Every year after that, you get a patch to add to it if you finish another 1200.)
Do More Yoga. This is exactly the type of “not-SMART,” vague goal everyone tells you NOT to set. So don’t follow my lead here. Essentially, I want to do yoga more often. That definitely means taking more classes, and I joined the brand-new PDX Power Yoga studio that just opened near me. It’s a Baptiste-affiliated studio, so the sequencing and the adjustments are solid, and I love the vibe, plus I love supporting a local studio. It doesn’t hurt that I got in on the opening special, either. Yet it also means taking a moment here and there during the day to engage in some of the yoga stretches that my body needs to stay in alignment and balanced. How it’s going: I’ve slept through every 6 a.m. class, which means I need to go to bed earlier! On the bright side, I went to see a new chiropractor (Meghan Bodnar at Luna Wellness–I highly recommend!) and have been incorporating the stretches and yoga poses she prescribed after putting my angry SI joint back into a happy place. I renewed my Yoga Download membership as well as my Yoga International membership, so I have NO excuses–I can stream on demand anywhere I have wifi. Also, I moved a yoga mat into my office!
Blogilates #100AbsChallenge. Cassey Ho, the amazing Blogilates, posts free workouts on her YouTube channel. If you subscribe to her newsletter, every month she posts a new calendar with suggested workouts in rotation. Starting January 1, she has an abs challenge to do 100 reps of an abs move each day. Each day is a new move, and there are no rules about doing them all at once. (In fact, she encouraged people to break them up into sets if necessary.) How it’s going: Basically, it’s not. I haven’t done a single day’s video. I can’t say “I’m too busy,” because we all know what that REALLY means. (“I did not make it a priority.”) I think I mentally opted-in because I have a bunch of friends who were doing it. I may pop in from time to time, but I think I am going to let this one go–my heart is not in it.
Grokker 30-day Be a Better You Challenge. Grokker is an online streaming platform with a ton of fitness content on it. I intend to poke around and write a review one of these days. In the meanwhile, Grokker offered a free month through January 31, after which you can either cancel or pay for a membership ($14.99/month if you pay month-to-month, or 30% cheaper at $9.99/month if you pre-pay for a year). To kick off 2019 they offered four challenge options, and I picked one. How it’s going: I’ll tell you next week. No really, after seeing how last week was going, I decided to start THIS week. Yes, it’s Tuesday. Whatever. I can start today.
OrangeTheory Fitness Transformation Challenge. This hasn’t started yet–my studio starts January 21–but I’m signing up. The challenge is essentially a weight-loss challenge (which I hate), where the winner is chosen by total % of body weight lost. Sure, I have a few pounds to kick, but six weeks isn’t realistic for long-term success here. Anyway, the real challenge is committing to 3 classes per week during the challenge period. Last year I missed ONE class during the last week due to a work issue. Otherwise, I kept with it, even going out of my way to take classes on a family trip to Florida and a work trip to Rhode Island. Time to return to this and UP MY GAME.
Miscellaneous News and Updates
I joined the ORRC and signed up for the 10k series, so I have plenty more runs on calendar! The first was called the Y2K 10K (there was a half marathon option as well) and I loved it.
After the “Run and Retox” with the W’yeast Pack on New Year’s Day, I introduced myself to some runners and made new friends. They invited me to join their weekly runs, so now I have some extra motivation to get out there.
It’s just over two months until I leave for the Vikara 3-Day Fitness and Yoga Party! I’m excited to spend three days in Arizona with poolside yoga, healthy food, and studio/boutique fitness all over the city. The event takes placeFebruary 28-March 3, 2019 and you can use code Elizabeth10 to save 10% on your registrationl Learn more and register at https://www.vikaraevents.com/
On the Seventh Day of Christmas, I encourage you to choose a fitness challenge for January. (Yes, the Seventh Day of Christmas. go look it up if you don’t believe me!)
January is one of the biggest months for fitness and workout challenges! Lots of gyms, studios, and boutique fitness locations host a January challenge to encourage people to start to build healthy habits to back their New Year’s resolutions. For example, Gold’s Gym has a 12-week challenge for gym members only. Some OrangeTheory Fitness locations will start their transformation challenges in January. And it’s not just the big chains and franchises: a quick google search led me to wish I lived in Charleston, South Carolina so I could do the Ignite 2019 challenge at This Time Fitness.
Online Fitness Challenges Work Just As Well
Personally, I find that a fitness challenge is a great way to help me stay on track, and you don’t have to belong to a gym or studio to participate. One of the groups I managed on Facebook has had lots of success with a monthly-themed challenge. If you prefer to work out at home, want to save money, or you just live too far from any facility offering a challenge, there are LOADS of options. The same goes for not starting in January. Maybe you’re moving house, changing jobs, having a baby, or otherwise just not down with January. Many sites with streaming content, such as Yoga International, have all sorts of options that you can start any time you want!
In general, an online or virtual workout challenge will include (1) a workout plan or template, (2) a qualified professional (e.g. for a running challenge, a coach with Revo2lution Running, RRCA, or USATF certification), (3) a Facebook group or other forum for chatting with other participants, and (4) prizes (maybe). Not every challenge includes all of these items, and some may include more–videos, printables, etc. Depending on the challenge’s rules, you might be required to check in each day, submit photos, or provide measurements–but don’t let that stop you. MANY challenges don’t have any requirements, and you can play along with any challenge by doing the workout even if you don’t submit materials to win prizes.
I’m collecting up all the challenges I can find to share with you–pick one and jump right in! (There’s still plenty of time to choose and get ready!)
Run the Year 2019
Website: https://runtheedge.com/run-the-year-2019/ Challenge: Run 2019 Miles (or your choice of miles) alone, or as part of a team Led by: Run The Edge (Adam Goucher, Tim Catalano, and friends) Start/Duration: January 1 to December 31, 2019 Cost/Discount: $25, $37, $57 (depends on swag pack selected) $3 discount if you use my affiliate link: http://runtheedgestore.refr.cc/elizabethbain Content: Basic package includes access to the tracker (online/mobile), RTY 2019 Mileage Guide and plan, private Facebook groups, access to RTY FIT (a community for planning meet-ups) and local/regional Facebook groups. I expect there will be some fun monthly challenges as well! Swag: Upgrade to Deluxe to add a Challenge Medal, Legacy Coin for 2019, a mileage tracking poster and stickers. Upgrade to Get It All to add a hi-tech challenge shirt. Disclosure: I have done this challenge every year it has existed, and I collect the Legacy Coins. I am the Lead FITster for Portland, Oregon and the moderator of the related Facebook group. If enough people use my affiliate link, I get credit to use in the Run The Edge store.
Website:https://www.blogilates.com/100abchallenge-begins-jan-1st-you-in/ Challenge: Perform 100 reps of a specific Pilates abs exercise every day Led by: Cassey Ho, aka Blogilates Start/Duration: January 1 to January 31 Cost/Discount: Free Content: Printable calendar of exercises, daily video of each exercise performed by Cassey. (If you haven’t checked out the Blogilates YouTube channel, you should! There are free workouts in the app, too. Plus if you subscribe to the newsletter, every month there is a new workout calendar–free–with a theme or focus.) There is a designated hashtag for social media posting/community Swag: None (but it’s FREE) Disclosure: I’m a huge fan of Cassey. Nicest most real-deal Pilates instructor I have ever had the pleasure to meet.
30-Day Be a Better You Challenge
Website:https://grokker.com/individuals Challenge: choose from four challenge options (mindfulness, healthy eating, fitness, yoga) Led by: Various instructors on grokker Start/Duration: January 2 to January 31, 2019 Cost/Discount: Free if you are new to grokker, with a 37-day trial period (but after January 31, access to grokker is $14.99/month OR you can choose to pre-pay a year at $9.99/month OR you can cancel) Content: 30 videos selected by the grokker team (but you also have access to all of the other videos on grokker during your trial) Swag: Four winners who accrue more than 100 points will receive an an Apple TV; winners selected via raffle/random drawing from all eligible participants Disclosure: I signed up for the yoga challenge–why not? I’ve never tried grokker. (Look for a review sometime later…)
The Barre3 January Challenge
Website: https://barre3.com/januarychallenge Challenge: Follow the barre3 and Headspace Mindfulness Plan Led by: instructors from barre3 (including founder Sadie!) and Headspace Start/Duration: January 7 to February 3, 2019 Cost/Discount: $29 online OR $99 in studio Content: Online option: unlimited access to 500+ Barre3 classes online (auto-renews on February 4, 2019 unless you cancel) OR Studio option: unlimited Barre3 classes in studio and free unlimited access to Barre3 online. Both options include one free month of the Headspace app, the Mindfulness Plan, and daily email with the daily plan. Swag: None. You can purchase optional equipment (light hand weights, yoga mat, resistance band, core sliders, core ball) when you register. Disclosure: I’ve enrolled in this challenge twice…and never actually finished it. Oops. Of all of the barre-based workouts, Barre3 is in my top two for quality of instruction and programming, and for being rooted in the science of movement. Unlike so many other barre-based workouts, this one won’t send you straight to the chiropractor!
Whole Life Challenge
Website: https://www.wholelifechallenge.com Challenge: Commit to seven habits, every day, for six weeks. Led by: Andy Petranek, Michael Stanwyck, and the WLC team Start/Duration: January 19 to March 1, 2019 (additional challenges start in April, July, and September) Cost/Discount: $39 for new players, $29 for returning players; $89 Annual Membership (four challenges) Content: “The Whole Life Challenge is a six-week online, community-building, habit-changing game that challenges you to create a happier, healthier life by making small changes to your daily habits. Playing along with your friends, and family, you’ll score points every day, focusing on seven key areas of health and well-being: nutrition, exercise, mobilization, sleep, hydration, lifestyle practices, and reflection.” Swag: Swag includes use of the app to track points, the Whole Self Assessment, and the online community. There are no prizes. The website includes free e-books you can read before you start. Disclosure: I have zero personal experience with this one. A friend of mine who does shift work has, and he mentioned being disappointed that the app tracked the day as ending at a certain time, causing him to “lose” some days.
30-Day Get Strong in 2019 Challenge
Website:https://www.livestrong.com/article/1012163-30day-slim-down-challenge/ (blog post/preview) https://www.livestrong.com/get-strong-challenge/ (signup) Challenge: 30 days of exercises and nutrition (new healthy recipes to try out) Led by: Workouts by Jordan Shalhoub, other content by the Livestrong.com team Start/Duration: January 2 Cost/Discount: Free Content: Daily email with a workout, recipes, motivational memes, playlist, and tips and advice. In addition to daily-themed workouts, and a healthy tip for each day, each week also has a health goal. Challengers have access to a Facebook group just for challengers. Swag: None Disclosure: I have no experience with this challenge.
Fit Chicks 28-Day Challenge
Website:https://www.fitchicks.ca/challenge Challenge: Daily workouts and nutrition plans for women to build habits Led by: Laura Jackson, founder of Fit Chicks Start/Duration: January 1 to January 31 Cost/Discount: $297 (though the website showed me a $97 offer) Content: 28 workouts under 30 minutes, 50 exercise tutorials, 8 streaming workouts, meal plans (vegan and vegetarian options available) with grocery lists, 45 simple recipes, healthy lifestyle videos, daily email motivation, Facebook group, private members site, email support. Swag: None (that I know of); additional purchases offered at a discount Disclosure: I have no experience with this challenge; I thought a challenge for women only might appeal to some of my friends. The challenge page has some video workout previews.
The Self Challenge
Website:https://www.self.com/join/sign-up-new-years-challenge Challenge: workouts and fit tips, including suggested meal plans Led by: contributors to Shape Start/Duration: January 2, 2019 Cost/Discount: Free Content: a workout plan, meal plans, nutrition tips, and more via email. Facebook group to talk all things challenge. Swag: None, but there are prizes. Sweepstakes prizes include a vacation at the Grand Fiesta American a Coral Beach. Disclosure: True confession, I have a soft spot for this challenge, which I first participated in way back in the 1990s. This year’s program includes 20 new bodyweight workouts, daily emails with motivation and advice, a Facebook group.
Gixo #FitForward Challenge
Website: Use Alyse’s affiliate link to get your free first week Challenge: I’m fuzzy on the details right now, but I bet it’s a month of workouts and sharing on social! Led by: Gixo trainers Start/Duration: January 1 Cost/Discount: first week is free, then $19.99/month (or $14.99/month if you pre-pay a year) Content: live audio and video classes via the Gixo app. These are NOT pre-recorded videos you can play over and over, but a live class, with an instructor teaching in real time, and other classmates sweating right there with you. Swag: Unknown at this time–I’ll update as I learn more! Disclosure: While I am not (yet?) a Gixo subscriber, I am a Sweat Pink ambassador, and Sweat Pink has an ongoing relationship with Gixo.
Lululemon 40/80 Challenge
Website:https://www.strava.com/challenges/lululemon-40-80-challenge-2019 Challenge: Run 40k or 80k in the first two weeks of the year Led by: YOU! Start/Duration: January 2 to January 15, 2019 Cost/Discount: Free (Strava’s premium membership, Summit, is optional; pricing varies–an “all three pack” is $5/month when you pre-pay a year) Content: Go run! Use Strava to record your runs, or use a device (such as Vi) that connects with Strava. Swag: Unknown–it’s a surprise every year. Last year there was a discount code good for online or in-store purchases. Also, you get a badge in the Strava app. Disclosure: I’ve run this one, and am signed up for 2019. If you are training for a race, like to run with friends, or already track your miles, go for it!
New Year Yoga Reboot Challenge
Website:https://www.yogadownload.com/Challenge.aspx Challenge: 3o minutes of yoga for 30 days Led by: rotating instructors on the YogaDownload platform Start/Duration: January 2 to January 131, 2019 Cost/Discount: $12 for one month of unlimited access to Yoga Download ($30 for three months, $90 for a year; all are cancel at any time) Content: A curated selection of “reset” and “reboot” yoga videos. Log in each day, do that day’s video, and then leave a comment about how it went. NOTE: if you like the idea of a daily yoga challenge but the idea of “reboot” doesn’t do it for you, Yoga Download also has a variety of other challenges (e.g. 5-Day Evening Yoga, 2-Week Yoga for Busy People, etc.). Swag: Unknown–there is a grand prize package, but I haven’t scoped it out. Disclosure: I’ve had a Yoga Download membership for years, so I’m in!
In your neighborhood. Since January is absolutely the most popular challenge month, there are literally dozens of other options. Check the website for your local gym, yoga space, cycling studio, or boutique fitness class for special class packs and challenges.
Disclosure: Merrithew Health & Fitness sponsored Sweat Pink’s BlogFest at IDEA World Convention for several years, and I am thankful for their sponsorship and for the programming they provided. The prizes for this giveaway were provided to me by Merrithew Health & Fitness as part of Sweat Pink’s BlogFest with no strings, no compensation, and no requirements (e.g I was not asked to write a blog post, host a giveaway, or do anything else). The entire contents of this post, including all words and opinions, are my own honest opinions.
Hey, it’s time to celebrate the Twelve Days of Christmas! “Wait,” you may be asking, “wasn’t Christmas yesterday?” Indeed, it was! The Twelve Days of Christmas are actually the twelve days in between Christmas (the First Day of Christmas) and the day Christians celebrate as the day the magi (the three wise men/three kings) arrived, also called Epiphany. Traditionally, the last of the twelve days was the day you took down the Christmas decorations (I swear, I am not making this up). You know Shakespeare’s play, Twelfth Night? That’s about the twelfth night of Christmas. But enough of the history lesson…On the SECOND day of Christmas, I offer you this review and giveaway!
The Pilates Fitness Circle. If you’ve ever looked at a Pilates Fitness Circle and thought, “that’s a weird gadget that I can’t imagine doing much for me,” I’m with you—I used to think the same thing. (Pilates Fitness Circle Resistance Ring is a trademark of Merrithew Health and Fitness. You may also have seen a similar gadget called by another name: Pilates ring, magic circle, exercise circle, exercise ring.) Even in my Pilates classes, the Fitness Circle was largely used to help with body placement and awareness. It never occurred to me that the Fitness Circle had a role to play in athletic conditioning.
Workout. I took the DVD “Athletic Conditioning with the Fitness Circle” for a test drive, using the Fitness Circle lite. (The Merrithew Fitness Circle also comes in two other models, flex and Pro. Flex provides less resistance and has a unique handle design that differs from the lite and the Pro. Pro is similar in design to lite, but is made of steel instead of plastic; as a result, the price for the Pro is $65.00 while the price for the lite is $34.99. It’s also a bit heavier than the lite.) This workout is part of Merrithew’s CORE line, focused on athletic conditioning and performance training, so it is not strictly Pilates. According to Moira Merrithew, who introduces the workout, the 27 exercises in the workout are focused on strength, alignment, and efficient biomechanics. I now have an entirely new outlook on the Fitness Circle (and I’m glad I have one of my own!).
The workout is led by John Garey, a Master Instructor Trainer for Merrithew Health and Fitness. Two additional Merrithew Instructor Trainers (meaning they train teachers to teach the classes) demonstrate all of the exercises. John’s instruction is clear and detailed, carefully explaining body positioning and movement step-by-step. If you have never done any Pilates or mat-work style exercise before, you’re in good hands with John—just follow his instructions. Of course it is a video, so if you miss an instruction, you can take a look at the movement on the screen and follow along. That said, if these exercises are new to you, there are some exercises you may have a difficult time performing at the same tempo/speed as the DVD. I found this true of the hinge-back with rotation exercise.
The warm-up uses the Fitness Circle to assist with some stretches that may already be familiar to you. Throughout the workout, the Fitness Circle acts as a replacement for a yoga strap in some stretches, which limits both the range of motion (in a good way—making the stretch more stable) and the amount of tension on the wrists and forearms.
I was skeptical of the “Level of Difficulty” rating, which is four out of five. That is, until about five minutes into the workout, when there is a series of kneeling hinge-backs that incorporate the Fitness Circle. (A “hinge-back” from the kneeling position involves keeping everything from your knees to the top of your head in a line, and taking that line straight back to a 45 degree angle.) Holy quads and abs! Several of the exercises involve using the Fitness Circle either between your ankles (pressing in on the Fitness Circle) or with both feet inside the Fitness Circle (pressing out). I found these more difficult than they looked, as one of my legs is clearly bossier than the other! I enjoyed the variations on classic Pilates exercises, including a modified version of The Hundred and a version of Shoulder Bridge where you press one arm behind you on the Fitness Circle.
What really kicked my butt, however, were the single leg bridge variations. The gist of the exercise is to press up into a bridge pose, then lift one leg while pressing the Fitness Circle into that leg. My other hamstring was ON FIRE. So much so that I couldn’t do even half of the set on either leg. WHOA.
While I am currently not at my optimal level of fitness, I found this DVD very accessible with an appropriate level of challenge. Given my experience teaching yoga to very muscular men, I strongly suspect that serious athletes (like CrossFit junkies) would find at least parts of this program very useful in conditioning smaller muscles that don’t get much love during a typical workout, such as the multifidus, and for the range of motion and movement principles.
Brand new to Pilates type movements? The DVD includes a tutorial on the Five Basic Principles (Breathing, Pelvic Placement, Rib Cage Placement, Scapular Movement & Stabilization, and Head & Cervical [spine] Placement).
Merrithew also offers additional DVDs that use the Fitness Circle as the only prop, including Fitness Circle Flow, the Fitness Circle Challenge, Power Paced Fitness Circle, and Precision & Control: Pilates with the Fitness Circle. If you prefer a workout that incorporates a reformer or more props, you can find more titles on the Merrithew website. Finally, there are a variety of other brands/companies/individuals that produce video content that incorporates the Fitness Circle and you can find many other options online.
This prize pack includes:
Merrithew Fitness Circle Lite in black (MSRP $34.99)
Athletic Conditioning with the Fitness Circle DVD (MSRP $16.95)
Merrithew Soft Dumbbells 1.65 pound each (MSRP $23.99)
Disclosure: As a Sweat Pink member, I received an ActivMotion Bar for review purposes via Fit Approach. ActivMotion is also offering you a 25% discount (read on for details). Per my editorial policy, all of the opinions in this review are my own honest thoughts.
If you’ve been to a Flywheel class, you’ve used one of the half-sized Body Bar to do the arm exercises in class. If you belong to a gym, you may have seen or used a full-length Body Bar in group ex class or with a trainer. The ActivMotion Bar start with the idea of a bar as a workout tool and ups the game: instead of a solid weighted bar with a rubber exterior, the ActivMotion Bar is a weighted bar composed of a hollow tube and metal balls inside. The exterior is metal, though there are rubber end caps so you don’t scratch the floor. When the ActivMotion Bar is level, the balls come to rest in the center. Change the angle even a wee bit and the balls start to slide, shifting the weight of the bar and challenging your balance and coordination!
I’ve played with ActivMotion Bars at the last few IDEA World conferences. Since I have the natural balance abilities of a drunken toddler, I was too shy to enter. My friend Sarah entered one of their IDEA World challenge sessions, during which participants go through a variety of movements and then hold a static position while holding the ActivMotion Bar horizontal with one hand. It’s MUCH harder than it looks! I was thrilled to get my hands on one to use at home–where I can work on my horrible balance with only myself laughing!–and trust me, you want one too.
First, the basics. According to creator Derek Mikulski, “The ActivMotion Bar was developed to provide an external stimulus that forces us to focus more on mind-muscle connection and to engage the core as we stabilize an unstable load, helping improve every aspect of fitness.” Derek, inspired to help others after losing 80 pounds changed his life, invented ActivMotion Bar as a tool to help his personal training clients. Being a Michigan native, I’ve also got a soft spot for any innovation that comes out of Detroit–but I’d be an ActivMotion Bar fan no matter where it came from! (Want a peek at the new HQ in Sterling Heights? Check out the September video newsletter.)
ActivMotion Bar comes in a variety of weights, from 3 pounds to 18 pounds. As the bar gets heavier, it gets thicker in circumference, not longer. There is also a new bar called the ActivMotion Glimpse Bar, which has a clear window in the center so you can see the rolling balls, and use visual input to help you maintain the horizontal position. (Whether this makes things harder or easier is up for debate!) I opted to try the 15 pound bar, and so far it is PLENTY heavy enough for me. My bar arrived in a sturdy cardboard tube, with the end caps reinforced with tape (otherwise the weight of the bar would easily bust through).
Don’t be fooled by the relatively low weight. If you’re used to doing your upright row or biceps curl with 20 pounds in each hand, that 18 pound bar is still going to kick your butt in new and interesting ways. The unstable weight forces your body to recruit more core muscles for balance, and as the weight shifts during difference exercises you can feel your body engaging slightly different parts of each muscle. For example, the first exercise I tried was a standing upright row. I can do this with a decent amount of weight on a standard barbell, or with a dumbbell in each hand. What I can’t tell using those tools is just how much I favor my right side–the balls started rolling left as soon as I began moving! This immediately required me to engage core muscles to maintain my upright position, as well as give more with my left arm. It sounds incredible to say the ActivMotion Bar engages 173% more muscles than the same activity done with a stable weight, but I believe it (and there is a 2015 University of Michigan study to back that claim).
When you buy an ActivMotion Bar, you get four free workouts (provided as digital downloads, not DVDs–immediate access, no plastic coasters). These include exercises you probably already know, like a biceps curl, but also exercises you might not think to do with the ActivMotion bar. One move I really like to do with the ActivMotin Bar is a variation on yoga’s “boat pose.” When I was teaching classes at Harbor Bay Club I used to up the ante by having everyone hold a light dumbbell and use it to “row the canoe” by twisting to one side and making a dipping motion with the weight, followed by the same movement on the other side. This is significantly more challenging with the ActivMotion Bar! Holding the bar in the center–there are white stripes on the bar for your hand position (approximately shoulder-distance apart)–you take boat pose and then row kayak-style. Each dip of your “oar” causes all the balls to roll to one side, shifting the balance of the bar. Twist while you do this, and you can feel your abs responding to that shift.
You can also purchase IGNITE, which is a 60-day program featuring 15 workouts led by 6 trainers. Each workout is 20-30 minutes, making it easy to fit into your busy schedule. You can download or stream the workouts (again, no plastic coasters). The program comes with a schedule you can follow (so you don’t have to decide which workout to do when), or you can mix it up. There’s also a dietary guide with nutrition information. IGNITE has a 30-day 100% money back guarantee. IGNITE can be purchased with an ActivMotion Bar, or without one (in case like me, you already own one). It’s just $60 to own all the videos ($25 to rent them), which is $1/day if you follow the entire program.
Opting-in to the newsletter guarantees you will receive a wealth of additi0nal information. For example, this week’s newsletter included a link to this video, featuring three variations on a hockey-inspired lateral move. You can find additional videos on the ActivMotion Bar YouTube channel.
Head to the ActivMotion website and use code fitapproach25 to save 25% on your purchase, now through January 7. (Hint: there’s a good pre-Christmas sale on right now–and the discount code stacks!–so don’t wait.)
Want to read what my fellow Sweat Pink Ambassadors thought? I swear, I’m not the only one who loves this fitness tool. Check out these other reviews!
I AM HUMAN. My body needs exercise. My body will always need exercise. This will never change. It’s not negotiable—it’s science.
The world is filled with workouts and meal plans, most of them making promises that in X amount of time you can achieve Y result (and all you have to do is stop being so lazy and commit already). A quick walk through the exercise and fitness section of any bookstore demonstrates just how popular this formula is: 40 Days to Personal Revolution, 8 Minutes in the Morning… The last thing the world needs is another book laying out a rigid plan and making promises that “all you have to do” is follow the plan. So Lyn Lindbergh did NOT write that book.
Couch to Active is a book for anyone who wants to transition from couch-ing to exercising. Though the subtitle is “The Missing Link That Takes You From Sedentary to Active,” I personally hate the term “sedentary” as the starting point. Truthfully, many people who don’t exercise are not sedentary; instead, they are caring for young children or aging parents, working full time at demanding jobs, and otherwise constantly in motion mentally, if not physically. Lyn’s got your back, perfectly normal, average person with a full, busy life, and this book is for you.
The typical fitness book is written with a mixture of tough love (“suck it up, buttercup”) and praise (“you finished today’s workout—see you tomorrow!”) that can leave you feeling bad and discouraged when you can’t follow the plan to a T. Couch to Active is written with compassion and understanding. A big focus of the book is finding self-compassion while creating YOUR exercise plan for life. I can’t really say “it starts with baby steps” because you, the reader, get to decide how big the steps are, but it does start with self-inquiry and the entire program is about tailoring the plan to your actual life (not the hypothetical one where you sleep 8+ hours every night and have a personal Pilates trainer).
The typical fitness book has a plan laid out and orders you to follow it. While this may work for people with an abundance of motivation, energy, and free time, it doesn’t work for the rest of us. Instead of starting with a one-size-fits-most plan, Couch to Active begins with the premise that “We need to actually enjoy the exercise we do.” From there, Lyn skillfully guides you through some basic premises—injury-free is always the goal, social media can be a help or a harm—and then walks you through a step-by-step system to create your active life. Over the span of eight weeks, Couch to Active asks you to think critically and creatively about your life, your needs, and the barriers and obstacles to the active life you want to lead. While the process is broken down into bite-sized pieces distributed over two months, Lyn points out that you can tackle the work at your own speed—take two weeks, take a year—as long as you tackle it in order. If you’re like me and you hate being told what to do, go ahead and read the whole thing before you start—I concluded the process is laid out in a logical fashion that nudges each participant to succeed.
Couch to Active doubles as a workbook and Lyn encourages readers to write in the book. Each chapter is set up as a week with a theme, a worksheet to plan your exercise, and thinking/writing assignments. There is plenty of space to write in the book, including response pages within each chapter. Exercise worksheets, and extra pages for notes, though you may prefer a separate journal for some of the more introspective portions. Each week, the exercise plan is up to you, and Couch to Active is not snobby about what constitutes “exercise,” recognizing that each reader will start in their own place. Instead of formulaic workout grids with 10 reps of each exercise, Lyn has created templates that reflect different circumstances that might parallel a real person. Instead of beginner, intermediate, and advanced, the samples have names like “I Hate Exercise, But My Doctor Is Making Me Do This” and “I’m a Chronic Mess of Health Issues.” Similarly, instead of generic checklists, Couch to Active has the reader create checklists tailored to their exact life circumstances.
Couch to Active is peppered with stories from real people, using their real names, though Lyn has also created two composite characters. These are people you can relate to–with jobs and kids and responsibilities–not celebrities with personal trainers on the payroll and unlimited me-time.
Unlike the typical fitness book, the only promise Couch to Active makes is that if you do the work to design your own active life, tailored to your situation and needs, and then follow your plan, you will end up living an active life. That’s the goal: an Active life.
Need some guidance on how to get to YOUR active life? Win a copy of Couch to Active! I have two to give away. Can’t wait to win one? Buy one here (affiliate link) via Amazon. Want a better price? Go to Lyn’s website, https://www.couchtoactive.com/shop and get the book directly from the author! You can also join the brand new “Couch to Active” club, for just $11/month. More details at Lyn’s website, HERE.