Monday, October 20, 2014

DHF Lakeview: Group Training

DHF Lakeview is what I refer to as my Saturday gym. Meaning unless I'm out of town, I look forward to going there every Saturday.  Why? Well it doesn't hurt that it's super close to my house...but the real reason is that I love the classes!

DHF stands for Dan Hicks Fitness.  Dan is the owner and teaches all of the group fitness classes. He is one of the most outgoing trainers I've ever worked with. In just a few training sessions, he felt like an old friend who I want to go back and train with every week.  His classes are really small - I've never been there with more than 4 people in a class - so it feels very personal which is a unique change from so many gyms in Chicago. He also has some great regulars who I see every week and have enjoyed getting to know.

The classes are interval training with multiple stations, similar to many other gyms in Chicago. Because the class is so small, Dan modifies the class each day depending on what works best for the folks in the class. Often times he'll ask me what I focused on the day before and give those muscles a break (which I was so grateful for after one tough Friday arm day!).  He has tons of unique fitness devices that I haven't seen at other gyms including the Surge360 (which Dan is on above), the Step360, and the Total Gym GTS. He balances those with lots of familiar equipment like free weights (dumbells and kettlebells), TRX, steps, ropes and gliders.  He also uses some traditional gym equipment (like an adjustable cable crossover machine) in unique ways that I've never seen before.

The class itself is non-stop. Dan doesn't give you any time to get bored with exercises. You typically are on each exercise for 30 sec to a minute and instead of repeating it over and over he chooses another exercise that works the same muscles for the next round. He has tons of variety in the class and I've done everything from box jumps and medicine balls slams, to TRX rows and kickboxing drills (with gloves). It really keeps you on your toes!

The aspect of Dan's class that I find most unique and awesome is the directed stretching, both at the beginning and end of class. So many trainers start class off with a cardio warm-up and at the end either just tell you to stretch or quickly walk through some basic stretches. Dan really takes the time to help you learn how to stretch right. I've heard for years how great foam rollers are, but never really knew how to use them beyond the most basic rolling along my back and legs. Dan walks you through how to maximize using the foam roller, which helps with some of those hard to stretch muscles like the IT-band. He'll also walk through how to stretch on the ground, with the TRX, or on a table. I've never been to another trainer who paid this much attention to stretching but I think it's really great!

Bonus: his girlfriend, Val (who is super nice) teaches yoga a couple days a week at the studio as well!

DHF Lakeview
Trainer: Dan Hicks
Class: Group Training
Where: 644 W Addison St, Chicago, IL 60613
Price: $25 drop in, $200 for 10 classes (your first class is free!)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Trainology: Hike45

When my triathlon-running, amazing athlete friend was visiting from DC a few weeks ago, she asked me where a good place would be to try a class in Chicago. Without hesitating, I sent her to Trainology. If you want to leave the gym feeling like you just worked, take a Hike class (Hike45, Hike60, or Glide/Hike) at Trainology. I seriously think it's the hardest workout in the city in terms of endurance.

In all the classes at Trainology, your class is split into 4 blocks (15 minutes each in a 60 min class or 11 minutes in a 45 min class). You spend the first and third block on the treadmill and the second and fourth on the floor (or visa versa).  In a Hike class, the treadmill goes all the way up to a 30 degree incline. That is STEEP. The trainer will walk you through a series of hills, like you're hiking a mountain. Everything is scalable, and the trainer will tell you if you should be at an easy pace, 70% of your effort, full effort etc. You can decide if you want to run or walk, and how fast, based on those cues. The floor consists of strength training with TRX and free weights, and now the classes will tell you ahead of time which body parts you'll focus on (mine worked on abs and upper body). If you do the Glide/Hike, then your time off the treadmill is spent on the glide boards.

Another thing I love about Trainology is that they use MyZone heart rate monitors up on the screen so you can see how hard you're pushing. Unfortunately, it's only compatible with WiFi-based heart rate monitors like the MyZone (my Polar doesn't work), but they sometimes have extras that they'll let you borrow. I think it's a great way to see if you're working your hardest - or too hard - all the way through class.

I would be crazy to talk about Trainology and not talk about the trainers. These guys (and gals) are AWESOME. I'm always amazed at how they can teach two groups (treadmill and floor) at the same time. Both groups are constantly doing different exercises or changing their speed or incline on the treadmill, but they are great at keeping track of what's next and when it's time to switch it up. I'm always super impressed. I took my most recently class with Dani, who has lots of energy and is awesome at making sure you understand how everything works with their incline treadmill. I've also taken several classes with the owner, Michael, who was recently on Live with Kelly and Michael as one of the Top Fitness Instructors in the Nation. This came as no surprise to me as not only is he one of the nicest trainers I've ever met, but he is so great at what he does. His energy level and enthusiasm for what he does is unmatched.

(I should note if you're looking at my heart rate readout below, I totally messed up this class. I'm so used to the 60 minute class that I didn't switch back to the treadmill after my first time on the floor, since I felt like I still had more time to go. So I ended up doing treadmill-floor-floor-treadmill, which explains the peaks at the beginning and end. Don't worry - it's usually very obvious when it's time to switch - I can just be a little ditzy when I'm exhausted!)

While lots of gyms in Chicago use this format where they switch between the treadmill and the floor, I've found the Hike and Glide/Hike classes totally unique. I'm definitely not a runner, but I love hiking (I grew up in New England after all), so for me this is my favorite endurance exercise. Plus, you can burn more calories even walking at a steep incline than you do running at a low incline! And, if you're lucky, you'll get to meet Michael's adorable Great Dane, Nikolai after class!

Trainers I've Tried: Dani (Knecht) Muckley, Michael Wollpert, Emily Stubler
Class: Hike45
Where: 309 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60654
Price: $165/mo, $20-25/class punchcard/drop-in (first class is free!)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Crosstown Fitness: Total Body

The first time I attended CrossTown Fitness was back in March as part of my NTC Resolution Crew. I loved the atmosphere! The music was pumping (with live music by DJ Sye Young - not that last time I saw him at CTF!), which started everyone off with lots of energy. The exposed brick and turf give CTF an urban feel that makes you want to work and sweat. They had tons of equipment from treadmills to large medicine balls to lots of free weights.  They gave us a free pass to come back for the rest of the week, and by the end of that week I was hooked. I bought a Living Social deal for an unlimited month and have been back to visit even after my month was up!

Every workout at CrossTown is totally different. It's based on high intensity interval training (HIIT) but the number of stations, the time at each circuit and of course the exercises vary widely. I've done classes where the time at each circuit decreased then increased (60 sec-45 sec-30 sec-45 sec-60 sec...that last round was TOUGH!), I've had ladders where you went down a list of exercises, did a block run, then went back up the same exercises, and I've done more traditional circuits where you go through 3 or 4 times with tabatas in between and then change to a new set of exercises. I like that the treadmill is often incorporated into the circuits since I am not a great runner and it gives me short intervals to train and get better.

Since all of the classes are different, some are definitely much harder than others, but they're all very scalable.  There is lots of variety by trainer too. Kailee has tons of pep and keeps the energy really high the whole class. Betina's classes have lots of variety and push you to work hard. Andrea is tough and pushes you beyond what you thought you could handle. Mike really focuses on technique (he seriously improved my deadlift game after a full hour of deadlifting during a Strength class). And Dawn is the nicest person ever...but her workouts will still kick your butt.

At my most recent class, Kailee was subbing for Betina and had me laughing the whole class. She is so much fun and keeps you smiling, even when you're working your hardest.  And man, was I working my hardest! We had 6 stations with 2 exercises each. We spent 6 minutes at each station, cycling through 12 rep sets of each exercises. Yes, we were moving CONSTANTLY! And the exercises weren't easy - there were burpees, sumos on the bench, push-ups, kettlebell swings, etc. Plus one of the stations was the treadmill where we increased the incline 2% for every 0.1 miles we ran. Talk about exhausting! All of the members at CTF are pure motivation - they work their butts off. When I got to the burpee station, one of the girls who'd just completed it told her friend in my group that she did 58 burpees (sets of 12 burpees with 12 toe touch crunches between each set). When I got around to my last round she had set a goal in my mind that pushed me to finish instead of giving up.  I love that! It was an all around awesome workout that left my adrenaline high!

Bonus: I can stop at Mariano's nearby on Halstead on the way home!

CrossTown Fitness
Trainers I've Tried: Kailee Martin, Betina Gozo, Andrea Hassberger, Michael Mendoza, Dawn Guliuzza
Class: Total Body
Where: 1037 West Madison Ave, Chicago, IL 60607
Price: Unlimited $150-180/mo, punch cards/drop-in $18.25-25/class (or $30 for three visits in your first week)

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Fit Results: Bootcamp

I took my first bootcamp class with Lou when he was still at his old location on Dearborn.  Since then, he's moved into a new space conveniently located just a block from the Harrison Red Line stop. The new space is cozy, but just the right size for his small group classes which he caps at 16. Since September, I've been attending classes often five days a week, so I've seen lots of variety.

These classes will kick your booty. Lou likes to mix up cardio intervals (box jumps, block runs, burpees) with lots of strength exercises (pull ups, push ups, dead lifts, bicep curls).  He incorporates free weights (dumbells and kettlebells) with other equipment like TRX, band-assisted pull ups, and a variety of different sized boxes. Usually, class has 2-4 circuits, which he repeats 4 times with a blast in the middle which could be anything from a block run to pushup planks to leg lifts. That's not to say that workouts are the same every day. In fact in over 6 months of attending his classes I've never done the same workout twice. Although Lou goes through the stations really quickly, I think this saves time so you don't spend your whole workout watching him demonstrate - you're moving the whole time instead! Luckily he has lots of regulars always ready to help you if you're unfamiliar with an exercise.

Which brings me to my favorite thing about this gym, the sense of community. Lou teaches all of the classes and after meeting him once he remembers you. He calls you by name and walks around to make sure you're doing the exercises right (and push you when he knows you're being lazy!). Plus, you see the same faces every day. Everyone is super friendly and supportive of each other.

Although I'm still bouncing around from gym to gym right now, Fit-Results has definitely become my home gym. I love working out with Lou, who always keeps me working hard but also laughing, as well as the awesome people who work out at the gym. Since I started working out with Lou, I can tell I'm getting stronger and losing body fat. If you haven't been yet, you should definitely check it out!

Trainer: Lou Centeno
Class: Bootcamp
Where: 620 S. Dearborn, Chicago, IL 60605
Price: $70/mo (or $45 for your first month, first class is always free!)