It's been said that exercice is better than Xanax, so we've put the spotlight on some of the fitness industry's top instructors, asking them to share their fitness philosphy and best workout tips.
An Equinox fitness instructor and the group fitness manager at Equinox Wall Street, Loi teaches a variety of classes throughout the city: Cycling, Body Sculpt, Cardio Sculpt, Abdominals, Bootcamp, and Bottom's Up. Her style is no-nonsense tough-love and her classes are meticulously designed to deliver results in the most time-effective, body-optimizing way. As an added bonus, Jordon has been known to have some of the best playlists in town.
What Loi says:
I'm a big believer in maximizing our time together. Let's get more done in less time and get results sooner! But while we're at it, let's have the time of our lives. That's why group fitness classes are so amazingly special. There's nothing like the energy, fun, and camaraderie of a great class. Definitely take group fitness classes and seek out the instructors whom you connect with and the classes that you enjoy. You're looking for someone who progressively pushes you and appropriately challenges you to take it to the next level with attention to proper form and technique. You always want to leave the room feeling super successful and feeling that you accessed something in yourself that you didn't know was there. And that you can't wait until the next class.
It's hard enough to teach one dynamic group fitness class, but at Barry's Bootcamp, Patrick Frost is essentially teaching two simultaneously as he guides half the class through a treadmill workout, while the other half is working out on the floor (think weights, push-ups, squats). Depending on the class, the two groups will swap spots between two or three times. Expect to leave any one of Patrick's classes looking as though you just stepped out of a hot yoga studio.
What Patrick says:
Be smart with what you put in your body. Realize that if you decide to eat those Oreos (my weakness), you have to work to expend those calories. A client of mine told me that my classes were "insane” but that they inspire her; "Train insane or remain the same," she now says. It’s also important to know what your body needs to fuel the intensity of the workout and switch up your routine every so often. Try new and effective ways of training (i.e. boxing, swimming, and obviously Barry's Bootcamp!). Stretching is something I'm majorly passionate about as well. Strengthening a muscle while in a stretched position is a great way to increase flexibility, which decreases your chance of injury. My motto is play hard work harder.
Given that an indoor cycling bike's flywheels weigh a good 30 pounds, if you don't crank up the bike's resistence, your wheels, not your legs, will be doing most of the work. Rachel Buschert, who teaches at studios throughout New York City, has a style that's reflective of real road training with a focus on proper biomechanics and effective training protocols. She's a master trainer for Schwinn and doesn't let any class go by without multiple reminders to crank up that resistence nob. Check out some of her cycling playlist suggestions here.
What Rachel says:
Often times gym-goers go to a class or go to the gym and think that's enough. It's not enough to just be on the bike or be on a machine. You have got to do work and hard work at that. It's called working out, key word: WORK!! The worst attitude at the gym is the mindset of 'this is good enough.' I encourage my students to not settle for less than they've got and usually they've got way more than they think. I design many of my workouts based on real road cycling techniques and the coaching aspect of class is based on this quote: 'Limitations are for people who have them. Excuses are for people who need them.' My motto is, 'No limits, no excuses.'
Stephanie Levinson teaches a number of workouts at Equinox, Sports Club LA, and at various other studios throughout the country (see her DVDs here). Among her most popular classes are Core Ball, a 45 minute workout that is done while holding 2, 4, or 6 pound balls (believe me, that ball starts feeling heavy really fast), and Aspen Ascent, which was created in partnership with Aspen/Snowmass and is designed to prepare students for skiing by enhancing cardiovascular capacity while improving balance, agility, and core strength. Expect to alternate between cardio intervals (for agility and speed), strength and balance moves, and core and flexibility training.
What Stephanie says:
Have a plan! Map out your weekly workouts every Sunday night and stick to your schedule. You will feel great when you keep your commitment to yourself. Check to see if you have a nice balance of activity over the course of the week (i.e. cardio, strength; hard, easy). Include at least two to three high intensity workouts within your week to keep metabolism up and your fitness level improving. In class, I try to take you out of your comfort range with short bursts of cardio and multi muscle strength training movements to get results and maximize caloric output.
Indoor cycling studios are a dime a dozen these days, but SoulCycle's spiritual approach puts it in a league all its own. Dubbed a spin-agogue by Jill Kargman, everyone has their list of favorite instructors at SoulCycle, but with a unique ability to motivate students to push their hardest while putting their mind at ease, Stacey Griffith stands out even amidst the cream of the crop that teach at the multi-studio chain.
What Stacey says:
First things first – let's be honest, things don't fit like they did before, especially after winter. DON'T PANIC. We are all in the same boat. There are a few easy tips that I tell my students during our first weeks of Spring. First, put on your favorite workout gear, your favorite playlist, and go into the middle of your living room – all alone. This is your moment, your 'fire up time' — your physical meditation for the day. Stay focused, positive, and motivated to get back to feeling good. If you set aside an extra 15 minutes in the morning to do this, do it again an hour before you go to bed, and watch what you eat, by June you will be bikini ready. It's not hard, it just takes commitment; the hard part is eating smart until summer.
Try to do more 'lateral movement exercises' like side lunges (step out to the side and squat with your hands out in front, alternating legs, 10 on each side, sets of two); 30 second high knees are also great – remember this: HIGH KNEES…MAKE BETTER HEINEEES. Donkey kicks on the ground (get down on your forearms and knees, keep your chin up, spine straight, raise your flat foot straight up to the ceiling as high as you can) are also highly effective.
Do the side lunges, the high knees, and the donkey kicks as a set, as fast as you can, two times. If you have the energy and the time… do it again. This is great right before breakfast, lunch, or dinner… you can do it three times a day – it will probably take you less than 10 minutes!!
Which brings me to what to eat, pre and post workout. This is such a case by case basis; it really depends on your body and what you are able to digest and what you are comfortable with. Many of my clients cringe at the thought of eating or drinking before a workout, but my worry is always that they have the fuel to perform the duties! Hopefully you had a great balanced dinner of protein, carbs, and fiber. We need healthy carbs for energy and protein for strength and regeneration.
Meals between 1,000 to 1,500 calories take three to four hours to digest and convert into energy, smaller (600 calories) meals will take two to three hours, while under 300 calorie meals take an hour, so I think little bites an hour before of banana, fruit, or for sugar freaks, dark chocolate, are great options.
My favorite recovery drink is a fresh coconut on ice from Juice Generation or the Supa Dupa Greens which has kale, spinach, apple, cucumber, lemon – trust me, it’s better than Gatorade and has no sugar.
The key is to really enjoy the journey of it all!
Don't be fooled by his angelic looks because Wil Ashley's drill sergeant approach can be scary (in a fantastic you're-going-to-get-results way, of course). The cycling pro meticulously plans out every nuance of his ride and times everything to a weekly changing playlist therfore he, rightfully, insists that everyone stick to the required RPM (rotations per minute) and positions he outlines. Wil isn't one to dish out complements easily, but his masterful teaching and obvious skills on the bike (he has done distance cycling trips of 350 miles-plus) will make you want to go above and beyond to earn one.
What Wil says:
My approach to teaching is very simple – be specific. Now that we can see the pace of our legs, cycling no longer has to be ambiguous or random. We now can do specific, targeted workouts leading to a greater level of success, which can be tracked over time. Out of all group fitness type classes, cycling was the only format where people were allowed to do whatever they felt like. Now, we can literally hold someone accountable for the pace, leading to a more effective workout where there is less of an ability to fake or cheat. To get results, to achieve a particular RPM or heart rate, it must be earned, forcing the participant to really work. The bikes are not magic and just because your legs are moving doesn't mean you’re working.
Music is key and I try to separate myself from everyone else. I am a firm believer in diversifying and experimenting. There are tons of cycling classes every day, and everyone is playing the same songs over and over again — I don't ever want to be 'that guy.' I spend hours and hours and tons of money every week looking for, listening to, and trying out new music. I frequent several blogs, search out obscure bands, and figure out what works. I have a very strict rule of making one class CD per week. Once I have played that CD for a week, the ride and music on that CD will never ever be repeated…ever. I hate repeating music. I think it's a sign of laziness.
If you’re new to cycling, come prepared to fail and expect the worst, that way your expectations will be set in a way where things can only improve. Keep in mind that cycling, like most other disciplines, is like learning a new language. You have to keep trying and keep repeating the process over and over again. In time, you will get stronger, more confident, and more capable. The more you do it, the better it gets. Rome was not built in a day, so remember that slow steady persistence always wins the race. Also, don't be afraid of structure. Structure and consistency allows the participant a way of seeing true, uninterrupted results. I guarantee you won't like it at the time, but you will love the results when you see them.
Kira Stokes, founder of the "Stoked Series" of classes (includes Stoked 360, Stoked Primal, Stoked At The Barre, Stoked Cross-Core, Stoked Abs, Stoked Uptown/Midtown, and Stoked In The Park), is about as hardcore as it gets. Her signature Stoked 360 class combines conditioning, body weight, and endurance exercises in cardiovascular intervals and each high-intensity interval is repeated three times. What sets her interval-based class apart is that in between intervals, students don't idly watch Kira to find out what's coming up, but jump rope as she outlines what the next interval will entail.
What Kira says:
1. Form First — Always learn and feel confident in an exercise or movement before adding weight, speed or power. There is no point in doing an exercise if it is done incorrectly.
2. Change Your Routine — Shock it to rock it! You must change your routine to transform your body. This may entail varying the intensity, frequency, duration and/or exercise choice. You have to keep the body guessing.
3. Jump Rope — Incorporate jumping rope into your regime. Jumping rope not only burns mega calories, it gets your heart rate up to a fat blasting level. Jumping rope also tones the shoulders, legs and actively works your abdominals. Owning a jump rope ensures you will never be without a gym!
4. Make HIIT Training (High Intensity Interval Training) like Stoked 360, your go-to choice for a challenging, focused, sweat filled workout. This method is proven to be a super effective way to burn calories, rev your metabolism and create lean muscle mass.
5. Avoid Steady State Cardio — Check your heart rate frequently to make sure you are in your target heart rate zone and indeed challenging your cardiovascular system. Incorporate intervals where your heart rate reaches 80% of your max heart rate (220 – age x .80). If you are able to read a book or magazine while working out, you are not working hard enough.
6. Do not become a "cardio junkie" and neglect weight training. The more muscle you have on your body, the more calories you burn at a resting state which leads to a strong lean body.
7. Core, core, and more core. Every movement we do requires the use of the core. It is the powerhouse of the body. Keep it strong and the rest will follow!
8. Think of meals as snacks that should be eaten frequently during the day. Six snacks a day keeps extra weight away! Eat your largest, complex carbohydrate snacks toward the beginning of the day — eat breakfast like a king, dinner like a pauper.
There aren’t many men who can pull off Spandex, but Omar Sandoval – who makes Hercules look like he needs to hit the gym – can do that at the drop of a hat. Born in Ecuador, Omar has worked his way up the industry ladder and now, quite possibly, has the most loyal following I’ve ever seen. He teaches a variety of classes, but his signature class is a combination of cardio and conditioning called Titan Method. Omar leads nearly 30 classes a week (way, way, way more than the average instructor) and he actually goes through the entire workout with his class (this is not common). In fact, not only does he go through the whole workout, if you take any of his weekend classes (the most intense), he’s probably the only one who CAN do the whole workout (how many people do you know who can follow up two minutes of push-ups with 80 level three burpees?). You might not be able to keep pace with his non-stop weekend classes (dead-lifts alternated with rows using heavy weights are considered a “recovery exercise”), but Sandoval lets you know that that’s OK while motivating you to push your hardest.
What Omar says:
To me, fitness is the same as life. In life, we ask ourselves three main questions: Who are we? Why are we here? Where are we going? Working out will define for you how mentally strong you are and how you will deal with situations life brings you. When facing challenges, we find out what we are made of and what type of person we are. If we fall, do we get back up or just lie there? Once we've established a sense of who we are, it opens us to ask why we are here. From there, it's up to each of us to decide where we are going. In Titan Method, I've created a class format that constantly challenges people to reach new levels in fitness. It forces people to discover the depth of their mental strength, and demands they use that to face life situations, however simple or complex.
For people who can't make it to a gym, I suggest they use dumbbells at home, or in the park, and I'm an advocate of bodyweight training. Although all my classes are based on full body and functional movements, it isn't necessarily about what people do, but how intensely they do it. Always work harder. Always push further. Always ask the three questions.
Angel teaches a variety of classes throughout New York City, but his two signature classes are Toma and Purgatory BootCamp. The former is a circuit-based boxing class, while the latter is a high intensity, no-nonsense conditioning/cardio class that includes exercises like push-ups, squats, and lunges repeated in intervals. Time-efficent and results-driven, it's little surprise that Angel has a loyal following of students that cross the city throughout the week to take his classes.
What Angel says:
Since, for most of us, our time is precious nowadays, why not make the most of the time allowed by pushing our physical limit to its maximum in an efficient and effective way? In order to get what you want, you have to put serious work into it. This is not just meant for the gym, but for life as well — work, education, a committed relationship, etc. You gotta go through hell to get to heaven. There should be no excuse not to move every day, be it high or low intensity, for at least 30 minutes. That's as long as a comedy show. With a jumprope and using your own body as the main source of resistance (push-ups, lunges, squats), you can tax your heart rate and conditioning level to keep your body active if you cannot make it to the gym that day.