By Regina Kravitz-Crehan
While the rest of us are still trying to get our 40 winks, the early morning exercise devotees are digging in and frequenting a host of intense boutique exercise studios, with promises of optimum fitness, fat loss and lean beach bodies. For those whose jobs demand an early a.m. start, i.e., financial markets, education, the medical world, etc., or just “get it out of the way” early risers, there are a ton of new options to pick from. These studios are not typical gym settings. They feel more like super charged clubs with dim lights, DJ music and a strong team like, social vibe. Motivational, superbly toned trainers call out instructions through head sets and keep the class going at a high vibrating pace.
While city streets are mostly empty, the crack of dawn workout fan with water bottle in hand, is taking the morning jog concept to a whole new level. “No pain no gain” is definitely the mantra of these new super-pumped workout additions. And as the saying goes, “If you eat a frog in the morning, the rest of the day will be just fine”. So from an early a.m. dance party to rowing and boot camp, here are a few picks to get you to your summer best!
Imagine a full on dance party starting at 7:00 am packed with over a thousand revelers dancing their derrieres off to a mix of blaring DJ’s and live musicians circulating in the gyrating crowd. All you need to do is set your alarm and off you go to ‘Daybreaker,’ a monthly morning boogie blast located in NYC, LA and Chicago. Mostly young business professionals and entrepreneurs in their 20’s to late 30’s light a fire on the dance floor and work out their stress before the day even begins.
In 2009, Matthew Brimmer, founder of Super Sproutz and CEO Radha Agrawal realized that young NYC career people needed an alternative venue to energy sapping late night dance clubs — which did not involve the usual 4 am club departure, too much alcohol a fast food fix on a nearby street corner and catching 2 hours of sleep before the work day starts. This monthly non-alcoholic, no drug, costume themed dance party, held in floating locations, is described on the Daybreaker website as “about love, mindfulness and mischief.” If 7:00 am isn’t early enough, it begins with a 6 am yoga class to really get you into the flow before the big breakout.
Targeted millennial products from health drinks, milk and super foods are sampled to the crowd. Califia Farms Cold Brew Almond Milk, Brooklyn’s MatchaBar and Blue Print Juice fueled the dance floor for this past St, Patrick’s Day event ‘Leprechauns, Bling and Rainbows’. Silicon Valley startups Soundcloud, Shutterstock, Flavorpill, and Thrillist, to name a few, have also been some of the event sponsors. The monthly imaginative dress theme turns into a fantasy costume party, much like Burning Man, the annual anti-establishment, week long, culture and art festival in the Nevada desert. Anything goes! January’s theme, for a chilly winter morning, was Onesies, the all in one, snap up, infant jammy. And yes, they are available in adult sizes.
Around 8:30 am, participants make a mad rush for their gym bags which contain the day’s work clothes and by 9:05 am, the place is empty. It’s an odd feeling to exit into an onslaught of morning commuters, most with scowls on their faces—when you just had such a fab time!
Speaking of fab — ever wonder why a rower has such a fabulous V silhouette? Now, you can simulate this excellent exercise variant to a stale gym routine at the Row House with three locations in NYC and one soon to open in Dumbo. Beginning at 5:30 am while the rest of us are snoozing, a hard driving pack of participants and celebs that include Kristin Chenoweth, who tweeted: Thanks again Row House, for kicking my butt are determined to get a maxed-out workout to the music of Beyoncé or Justin Timberlake and crescendo with the techno beat of Avici – for a motivational high to start the day.
The Row House was founded in 2014 by Eric von Frohlich and wife, Debra Srougo Frohlich who are both cross fit trainers and Spartan Challenge devotees. Their program encompasses the mastery of rowing which accentuates upper body definition and strength while incorporating extreme cardio and core stability relying on 40% leg and lower body to work effectively. It is ideal for people challenged by running or other foot pounding injuries. The stroke on the 3 ERG rowing machine strengthens core stability and opens the chest, to improve posture and increase breath. A definite antidote to “desk slump” or “kyphosis” which is a chronic forward curving of the spine exaggerated by our current dependence on the desktop computer.
As described by instructor Arielle Childs, the rowing movement is a horizontal squat in a stable back position, with a dead lift forward movement.
To explain this; one sits in a seat on a sliding frame, feet firmly strapped into foot pads. Arms reach forward, knees bent, momentum is created with a strong pull back as legs straighten on the track. There is no preset intensity level as on a treadmill or stationary bike. One’s own power in the stroke, stokes the speed. The effect is long and lean!
Once you have the movement down, and it does take a good half of the first session to “get” it. The PIK drill, as the standard stoke sequence is called, is divided into 3 separate sets of about 10 minutes each within the 50 minute session. Classic whole body floor work, using weights or body weight add in biceps, triceps, chest and abs and voila: you’ve earned a good breakfast!
If boot camp relays and impossible speed movements are your thing, the uber athletic Tone House located at 20 East 17th St. is the new hot spot! This new entry in the Warrior Fitness trend of hyper aggressive exercise sessions, is about as high powered and challenging as it gets. Classes starting at 5 am, are taught by founder Alonzo Wilson, or his cadre of super human trainers.
Wilson a fitness model, with the physique of Michelangelo’s David trained professional athletes, toughening them up for the body jolts and impact of pro sports. TH clients are driven hard through sequential drills of ‘crocodile walks’, relays, walking planks and resistance isolated exercises using Val slides, covered bungee cords and other equipment not seen in traditional gyms. Though everyone works at their own speed, the team cheering and frequent huddles elicit the most out of every trainee. The age range is 20’s-40 with a few older participants that all love the suffering and the Tone House’s Mantra “get comfortable with being uncomfortable”. For most of us, tunes such as (Bitch Better Have My Money and Khalifa’s; We Dem Boys) are not exactly a mellow way to ease into the day…but they do set the mood perfectly for the energizing workout of TH, soon to open another studio in the mid ‘30’s of Manhattan.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is not new but works. Best described as a highly effective mix of cardio and multiple isolated exercises, it stimulates the fast twitch muscles which then release HGH (human growth hormone) creating not only weight loss and muscle tone, but the good vibe high from the release of serotonin and dopamine, in less time than a comparative gym workout.
In 2012 when Kari Saitowitz, stumbled on HIIT and found herself losing weight, flattening an ever present tummy (even after 2 kids) and getting in the best shape of her life, she knew she had struck gold. She established the Fhitting Room with 2 NYC locations and made it into an intimate, ultra-hip, small group setting with lots of personal attention. The customized Fhitting Room workout would be hard to duplicate on your own as the ultra-quick pace and high energy cues from the trainers leave little time for thinking.
It’s a nonstop rush and clients say they never get bored as it is always different. Trainers Daury Dross and Simon Lawson describe it as a series of aerobic and anaerobic routines to build strength and weight loss through cardio and alternate strength training reps. At 6:00 am, using varied equipment from kettle bells, bands, weights, medicine balls, and more, about 12-24 sweat covered clients cover the gamut of push-ups, planks, squats, (lots of squats and glute work, Ladies) military presses, superman back stabilizers and all sorts of crunches. Fhitting Room is also offering a special Beach Body challenge.
Whatever you pick, disciplining yourself to work out early is a habit you will keep for the rest of your life.