Guest Post: Off the Couch

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In addition to our spectacular The North Face Giveaway, we’ve partnered with Lauren Fairbanks, Chicago Mountain Athletics trainer, to guide us (and you!) on our trail running journey up to the Wisconsin Endurance Challenge in September.  This week, Lauren is sharing how to start a training program.  If you have been glued to your sofa, watching Netflix with a slice of pizza lying on your chest, this is a great place to begin.  If you have the idea that “I’m a NOT a runner”, this is for you too.  Welcome to Chi Organic Girls, Lauren!

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Lauren Fairbanks is a Certified Personal Trainer and Holistic Health Coach with a passion for helping people reach their goals.  As a lifelong athlete with an expansive knowledge of nutrition she strives to share her expertise with everyone she meets.  She loves working with people and helping open their eyes and minds to the positive effects of proper nutrition, physical activity and living a balanced life.  Lauren was a Division I Track & Field Athlete at Central Michigan University where she graduated with a B.S. in Dietetics.  Along with her Dietetics degree and personal training certification she also holds specialty certifications in Kettlebells, TRX, and Pre/Post Natal Training.  When she’s not busy working with clients you can catch her running or riding her bike around the city, cooking, checking out Chicago’s newest restaurant, or planning her next travel adventure.

GUEST POST

Off the Couch: How to get Started Training 

By Lauren Fairbanks

Sometimes the hardest part of beginning any exercise routine is simply just figuring out where to start.  With all the new fitness trends and loads of confusing health advice out there, it can quickly become overwhelming to any newcomer to running.  Running can be one of the most painful, but rewarding athletic endeavors to take on.  I hear a lot of people make the excuse “I’m not a runner,” or “I’m not fast enough to race.”  Pending you have no injuries and your body and mind is up for the challenge, anyone can be a runner.  Look around next time you’re walking past a race on a Sunday morning, runner’s come in all shapes, sizes and athletic abilities.

The awesome thing about running is that you can really do it anywhere, and you don’t need a fancy gym membership or a ton of expensive gear to be good at it.  It’s a great way to get fit, build up your confidence and enjoy the outdoors.  If you are brand new to running, I recommend joining a running group in your community to help get you started.

The most important part of beginning any training program is making a goal.  Goals not only give you a purpose in your training but they also give you something to focus on.  Deciding whether you want to run your first 5k or your first marathon will help you be able to lay the foundation for your training plan.  A beginner can run any race, its just about allowing enough time to train for it.  Next up: sign up for that race and share your goal with someone else.  This person will become your accountability buddy.  Your accountability buddy can be a person in your life that is supportive and encouraging and who is invested in helping you reach your training goals.

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The one important piece of equipment that you will need to start running is a good pair of shoes.  You can visit your local running shoe store and they will help get you fitted for a pair that works for your feet.  If you have never run before, a great way to start your training is with a run/walk method.  This can be as simple as 1 minute running followed by 1 minute walking for your desired distance.  As you feel more comfortable you can increase this to 2-3-4-5 minutes of running at a time.  There are tons of extensive running programs online, but sometimes its best to keep it simple and easy to follow when you are just starting out.  I would recommend getting in 3 runs/week, with one of those being your “long run”.  Your long run will vary depending on what distance you’re training for and how far along your are in your program.

It is so important to start any training plan at your own pace.  Starting a program that is way to aggressive for you can set you up for failure, disappointment and possibly even injury.  Making sure you start slow, and gradually build your speed and mileage will reduce your risk of injury and keep you feeling strong.  It’s so important to listen to your body and be patient with your progress.  You don’t go from couch potato to running 50 miles a week overnight.  Time, commitment and a good attitude will go a long way in running training.  If you stick with it long enough you might just experience that “Runners High” that you’ve heard all runners talk about, and that definitely makes all the hard work worth it.

Look for more tips from Lauren in upcoming posts. There’s still time to get outfitted in free The North Face Gear and join us at the Wisconsin Endurance Challenge. Check out our The North Face Giveaway today!

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20 Minute Toning: Ignite Fitness Review

Admit it.  Sometimes, during tough workout videos, you lie there huffing and puffing hoping your virtual teacher won’t catch you slacking.  That feeling is slightly guilty/awesome because you know this workout is challenging you.

It may seem that 20 minutes of fitness won’t do squat (HA!) but high intensity workouts can pack a punch for more energy and toning.  We received a complementary Blu-Ray copy of the Women’s Health Ignite workout starring Next Fitness Star winner Nikki Metzger to test its fit factor.  Nikki Metzger isn’t just some gym rat of the street.  She’s a Master Trainer and owner of BODI gym in Scottsdale, Arizona.  She’s not afraid to slap you with a bad @#s fitness routine.

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Ignite fires you up with 3 x20 minute stand alone (or get crazy and plow through all 3) workouts.  Bonus: An 8 minute bananas ab sequence in case you didn’t feel sore enough.

Workout Chapters:

BUILD

More of a traditional weights workout, but still maintains an interval format. Nikki demos the moves and sets before each change.  Free weight usage is optional, removing intimidation for the recently sedentary.

BURN

Guacs, this is a doozy.  Plyometrics take center stage for this cardio heavy chapter with crazy hard moves like the evil planky bear or real move name: Lateral Bear Crawl.

SWEAT

Your muscles will get HIIT from the front and the back with this 360 high speed interval routine.  Expect 45 second sets with 3 sets in each rotation.  Moves include modified burpees with a row added, plank walk outs and our Snapchat favsie: The Starfish Crunch.

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Workout Cheers

  • These 20 minute speed workouts torch calories and slow time.  You can fit this into a busy life!
  • Nikki’s lady crew each demo-ed a different move level for beginners up to bodybuilder lost your mind mode.
  • As a trainer, Nikki is approachable and encouraging.  Also, we like her fitanista style with 3 on fleek fit outfits to choose.

Workout Woes

  • 8 minute abs was like 8 minutes confused.  Transitions were too too fast so it was hard to follow where to move next.
  • Closed caption anyone?  This is 2016 so I am sure the fitness industry would want people with hearing issues to be able to follow along with verbal cues too.
  • Why do all workout videos have drum kit music created on a Casio keyboard for their background?  We suppose it’s necessary to appease a majority of viewers (?) but we think even keyboard cat could do better.

Final (Get) Cut

Extra Extra!  Get your 20 minute toning with Ignite here.  Not ready to commit? Check out a preview of Nikki’s training here.

Looking for other workouts?  Check out some suggestions from previous posts here.

Winter Running Gear: YakTrax Run

What is it about Midwestern winter (and sadly sometimes spring) that can totally diminish your run game?  The chill in the air, the icy scaled sidewalks, that daunting first inch of snow…man we wanna grab our snuggie and hot chocolate just writing this!  We kept trying to figure out how we could keep running safely when the weather outside became frightful Snow solution?  A fluffy white magical Yak picks you up and you sashay through the shivery slush…or you could try YakTrax for a more realistic tool for winter running woes.

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What’s a YakTrax you ask?  The name sounds like a new Dr. Seuss character and just in time for his birthday!  But we digress.  We read a couple of “Best of Winter Running Gear” articles and YakTrax brand traction devices dominated many a list so we ski jumped for joy when we were given a pair from Implus, fitness accessory brand leader, to trek across the blustery terrain.

Inspired by a Himalayan Sherpa, the original Yaktrax model features a spikeless coil design that grips the ice and snow with each step.  Yaktrax Run’s combination of removable spikes and steel coils, providing 360° of unbeatable traction.  Continue your training during the winter with the same stability you are accustomed to on dry surfaces.  The Yaktrax Run can be worn in temperatures as low as ‑41° Fahrenheit.

Mittens Up (Yup, Thumbs Up)

Throw your mittens in the air if you just don’t care…about running in the cold.  Here’s the positives about YakTrax Run and winter running.

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  • Fit like a Glove – YakTrax Run snuggled around our sneakers and stayed put during our jogs.
  • No Directions Needed – You could dream of sugar plum fairies while putting your YakTrax on (aka daydream).  They are user intuitive and are marked to guide you (left and right/heel and toe)
  • Dashing Through the Snow – YakTrax did not have a drastic affect on our gait.  They kinda feel like you’re bouncing a bit on a cloud of snow.  We only put in a 5k distance so not sure how they’d fair on a longer jaunt.

Mittens Down (Thoughts for improvements and tips)

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  • The Weather Calls For Snowzilla – When reviewing other runners, YakTrax Run is made for a specific type of weather.  You probably shouldn’t run across an ice skating rink for prolonged amounts of time as they aren’t made for thick ice or feet of snow backwoods running.  Stick to mildly icy pavement and moderate snow for best results.
  • Slushy Slush (our new rap name) – Slushy snow can get trapped in the back of the heel so you may have to tap tap tap a tree once in awhile to get it out.

For you non-runners, YakTrax carries 6 other types of traction variations for any purpose from your ma’s walks in the afternoon, to your bestie who hits the ski slope every weekend.

Strap up your run shoes in some YakTrax Run coils for only $40 here, less than that Yak (about $2000) and besides Yaks weigh 700 pounds so where would you house them?

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For now, the weather has us chanting the mantra of the post office: Neither rain, nor moderate ice nor snow can stop us from running–now that we have YakTrax Run coils.  Maybe a tornado would stop us though…just sayin’.  What do you think about YakTrax or other run traction devices?  We would love to hear your thoughts.  Comment below and until next time, happy trails!

 

Bar Method Challenge Check In

We are 3 weeks in to the #MeInspiresWeChallenge at Bar Method and wanted to give our readers a quick and sweaty pulse point as to how we are holding up with our shakey legs!

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Practice makes Progress

Monica’s thoughts: I’ve done Bar Method in the past but this time seems different.  Bar Method really pushes pass my limit to where my muscles start quivering which doesn’t happen in other workouts.
The first day I was doing well but I didn’t pushed myself.  I just stayed within my normal range of movement while doing thigh and seat work so I didn’t feel sore next day.  The teachers fixed my posture and urged me to dip my thighs and seat lower to the ground and, BLAMO, tiny movements make quakes in my muscles.
It is immensely helpful to get tips from the instructors for correct posture and where to feel each exercise.  As I am deaf, I definitely need the hands on adjustments.
Now, halfway through, after an average of 2-3 workouts (first week I did 5) and I do now notice results in the tone of my body from impact in this barre technique.  I still have quite a while to go, however and probably need to do average 4 -5 workouts to see greater results as is recommended by Bar Method.

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Compliments, Compliments:

Kate’s thoughts: Ok so self love is one thing we got going.  I’ve been flexing around the house and eyeing the small formation of an actual tricep hiding underneath the granny arms.  I noticed suddenly how Monica was looking svelte and toned, like who is this strong chick!?

And the adoration of others….I also received a few “Did you lose weight?” comments although, no no, I have not. Muscle, my friends, all muscle.  The number on the scale doesn’t always demonstrate the health or strength of your body.

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Have we inspired you yet?  There’s still time to join us for the #MeInspiresWe campaign and get 5 weeks of the Bar Method for the price of 4.  Come get sculpted and shakey with us!

 

Free Workouts in the New Year: Part 1

If you are living on a tight budget OR aren’t quite clear even where to start with jumping in the fitness “pool”, these fitness activities are free, fun and can guide you in the right direction to feel more calm, strong and the bomb in 2016!

Strength Training

If your goals include muscling it up or toning it down, these indoor, outdoor and online options can fuel your fitness fire.

Nike Training Club Chicago

Train with top Chicago fitness professionals in classes ranging from barre to HIT in addition to speed, endurance and long distance run training. Nike Training Club Chicago supported super fabulous events last year like Train with Hart, a 5K run with Kevin Hart, and #getouthere, a temporary Chicago river front workout facility to withstand the Chicago chill.  Need a little help sorting through your fitness goals? Sign up for an exclusive Resolutions Consultation with a Nike fitness pro and get athletic coaching advice for nada dollars.  Join and sign up for workouts here.

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North Face Mountain Athletics

Cold air, they don’t care.  North Face continues their free Mountain Athletics outdoor workouts Tuesday at Lincoln Park and Thursday at Millennium Park even in the winter.  If you are looking for a challenge, this is for you!

Each session, led by two The North Face trainers, prep you for outdoor goals.  Sign up here.

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Chicago Park District

Looking for something local?  Check out your nearby Chicago Park district building this week, January 2nd-10th, for free boxing, swimming, aerobic exercise and more.

Target Commit to Fit (with Adam Rosante and Idalis Velazquez)

It takes at least 21 days to start a habit so Target wants to bolster your fit meter with a free 21 day Commit to Fit workout program.  Adam Rosante, certified athletic trainer, and author of “The 30 Second Body: Eat Clean, Train Dirty & Live Hard” and Idalis Velazquez, founder of IV Fitness LLC and the creator of the PowerUP60 training method, power through with you by leading a series of Target Youtube videos for abs, cardio and strength.

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Dance

ARC Chicago

Join in a Dance Free for All January 5th-10th with the American Rhythm Center Chicago.  Classes ranging from Tap, Break dancing, African Dance, Bollywood, Afro-Haitian and much more are all free!

Dance Fitness with Jessica

These short, high energy dance routines are lead and follow style but still could be club ready with practice.  Jessica Bass starting a small group dance class in Knoxville, TN that expanded to hundreds of free Youtube videos in addition to a purchasable fitness program.  Lace up your dancing shoes and prepare to werk.

If you don’t have twinkle toe or muscle head genes, stayed tuned for Part 2 of our Free Workout posts: Yoga and Running!

 

Tips for Trekking Your First Trail Run

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Now that Race-tober has come to a close, we’ve had a chance to reflect on all the “firsts” we’ve experienced this month: Monica ran her first 10K, Run 10 Feed 10, Kate took her sister to her first 5k, a very rainy yet triumphant Monster Dash and one of our most memorable races, our first trail run with the The North Face Endurance Challenge at Kettle Moraine State Park.  The North Face went above and beyond in sponsoring us, not only giving us sweet race gear before the race, but also surprising us with a backpack full of running essentials once we made our way to our hotel.

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For anyone who has been running 5Ks for a while or would love to just get out in nature more, we think a trail run could hit both those spots.

Here are some things we learned from our experience:

These shoes were made for trailin’

Invest in a pair of trail shoes.  Your feet will thank you for your generosity.  When we first received our North Face Ultra MT trail shoes, we noticed how stiff they were as compared to our norm runners.  A wise friend explained that trail running shoes and more hearty with more tread so you have better grip and can withstand stepping on wily rocks and sticks that may try to block your path.  These shoes are also waterproof to withstand wet and muddy trails.

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Climbing every mountain 

The environment of trails can vary from run to run.  You may find well groomed trails, wild overgrown ones, or paved trails in your travels.  You may find you require more stamina and time to trail run than what you’re used to so don’t feel discouraged if you are slower paced than your average pavement jaunt.

Dress to impress–the wilderness

The weather the day of our trail run was not exactly what you would expect for early October but Midwest weather is like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates, ya never know what you’re gonna get.  Chilly and brisk was the name of the running game for our race day.  Keeping in mind that we were going through the woods, we wore layers.  For rain, try a light or medium weight rain jacket, like The North Face Women’s Venture Jacket.  Trust us, don’t wear your poncho to run unless you want to sweat like a wild hog as you swish through the wilderness.

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And some advice from the trail running pros!

Runner’s World: 21 Quick Trail Running Tips

Active.com: 9 Trail Running Tips for Beginners

Trail Runner: The 10 Commandments of Healthy Running

Ready, set, go!

You can still take on the North Face Endurance Challenge in California, Washington D.C. and New York or try an Illinois trail run if you’re our neighbors.

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Still trail shy?

The North Face offers their free Mountain Athletics training sessions every Tuesday and Thursday in Boston, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. to help you prep for your next ski jump, rock climb, run or crazy jazz hand competition…whatever your goal may be.

Fit Foodie 5k Race Weekend: The Most Delicious 5k Around!

Yoga + Fro Yo Running + Risotto Boxing + Bacon…+ Beer Who says you can’t enjoy fitness AND food.  Certainly not us as we are 2015 Fit Foodie 5k Race Ambassadors! Cooking Light & Health Magazine are sponsoring a calve … Continue reading

2nd Annual Be Healthful Retreat!

We love spending time with our ladies but the dinner, drink, repeat thing can be unhealthy!  Get that girl bonding time in AND do something that can change your body, mind and heart with the 2nd annual BeHealthful Retreat and Conference series.

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What: 2nd Annual BeHealthful Retreat and Conference hosted by Balanced Babe and sponsored by Jewel Osco

  • Interactive Panels & Workshops
  • Yoga and Movement Gallery
  • Holistic Oasis Marketplace with free spa services and light bites
  • Two zen lounges to chill out
  • Cooking demos, shopping, product samples

When: Sunday September 27th, 11 am-5 pm

Where: Zhou B Art Center, 1029 W. 35th Street, Chicago, IL 60609—-free parking included

What are we looking forward to?

Shooo.  BeHealthful is sporting an all star line up of fitness instructors!  Rebecca Niziol, known for leading supremely relaxing yoga classes at Exhale Spa, is leading a meditation to close out.  This will be sorely needed whether you sweat it out with a high intensity interval training sesh (HIIT) with Betina Gozo, Crosstown Fitness and Nike hard hitter or several other fitness options.

Opportunities for personal growth abound!  Sessions like “Strategies for Leading a Fearless Life” and “The Art of Pitching” will stretch your mind.

Mmm how do you choose from so many spa options?  Manicures, eyelash applications, hand massages, art therapy…better get there early!

Ready to buy tickets?  Purchase them here and grab your gals for a healthful day of food, fitness and fun!

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Fitness Friday: Equinox Ropes and Rowers

For those who haven’t been to Equinox, you’ve been missing out on a luxury fitness experience.  Think top tier fitness instructors, a wide array of fitness tools at your fingertips and a cool lavender towel resting on your neck after busting your butt.  If that weren’t enough, Equinox’s group fitness classes keep you on your toes as they constantly think of new ways to challenge your svelte regime.

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Equinox has two new classes in heavy rotation: Best Butt Ever (who can say no to that! Bounce a quarter off this pup) and Ropes and Rowers.  We wrangled our schedules to make time for Ropes and Rowers and the calories were roasted!  We loved the interval format as we moved through 4 different stations: Rowing, Battle Ropes, Step Work, and Weighted Exercise Balls.

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Here’s how to survive this intense class and feel like an Olympic Champion:

  1. COME EARLY! We had a major fitness faux pas as Kate thought the class started at 6:30..soo…but our instructor Tanya from Equinox Lincoln Park not only made space for us but took time to get us set up and explain what was happening.
  2. Get tough!  Neither one of us have experienced a Battle Rope before.   Battle Ropes are said to improve body balance, encourage functional fitness and boost mental toughness.  Our favorite station included thwaping this heavy rope first, then pulling the ropes (attached to a heavy weight) all the way to you, and finishing with pushing the weight all the way back to start.  Killer abs here we come. 20061180962_9b45200960_z
  3. Pace yourself and keep going!  Even though the class isn’t super long (40 minutes with about 5 minutes of stretching), you will be surprised how exhausted you get after donkey kicking, speed water rowing, and Russian twisting your tail off!  One of our rowing segments, consisting of 100 meter row sprints, took our breathe away (and not in the romantic way)! 19881273140_94eede02cf_z

Ready to battle?  Check out Ropes and Rowers at any Chicagoland Equinox.  Has anyone experienced the battle royale of battle ropes?  Let us know what you think!!

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Giveaway: Getting Fly with the April Flywheel Fitness Challenge!

Are we the only ones who threw on bikinis under our parkas in the 70s Chicago weather Wednesday?  Yes, us Chicagoans are weather obsessed because dang it!  Our favorite very short spring/summer season is finally on the horizon.  With that in mind, we have been picking up the fit pace by trying new workout options in the Chi.  On Monday, we were honored to be invited to Flywheel Old Town for an intro to their Spring Flywheel Challenge.  Starting 4/20, Flywheel will be offering a support system to help you meet whatever your health and fitness goals are.  So if you want to throw off the parka and prance around the Maggie Daley water slides, now is the time to focus on those goals.

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What is the Flywheel Challenge?

Allison, our Flywheel instructor and a challenge coach explained that the challenge can be whatever you want it to be.  Whether you want to lose weight, gain endurance or speed or build muscle, the staff at Flywheel will cater the plan to meet your needs.  The basic skeleton is this:

There are 3 options for the 4 week challenge – The Flywheel Challenge, FlyBarre Challenge and FlyPlus Challenge (both Barre and Flywheel).

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(Below description of Flywheel Challenge is described by the Flywheel promotional team)

Flywheel Challenge
·      4 classes per week / 16 classes total

·      Optional weekly weigh-ins with designated Flywheel Coach

·      Kick-off event with a nutritional seminar and a Flywheel technique workshop that addresses proper bike set-up, positioning, arms and more to ensure that participants understand how to get the most out of their workout

·      The Flywheel Challenge is optimal for those looking to burn calories, increase endurance and improve cardiovascular health

FlyBarre Challenge
·      4 classes per week / 16 classes total

·      Includes optional weekly measurements with designated FlyBarre Coach

·      Kick-off event includes nutritional seminar and a FlyBarre 101 workshop where various portions of a FlyBarre class will be highlighted (at a broken down pace) to ensure participants have a better understanding of movements and technique

·      The FlyBarre Challenge is optimal for those looking to tone and sculpt, improve core strength, and increase muscular stamina

FlyPlus Challenge
·      3 Flywheel classes and 3 FlyBarre classes per week / 24 classes total

·      Includes optional weekly weigh-ins and/or measurements with designated FLY Coach

·      Kick-off event includes nutritional seminar, a Flywheel technique workshop and a FlyBarre 101 workshop

·      The FlyPlus Challenge is optimal for those looking to burn calories, increase endurance AND tone and sculpt

All Challenges include other perks like community discussions with other challengers to get peer motivation, professional nutrition support and meal plans as well as a kick off and closing party.

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Our Experience at Flywheel:

So spinning…is somewhat intimidating for those who have barely done it.  You have these shoes that strap you in and bike pedals that lock and load so it’s best to know what you are doing.  We liked Flywheel’s friendly front desk staff and sleek studio space.  The studio had support gentlemen who helped us get the perfect bike set up while the instructor was preparing to start class. The atmosphere during the class was less competitive and more like a fun dance party.  We definitely needed to towel off the sweat and were challenged by the intensity of the interval portions of class.

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Interested in getting a taste of the challenge?  WIN WIN WIN

One lucky winner will receive a free Flywheel class* to prep for summa summa timeeee.  Just comment on this blog post and tell us what your health and fitness goal are in preparation for the warmer months.

*Winner will need to set up a (free) account and username to access the class.

Sign up here to get on that cycle and ride into the sun, friends!

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