Which ‘Best Gym’ in DC is Right for You

BY DANIEL GOMEZ

Now, even though here at On the Glow we promote a savvy fitness lifestyle, we’re aware that saving money all the time isn’t a practical option for working professionals who prefer to go the gym instead of exercising outdoors, or people who enjoy buying smoothies instead of recreating them at home with grocery store items. That’s why for this post I am going to review and rate some of the most popular gyms in DC, places where you can maximize your spending dollars and find the workout that works best for you.

For the sake of this post, I won’t be reviewing boutique gyms (CrossFit, cycling, yoga studios, etc.), just those that offer monthly memberships and have become part of the lifestyle of many Washingtonians: Washington Sports Clubs, VIDA Fitness, and Balance Gym. I will break down what each gym offers, assess their accessibility, outline their pros and cons, and determine which is the best based on their value.

Balance Gym

Balance. It’s a word you hear a lot on Capitol Hill. It does not all have to do with balancing budgets as much as it has to do with Balance Gym, the workout place of many congressional staffers and DC residents. Balance has been consistently rated DC’s top gym because of its numerous classes, convenient locations, and community-like atmosphere, and we find no reason to disagree with others’ assessment.

Hours: Weekdays 6:00 a.m.- 10:00 p.m., Weekends 8:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m.

Locations: Four: Thomas Circle, Glover Park, Foggy Bottom, and Capitol Hill.

Amenities: Crossfit, Pilates, Dance Trance, and Physical Therapy (one of the only gyms in DC with in-house physical therapy services)

Offers memberships ranging from: $64- $89 per month

Pros: Reasonable pricing, great locations, Zumba, barre, and Piloxing (Pilates-boxing-dancing combo), high customer satisfaction

Cons: Only four locations, can get overcrowded

Grade: A

Balance is DC’s best gym for a variety of reasons, and at the end of the day it all comes down to customer satisfaction. How many gyms do you know with a weekly barbell club where its members routinely schedule happy hour together? Or a gym that offers a slew of classes in yoga, pilates, Crossfit, barre, and Zumba, and is also reasonably priced per month? Balance just proves how committed Washingtonians are to fitness, and how much they’re willing to throw down to get the most bang for their buck.

VIDA Fitness

While I have heard mixed reviews about VIDA, I tend to meet more satisfied than dissatisfied members from the popular gym. Memberships don’t come cheap here, but you won’t hear a lot of complaints from members in a gym that offers candlelight yoga, scenic ride cycling, kaishido kickboxing, and an hour-long boot camp program. The Yards location looks like something out of a Ridley Scott movie, and the intensity and liveliness of group classes are enough to keep anyone from leaving.

Hours: Weekdays 5:00 a.m. – 11 p.m., Weekends 7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Locations: Six: City Vista, Metropole, Renaissance Hotel, U Street, Verizon, The Yards

Amenities: Studios, Aura Spa, Smoothie Bar, pool, quality weights and machines

Offers memberships ranging from: $70- $129 per month

Pros: Top-notch amenities, highly rated group classes, current members receive discounts at several businesses in D.C., including Bike Rack DC, Chop’t, and U Street Music Hall.

Cons: Pricey memberships, can get crowded

Grade: B+

Although VIDA is one of the pricier gyms in DC, many of its members love everything it has to offer. Many young professionals frequent the gym’s six locations and remain extremely loyal to the brand VIDA’s built in DC. If you can afford $70 a month and are serious about getting a good workout 4 to 5 days a week, this gym will definitely be one of your better options.

Washington Sports Clubs

When I first moved to D.C., I did not have the luxury of weighing the benefits between a $70/month or a $250/month gym membership. I did what most people do; I explored nearby gyms and found the one that was not too fancy, not too expensive, and allowed me to get a good workout every day. The winner was Washington Sports Clubs, a neighborhood gym with several locations in DC.

Hours: Weekdays 5:00 a.m. – 11 p.m., Weekends (Varies, usually 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.)

Locations: Seven, including Columbia Heights, Downtown, Dupont Circle, F Street, Gallery Place, Georgetown, Glover Park

Amenities: Sauna, Spinning Studio, 24/7 Personal Trainers (with fee), Pool (depends on the location), 59 different types of classes

Offers memberships ranging from: $29.99- $69.99 per month

Pros: Multiple locations, easy accessible, friendly environment, reasonable pricing.

Cons: Not fully loaded like other gyms, some locations lack enough space, staff-friendliness varies from gym to gym.

Grade: B

WSC is one of the more reasonably priced gyms in DC. It has the essentials, but not some of the fancier stuff you might see at VIDA or Balance. Its multiple locations and numerous classes make it extremely accessible. And although the club is not universally loved by Washingtonians, it is still a great option for anyone who wants to save a few extra bucks on a monthly membership.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree/disagree with my grades? What are your favorite gyms in DC and why? Leave your comments down below.

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My Newest Shopping Picks for Summer Workouts

By DOMINIQUE YOUNGBLOOD

I love to be comfortable during my workouts and especially while attending body pump classes at Gold’s Gym. Of course leggings or spanks are the best to get the best workout. As much as I would love to throw on one of my oversized t-shirts that are stashed in my drawers, that may not be the best idea. Big t-shirts actually get in the way of machines at the gym. Cotton absorbs too much sweat, and that would be a bit nasty.

As a young working professional, I’d prefer to put my money into professional attire, meaning workout clothes should be the least of my worries. However, I do still like to match all the time just to be stylish. There are all types to save on clothing and remain within a strict budget.

More do’s and don’ts about workout wear can be found one of my many favorite USA Today articles!

Summer time is right around the corner and I know the ladies will be shopping for cute, and colorful workout clothes. Here some of my new favorite picks for the season:

  1. Ladies, we can never go wrong with a great sports bra. They are the most important investment. This can be worn with or without a shirt or tank over it. The ideal budget for a great sports bra should be no more than $18.00. Remember, the goal is to save your bucks and still be stylish. This sports bra is priced at $14.99.
  2. Here are great leggings, referred to as mesh capris from one of my favorites, TX Maxx! The best part about this material is that it sucks the moisture away from your skin, and keeps you feeling dry. Pink is a great color when attempting to workout in style. The mesh bottom and colored strip add a fun look. These are priced at $14.99! Great deal. My ideal limit to spend on quality leggings is $20.00.
  3. These great pearl performance running sneakers are colorful and good quality! They come in five different bright color combinations and are definitely full of life. They are priced at $34.99. My ideal limit to spend on great sneakers is $50-60.
  4. Here are a pair of Active Now chic bike shorts that also have the option of a matching sports bra top. This allows us to show off our shape and legs. These can also be worn during winter workouts with sweatpants over them. My favorite workout class is Body Pump, so biker shorts work for me while I do my squat exercises. These shorts are priced at $12.90. My ideal budget for shorts is $14.00.
  5. This Active Crisscross back jumpsuit is stylish and convenient! This will definitely make a statement and easy to move around in. This is ideal for outdoor workouts and great for intense stretching. I love the crisscross back and the trendy appearance. This is priced at $27.90. My ideal budget for a jumpsuit would be $25-$30.
  6. You can never have too many graphic tanks to workout in. They can go great with leggings or shorts, and often coordinate with your sneakers. This “Beat You to It” tank is also bright and very motivational. This is priced at $7.90. My ideal budget for tank tops are $5-$10.
  7. Here are some skinny color block leggings that can be worn for both working out or just running errands on a comfy day. They are very stylish, firm fitting, and stretchable. They are priced at $15.88.

Here’s a challenge! Try setting a budget for your workout clothes. Whether it is $20-$50, try to see what you can get when you squeeze your coins. Remember, it IS possible to shop for cute and STYLE!

My Secret to Maintaining Natural Hair While Being a Gym Rat

By DOMINIQUE YOUNGBLOOD

Here’s my secret to maintaining natural hair as a gym-rat: PROTECTIVE STYLES! When I say “protective” styles, I am referring to hairstyles that I wear to protect my natural hair against any heat, sun, or chemicals. Heat was a huge factor behind my previous hair damage and I am now proud to say that I do not use flat irons or blow dryers anymore. In fact, I got rid of them. I am all for any style that I see that doesn’t include any source of heat! My best advice to everyone is to not be afraid of braids, twists, or buns. You can pull off almost hundreds of different looks from any of those three categories. Of course you have many other options such as weaves, wig/customized units, simple ponytails, or afros, but these three are my go-to styles.

My pictures below are just a few of the styles that I’ve rocked in the past six months that have done wonders for me:

Hitting the gym three to four times a week with natural hair and no protective style can almost be a nightmare. As you know, once opting out of relaxers (for me since 2008), keeping those roots under control becomes one of your biggest priorities! The amount of sweat and secretions our bodies release during a workout is very high, and they come straight through our pores and roots of our hair.

Convenience

While working and being a graduate student, time is never in my favor. My day to day life is filled with hustle and bustle, and I often do not have time or energy to deal with hair during the week. Besides heat and chemical protecting, CONVENIENCE is the second most important reason why protective styles are now my way to go. I get wear out of my styles for 2-3 weeks, sometimes even a month at a time! Hair is rarely ever in my morning routine (besides snatching my scarf off on my way out). This makes my life so simple. No matter how much I sweat during my workouts, all it takes is a quick brush for my buns. With my braids or twists, it takes nothing at all! Buns are also very professional and simple for those who work in an office setting. My hair style for the week or next two to three weeks, does not have to be ruined every time I go to the gym. Surprisingly, I prefer braided styles and twists over weaves, simply because weave maintenance can sometimes take just as much time, money, and energy as natural hair.

Healthiness and Growth Through the Sweat

Between my protective styles, I make sure to get my protein treatments and my ends trimmed every 6-8 weeks. This helps to even out any dead ends or shedding. My natural hair grows faster when my ends are trimmed and I keep my Marley Twist styles in for about three to four weeks. I double up on my green vegetables to maintain the strength of my hair. My love for greens is almost insane. Every chance I get to add a salad to my meal, extra spinach to my pizza, or drink a green smoothie, I take it. This makes up for my lack of time to actually make home cooked meals often. I still make sure to get those greens in! Buns are essential between braided and twisted styles to give your hair and edges a break from tension. Be sure to constantly drink water during your workout!

Check out my previous green smoothie blog post to get my insight in-depth about how important greens are to my life.

I also take my daily hair vitamins; click here for more info.

Since I’ve began my journey with Mielle Organic vitamins, I’ve seen the difference in the strength of my hair and the constant new growth. This is a great source to amino acids and minerals. It also strengthens the immune system. I always make sure to stay stocked with these vitamins, in addition to chugging down as much water and green smoothies as possible.

My Stylist:

Shawntia Barringer

District Heights, MD

Natural Hair and Weave Stylist

6316 Marlboro Pike

Check out another exclusive video I’ve done featuring Shawntia, addressing the challenges of African American women with natural hair.

Life on Wheels: A Beginner’s Guide to Cycling From One of D.C.’s Top Spin Instructors

 

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BY MARSALIE MACKENZIE

In a city known for its traffic jams and erratic drivers, it’s hardly surprising that the number of commuter cyclists in D.C. is on the rise. Considering that cycling is also a great way to add some cardio to your busy workday, you can begin to see why people are ditching their metro passes for this wallet (and waistline) friendly alternative.

For spin instructor and road cyclist, Dru Ryan, the transition to life on two wheels took place in 2007, during the height of Lance Armstrong’s popularity. A hobbyist cyclist for most of his life, a fateful argument with his ex over the need for a second car was just the push Ryan needed to shake off the cob-webs and get rolling.

Since then, Ryan has been motivating spin classes in the DMV with his unique brand of hard-hitting hip hop, all while managing to log an average of 200 miles a week on his road bike.

We were lucky enough to catch him between classes to talk first bikes, cycling hacks and the importance of cross-training.

OTG: The idea of taking up cycling can be pretty intimidating when you have to share the road with D.C. commuter traffic. How would you recommend that people get started?

DR: Well, a few years back Google started doing bike directions, which will always put you on trails and paths. In this area we have a lot of trails, including one that goes out to Dulles airport and another that goes to Mount Vernon. We’re ranked one of the top cities in the nation for trails. Then there’s WABA (Washington Area Bicyclist Association) which has a great women in cycling initiative. They hold meetings and women-only rides, so that’s also a good way to get into cycling. Realistically though, you just need to find a way to get out of the city.

OTG: For the new riders out there, how do you get out of the city without hitting the highway?dru2

DR:   On the weekends, MARC has a dedicated bike car. Stick your bike on there, ride around Baltimore and come back. AMTRAK also has roll on service. I actually just took my bike to Jacksonville, rode to Miami, took the AMTRAK back to Jacksonville and flew home.

OTG: How do you recommend that new cyclists invest their time and money? Do they buy a better bike? Invest in a helmet? Buy those silly looking padded shorts?

DR: You shouldn’t spend more than $400 on a first bike, and definitely check Craigslist and eBay first. I think the statistic is something like most new bikes are ridden less than 1000 miles. Buy something cheap, find out if you like it and build up.

OTG: Okay, so what kind of bike do I buy: road, hybrid or commuter?

DR: Whatever you like! A road bike comes into play if you’re hard-core and want to do more than 30 miles in a single ride. You can always buy a hybrid and add skinny tires. It’s all about rolling resistance: Thick, knobby tires on concrete make for more resistance, but if you smooth those out, your life gets a lot easier!

OTG: So do you have any other cycling hacks? Maybe something you’ve done or bought that’s low investment, but has changed your riding experience?

DR: Hmm….a couple of things. An app called STRAVA, which acts as a social community for cyclists. When you’re out riding, it will tell you if your friends are riding.  It will record your route, and if you have 10 friends who do the same route, it will compare your speeds. Cyclists dig being able to say, “Hey- I saw you did this ride and I was 2 minutes faster than you.” It also introduces you to different rides and gives you a better idea of what “fast” is. [pause]

You know, if I were being really honest at the beginning, I’d say when I clipped in. I think that’s a rite of passage. You can ride your bike like a kid, or you can start clipping in like you do in the studio. You’ll feel a different type of control with the bike that you never had before.

OTG: I clip in at spin class, but I’m afraid that I’ll fall on my face if I transition to road biking…..

DR: You fall away from traffic. Everybody falls! I have a friend who just started clipping in 2 weeks ago and she fell. You learn because your body needs to get used to a new habit. Your body’s flexible, and you’ll figure out quickly that you need to clip out fast.

OTG: Since you mentioned the studio, do you think spin classes help you become a better cyclist?

DR: Spinning helps your cardio. It helps you understand how to turn pedals – but the spin room doesn’t punish you for being bad. When you’re outside on a hill and you run out of breath half way up – then you get punished.

OTG: What do you do for cross training?

DR: I’m a big fan of the stability ball, core work and TRX/Kettlebells. Those three are big for me. The Stairmaster also gets into your hammies, which helps with the back part of your pedal stroke. And for one month of the year I play basketball. The chance of injury is too high to play year round, but cycling is all about slow twitch muscles. Basketball gets those fast twitch muscles, so it forces me to do something that my body hates.

OTG: Are there any local cycling events we should watch for?

DR: The Air Force Classic is the only sanctioned bike race in the city and it starts by the Air Force memorial in Arlington. What’s cool is that, before the big race, there’s an open race for amateurs. There’s also a daily lunch time ride around Hains Point. It’s a 3.3 mile loop that a lot of people use for training. The point is to go as hard as you can, for as long as you can. Everyone waits for the group to finish, and then they do it again. There’s a fundraiser for women’s cycling at the end of the year called the Hains point 100. Some people ride 100 miles, some just 10-15 miles. The proceeds go to the Women & Bicycles Program.

OTG: So now that we know how to get started, where can we go to take your classes?!dru

DR: I teach at Equinox Georgetown on Mondays at 630 p.m. and Wednesdays at 6 a.m. I teach twice on Tuesdays at Equinox Bethesda (6 a.m. and 615 p.m.) and Thursday at 6 a.m. I also teach at Mint DC at 11 a.m. on Sundays.

 

 

 

 

All imagery courtesy of Dru Ryan

Workout Wednesdays: Smoothie Tasting Day

BY DOMINIQUE YOUNGBLOOD, MARSALIE MACKENZIE, MARIBEL PADIAL, AND DANIEL GOMEZ

Today at the On the Glow, we joined forces to recreate our favorite smoothies and sample each others favorites. The result was one big, tasty, and healthy success. Our recipes are listed below:

Danny’s Smoothie:

  • 1/2 cup of pomegranate juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 cup frozen strawberries
  • 1/2 cup frozen mango
  • 1/2 cup frozen peaches

Marsalie’s Smoothie:

  • 1/3 cup ground oats
  • 1 banana
  • 1 tbsp. nut butter
  • 1/2 cup ripe mango
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 150g coconut yogurt

Maribel’s Smoothie:

  • 1/2 cup of frozen blueberries
  • 1/4 cup of kale
  • 1/2 cup of almond milk

Video credit to Danny, Marsalie, Maribel, and Dominique, and a special editing credit to Dominique.

Workout Wednesdays: We Show You How Adding Wine Can Improve Your Fitness

BY MARSALIE MACKENZIE

I generally try to stay loyal to my workout routine and meal plan during the week, but I’ve fallen off the wagon.

Not only have I stopped working out in the evenings, I’ve traded in my green smoothie for a glass of Merlot and a bowl of ice cream every night since Saturday.

The old me would have compensated by eating more greens and hitting the gym a little harder, but that was before being introduced to a little something called “The Wine Workout.”

“The Wine Workout” is a YouTube video by wine and fitness enthusiast, April Storey. Using glasses and bottles of wine as equipment (and motivation),  April demonstrates how adding wine to your home gym session can improve your overall fitness, and get you that beach body that you’ve always wanted.

Since its debut last February, the video has earned more that 19 million views and April has been featured on every major television network in America.

A workout that is fun, accessible and tasty? We’ll drink to that!

Pinching Pennies? Get the Glow on from Home

BY MARIBEL PADIAL

Ginny McNulty has been living in the city for more than five years and, like many of us in our mid-twenties, works hard to budget her money. For some time she searched for a workout routine, but struggled to find something she could afford — continuously turned off by the high prices of a workout class or gym membership. By chance, she stumbled upon Kayla Itsines’ BBG workout (short for Bikini Body Guide), a routine that Itsines claims girls could do anywhere. Ginny, intrigued, did more research and a few of her friends told her how great of a workout it was and that they saw clear results through before and after photos.

Kayla Itsines’ BBG workouts are used by millions of people around the world and she is one of Instagram’s biggest fitness stars. Scrolling through the BBG Instagram page, Ginny stumbled upon numerous photos of girls posting before and after photos of their progress and praising how the workouts are very effective. Shortly after, Ginny decided to try the program.

BBG pic

Trying to stick to her budget, Ginny could not afford a gym membership, so she chose to do the workouts at home. The BBG program does incorporate the use of some equipment you would find at a gym, including weights, a medicine ball, a bench, a contraption called a bosu, among other pieces of equipment. Ginny said that did not deter her from trying the workouts.

Ginny does all of the prescribed BBG workouts from home. She watches videos on YouTube of a trainer performing the moves. She follows the videos diligently and it also helps her to do all the workout moves correctly. Instead of going out and buying weights or other workout equipment, Ginny uses household products. For weights? Two wine bottles filled with water. A medicine ball? Try a big bag stuffed with closes. A weight bench? More like chairs and couches for step ups and tricep dips.

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“The workouts for me are still super effective,” said Ginny. “I do more reps to make it harder or add more clothes to my bag or more water to my wine bottles. It’s all about being creative with your workouts.”

Ginny talked about how the workouts are only thirty minutes a day and she says she can do them anywhere. Whenever she goes on vacation, Ginny explained how she would find a room with some empty space and do the routines there.

Doing the workouts almost four months consistently, Ginny said she has noticed a lot of definition in her arms, legs and abs. She also talked about how her confidence has greatly increased and she feels more energized throughout the day. Ginny started adding workouts from Beach Body, another workout program that is formatted to be done from home. She added that she will do the yoga or Pilates workouts in addition to BBG — either on her days off or as her cool down.

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“It’s all about improvising and using those creative juices,” McNulty said. “I didn’t do any research I just go around my house and pick up things to see what’s heavy to use in my workouts.”

In order to stay motivated, McNulty shared how she keeps a calendar where she writes out all of her workouts. She also sets weekly and monthly goals and talked about how she always pushes herself, so that she feels sore the next morning.