4 D.C. Gyms That Let You Try Before You Buy


At On the Glow, we remember a time when free trials and guest passes were considered standard fare at most gyms. You’d have the opportunity to check out the facilities, take a few classes, go on a tour, and then – if you were really interested – sit down with a sales manager and talk membership options.

However, our experience with organized fitness in D.C. has made us realize two things:

  1. A large population and a relatively small number of gyms means that the days of free passes are over; and,
  2. Most gyms not only charge full price for your first session, but they also pressure clients to purchase 6-12 month memberships by charging exorbitant drop-in fees.

To alleviate some of the pressure, and to help you make the most educated decision about where to get your sweat on, we’ve scoured the city to bring you the best free trials in Washington. Whether you’re looking to lift, stretch or spin your way to fitness, these 4 gyms are all about getting you to try before you buy!

1. CorePower Yoga

CorePower Yoga wants to be a place to call your fitness Om, which means making sure that prospective yogis receive unrestricted free access to the variety of classes and schedules available at their 3 downtown area locations. In fact, they’re so serious about your business that they offer a no-obligation week-long membership for anyone new to the studio.

The Low Down: CorePower Yoga is the Starbucks of yoga studios: consistent, convenient and cheap. While it might feel like you’re selling out to big-box yoga, one benefit of a chain is that you’re virtually guaranteed the same quality of instruction at each location (which is more than we can say for some other studios in the city).

With prime locations like CityCentre, Dupont Circle and Georgetown, CorePower makes it easy to squeeze in a yoga sesh during the workday. Out of town on business? No problem! CorePower membership gives you full access to classes at each of their 150 locations across the U.S.

2. Crossfit


While Crossfit boxes are notorious for their community-driven programming, no two are exactly the same. That’s why most Crossfit gyms offer free introductory classes to help prospective members find the right fit.

Some of our favourite boxes in the city include: District Crossfit, Crossfit DC (multiple locations) and Crossfit Balance (multiple locations). These boxes are not only beginner friendly, but offer alternative programming to suit a multitude of needs, including fat loss and flexibility.

The Low Down: Crossfit is technically challenging and the coaches at each box undergo rigorous training to attain their certification. As a result, the cost of monthly memberships is easily double what you would pay at a Globo Gym. That said, the one-on-one instruction during a 60 minute workout is the closest thing you’ll get to personal training for $25 an hour. Our advice? Pay the money up front and learn to lift properly – your body will thank you later. 

3. Zengo DC 

Zengo cycle has a unique membership model: instead of a monthly fee, they ask clients to buy credits to put towards classes. With so many cycling studios in the city charging upwards of $150 a month for unlimited classes, this program allows clients to pay for only what they use.

Since the demand for efficient cardio workouts is at an all time high, it’s little wonder that most cycling studios forgo free trials in lieu of a slightly reduced rate on your first drop-in session; however, Zengo cycle bucks this trend by offering would-be spin enthusiasts an opportunity to try out their signature 50 minute class free of charge.

The Low Down: Zengo cycle has 5 studios in the DMV, but only two are located downtown (North west, specifically). It’s definitely more of a local spin studio than a convenient stop on your commute home – but that doesn’t seem to deter people from flocking to their morning and evening classes.

The studio is busy and high energy, and people rave about the 50 minute full-body workout. Just remember to bring $3 for shoe rental if you don’t sport clip-in cycling shoes regularly. 

4. Vida Fitness


Vida fitness prides itself on being a Globo Gym with an old school health club feel. With amenities like rooftop pools, spas and juice bars at their new U Street and Yards locations, Vida easily ranks top of the big-box fitness franchise market.

With so much competition from boutique fitness clubs, Vida wants prospective members to see for themselves the benefits of belonging to a traditional gym. Stop by in person, or fill out an inquiry online, and a Vida representative will contact you the next day to schedule a free trial.

The Low Down: Yes, the membership coordinators can be a little pushy, but what do you expect when you’re dealing directly with a sales team? Plus, they’re generally pretty accommodating if you’re looking to try a few specific classes.

All in all, Vida offers a wide variety of classes at 6 prime locations downtown. If the reasonable membership rates and modern facilities don’t convince you to give this gym a try, we’re sure the Penthouse pool will.





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


dru 3


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

Does a Pricier Class Mean a Better Workout? We Compare the Cost Per Calorie Burned at D.C.’s Most Popular Boutique Cycling Gyms to Find Out


We spend a lot of time at On The Glow talking about fitness on a budget because – let’s face it – most young professionals in DC can barely afford their parking space, let alone a $30 drop-in fee at their favorite gym.

That said, it takes a lot less motivation to complete a prescribed workout as part of a group fitness class than it does to go for a 5 mile run by yourself. Not to mention that the structure of most fitness classes ensures that you spend your time at the gym being active (and not just sitting on a stationary bike reading US Weekly).

The demand for efficient, high energy workouts is part of the reason that spinning has become so popular with cardio-lovers in the District. The movements are simple, the pace is fast and virtually every class promises a 45-60 minute all-you-can-sweat-fest.

With the wealth of cycling studios around the city, there’s a membership to fit every budget – but what kind of workout are you really getting for your money?

With the help of our trusty heart rate monitors and smart watches, we took spin classes at 3 of the city’s most popular boutique cycling studios to see which gym offers the most bang for your buck.

The Answer? Biker Barre if you’re a frequent spinner, FlyWheel if you’re high on energy, but short on time and Off-Road if you’re feeling technical.

Biker Barre – 738 7th Street SE


Biker Barre is a locally owned spin and barre studio that has earned a cult following with the Hill crowd for its unpretentious feel and music driven classes.

Tucked away in an unassuming row home on 7th street SE, owners Jane Brodsky & Katie Geffken have embraced a pared down approach to fitness that focuses less on technology and more on technique.

The spin studio itself is similarly understated, dimly lit by a handful of candles beneath the instructor’s podium, giving the room a relaxing, almost meditative quality; but don’t be fooled – the lighting is the only relaxing part of spin classes at Biker Barre.

Given that there’s no torque or RPM sensor on these bikes, riders are encouraged to push themselves as hard as they can over the course of a 45 minute class. Since 100% effort is different for every rider, we pushed ourselves harder than we do following a normal class.

The instructor wasn’t afraid to go heavy on the torque herself, which – combined with a great workout playlist that wasn’t exclusively EDM – motivated us to reach a record high heart rate of 181 bpm.

Fair warning, the bikes are older and more basic than most other studios in the District, and the sound system leaves a lot to be desired – but, weirdly enough, that’s part of Biker Barre’s charm.

Our two cents: If you’re looking for a community driven studio where you can break a sweat without breaking the bank, Biker Barre should be number one on your list.

$25 per class / 354 cals = 7cents per cal

$150 unlimited spin and barre (assuming 2 classes per week) / 354 cals = 5 cents per cal

$15 student/military/teacher class = 4 cents per cal

FlyWheel Sports – 824 9th Street NW


Walk into FlyWheel and you might think you’ve been magically transported to a cycling studio in the year 2030. Located at CityCentre in the heart of D.C., the modern space has been optimized for convenience and efficiency in order to better serve its corporate clientele.

IPad log-in stations, complimentary shoe rentals and RPM/torque sensors on each bike are just a few of the perks of membership. No more lines – especially great for people short on time or patience – and no more toting around those sweaty sneakers in your gym bag for the rest of the afternoon.

Enter the stadium (FlyWheel’s name for its futuristic spin room) and you’ll immediately feel as if you’re in a Miami nightclub. Uplighting and the latest hits from your favorite artists set the tone for a high energy class, which is matched from start to finish by the intensity of the hard-bodied instructor.

Unlike some other studios, the instructors at FlyWheel cue their classes using the RPM and torque sensors on each bike. If you’re remotely competitive (which we are) then you’ll love ‘The Leader Board’ – a running scoreboard which ranks your power output relative to your fellow FlyWheelers.

The class was one of the toughest we’ve been to in the city – but a few things need to be said.

First off, for all of its conveniences, FlyWheel doesn’t have an adequate number of showers to serve the morning and lunch rush crowds. Yesterday morning, the line-up to get a rinse was 8 deep! Forget trying to put your makeup on either, because space in the bathroom is at a premium during peak hours.

Second, while rental shoes are really convenient, they’re also really gross. Who wants to put on someone else’s used footwear?

Our two cents: Regardless of where you stand on the issue of sweaty sneakers, we can all agree that FlyWheel offers an unparalleled riding experience. If you love gadgets and integrating the latest technology into your workouts, then you need to try FlyWheel.

$28 per class / 405 cals = 7 cents per cal

$350 unlimited spin and barre (assuming 2 classes per week) / 405 cals = 11 cents per cal

$18 student class = 4 cents per cal

Off Road DC – 637 Pennsylvania Avenue NW

offroad.pngOff-Road DC is a homegrown fitness studio that specializes in the three B’s: Bike, Box and Build. By including a mix of cycling and cross training classes in their weekly schedule, they claim to offer one of the most effective full body workouts in the District.

If their popularity is anything to go on, Off-Road’s claims aren’t far from the truth; in fact, the flagship studio located in the U-street corridor has performed so well that they’ve recently opened a second location on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Their newest studio is located in the shadow of Capitol Hill and has an old-world, industrial feel – think exposed brick walls, duct work and surgical steel light fixtures. This aesthetic is in stark contrast to the spin studio, which is packed with high-performance Stages bikes and a blank screen for virtual rides.

At the beginning of each workout, the instructor explains that an image mirroring the power output from your bike will be projected onto the wall in front of the class – allowing you to keep your head up, rather than fixated on the torque meter.  5 minutes into class, the instructor leads you through a 5 minute test, which allows the computer software to determine your relative maximum power output, which is also projected on the wall and helps you pace your ride.

Sound complicated?

We thought so too.

There was so much explanation involved that our heart rate stayed conspicuously low relative to other studios. While it was certainly helpful for our first class, the mere thought of being a regular here and listening to the same spiel every day made us want to poke our eyes out with rusty spoons.

Our two cents: Great equipment, cool space, and one of the most affordable boutique spin studios out there – just try to go after you’ve had a cup of coffee.

$22 per class / 371 cals = 6 cents

$199 unlimited bike, box and build / 371 cals = 7 cents