20 Oct 2014


Small Gyms, Big Workouts


With the arrival of VIDA at The Yards, it’s become even easier to join a gym on the Hill. But what if a big box gym isn’t for you? Well, I suffered through some workouts at the Hill’s smaller, lesser known gyms just for you guys. Here’s what I thought:

Bmarchai Studios (1451 Penn Ave SE Ste.#1)

You might remember Breelaun’s studio, Bmarchai, from its start on Barracks Row. Today, the gym is located farther east in a funky row house off of Pennsylvania Ave. It’s a one-of-a-kind circuit gym – I haven’t found anything like it in DC!

Each week Breelaun sets up a different full-body, low-impact circuit that focuses on the target areas we all want to work – glutes, abs and arms. When I went last week we did several one-legged squat exercises and some serious ab work. One full circuit takes 30 minutes, but Breelaun always encourages you to go for two.

What I really enjoy about this gym is that time flies while you’re there because it’s social and you’re constantly moving. It’s an open gym, so you can drop in at any time, and clients range in fitness level and age – his oldest client is 83! Breelaun said each day he gets 20-30 people in the evening and 8-12 people before work. For $80/month for unlimited classes it compares to large gym prices, but has a personal training feel.

JadeJade Fitness (1310 Penn Ave SE)

The newest gym on the Hill, Jade Fitness is a gym “run by people on Capitol Hill, for people on Capitol Hill,” according to its co-owner Jesse Heier. The gym design fits into the neighborhood with subdued colors and a row house feel, and the classes cater to all fitness levels.

I took the A.B.C. Workout class, which works your arms, butt and core. After a quick warm up, we did circuits of lunges, rows, squats, leg lifts and dead lifts all with weights that you could choose based on your ability. The workout changes throughout the week so you can go multiple times and not get bored. The class I took was small, there were only five of us, but it’s one of the gym’s most popular classes.

An option at Jade that sets it apart from the other gyms I visited is its CorrectFit Conditioning I – a class that teaches you the basics of a good workout like how to do a proper pushup. Whether you’re brand new to working out or getting back into it after a break, I think this class is important for injury prevention and motivation building. Jade is offering a $79 promo special right now for 30 days of unlimited classes.

AtlasAtlas Fitness (920 11 St SE)

When I approached the guys at Atlas about coming in for a trial for this blog post they kindly offered me an entire week of classes. I could only make three of the five, but I’m sore enough that it feels like I went through a week of classes! Atlas definitely provided the best workout of the three gyms.

While Atlas also offers personal training, they pride themselves on their Group X program, which allows people to sign up for classes a week at a time so they can build up their training. (However, you also have the option to book class by class.) I went to three of the 6a.m. Strength 101 and Boot Camp classes, all led by Gabe. The classes were similar in format in that they were circuit workouts with many reps, but the Boot Camp class was definitely faster paced and involved more cardio work. Gabe was a great trainer and walked around providing corrections, modifications and (much needed) words of encouragement.

The workouts involved more of gym equipment (barbells, kettlebells, free weights) than the other two gyms. I’m sure the guys at Atlas would work with anyone to get you used to the equipment and exercises, but jumping in in the middle of the week I found Atlas to be better for people with experience working out. And even though I’m struggling to walk up stairs today, I think I’m sold on buying a 10-class pass to keep in shape before the holidays!


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