RRFit: Pushing Through the Pain at SweatBox DC

I recently tried out SweatBox, one of the newest boutique fitness studios in DC that's being talked about all over the place (like here and here). SweatBox is the brainchild of Vida Fitness, a full-service membership gym that currently has six locations throughout the District. (Full disclosure: I've been a paying member of Vida since I moved to DC last October and I really, really love it.) While Vida offers pretty much everything you could want in a gym -- tons of cardio and strength training equipment, group fitness classes, spas, salons, and rooftop pools -- the company is taking it to the next level with SweatBox, which aims to capitalize on the boutique fitness craze that's taking over the industry. You might be wondering:

How long is the workout? It's a 50-minute, full body workout.

What kind of equipment do you use? SweatBox contains three modalities: cycle, suspension training (similar to TRX, but with XT trainers), and weight training. Participants have their own designated stations where all the equipment is provided. SweatBox also uses MYZONE heart rate monitors that pair with your bike. They show your progress on screens in the studio, so you can see the efficacy of your workout in real-time. However, the monitors need to be purchased separately (I worked out without one).

What's the studio like? The studio is surprisingly large, with mirror-covered walls and two rows of individual stations (each station consists of a bike, XT trainers, and dumbbells ranging from 12.5 to 20 lbs). It looked like there were 20-ish stations on each side. The workout is timed with lighting and musical effects within the studio that make the entire experience feel more like a night out clubbing than a hardcore sweat session -- which isn't a bad thing!

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Who was your instructor? Adriana, and she was fantastic. She was the ideal motivator. She pushed you to push yourself and was super encouraging throughout the entire class. She was quick to answer questions and explained everything thoroughly, so even though I had zero experience with this workout, I didn't feel at all nervous or intimidated. She also helped us program our bikes with age, weight, level of activity, and other info to get a personalized number. This number sets a personal heart rate goal in various levels of work during the cycle intervals. The bike would flash a different color for each level/zone: white for the lowest and red for the highest.

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So what was the actual workout like? Well, first off, let me start out by saying that the energy levels were off the charts. Maybe it was the newness of everything -- the sleek studio, the shiny bikes, the sparkling dumbbells -- but I hadn't felt that pumped up about a workout in a long time. The warm-up consisted of some lunges, push-ups, and other body weight exercises.

On the XT trainers, we did sets of rows, push-ups, and planks that were pretty damn challenging (although to be fair, I rarely work with TRX or XT trainers so this was going to be hard for me no matter what).

With the dumbbells, we did chest flies, bicep curls, and other upper body movements. This was probably the easiest part of class since I already do a lot of these exercises in my own individual training. But don't worry, it went back to being difficult quite quickly once I hopped on that bike.

These are not your average bikes. They're Matrix IC7 Coach by Color bikes, and they are very special. Remember: You program these bikes with all your info and it calculates the number that you need to aim to keep on your screen throughout your cycle interval. Now because of my activity level, my number was pretty high. As such, I had to work that much harder to stay in the designated color zones. When Adriana would say, "Get to the green!" I'd frantically pedal away only to see that I was barely out of the yellow. Or was it the blue? I don't know. All the colors are meshing together. Either way, it was incredibly challenging to both reach and stay in the color that I supposed to be in. But I liked the whole color-coded thing because it provided a clear, visual sign telling me that I needed to work harder if I wanted to optimize my workout. The bike was definitely holding me accountable -- and that was pretty cool.

After a dizzying but intense 50 minutes, the class came to an end, and we were presented with icy cold towels that smelled absolutely magical. Was it cucumber? Lavender? I'm not sure, but trust me: After surviving completing a SweatBox class, you'll want nothing more than to bury your face in said towel, and it will feel so good.

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Where is SweatBox located? The SweatBox studio is inside the Vida Fitness location at 1612 U Street NW. It's on the first floor, just beyond the main staircase and the merchandise shelves.

How much does SweatBox cost? If you haven't tried it yet, you get your first class completely free! Just sign up online. The drop-in rate per class is $39, which is admittedly a little pricey. The good news? You can buy packages that will lower the per-class cost. They also offer a month-to-month rate for unlimited classes at $229/mo.

If you're in the DMV area, I highly recommend taking advantage of the free class so you can see and experience this unique fitness concept for yourself. And without a doubt, you better come prepared to sweat -- a lot!

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Mekita Rivas