Well Being

Gym Classy Lady: Faux Surfing For Stress Relief? Amazingly, It Worked

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"Gym Classy Lady" Elizabeth Ford trying out  SurfSET simulated surfing style workout

“Gym Classy Lady” Elizabeth Ford trying out SurfSET

In general, I subscribe to the Mindy Kaling School of Stress (TM). From her book, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?:

“I do not think stress is a legitimate topic of conversation, in public anyway. No one ever wants to hear how stressed out anyone else is, because most of the time everyone is stressed out. Going on and on in detail about how stressed out I am isn’t conversation. It’ll never lead anywhere. No one is going to say, ‘Wow, Mindy, you really have it especially bad. I have heard some stories of stress, but this just takes the cake.'”

So I don't want to go against what I think is a solid theory, but I've been a little stressed lately. So much so that when it came to meeting Kendyl last night for a new class, I was half-inclined to cancel and just head home for my couch and TV. But then … there's nothing on TV on Wednesday nights anyway (except YouTubed episodes of Kitchen Nightmares, which everyone should be watching), so I ran out of work and hustled down to Chelsea Piers to try SurfSET, a full-body, intense surfing-style workout.

Even though I try new classes sometimes weekly, I still get a little nervous at the beginning. So as we were standing by our boards, Kendyl and I struck up a conversation with the prior class's instructor, who was helping us get ready. I asked him what we needed to know and he gave us two pieces of key advice: 1. keep your body loose (which was key for me because I am the kind of person who tenses up instantly when doing something unfamiliar, just ask anyone who has ever seen me on skis) and 2. have fun. He caveated number two with, “I know it sounds hokey, but it's so true. This isn't a boot camp, you're here to have a fun experience.” And actually, though it did sound a bit trite, in the end, it was the theme of the class.

SurfSET simulated surfing style workout surfboardsForty-five extremely sweaty minutes later, my stress was the last thing on my mind. Without even trying to take the advice, I'd had fun! And I felt 1000% better about life. And, can I be honest about something? I've always heard working out is a great stress reliever and I had never really agreed. Sure, if you're pissed at the world, kick-boxing helps you channel that energy, but working out has always given me more stress than taking any away. All the details to think about – do I have the right clothes, a proper sports bra, a bottle of water? Did I eat the right food today to not upset my stomach before a class? Am I doing this move right or am I going to be in a world of hurt tomorrow?

But last night? I had fun, I worked out, and I felt a million times better about life in the end. Magic

EFFECTIVENESS – Overall, was it a good workout? How sweaty was I at the end (from black tie ready to drowned rat chic)? 

4 – I guess I was expecting something a little lower impact, along the lines of a barre class (and Kendyl was too, from our reflections), but I was drenched in sweat at the end of class. This class is definitely a total body workout, with cardio, strength, and a TON of core work. The lack of stability of the surf board makes it all the more challenging and forces you to work muscles you don't normally use. There's also some yoga moves and a few things that sort of resembled a mountain climber or burpee on a surf board. And somehow, you don't feel like a complete moron attempting all of this.

AMENITIES – How posh was the gym/spa/studio? From lemon water to BYO.

4 – SurfSET's only Manhattan studio is at the Sports Center at Chelsea Piers. Being that I am an uptown and midtown girl, I've spent no time at the this particular gym but was really impressed with the facilities. Non-members can take SurfSET classes for $35 each, but the class also buys you a day pass to the entire Sports Center, including the pool, indoor track and sand volleyball court (I include this because it was such a novelty to me), and all classes. Although the class is expensive, the day pass is certainly a perk I would take advantage of on a weekend and their class schedule is pretty impressive.

STUDIO VIBE – Was the place full of lululemon or ratty old t-shirts? How awkward did I feel, from inner-Beyonce to sixth grade me?

5 – There were five other people in our class, plus the teacher. The surf boards are facing each other, which I thought would be intimidating, but it was actually fine. You know it's a good crowd when we were the only newbies in the class and some of the other students seemed to be regulars, yet I never once felt awkward and out of place. Even when my surfboard was shaking like a leaf and the teacher had to come help me stand upright, I was laughing, not embarrassed.

TEACHERS – Did the teacher add to or detract from the experience? Did they put together a good playlist?

5 – Our teacher was Diana, a very enthusiastic and welcoming presence. SurfSET has a video that plays in every class (seen in my picture) of surfing accompanied by music, which helps set the tone and is a great touch, but it was sometimes hard to hear Diana over the music. Apparently, each teacher is completely different in their style so I'd like to try the others, but I will definitely be back in Diana's class again.

OVERALL EXPERIENCE – Would I go again? What else contributed to my experience?

5 – By far one of the most fun experiences I've had in a fitness class yet. All the fun of surfing without getting water up your nose! I'm slightly deterred by the cost and location – meaning I really wish they'd open a studio on my block and offer class packages, but I already want to go back and hope to make it a regular part of my workout routine.

*** SurfSET comped my class, but all opinions are my own.

About “Gym Class Lady:” Inspired by my love of trying all things fitness, every other week I’ll be reviewing a workout class, fad or video. I try all these classes so you don’t have to! Have a class to recommend or a review you’d love to read? Leave me a comment or tweet me @lizlemonyall.