The Best Workouts in Scottsdale

There is no shortage of ways to burn calories and all of them claim to be the best, so I set out to find the best workouts in Scottsdale. I believe that it’s smart to switch your routine now and then, too.

Much of my exercise regimen orbits around being better at mountain and road biking. My goal is to be light but powerful, more soccer player than swole bro. (Most male cyclists look like praying mantises, and I don’t dig that look. I also don’t find it functional, and I love being able to try whatever sport I want.) I like learning stuff that I can use during my home workouts. Even though I can and do train independently by myself, I like training with other people, too.

best workouts in Scottsdale
Not the goal. Nope.

OK, onto the list. WARNING: Everyone gets a grade. You might think my grade is too low — and that’s fine. I’m evaluating based on my own preferences and biases, which lean more toward actual real weights and creative use of bodyweight. If it’s an A for you and a C- for me, that might just mean we have different goals and requirements. This is an evolving effort that I plan to update. If you have a suggestion, throw it my way in the comments.

TruHIT Reigns for Current Best Workouts in Scottsdale

I took my first TruHIT class back in September. The equipment in the studio mirrors a lot of what I have at home: kettlebells, Olympic bars (which are rarely used in class), medicine balls, box jumps and jump ropes. Truhitt also has a few things I don’t, such as TRX rigs, rowing machines, dumbbells and stretchy bands.

The TruHIT staff combines this all in some creative ways. Different days throughout the week focus on different goals, such as legs, upper body and general conditioning. Personally, I opt for the leg days. Leg muscles and glutes are your biggest muscles, and they burn a lot of calories.

During my time there, I’ve found that that variety is pretty good. The staff is friendly and helpful, and the other participants are also a good bunch. There’s a lot of mutual encouragement, but not in the showy, bro-y, over-the-top way you might see at other gyms. You can borrow quite a bit for your home workouts, and I also like the scale/scanner thing in front that helps track your weight, metabolic age, body fat percentage and other data points.

best workouts in scottsdale
Good for tracking your progress

Is there any room for improvement? I find the TRX exercises involving stretchy bands kind of meh. Some of the exercise variations can be a bit much. A bit of simplifying and streamlining could reduce the "am I doing this right?" factor. I wouldn’t mind some specific classes for more technical movements like squats and deadlifts.

Overall, though, I find TruHIT to be the place to beat for the Best Workouts in Scottsdale title. A drop-in class is $15, and you can also go for monthly unlimited classes or get passes for a certain number of classes. Also good to know: They have a kids area where the staff will keep an eye on your little people for $5.

Grade: B+

Eat the Frog For Odd Hours

This studio is pretty interesting. They provide a heart-rate monitor for you, and you can see your status in real time on the monitors. Also noteworthy: Eat the Frog has other classes that don’t have instructors. You do your workout based on what’s on the monitors. That gives them some interesting flexibility with their hours.

Eat the Frog involves some quality time with a rowing machine. (This photo wasn’t taken at Eat the Frog.)

I did a drop-in class that focused on core movements. It started off with a warm-up on the rowing machines, where the instructor encouraged us to hit certain heart-rate target zones.

I’m not a huge fan of core-focused classes. It’s a relatively small muscle group, and I’m really into compound movements. Eat the Frog does not seem at all suited to people who dig basic but hard movements like squats, deadlifts and pullups.

That said, my core did get a good workout. And I never object to time on a rowing machine. That’s a quality way to get stronger and leaner.

Ultimately, Eat the Frog is not for me. It’s not a bad workout, but I don’t see it building power the way I’d like. I also do find a lot of the exercises a bit gimmicky being the back-to-basics guy I am. Packages range from $80-$150 a month. They also have a "punch card" sort of setup, but I didn’t get pricing for it.

Grade: C+

Fitwall: A Bit Funky

I’m always up for something a bit oddball in my quest to find the best workouts in Scottsdale. So I gave Fitwall a shot. I went during one of their leg days. The sessions revolve around a slatted metal wall where might do leg exercises or ersatz pullups.

best workouts in Scottsdale
A look inside the Fitwall facility.

Sigh. Man. Fake pullups. I get it. Pullups are hard — damn hard. Most people can’t do ‘em. But this wall idea does absolutely zero to get anyone close to a pullup. There is no substitute for a real pullup bar and struggling like crazy to do just one, single, solitary pushup.

During the session at Fitwall, I also used resistance bands and some light dumbbells. I would’ve happily traded them for heavier ones and doing fewer reps. But in all honesty, I am probably not the Fitwall model user. I see this as a workout for people who don’t really have much background in exercise. They’ll burn some calories and tone up a bit. I could also see a serious competitive bodybuilder using some of these exercises to hit smaller muscle groups. (Talk about use cases at opposite ends of the spectrum!)

There are some group exercise classes that seem to involve actual weights, but those take place in a different room. The pricing structure is a bit opaque: The website says they have plans from $7 a class. This morning, they tried to lure me in via text with an offer for $29 for two weeks.

I passed on the offer. I don’t see myself getting what I need out of Fitwall. It’s too gimmicky and focused mainly on proprietary equipment. People newer to training won’t really get enough out of it to independently build their own fitness routine. Unfortunately, I think that’s the goal of many fitness studios. That’s not a knock on the staff members, who were uniformly welcoming and helpful.

Grade: C-

Sweating at Hot Yoga University

I’ve already written a full review of Hot Yoga University. I’ve been going there a long time, and they’ve actually gotten better over time. They now have these HotFIIT and IronSculpt classes, and they are pretty serious stuff. The IronSculpt classes even use some dumbbells. They’re light, but you’ll definitely feel the burn after a few rounds.

best workouts in scottsdale
Hot Yoga University is the yoga studio we all need.

That said, I consider Hot Yoga classes more of a supplement for me. Others with different goals might be fine relying on these as their go-to workouts (even though some yoga folks probably get upset at those of us who think of yoga as a workout).

As for Hot Yoga University itself, it’s reasonably priced ($10 drop-in classes can’t be beat!) and considerably more friendly than many other yoga studios. Some people might be seeking more muscle mass and explosive power. Hot Yoga University can’t provide that alone, but it is absolutely great stuff for those who have other weightlifting routines in their fitness routine.

Grade: B

I’m a Dad, and I Have One Small Request for Playground Designers

playground designers
It wouldn’t take much for playground designers to work adult fitness into their plans.

This is a small request to playground designers from a dad doing his best to stay fit: Remember that adults spend a lot of time at the playgrounds you build, and we could also use a little something to burn some calories.

Every single day, I see some news headline screaming about the nation’s obesity rate. Which is odd, because I also can’t escape people on their way to Crossfit, hot yoga, pilates or whatever classes. A good chunk of those people are parents -- parents who happen to spend a lot of time watching their kids go wild on playgrounds.

There is no better way to help parents get fit (or fitter) than by making a few modest additions to your playgrounds. For example, the city of Mesa recently renovated Pioneer Park to the tune of more than $7 million. That’s money well-spent – it’s a terrific example of a playground and park that looks great and keeps kids occupied. It’s beautiful and modern and flat-out awesome.

playground designers
Not all parents are content to sit around – they’re training for Spartan and other obstacle course races. Maybe playground designers can help them out.

But how much more would it cost if the playground designers had put in some adult-sized pull-up bars and monkey bars? Maybe a bouldering wall? Or even just a simple rope-climbing station or three. Something tells me that would be just a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of the Pioneer Park overhaul. And these additions would promote and enhance functional fitness.

Let’s go back to the so-called "obesity epidemic." American sports culture isn’t really about participation – it’s all about passive watching. I don’t even know where to find the statistics, but I would bet that most of the time allotted for sports leagues at public parks goes to youth sports. The message here is clear: You play sports when you’re a kid, then you turn 21 and start going to "sports bars" to watch other people sports, and then you become a parent and never raise your heart rate past 100 again. Then researchers and public officials wag their collective finger at us while simultaneously taking zero substantive steps to address the problem.

Not even with something simple, like putting some adult-sized fitness apparatus (apparati? What’s the plural there?) on the playgrounds where we spend a good chunk of time with our kids. It’s a simple, low-key, relatively low-cost addition for playground designers. It doesn’t have to be as elaborate as this adult playground … not that I would mind having this near me!

playground designers fitness adult
Races like this are great for functional fitness. And adult-sized obstacles are an easy addition to existing kids’ playgrounds.

Let’s think about the example that sets: If the kids see their parents cranking out pullups, box jumps, pushups and whatnot, staying physically active becomes their norm. We shift the thinking from the current "go to the gym because New Year’s resolutions to lose some of that fat" to "lifelong healthy lifestyle."

Remember, this doesn’t need to be extensive or expensive – but it can be, and I’m absolutely salivating over the GameTime Challenge Course. But even just a few small features could create a huge shift in the way we think of fitness. Over the past year, I’ve moved to chipping away at a few calories everywhere possible rather than just saving it for the gym, even if it’s just a few push-ups or turning a low wall or park bench into a box-jump station. I would be thrilled for a place where I could do a few things I can’t do at home, especially monkey bars and a rope-climbing station. I’m sure every parent who does Warrior Dash, Spartan, Tough Mudder or other obstacle course races would agree. Even parents who don’t get into that stuff could have some fun with these challenges.

So, playground designers, next time you plan a playground, remember that there are parents out there who could really use that time to get some exercise along with their kids. It’s already starting to happen in some cities – the expertise and desire are there. So get onboard!

My Best Travel Advice – 2015 Edition

Kettlebell snatches - a great way to sweat enough to test the tasc Carrollton T.
Working out kind of sucks – but it makes me able to do cool things when I travel.

One thing people often tell me is "I wish I could travel with you!" I’m flattered, honestly. When someone says that, I hear "You know what you’re doing and you know how to have fun." Great! I’ll take that any day.

The fact is, though, I like traveling with as few people as possible. The odds of me opening up my travel time to just anyone are slim to none. The odds of our schedules aligning? Even worse (though I did get to travel overseas for work this year, and had a phenomenal co-worker with me).

Here’s some good news, though: I’m going to give you my best travel travel advice to help you check out the world the way I do. I’ve learned much beyond these, but I think these are the most important to me.

Better Fitness = Better Travel

Some people love tweeting from the gym, or taking selfies at the yoga studio. I am not one of them. My exercise routine is personal, almost solitary (with the exception of hot yoga classes) and always kind of grim. I don’t exercise to impress people or to be a male model. I exercise so I can do cool stuff.

best passenger planes
Flying ALWAYS beats a covered wagon.

Fitness is the basis for being ready to do anything you hear about when you travel. It gives you the ability to do a long hike, sign up for a 10k (which I’ve done in four countries so far), go cross country skiing -- you name it. There is no one-size-fits-all method to getting fit. My system of weightlifting, hot yoga, running and cycling is just right for me. There are so many ways to get sweaty these days that I can’t fathom it. Try a few things. See what you find fun or at least tolerable – and then stick with it. Start right this very minute. It will make your next travel experience better.

poop chute 1
Who knows what you might end up eating when you travel?

Love to Fly for Your Best Travel Ever

Airport security is a hassle. Airplane seats are leftover torture devices from the Spanish Inquisition. You always wind up sitting next to someone who hasn’t bathed since the Game Of Thrones season finale.

Wah.

Look, heading to Oregon in a covered wagon was no picnic. In the time it might’ve taken your ancestors to get out of the county, you can be on the exact opposite end of the planet. You can do this for a price unprecedented in human history, and you can do it breathing nice, clean air: I feel like smacking people who yap about the Golden Age of air travel when people suited up in their finest to fly -- and then smoked like chimneys the entire time (how easily we forget that, right?).

Even if you never learn to love flying, just remember it’s a means to an end. And that end is a new place, a new culture and new experiences.

Change From Your Usual

Let’s say you’re a meat-eating, football-watching SUV driver. If you travel, you just might wind up in a place where everyone else is a vegetarian cricket fan who gets around on a motorbike.

Guess what? You’ll have to fit in, because the culture isn’t going to change for you.

That goes for the vegans, too. I watched a vegan have an emotional warp-core breach because she had to ride in a horse-drawn cart. There was much blubbering and torrent of tears -- all because she expected that the world and its cultures would revolve around her comfort zone.

This isn’t the way travel works.

You’re going to get the best travel experience if you are willing to morph in any direction. Stay somewhere that doesn’t have a 5-Star rating. Eat something that would normally frighten you. Use your own two feet. Try to speak a different language.

Stand Up Paddle Board Trip – New On My “To Do” List

Stand up paddle board

When I travel, I’m always on the lookout for something new to try. An excursion on a stand up paddle board is now a new item on my to-do list.

So, first off … what is a stand up paddleboard? I think of it as a surfboard that’s so stable you can stand on it – and paddle wherever you feel like going. Here’s the wikipedia definition. It’s an emerging sport that has much of what I look for: a chance to build fitness, some cool equipment and the chance to spot cool wildlife.

Let’s start with the fitness part of it. You’re standing up. You’re using your arms. And here’s a big one – water is an unstable surface. So you have to use just about every muscle in your body to stay balanced on a stand up paddle board. Remember, you can catch a wave, too – so you’ll need stability even when the water works in your favor.

Stand up paddle board, SUP

Add the paddling motion into it, and the intensity ramps right up. When you really bear down with the power, you’ll have to work your core muscles even harder to stay upright. All that adds up to nice fitness benefits – and I’ll try just about anything that promises a fun way to work off all the tasty local foods I like to sample when I travel.

Now, let’s talk about equipment. For some people, gear is a huge chunk of the stand up paddle board fun – I can say this with all the authority of 20+ years on the mountain bike. The crew at Legends SUP in Southern California knows the gear and its impact on the fun; the Legends SUP staff outfits all sorts of paddleboarders from the beginner level all the way up.

You’ll need a board and a paddle. But what else? Possibly a wetsuit, a personal flotation device and some sunscreen. I was surprised by the array of gear for different usage – you’ll see a stand-up paddle board for every application from river use to women-specific designs.

Paddleboarding at Sunset
Paddleboarding at sunset looks alright to me. (Photo credit: Rosa Say)

That leaves us with some opportunities to spot wildlife. If your travel takes you to the Monterrey, Calif., area, you’ll find places to spot a sea otter from a stand up paddle board. And sea turtles and sea lions sighting ares common in the Galapagos Islands.

I’m an Australia-phile, so I’d try a stand up paddle board next time I travel to Australia. The only thing better than spotting wildlife in Australia is managing to not get eaten by them. But just mind the advice from any locals, and you should be good to go.

This is a sponsored post. All opinions and thoughts on the sport of stand up paddleboarding are my own. 

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