Group Fitness Gets Militant

An East Side fitness studio gets tough


It had been a few months since I’d gone to a group fitness class that really made me work. I’m talking a heart-pounding, muscle-shaking, feeling-the-burn (and questioning-my-sanity) kind of workout. It wasn’t that I had gotten lazy. I have run marathons and done half Ironman-distance triathlons. I get a rush out pushing myself out of my comfort zone. But a foot injury I sustained in March had put all high-impact exercise on hold, and I missed those intense, sweaty workouts that kept me on an exercise high for the rest of the day.

So with my foot on the mend – and the strong desire to start a fresh fitness routine for fall – I decided to try the Navy SEAL class at Core: Center of Real Energy, an intermediate-to-advanced total-body workout that begins at 6am sharp and is listed in the schedule as founder Denise Chakoian-Olney’s “signature workout.” Gulp.

When I got to the studio in Wayland Square, I noticed that the group exercise room is an intimate space. This, Denise says, is by design; when she opened the studio five years ago her goal was to make it a personalized experience for everyone, a place where instructors give clients personal service and guidance, even in group fitness classes.

I found this to be true at the Navy SEAL class. There were nine of us taking it, and Denise seemed to know most everyone by name. After a warm-up, she led us through intervals of squats, lunges, push-ups, jumps, overhead presses and core training using hand weights, Bosu balls and jump ropes. Throughout the class Denise gave each of us one-on-one attention, ensuring our form was correct and that we were getting the most out of the exercises. In order to keep our heart rates up and make the workout as brutal – ahem, effective – as possible, she gave us very little rest in between. I was glad I had brought enough water, but I still dripped so much sweat that I made a mental note to bring a towel next time – maybe two.

I won’t lie: there were times during the class that I wanted to give up. But when we finished, I felt that instant, indescribable high that only comes at the end of an intensely satisfying workout. The Navy SEAL class worked me, and as I walked out of the studio soaked in sweat, my glutes on fire and my legs like Jell-o, I couldn’t wait to do it again.