The very first time I saw a bunch of TRX straps hanging from the ceiling of a gym, I was pretty convinced they were either some kind of crazy torture stretching devices or that Christian Grey had just left the building. (Neither of which I entirely objected to.) But when I realized that TRX (Total Body Resistance Exercises) is actually a solid all-over strength, balance, flexibility and performance-enhancing workout, I was chomping at the bit (or strap) to try it out.
Born out of the Navy SEALs and used by people at all fitness levels, TRX uses your bodyweight while leveraging gravity to perform hundreds of exercises. Not only does it strengthen and tighten your muscles, but also builds endurance, hardens your core and gives you one hell of a cardiovascular workout.
When I first walked into PE Fitness in Hope Artiste Village, where I would be taking a Tabata TRX class, I was struck by the amazing space: the high-ceilinged, brightly-lit loft lined its spacious walls with spin bikes, treadmills, a rower, kettlebells, large tires, power racks, TRX straps, inspirational quotes and a personal Olympic and strength training area.
Studio owner Lisa St. Denis and personal trainer Laurel immediately greeted me. For the past 20 years, Lisa has dedicated herself to health and well-being. With personal training, strength and conditioning certifications in everything from TRX, Spinning and Triathlon Coaching to Crossfit, Bosu Ball, Kettlebells and more, Lisa's years of experience, coaching and knowledge makes her a credible source in the world of sports and athleticism. To say I was eager to learn from her was like saying you can never have too many pairs of sneakers. Truth in the purest form.
Lisa and Laurel showed me around and explained what we would be doing in the class. This TRX class was done with Tabata training, a high intensity interval training method where one specific exercise would take a total of four minutes, broken down into rounds of 20 seconds of nonstop movement, followed by a ten second break, for a total of eight rounds. Simply put, for the first half of class, we'd be using TRX exercises in this format. Sounds simple enough, right?
To warm up, we began outside, jogging up and down the lovely (and long) hill alongside the studio. Back inside, we began... with squat jumps. Gripping onto the handles of the TRX straps, to hold you in place with resistance, we jumped and squatted and jumped and squatted – all in one fluid motion, for 20 seconds. After a ten second rest, we did it again, until eight rounds like this were completed. With my legs already starting to feel like jelly, we moved into a series of a bunch of other exercises done in the same timely (read: heart thumping) manner, from pike planks to atomic push-ups to low rows and bicep curls (with water breaks in between). I'll admit that I pride myself on being fit and handling just about anything thrown at me in the fitness arena, but I was ten minutes into this workout and it was completely kicking my ass.
A couple more outdoor jogs were intertwined into the Tabata rounds before the class switched gears and moved to one-minute long circuits of straight TRX exercises. It's funny how I confused, “one-minute cycles” with “Oh, we're getting a little break now.” It was like that time someone told me, “Having three children is easy.” Because, while you believe you've got it all handled, you really have no idea what's around the corner.
As we moved through the remaining strapped exercises, from overhead tricep extensions and mountain climbers to one-legged side lunges and overhead pullovers, I relished the burn with every minute-long motion while wondering how many more classes it would take for me to be able to complete every round or cycle without having to stop (and pray). At the end of the 45-minute class, we stretched as I regained my composure and looked around to see if anyone else looked like they had just tried to wrangle a tiger. I loved this class.
Yes, I was shaky. And maybe even a little off-kilter and close to dropping an f-bomb or two a few times. But I can say that this was a workout I would, without a doubt, be back to do. The beauty of it is that you control the intensity and level of difficulty with your own body, making it accessible for everyone to try. And noting by the levels of body soreness for the few days afterward, I had chosen the right level.