Feb 28 2015

Lighter, Healthier & Stronger: Weight Loss Challenge Results

VIDA Weight Loss Challenge

VIDA Weight Loss Challenge

As we reach the end of our January Weight Loss Challenge, it’s always awesome to see members who are actually feeling a big difference in their bodies. Not just in amount of pounds lost, but also feeling healthier, stronger, and more confident as a direct result of our program. The success of our members is what keeps us re-launching these programs – which Samia Elshafie and Sarah Little are perfect examples of!

Samia Elshafie, a member at Metropole, had surgery on her Achilles tendon about a year ago and had trouble getting back into a regular workout routine since her surgery.

“I was inactive for so long, and kind of soothed my body by adopting bad habits and eating unhealthily,” explains Samia.

When she saw signage for the Weight Loss Challenge starting in January, she decided it was exactly what she needed to get back on track and signed up right away. After chatting about her decision to start the program at her non-profit office, Education for Employment, she managed to get one of her coworkers, Sarah Little, on board with her too!

“During grad school I started to get a little overweight. I’ve been wanting to lose the weight for a while and made my new year’s resolution to get healthy again this year. I decided to sign up for the weight loss challenge with Samia and am so glad I did!” says Sarah.

Since the start of the challenge, Samia and Sarah have worked out twice a week with VIDA trainer Devonne Horsley in addition to cardio workouts on their own several times a week.

“Both of these girls have worked so hard,” says Devonne. They’re both so dedicated and really tackled it head-on. I’m so proud of them!” she says.

The girls’ workouts with Devonne have consisted of strength training, cardio and even some TRX, and both Samia and Sarah can feel a huge difference in their performance since starting the program.

“My strength on things like squats and lunges has definitely improved,” says Sarah. “After the first session I was so sore I couldn’t move the next day. Now, I can feel that I worked out the day before but it doesn’t kill me. It keeps getting better and easier!” she says.

VIDA Weight Loss Challenge

VIDA Weight Loss Challenge

Samia explains that she loves the small group setting of the weight loss challenge because it takes out the intimidation factor that exists when you’re trying out brand new equipment or machines on your own.

“It can be intimidating trying new machines when you’re by yourself. This program felt like a safe space where she (Devonne) would walk us through it and answer any questions we had,” says Samia. “I also really loved TRX – something that I probably wouldn’t have ever tried on my own!” she says.

Something that both girls agree made a huge difference was having each other there for support and motivation through the process. They explained to me how they made an accountability board in their office where they’d keep track of their workouts and commit to not letting the other skip a workout or make an unhealthy food choice.

Samia, who had lost a total of 6 lbs when I spoke with her, and Sarah who had just reached her total of 10 lbs lost when we spoke, both agreed that they couldn’t have done it without the positivity and encouragement from their trainer, Devonne.

“Devonne pushes me harder than I would ever push myself. She doesn’t take no for an answer, even when I really don’t want to do any more burpees,” jokes Sarah.

Samia agrees, and says she definitely couldn’t have done it without Devonne’s encouragement.

“She’s just so fun and spunky and always saying positive things. But no, there’s no getting out of burpees,” she laughs.

As you might have guessed, burpees were not the crowd favorite with Samia and Sarah, but they are both very pleased with their progress and looking forward to continuing their training into our spring weight loss challenge!

VIDA Weight Loss Challenge

VIDA Weight Loss Challenge

“My clothes are fitting better; I’m eating healthier and just feeling stronger in general. I used to always make excuses not to come to the gym but now I love it!” says Sarah.

Congratulations on your awesome progress, ladies, and looking forward to seeing your continued success in the spring weight loss challenge!

Feb 25 2015

Class Spotlight: VIDA Circuit

VIDA Circuit

High intensity interval training (HIIT) is one of the best ways to build muscular endurance while getting an intense cardio workout at the same time. In VIDA Circuit, you’ll move quickly between a handful of different strength and cardio exercises using a variety of equipment that will have your heart pumping within the first few minutes.

Maria Bokulich, who teaches VIDA Circuit here at U Street, explains that the class incorporates a team mentality and involves strength, endurance and strategy from all team members.

“Members are usually put in pairs or teams to complete a task of exercises together. These team workouts vary greatly and employ active resting, allowing your body to recover from cardiovascular or strength exercises,” says Maria.

My favorite thing about this class is that the format changes every time. Each class is a completely different set-up with brand new exercises and stations, so it’s guaranteed that you won’t get bored from week to week.

In one class you might be divided into partners that you’ll alternate between a strength exercise and a cardiovascular exercise with. For instance, you’ll do squat jumps while your partner completes a round of twelve dead lifts, and then you’ll switch for the duration of 3-5 minutes.

VIDA CircuitOr, depending on the number of participants in class, each person will be assigned a station with a certain strength or cardio exercise. The strength portions range from basic motions like weighted squats/dead lifts, overhead presses, push-ups and abdominal exercises to kettle bell swings, battle ropes and pushing weights across the floor.

For the cardio side of things, come prepared for jumping jacks, high knees, squat jumps and all sorts of plyometrics. You’ll spend one minute doing your specified exercise at each station before moving straight to the next one with no breaks in between. Once you’ve completed the entire circuit, then everybody gets to rest!

While the format changes with each class, what stays the same is the constant alternation between a strength exercise and a cardiovascular exercise. The class is the perfect combination of the two, and tires you out in that awesome way where you know you just worked every muscle in your body.

Another aspect of this class I love is that it introduces you to so many new exercises. I had never tried battle ropes before, and probably wouldn’t have gotten the chance if not for VIDA Circuit. It also introduced me to new ways to do certain exercises I was already doing on my own with a different, more challenging spin on them.

Maria, who incorporates her own training from collegiate basketball, Olympic rowing and CrossFit into her classes, says VIDA Circuit is more than your average workout.

“It’s a great way to push your limits, learn good lifting technique, work as a team and make new friends!” she says.

This class is tough – but in such a good way! It’s usually a smaller group of people during the week, so you’ll make friends with the other people that are going through the same thing you are (and keep coming back for more!) Nothing brings you closer with another member as passing each other running up and down a stairwell! (In Maria’s class you will develop a newfound love/hatred for the stairwells by the Group Fitness Studio.)

VIDA Circuit

VIDA Circuit

VIDA Circuit is currently offered Tuesdays at noon with Maria, Fridays at 6pm with Sarah, and Saturdays at 9am with Gitanjali. If you’re looking for a quick in-and-out workout that kicks your butt in only 45 minutes, Circuit is definitely your class!

Feb 25 2015

Class Spotlight: Cardio Kickboxing

Knockout2If you’re looking for a fun way to relieve stress while breaking a serious sweat to energizing and uplifting music – Kickboxing is the class for you!

I just took this class with Gitanjali for the first time and fell in love with it immediately. I was expecting something slower paced, but Gitanjali’s class is anything but. All the tracks consist of a combination of punches, kicks and twists that are musically driven and choreographed in a way that gives you a total body aerobic workout.

The choreography in our Kickboxing class builds on itself and does incorporate a dance facet into the class, but the moves are straightforward and super easy for anyone to follow along with. As someone who is rhythmically challenged to say the least, I loved that I could join right in and feel like I was keeping up with the rest of the class and getting a great workout at the same time! Some fast-paced, choreography based classes can be discouraging for first-timers, but this is definitely not one of them.

From the warm-up to the cool-down, your heart rate will stay up for the entire duration of the class. Your instructor will guide you through a series of punches, jabs and kicks while moving forward, backward and side to side, adding on a new move every few minutes. As the music gets faster, the pace picks up and you’re getting a full blast cardio workout while still engaging every muscle in your body. Plus, the music is so overpowering and fun that you won’t even realize 45 minutes is up at the end of class!

VIDA Kickboxing instructor Gitanjali Borkar says she loves being able to put her own spin on the class and that you should come prepared to sweat.

“It’s an all original class, the moves are simple, sharp and basic so it’s easy for the crowd to follow and have fun. But it’s also tough – it’s a perfect combination of cardio and strength with a dance aspect too. I find it very cathartic, a great release of stress!” says Gitanjali.

Knockout1This class is ideal for people of all fitness levels because it’s so easy to follow along with. As Gitanjali explained, the moves are uncomplicated but very effective. You’ll learn valuable self defense skills with proper form and technique in a fun environment that makes it easy to give it all you’ve got.

Kickboxing is available at multiple VIDA locations, and should certainly be added to your workout regimen as a fun way to let off some steam at the end (or beginning!) of your work day. Gitanjali’s class will definitely be added to my schedule as much as possible!

Feb 25 2015

Your Must-Know Personal Stats for Heart Health

Now that American Heart Month is coming to a close, we wanted to end on more of a serious note.

While some of the advice geared toward heart health might seem like common sense, for example, watching your weight and reducing the amount of sodium in your diet, there are some things that require more careful contemplation. Things like your personal health statistics.

Although you may not love going to the doctor, going in for a routine physical (aka a basic appointment where you’re not going in because you have an ailment) is an important part of taking control of your health.

Think about it, if you never go to the doctor, but suddenly need to because you’re having a problem, it’s going to be a longer process of coming to a solution because there’s no record of your body in it’s usual state.

So if you haven’t seen the doc in awhile, here’s a few stats you’ll be checked for that are important to note:

blood pressureBlood Pressure

As with many other aspects of our health, blood pressure can be affected by several factors such as our stress levels, diet, lack of exercise or even our family history.

Some people naturally have higher or lower blood pressures, but only through regular monitoring of your blood pressure will you know if something is off.

For example, high blood pressure runs in my family, my mother, grandmother and great-grandmother all had high blood pressure, so I am inevitably at a higher risk due to genetics. Thankfully my blood pressure sits on the lower side (I’m assuming that also comes from a healthy diet and regular exercise), but without knowing my baseline, I wouldn’t know what would constitute “high blood pressure” for me because my version of high blood pressure could be someone else’s “normal.”

Find out where you sit on the scale of blood pressure and keep note of it. Making lifestyle changes earlier allows for better prevention of high blood pressure, which is more likely to occur as we get older.

heart rateHeart Rate

So you don’t actually need to go to a doctor to get this stat (whoop whoop!), but knowing your resting heart rate as well as your target heart rate are important metrics to know.

Your resting heart rate is how many beats your heart takes per minute while you’re not doing any activity and is a good measurement to determine your level of fitness. A good time to take your resting heart rate would be in the morning before you get out of bed. Find your pulse, count your pulse for 10 seconds and then multiply that number by six to receive your resting heart rate.

According to the National Institute of Health, the average resting heart rate for children 10 years and older, and adults (including seniors) is 60 – 100 beats per minute.

You can then take it a step further by determining your target heart rate zone, which you can then use to determine if you’re pushing yourself hard enough while exercising.

Although it might seem like a pain to calculate your target heart rate while working out, it’s very beneficial to know if you’re making the most of your time in the gym. And trust me, not only will you feel like you did major work when you leave the gym, but working within your target heart rate zone will also have you starting to see results more quickly.

Image via The American Heart Association


When I hear the word “cholesterol” I picture someone in my grandparent’s age bracket, like that word doesn’t really apply to me (I’m in my 20s), and it probably won’t apply for another twenty or so years. Right?


The American Heart Association recommends all adults age 20 or older have their cholesterol checked every four to six years. Again, this provides you and your doctor with a baseline that will allow any increase or decreases in your numbers to be apparent as you get older.

By getting a fasting lipoprotein profile (where you fast for 9 to 12 hours beforehand and then get your blood drawn) you’ll get know your total blood cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides levels, which are indicators of your risk for heart attack and stroke.


Here’s another one you don’t actually have to see your doctor to calculate, however there are some limitations to this measurement, so be aware that your BMI may be influenced by age, gender and ethnicity.

Those are factors that your doctor can take in to consideration when talking about your personal health, but on the most basic level, knowing your BMI is useful in knowing if you’re within a healthy weight range given your height.

Now if you’re already fit, eat a balanced diet, don’t have any weight to lose and you’ve got a considerable amount of lean muscle, you probably don’t need your BMI to tell you where you fall. But if you know you need improvements in your physical fitness and diet, start with your BMI to give you an indicator of how much work you need to do to get within a healthy range (that can mean putting on weight in the form of muscle, or losing fat and gaining muscle).

Your BMI isn’t the end all, be all of measurements, but it’s a good starting place to kick your glutes in gear.

Feb 24 2015

VIDA Featured Instructor — Kip Plaisted

Kip Plaisted

Kip Plaisted

Kip Plaisted joined the VIDA Family back in 2009, after moving from Maine to DC. He currently teaches RX and KillerCore multiple times a week at our Metropole, U Street and Verizon locations. If you’ve been in one of Kip’s classes, you know that they involve hard work, sweat and being able to laugh as part of a great workout routine!

While Kip was still living in Maine, he realized he was unhappy with his body and needed to make a change. He started taking some classes at a local gym and eventually began building some confidence in himself. Once he realized he could start teaching classes and helping others who were in his position, he got certified and never looked back!

Kip has been teaching RX here at VIDA for about five years now, and says it gives him a nice change of pace from his other occupation as a 7th grade English teacher for DCPS.

“It’s nice to have that outlet of working with adults who actually show up to my class voluntarily,” jokes Kip.

Keeping things lighthearted and fun is a big part of Kip’s teaching style, and makes his classes much more enjoyable to get through! He keeps participants engaged from start to finish by joking around, asking questions and interacting with members throughout each exercise.

Kip’s classes are a great stress relief – both for him and his members. He explains that it’s essential for him to get that hour workout in either before or after spending his day with his middle schoolers.

“I think sometimes my teaching styles overlap. I once told my 7th graders to put their plates away at the end of the period. Oops!” he says with a laugh.

Kip currently teaches RX at the following times: Mondays 7pm (U Street), Wednesday & Fridays 6am (U Street), Tuesdays 5:30pm (Metropole) Wednesdays 6:45pm (Metropole) and Sundays at 10am (Verizon.) He also teaches KillerCore at 6:30pm on Tuesdays at Metropole.

When asked what his favorite exercise is, Kip replies with “Sit-ups. Because I think I have an ab in there somewhere, and I don’t want it to go away.”

We totally know that feeling, Kip!