Jul 31 2015

Featured Instructor: Angela Meyer

Angela1Meet one of VIDA’s most tenured yoga instructors + martial arts expert Angela Meyer! Angela has been with VIDA for four years and currently teaches seven yoga classes a week at both the Yards and U Street.

Angela’s been athletic her whole life, and loves to share her passion for yoga and martial arts with others. She first got into yoga while playing soccer for the University of Alabama and went straight for the intense stuff – Bikram (heated) yoga!

“I like to sweat. In Bikram it’s 110 degrees and very detoxifying,” says Angela.

She started discovering other types of yoga while living in Denver after college and began practicing regularly. After moving to DC in 2003 for a job with an AIDS Hospice, she says she needed something to take her mind off the less-than-cheerful work environment she was facing on a daily basis.

“I loved the grounding aspect of yoga; it helped me find my balance. I’m an extremist, so yoga really helps calm my fire,” she says.

Her instructors and fellow yogis kept encouraging her to start teaching, so she eventually got certified at the Down Dog Yoga studio in Georgetown. Since then she has taught part-time at various yoga studios throughout the city while holding full-time ‘day-jobs,’ (including the Group Fitness Manager position at Metropole, and the Regional Director at the YMCA) but finally made the decision to start teaching yoga and her other passion, martial arts, full time.

“I love being able to create a space for people to practice and figure out exactly what they need from their practice that day. It’s very empowering to tell people how to do something, and then watching them discover it for themselves,” says Angela.

Angela2Her VIDA yoga classes include a heated sunrise yoga at the Yards, plus Vinyasa, Power Yoga and Yoga for Athletes at both U Street and the Yards. When she’s not teaching at VIDA, Angela teaches at a Budokon studio (a mixed yoga & martial arts practice) where she leads training programs for other instructors to get certified. She’s also experienced in Jiu Jitsu, Krav Maga and Muay Thai, and is working on bringing her own self defense program to VIDA!

“Yoga has so many benefits to other cross training programs. It helps with your range of motion, balance, alignment and movements in general. Try it – it’s definitely a workout!” says Angela.

As someone who has taught yoga all over the city, she comments that the quality of VIDA’s yoga program is on par with other smaller yoga studios she’s experienced.

“VIDA has done a great job of really investing in their yoga program and finding quality instructors. I’m very impressed with the integrity that I have always been treated with and the culture we have created for yogis. People come here just for yoga now,” she says.

Angela3Some of Angela’s other hobbies when she’s not teaching, practicing, or training include biking around the city and trying out new restaurants (Kapnos is her fave!) You also may have seen her on the big screen at the Nationals Ballpark at our Yoga In The Outfield event back in June, leading a class of over 1000 yogis on the field. Check the class schedule to see when you can drop in a class with Angela this week!

Jul 25 2015

Benefits of the Calf Stretch

Calf1By Metropole Spa Manager Jacob Gough

The calf muscle on the back of the lower leg is actually made up of two muscles: the Gastrocnemius (looks like two bubbles when you go on your tippy toes) and the Soleus. These muscles are prone to locking up (i.e a Charley Horse.) These two muscles might not look important to many but they play one of the biggest roles in our everyday life of walking from point A to point B. The Gastrocnemius crosses at the knee and ankle, and the Soleus crosses only the ankle. The ends of the gastroc and soleus tendons fuse at the ankle to create what we know as the Achilles tendon. Stretching these muscles will prevent injury to the ankle and the many little muscles that help stabilize the ankle and the possibility of tearing your Achilles.

With so many stretches for the calves here are a few of our favorites:

-A great way to keep yourself from having a Charley Horse in the morning is when you stretch out in bed…NEVER point your toes. Save that for  when you are more awake and have better blood flow. You want to flex your toes towards your head and extend your legs – this will give you an amazing calf stretch in the morning.

Calf2-When taking the stairs up if no one is behind you stop for a minute, put the balls of your feet at the edge of the stairs and allow your heel to hang off. Slow push your heel toward the lower step and stretch the calf. You can do both but one at a time is much better.

-Use the wall in your office by placing one foot on the wall. You want your heel as close as you can get it, the other foot should be about 2.5 – 3 feet back, next lean forward towards the wall. You will feel this deep in the muscle. Just breath into it, never hold your breath and try not to breath quickly. The slower and deeper your breath the deeper the stretch will be and the more release you will achieve.

Jul 25 2015

Aura spa Featured Therapist: Jean Briggs

Jean Briggs

Jean Briggs

LMT Jean Briggs is the newest addition to our massage team at Metropole and is already fitting in perfectly. Jean has been practicing massage for over 10 years and recently joined Aura spa this month. She was looking for an environment that would tie in fitness with massage, so Aura spa was the obvious choice for her!

Jean has been in the DMV area for over 20 years and graduated from UMD with a degree in art history. As someone who has always been into the arts (she’s an avid writer, painter, and poet!) she views massage as another holistic art form that celebrates taking care of our physical being.

“I’ve always been into well-being and staying active. I love walking, yoga, playing tennis, and recently worked with a personal trainer, which really made me realize how much sense it makes to pair massage with fitness,” says Jean. “The people here at VIDA are already invested in their health, so massage therapy is the perfect addition to their lifestyle,” she says.

Jean worked for the National Integrative Health Association (NIHA) while doing massage on the side, but recently made the decision to start pursuing massage full-time. She was seeking a position where she could feel connected to others who share her mentality of the importance of taking care of themselves and says Aura has been the perfect fit.

“I live, teach and breathe massage. I have a very deep connection to this work, it gives me energy, makes me happy and makes going to work feel effortless. I feel like I can be myself creatively here and everyone is so sincerely positive about this environment. I am so thrilled and excited to be a part of it!” says Jean.

Her massage style varies by the client, she says, and she enjoys customizing each session to meet that individual clients needs. She’ll start by identifying focus areas with her client that they would like addressed and then go from there.

“I like to first find out how my client uses their body on a daily basis, whether they’re in an office environment or very athletic. Sometimes they’ll ask me to focus on a certain area the entire time or sometimes I find new areas that need work that they weren’t even aware of. I always warm up the body first and wait for the body tissue to invite me in, rather than the ‘break and enter’ technique. I find that this allows me to penetrate deeper and really access those problem areas,” says Jean.Jean Briggs

Jean explains that warming the Fascia (connective tissue) first releases and relaxes your muscles which allow for a deeper massage. This results in improved mobility and fluidity as your muscles untighten and relax.

Aside from getting to practice her passion in an environment she’s excited about, Jean says the best thing about joining Aura spa is that she’ll be able to take classes at VIDA in between clients!

“Being physically active really invigorates your brain. I’m a firm believer in keeping your thoughts and your body moving constantly –movement is the key to everything!” says Jean.

She hopes to start out with some yoga classes, with possibly some Zumba on the horizon in the future. She’s always loved dancing, swimming, and outdoor activities such as hiking and visiting the ocean.

And, she loves to cook!

“I can cook anything! From vegan cuisine to meat-lovers, I guarantee I can make a dish for you,” she says with a smile.

To book an appointment with Jean, contact our Metropole location this week! And please join us in welcoming her to the Aura spa family.

Jul 23 2015

Checking In With ALS Event Speaker Andrea Peet

Andrea Peet is a 34 year old athlete and VIDA member who was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, less than a year after completing a 70.3 half Ironman triathlon. She blogs at, and the following excerpt is from her blog. Andrea joined us for our ALS fundraiser & silent auction event on May 29th and shares her recap of the event from her perspective below!


In May, a week after I became a Young Faces of ALS ambassador for ALS-TDI, I got an email asking if there was any way I could speak at an Augie’s Quest event…tomorrow.

Augie’s Quest was started by Augie Nieto. If you’ve been to a gym – ever – you probably know his work. He is the co-founder of the LifeFitness brand of gym equipment. So next time you’re working out on one of those weight machines and desperately in need of something to take your mind off all the iron you’re pumping, check out the brand of your fitness equipment and thank Augie for making you sweat J

Augie was diagnosed with ALS in 2005 (ahem, 10 years ago…I love reading about people busting the 2-5 year life expectancy) and remains active as Chairman of the Board of Directors for ALS-TDI. To date, Augie’s Quest has raised $45 million for ALS research.

I didn’t know any of this when I said yes to speaking at the Augie’s Quest event. I was just asked if I could share my ALS story at a silent auction/cocktail fundraiser/rooftop pool party at the Navy Yard VIDA gym…tomorrow. Sure, I said, send me the details.

My husband and I were in the car on the way to VIDA when I realized the date. May 29th. One year to the day since I was diagnosed with probable ALS the first time, yet none of us really understood what that meant.

A year ago, I was rushing around from doctor to doctor, test to test, trying to hold down a full-time job and falling in the middle of the street. One year later, I was in a cocktail dress on the way to a speaking event about being diagnosed with a terminal disease, supported by a Team Drea army of 70+ people swimming, biking, running, and fundraising for ALS research. So much can happen in a year.

Anyway, we took the elevator up to the gym level and met our point of contact, Aaron, who is the director of operations for VIDA. Super nice guy. As we made our way to the penthouse level with the rooftop pool, he filled us in on who Augie is and how VIDA fundraises for Augie’s Quest to benefit ALS-TDI.

Andrea & David at the ALS Silent Auction event on May 29th.

Andrea & David at the ALS Silent Auction event on May 29th.

We stood around for a few minutes, declining drinks and trying not to be nervous (why oh why do I say no to alcohol before speaking engagements? In the future, don’t ask me, just hand me the drink!)

I’m struck by the atmosphere – these are mostly our peers, or at least they used to be. Fit, thirty-something professionals in DC with no kids, kicking off a gorgeous late-spring weekend by letting loose after a long grinding week at the office. Yeah, we know. We used to be part of this tribe too, until ALS came along and derailed our promising, aspirational lives.

That’s what on my mind when the deejay handed me the mic. I told my story, including the fact that it’s the one-year anniversary of when I was diagnosed. Here was may basic message if you don’t want to watch the 5-minute video: We were just like you. I was a triathlete who had completed a 70.3-mile half Ironman. We had just bought a house and were looking to start a family. Now we are trying to wrap our heads around the fact that I have a 2-5 year life expectancy, and that before I die, I will lose the ability to move my arms and legs, swallow, eat, and breathe on my own. Instead of trying to plan for a baby, we are trying to decide whether it’s worth it to spend $80,000-$125,000 to remodel our house so I can get into it and use the bathroom. ALS can strike anyone at any time and we’re really playing catch up with research for this disease, since the only treatment available is one drug that extends life expectancy 2-3 months. Finding a cure through research is the only way we can find a cure to save lives. Boom. Cue awkward hand wave to open the silent auction.

There’s no equivalent of hearing a pin drop on a rooftop, but the background talking dies down in the video so I think the message hit home. I hope it did. Post-ice bucket challenge and being surrounded by this disease all the time, I forget that some people still don’t know how awful ALS is.


Tommy & Kelly from The Tommy Show after the Ice Bucket Challenge!

As we walked around looking at the very awesome silent auction items (a trip to Mexico, an iPad, box seats at a Nationals game, etc), a lot of people came up to us and asked questions and thanked us for sharing our story – like Tommy McFly and Kelly Collis from The Tommy Show on 94.7FM, who did an ice bucket challenge later in the evening. When they got the mic, they made some truly heartfelt comments about remembering the true reason for the event. We really appreciated that.

We couldn’t stay too late – for one thing, we wanted to do our own dinner date to toast to one year living with ALS. For another, we had to leave the house at 6:30am the next morning for me to catch a flight to NC to cheer on two Team Drea members taking on the Raleigh Ironman 70.3.

The silent auction and event sales raised $27,000 for ALS research at ALS-TDI. Thank you VIDA, thank you everyone who donated items, and thank you everyone who came!

The other exciting thing to come out of this event is that I am now back at VIDA, training for a repeat of the Ramblin’ Rose Chapel Hill triathlon in October. I used to be a VIDA Chinatown member until we moved out to the ‘burbs. But after I scoured Silver Spring for a gym with an endless pool (think “swimming treadmill”) with no luck, I asked Aaron if I could try out the pool at VIDA again. Now my husband and I are both hooked up with memberships and I couldn’t be happier.

An endless pool is perfect for me. For one thing, the water flow is adjustable so I can find the right speed to swim against. Also, the little bar at the head of the pool (where the water comes out) is an absolute game changer. I can hold onto it and practice kicking. I can run (me! RUN!!) against the resistance of the water and not worry about falling. Since I’m just getting started with swimming again and my endurance isn’t that strong, the bar helps extend my workout by at least 20 minutes.pools

But below the surface of the water is where the real treasure is, for any swimmer. There is a MIRROR on the floor of the pool so you can watch your form. This is GENIUS. I am obsessed with it.

For the life of me, I can’t figure out why the endless pool is never busy, but I will happily reserve it each and every time I can get to the gym. Thanks VIDA! You turned my dream of doing another triathlon into a realistic possibility and I am so very grateful!

Jul 20 2015

Don’t Get Derailed During Your Summer Vacation

Beach vacationBy: Guest Blogger Danielle Pastula

Don’t Get Derailed During Your Summer Vacation

Vacation season is officially in full swing, and you might be prepping for a week-long trip to Tulum, Mexico (because that seems to be where everyone is going lately) by hitting up lunchtime group fitness classes and eating all those veggies so you feel toned and strong in your swimsuit.

But what’s going to happen to all that work you’ve done when you go on vacation? You might lose a little muscle mass and put on a couple pounds, which is absolutely nothing to fret over, but here are some steps you can take to keep yourself relatively on track during vacation so you can smoothly transition back to your routine when reality comes knocking.

Walk to Your Destinations

I spent July Fourth weekend (just two days) in New York City and walked over 20 miles over the course of the weekend.

While not every vacation will allow you the opportunity to walk everywhere, like in NYC, if you’re headed to dinner or going to the beach, walk there if you can. Keeping your bag light and letting your feet carry you to your destination not only allows you to see more of your vacation spot, but you’ll feel so much better when you return home and know you didn’t just lie around like a bump on a log the whole time.

Of course, I know the whole point of a vacation is to relax, so I’m not saying you need to power walk everywhere, just don’t feel like you need to drive the car a half mile to the beach when you could take a nice seaside stroll there. Little jaunts can add up to lots of steps.

Drink Tons of Water

In my opinion, vacations and margaritas go hand in hand. Same with beers, daiquiris and of course, a healthy sized glass of wine.

With the “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere” mentality it’s easy to consume more liquid in the form of sugar and calories than water, which is what we really need more of when we’re walking around town, laying out in the hot sun, and consuming more boozy drinks than usual.

Keep a water bottle with you all the time and be adamant about filling it up, you’ll feel much better when you return home without bloat or feeling like you need a week-long detox.

Schedule Some Active Excursions

Hiking to reach an unbelievable view, taking a surfing lesson, kayaking a river…there are a lot of ways to incorporate being active on your vacation if you’re really worried about coming back to real life feeling like you’ve unraveled your diet and fitness goals.

And if you’re really intent on not doing a damn thing on your vacation other than laying on the deck of your cruise ship all day, maybe hit the on-board or in-hotel gym for 15 minutes just to keep your body feeling energized. HIIT it hard, give yourself a pat on the back and be on with your lazy day under a cabana.

TouristGive in to Indulgences

Listen, life is too short to not spend your vacation indulging in the stuff you resist in the name of health in everyday life. And there’s really no use in ever thinking, “man, I really wanted that dessert at that awesome restaurant we went to, wish I would have gotten it.”

Out of all the things in life we second guess, a dessert while you’re on vacation shouldn’t be one of them.

Drop the guilt, order the cheesecake and enjoy it. And then when you get back to the grind of work and life, go to your spin class, feel great about how much ass you kick, and think about how wonderful your vacation was, especially that cheesecake.