Beach season may be over, but there’s another looming reason to stay in shape: Halloween costumes. If you want to have a ghost of a chance of pulling off that Anthony Weiner look, you’ll have to show some serious skin. And that’s why it’s time for Carve Your Body, a new Washington Sports Clubs program.
What it is: The first clue that this isn’t the typical total-body conditioning class is that participants are instructed to pick out not only a step, risers and a mat, but also a pumpkin. The selection includes a range of sizes, from tiny to massive (about 2 pounds to 10 pounds), as well as plastic jack-o’-lantern buckets that folks can fill with a dumbbell of their choosing.
No one at the debut class had ever used fresh produce as a weight before, but it was an idea that immediately bewitched 34-year-old Laura Fitzsimmons. “I think it makes a lot of sense. It’s like a medicine ball with a stem,” she says, noting that the extra appendage keeps it from rolling away. Not that there’s much of a chance of that, because instructor Libby Linden Rubin — decked out in a purple witch’s hat — makes sure her students are always lifting, twisting or balancing on their gourds.
Moves: Students get to enjoy some treats, especially the soundtrack, which features tunes such as “Monster Mash” and “Thriller.” But mostly, they’re in for an hour of tricks. It turns out there’s plenty to do with the porch decoration. They squat and hoist the pumpkins above their heads as they stand up. They lunge from side to side and perform biceps curls with the pumpkins. They hold plank position while tapping the pumpkins with alternating hands. And they place their feet on the pumpkins to add instability to hip bridges.
Workout: Even if you’re used to doing those exercises with traditional weights, the pumpkin adds an undeniable degree of difficulty. “It was definitely more challenging to hold it,” says Eliza Moody, 35. That explains why when the music switched to a song that involved a lot of groaning noises, Fitzsimmons first thought the sounds were coming from her classmates.
But for the most part, they were actually smiling through the pain because of the novelty of the situation. “With a pumpkin, you have the fun factor,” Rubin says. “I’ll do anything to increase the popularity of working out.” That’s not entirely true, however. Her limit: any moves that require swinging or throwing the pumpkins, which she didn’t want to see explode all over the studio floor — although cleaning up the mess would also be good exercise.
Carve Your Body will be held every Thursday in October at 10:30 a.m. at the Washington Sports Clubs’ North Bethesda location (10400 Old Georgetown Road; 301-896-0505).
Can’t scare up the time for Libby Linden Rubin’s class? She suggests you patch together your own workout to help burn off that candy corn. If you have kids, try scattering pumpkins around your yard, and get the whole family to zigzag around them. Hold races that involve carrying a pumpkin as you sprint. With smaller pumpkins, you can even play catch. Or try these two moves.
Lurking Lunges: Stand in a split stance with your right leg in front and left leg in back. Holding the pumpkin, bend both knees to lower into a lunge while performing a biceps curl with your arms, keeping your elbows by your side. Then, switch legs and repeat.
Spooky Squats: Holding a pumpkin at chest level, push your hips back and squat down until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Then stand up while simultaneously pressing the pumpkin over your head. You can increase the intensity of the exercise by adding a jump at the bottom of the squat.