Take a Ride With a Twist

Sculpt DC infuses cycling classes with yoga and welcomes beginners to the mat

September 25, 2012

Lights change the color of the wall behind instructor Gregg Pitts as he tells his students to do pushups on the handlebars.

Gregg Pitts hopped off his Schwinn, started clapping his hands and dashed through rows of stationary bikes to get right in his students’ faces. As if it weren’t already obvious, the instructor then announced, “This isn’t your typical cycling class.”

It is, however, the model for classes at Sculpt DC, a cycling and yoga studio that opened in Penn Quarter on Monday. Managing director Madhuri Nayak’s vision is to bring her two favorite fitness formats together, offering versions that aren’t readily available in our area.

On visits to New York, she fell for SoulCycle and Flywheel, two popular chains that have reinvented riding by pumping up the energy and incorporating hand weights to give the upper body just as much of a workout as the legs get. Although a few similar cycling studios have opened locally in the past few years, none of them are downtown. And none of them also offer yoga classes designed specifically for cyclists, which Nayak considers the key to injury prevention and a balanced fitness regimen.

“I can’t tell you how many of my girlfriends — and me, too — take cycling and then drive across town to their favorite yoga studio,” Nayak says. “That could take three hours, and D.C. is a city where people value their time.”

That’s why the studio’s signature class is Sculpt Fusion, a half hour of cycling followed by a half hour of yoga. The other two cycling classes on the opening schedule, Sculpt Cycle 45 (with weights) and Sculpt Road (designed to mimic outdoor riding), bring in yoga elements whenever possible.

Pitts, at a preview class last week, made a point of emphasizing the core in every move so students wouldn’t forget to keep it engaged as they performed mini pushups on the handlebars and squatted back into their seats. When it was time to cool down, he called out yoga poses by name.

“We’re using cat, cow and cobra to introduce them to yoga on the bike,” says cycling director Tami Mensh. “We’re really trying to recreate that section of class and give you a chance to lengthen and stretch.”

There’s no need to know any of the lingo to follow along, which is the concept behind Sculpt DC’s entire yoga program. The approach is designed to help other people avoid the experience Nayak had as a yoga novice.

“I tried out a lot of studios and I was completely intimidated,” she says. “Those beginner classes aren’t for beginners.”

Mats will be complimentary, and instructors will hang around 10 minutes before and after class to answer questions, says yoga director Cory Miller, who wants to make sure no one feels uncomfortable. “We’re going to stay away from chanting and om because people don’t know what it means,” she adds. (If you’re more experienced, however, instructors will offer options to make postures more challenging.)

The other defining feature of Sculpt Yoga is room to move. “We want to make sure you’re not going to get hit in the face,” Miller says.

The spacious studio can hold 40 students comfortably. The cycling room has 35 bikes — although there’s room for 50. The entire underground space has an open feel, with wide corridors between the exercise rooms, the lounge, the lockers and the four bathrooms (two with showers).

Students can expect more offerings down the road. There are plans to bring in a DJ on Friday nights for Club Sculpt cycling classes and to make use of the power meters mounted on the bikes. In the yoga studio, there will be guys-only classes, yoga with weights and a monthly donation class with proceeds going to a local charity.

Things will really look up next spring: Sculpt DC plans to take advantage of the building’s roof deck for classes. The loading dock elevator makes it possible to get even the bikes out there. A sunset view from above the city? Now that’s not a typical cycling class.

Saddle Up: To take a class at Sculpt DC (950 F St. NW), reserve a slot online at Sculptdc.com. There’s an opening special of one month of yoga for $40, or cycle plus yoga for $60. Drop-ins are $20 for yoga and $25 for cycling. If you’re riding, cycling shoes are encouraged (but sneakers are fine). For now, all cycling classes are 45 minutes, and yoga classes are an hour — as is the Sculpt Fusion class that’s half cycling and half yoga. All yoga is open level, including Sculpt Restorative Sundays at noon.

Vicky Hallett is a MisFits columnist and the Fit editor for Express.
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