Together We Rise: My VersaClimber Workout at Rise/Nation

Monday, April 15, 2019

One of my April goals was to check out two new-to-me gyms or workouts, & I'm reporting in early to tell you that I have, indeed, accomplished that goal. One of the things I've tried? Rise Nation, a 30-minute VersaClimber workout (& if you, like me, have no idea what that means, read on).

My first class was so freaking hard that within two hours of my returning home afterward, I could barely walk. I took a scalding-hot Epsom salt bath, but that night, I barely slept because of the pain (& because I read that you shouldn't take Advil after a workout). Damn! Four days later, my thighs were still sore - but I decided that the best way out was through, & so I returned for a second class while still recovering from the first.

What It Is

Don't know what a VersaClimber is? I didn't either - & even though I Googled it, I couldn't really get a sense for what it was until I actually tried one in class.
  • The studio: Rise Nation's studio is set up like a spinning studio, but it's full of VersaClimbers, one for each participant.
  • The machines: Learn more on VersaClimber's website, but practically, a VersaClimber is a hybrid of a ladder & an elliptical, with pedals & handles that move all your limbs as you "climb." The machine tracks your progress in vertical feet, telling you how high you've climbed - without ever leaving the machine.
  • The classes: Classes are set to music, in a dark studio with pulsating lights & an enthusiastic instructor leading you through the movements. The class is "only" 30 minutes long - & any longer might just kill me.

What I Don't Like

I'm not a fan of starting out with the negative, but bear with me! And hey, this way we'll end on a positive note.
  • Intro, my (cl)ass: Rise Nation calls its Level One class an "intro" class, but don't be fooled: Both classes I've taken were full of regulars who knew exactly what they were doing & how to do it, which, as an out-of-shape newbie, is pretty intimidating. The people around me were flying through their workouts while I struggled mightily - & felt very much on display.
  • All those mirrors! Part of the reason I felt so exposed was that the studio is surrounded by mirrors on two walls, which means you're visible from anywhere in the room, & the set-up of the room itself (at least at the Cleveland location) means there's no way choose a machine in the back of the room. It's also not as dark as riding studios, so there's truly no hiding - which, again, is way intimidating when everyone else in class is doing way better than you.
  • Oh, my aching feet: There were multiple times when, even though my body & lungs could've kept going, I had to step off the VersaClimber to stretch the soles of my feet. They felt like they were on fire, cramped up & screaming in pain. Maybe from the weight of my body? I don't know, but that's literally been the worst part - & I have no idea what to do about it. 

What I Do Like

OK, OK, let's get onto the better stuff.
  • A friendly staff: The guy who checked me into my first class was nice & helpful, setting me up & not making me feel like a doofus who probbbbably couldn't keep up, although it was likely clear to both of us that that'd be the case. And both of my classes have been with the same instructor, who is upbeat, friendly, & supportive.
  • Words of support: That instructor, Derek, often speaks directly to newbies, providing specific instructions, modifications, & encouragement. I appreciate that, especially in a class largely populated by people who know exactly what they're doing. Hearing, "If you're new & feeling discouraged, don't be! You're going to get better at this" really goes a long way.
  • Visible signs of progress (or not): The machine tracks your numbers & tells you exactly how you did - & it turns out I did get better at it! Even though I was sore in the lead-up to my second class, I climbed 200 feet higher than before. (I climbed 1650 feet the first time, while the girl in front of me hit 2700+; the second time, I hit 1865, while my friend Natalie hit 3300+. So I was proud of my personal growth, but also a little mortified, which maybe goes under "things I don't like." Ouch.)
  • SPEAKING OF OUCH: Dear God, that's a helluva workout. You can tell that the VersaClimber is destroying your body, in a good way! Even with my low numbers, I was sore as hell, & I can still feel it in, like, every single step I take (especially up or down stairs... ow...) After 100+ spinning classes, I'm trying something new & working some seriously underused muscles.
  • Adorable animal relief: When I arrived for my second class, there was a dog at the studio. It was adorable. It played with me while I waited for class. This one's self-explanatory.

The Final Verdict

I suck at it, but still, I think I really like Rise Nation, & I want to continue to go to classes when I can. Maybe "like" isn't the right word, given how hard it is - but the challenge of it compels me to want to keep trying.

My new goal is to hit 2000+ vertical feet and/or just to be able to move properly the day after a class. Can I do it? Only time will tell. But as Miley once sang...

Psst: If you're interested in ClassPass, my referral link will get you $40 off your first month (which basically adds up to one month free). I'll get $40, too, which I'll use to keep on climbin'.

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