Please Stay, Don’t Go Away

In 2014 I was a regular at my friend Brandon’s spinning studio in South Pasadena, where I was (temporarily) living at the time. Between B, Scott (a triathlete & tri coach) and Eric (a now-pro triathlete), I learned that the largest part of what I got out of a class was due to the coaching from the instructors. I was coming home to San Francisco so much that the the other members at the South End Rowing Club, which I’d just joined to swim in the Bay, couldn’t tell that I actually lived 400 miles away.

For some crazy reason that I wanted to go spinning when back in San Francisco also on the dozens of weekends I was spending at home instead of SoCal. I had a friend who had been going to some place called OMPower for spinning that he would post about on Facebook. I decided to give it a try and booked my first class in June 2014 with someone named Enrique Julia. I’m dedicated to a fault sometimes and with how much I loved taking classes with B, Eric, and Scott, the stakes were pretty high for Enrique. I had no idea the affect that first class would have on me.

I actually don’t remember too much about that class except for Enrique working us really hard and I spent more time staring at the RPM on my bike’s monitor than anything else. B’s bikes didn’t have any electronics on them. I was using the numbers to distract myself from how much pain my quads were in and it worked! Enrique was like a shorter hairier version of Brandon (who is tall and bald) but they both have the same level of energy in their class. Neither of them really need a microphone either. I was instantly hooked though and knew that I wanted to work with that guy.

Karolina (another regular) showing Enrique how to use the new iphone’s camera.

I was already planning my move back to San Francisco after less than a year in Pasadena. Between South End and OMPower, I was subconsciously redefining my life in the Bay Area. My life in my native Bay Area was very different when I had left it in June 2013. I had been swimming in a pool for about a year and before that it was hard to get me to the gym even 3 times a week for 30 minutes. Now in Summer 2014 everything was coming together and it appeared that my life in the Bay Area would be very different than how it was when I had left the year before.

When I moved back to the Bay Area in October 2014, I started going to OM on a regular basis for Enrique’s classes on Monday and Wednesday nights. I slowly started incorporating other classes as I got interested in more of them although didn’t start a monthly membership until towards the end of last year when I did the math. I had decided in second half of 2016 to commit myself to two TRX classes a week for strength training. It was cheaper to just do the monthly membership than pay for 8 classes a month. With unlimited classes now, I was able to go to however many that I wanted and fit into my schedule without having to worry about the costs. By then I knew most of the non-yoga instructors and whose classes I liked and didn’t like.

Enrique still holds the record for most studio classes I’ve taken with anyone ever at 147. Not really fair on one hand since he taught more types of classes there than anyone else and subbed more often than anyone else. Equally impressive is my 106 TRX classes with Kevin and 79 spinning classes with Rob considering that’s all they taught there and Rob’s classes competed with my morning swim schedule. I’d only been taking Kevin’s classes for a little over a year too. I took 427 classes at OM mostly in TRX (176) and spinning (155) with the rest being yoga, indoor rowing, HIIT (high intensity interval training), and circuit training. I averaged 6 classes a week with two weeks being 16 classes each (along with several 10 – 14 class weeks). There was only one time that I was doing it as part of their 5th anniversary “how many classes can you take” challenge. I took 16 classes last week as I tried to get in as many classes with my favorite instructors before they closed their physical doors one last time. For the most part though I was going because I enjoyed being there. 427 classes and not a single injury from repetitive improper form.

One of my favorite classes was when I was the only one signed up for Kevin’s 4:30 p.m. class and got basically personal training. Although we drove Jennifer and Josh nuts as they could hear our banter from downstairs.

Devine Hardy, the original office manager at OM, told me one time about they were making a community and I didn’t understand what she meant by that at the time. I remember telling her about how I locked myself out of my condo the day after I got the keys. She offered to let me leave a set of keys there in case it happened again. This was no ordinary workout studio. Jennifer amassed a team who had a real passion for their specific areas and you could tell that this was more than just a paycheck for them. I never felt like just another faceless student there. They took each other’s classes and I’d frequently see some instructors there when they didn’t have a class. Some like Rob and Enrique knew the names of just about everyone who took their classes. They’d personally introduce themselves to new people and get to know them a little before class. They shared their personal lives to all of us. They cared about the people who were taking the time out of their busy lives to come to their class. They ensured that you were going to get the most out of their class and your time. Whether it was TRX or yoga or rowing, they made sure that you had correct form to prevent injury and maximize results.

I chose to drive to the city to OM’s location by the ballpark instead of the 24 Hour Fitness a few miles from me because it wasn’t just about exercise. Every class there felt like a training session with high quality coaching. I’ve talked with some of them outside of class about my own training and learning about other ways to think about training and health. I’ve gained a deeper understanding about myself and become open to new ideas on how to improve my performance and well being even more. I learned how to be more in tune with how my body moves. I learned more about nutrition and training than any other coach has ever taught me (and growing up figure skating and high school swim team, I’ve had a lot of coaches). Going to OM had never been about trying to look better in spandex or lycra (although sometimes I wish I picked sports that don’t involve skintight clothing). A good workout isn’t one where you crawl out of it with a busted body and can barely move. What good is it if you’re too sore to move the next day? As Duncan says, those workouts aren’t sustainable so you always hear people say “yeah I did [PX90, Insanity, CrossFit, etc.] for a year. Had to quit because I injured my [back, knee, etc.].” My ability to do so many classes wasn’t that I was somehow taking it easy during class and conserving energy to do another one. The classes weren’t easy either. Coaches like Enrique, Kevin, and Duncan were always on me to make sure that I wasn’t slacking off. They know that strength building comes from sustainability. Push yourself but not to the point where it hurts. If it hurts then something is wrong and you’re setting yourself up for (sometimes permanent) injury. I have little doubt that this level of quality is why I was then able to go out and ride a century (100 miles) or do my marathon swims (10 KM+) without riding my bike or swimming for endless hours beforehand as I was training smarter with them.

OM was about enriching my life more physically, mentally, and emotionally. Burning calories was a distant second. I went to OM because I enjoyed the classes and the instructors who became friends. It was comfortable to be there and the safe place that Jennifer and Devine had created for the community. I left each class with more energy than before I got there. I was always looking forward to the next time I got to go there. I scheduled other activities around my OM schedule. I brought friends to class with me to share the experience. I went to focus on myself knowing the team would help guide me to being the best I could be. It was the little things there that made the biggest impact on my life. They knew what I was capable of before I did sometimes. Like the time that Kevin got me to try a one-foot TRX side plank or Kim got me to try a Crow pose in yoga. I thought they were both crazy and then discovered that I could actually do them. I was comfortable being vulnerable there. The instructors were strong enough to admit when they were feeling vulnerable (e.g. Enrique teaching a rowing class when that isn’t his normal class). Jennifer and Dev took chances on new instructors who were just starting out and let them flourish. Everyone was nurtured there. They were some of my biggest supporters. There was some much love shared in that space. It truly was a hOMe.

Rob and I bonded quickly over cycling, music, the Giants, wine, food, and bourbon.

I’d left gyms and pools before on my own accord and it was relatively easy as I didn’t have a strong personal connection to the place. I wasn’t friends with the employees, coaches, or other members there. I didn’t grow there. They were just places that I used the facilities but had no emotional investment. OM was different in every way. It didn’t even look like a gym. I was shocked and sad when Jennifer told me that they were closing their doors because of a drastic and unsustainable rent increase. I didn’t want to leave the place that had become a big part of my life and that I’d come to love very deeply. It wasn’t fair and I didn’t feel like I was ready to move on. I didn’t have a say in the matter though.

So OM closed their physical doors on Sunday. I know the strength of the community that Jennifer and Devine worked hard to create though will live on as the physical space wasn’t what defined us. The people are what made it and we’re still around. I’m grateful that I became a part of it.

Dev, Jennifer, and me

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