Lets Focus on Human Engagement in the Workplace

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Before I launched Cooleaf with my amazing co-founders, we all spent a lot of time in the corporate world.

Here’s the thing. I had autonomy. I had focus. I really enjoyed driving forward many of the business initiatives that I was involved with in my prior roles. And guess what? While I wasn’t focused on bringing clean water to the 3rd world or saving the rainforest, I believed deeply that many of the products I was helping to launch would have a tangible and meaningful impact on their respective industries.

But there was something vastly different from my position at a company in New York City versus a job that I held with a large healthcare IT company in Atlanta.

In New York, I had an opportunity to really get to know my colleagues on a personal level. We spent time hanging out. We became friends and did a lot of fun things together on our own or as a team. On the other hand, in the corporate job in Atlanta, I didn’t know anyone. I had extremely limited opportunities to get to know anyone.  People came into their cubes and offices and kept to themselves. Yet, my creativity was being exercised every day, I had autonomy, and I had great visibility to decision-makers in the organization.

I’m not a complete extrovert but certainly not an introvert either. For me, even with autonomy, creative thinking capabilities, and projects that were meaningful, these two positions couldn’t have been more different in my mind.

For me, it was a matter of relationships.

Relationships matter. In a massive study by George Vaillant (that follows a cohort of Harvard graduates throughout their life), there is one factor that stands above all others in determining life satisfaction. That factor? Relationships and connection to others.

Along with my co-founders, we believe that isolation runs rampant in the corporate world.  But this isn’t just our hunch.  Recent Gallup research revealed that only 18% of people work for companies that provide enough opportunities to develop friendships on the job.  What about existing solutions? Enterprise “social” (quotes are mine) networks have failed (for the majority of organizations) at alleviating this pain. It’s time for a new approach.

It’s time for people to feel like joining a company means they have joined a community. Guess what? You already have something in common with the folks at that company (you both work there). But I’ll bet you didn’t know that you probably have a lot more in common with many of the folks at your company than you thought.

Enjoy mountain biking? Did you know that guy in Finance one floor below you lives 5 blocks from you and is a huge fan of mountain biking as well? Are you a film buff? There is a woman sitting five cubes away that knows just as much about film as you do and you’ve never spoken to her.  We need to change these scenarios. You spend the vast majority of your adult life working yet many of us hardly know anything about the human side of those around us in the workplace.

Here’s the kicker.  There is an important business reason to focus on friendships.  People with close friends at work are 7 times more likely to be engaged at their job (Gallup).  Engaged employees are more productive and produce superior business results for their organizations.

If existing solutions fail at this approach, we need to change the way we approach the problem. We need to get people out of their shells. We need to make everyone (including leadership) vulnerable and sharing more about themselves to everyone inside their workplace community. We need to expose the human side of the people inside of an organization and get them to feel like they really belong to a community of like-minded people. Our approach at Cooleaf (with clients and for us internally as a team) is based in this philosophy and we believe it to the core. 

We believe that if you can tackle relationships and friendships then you will be making a significant step in tackling the problem of disengagement. Of course, you must look at ways to increase autonomy, mastery, purpose. But without community (rooted in friendship and connection), you will only get part of the way to the goal of being (in the words of Josh Bersin): “An Irresistible Company”.

The Key to Effective Team Building Activities

 

atltechvillage rockclimbingThe concept of ‘team-building’ activities has existed for years.  However, the days of trust falls and mandatory scavenger hunts are over.  Our approach to engaging teams in organizations large and small often starts with looking at what types of activities/events are currently in place to bring team members together.  Often times what we find is a ‘top-down’ and ‘ad hoc’ approach to activities that are meant to engage the team and foster camaraderie but often fall short of expectations.

We prefer a ‘bottom-up’ approach that is driven by the team itself.  While many of our clients are interested in the Cooleaf platform to better manage, organize, and derive insights from their existing activities and events, a number of organizations we’ve encountered (particularly small & mid sized businesses) have limited bandwidth to craft and execute an activity ‘strategy’ that makes sense for their organization.

To this end, our first step with organizations interested in a more engaging program of activities & events is to ask their team what they’re looking for in a program.  While some teams have a penchant for Dodgeball and adventure, other teams might prefer Yoga and Pilates.  No two groups are exactly the same and we believe it’s critical to create an activity program that is based on the data that the team provides us through our survey methodology.  It’s important to note that you can’t make everyone on the team happy but our approach balances feedback directly from team members to ensure that everyone has at least some activities that align with their interests.

If you’re interested in a free assessment and recommendation for your organization or team, feel free to drop us a line at mail@cooleaf.com

Rethinking employee engagement

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Lately, it seems like everyone is worried about the Millennial generation and how to ‘engage’ them in the workplace. The whole idea of trying to ‘engage’ employees (whether Millennials or any other generation) strikes us as a bit awkward. It’s as if the executive leadership of so many organizations wears white lab coats and looks at these ‘employees’ as lab rats that are responding (or more likely not responding) to various stimuli and carrots and sticks.

It seemed to us here at the founding team of Cooleaf that there had to be a better way to improve employee engagement. How about we first start by eliminating the word ‘employee’ and starting with the person? See that’s our philosophy and one we can feel good about when we go to bed at night. Each one of us brings nuances, quirks, and our own characteristics to work whether we know it or not.

It’s time for us to put the human back in employee engagement and take the white ‘lab coats’ off. We’re all in this together and we need to start recognizing the full spectrum of human nuances in designing programs that create an environment where one is more likely to be engaged. Stay tuned for some real world ways we put this philosophy into practice.

See how Cooleaf powers Top Workplaces

We’ve found that leading organizations understand that their single sustainable competitive advantage is their people. Companies are faced with the business challenges of attracting and retaining the best talent (especially with Millennials), building an innovative culture, and creating a sense of community where teams are actively engaged to achieve business goals.

 

We’re driven by a mission to humanize the workplace and create a community that attracts and retains the most talented team possible. 

 

Cooleaf’s web and mobile platform is branded for our employer client and allows HR leaders to empower their teams to more efficiently organize all internal employee activities and events, automate a rewards and recognition program, and collect participation and engagement data across their organization.

We’ve had the opportunity to do some great work with clients such as Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Georgia State University, and DeKalb Medical.  Below is a short video that highlights some of the work we’ve done with a few of our awesome customers.

If you would like to learn more, please contact us at mail@cooleaf.com.

Taking Responsibility for What We Eat

We all know that we should eat healthily, regardless of whether or not we actually do. It is time to stop blaming others for our poor American diet and take responsibility for what we put into our mouths. This is easier said than done, but Megan McCarthy, a healthy lifestyle consultant and chef, is here to help.

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During the lunch hour at Morris, Manning & Martin, LLP, Chef Megan taught a group how to prepare three tasty salads from fresh, organic, and nutrient dense ingredients. She demonstrated how to properly cut an avocado, squeeze a lemon, lightlysauté kale, chop dark greens, etc. But only half of her act is cooking. You could also call her Megan, the entertainer. Her hands stayed busy preparing food as her voice told funny stories, many of which contained educational food tips. For example, the room burst into laughter after Megan said, “I like to keep my nuts in a jar.” My apologies to all men who are wincing in pain right now.

Cooking with Chef Megan2“I like to keep my nuts in a jar.”-Chef Megan

Megan is willing to tell a couple of jokes if it makes being healthy more fun and cool. Unfortunately,  there tends to be a negative connotation associated with the taste and preparation time of healthy foods. Therefore, Megan demonstrates how healthy foods can be delicious and easy to prepare. Throughout her twenty years of teaching experience, she has utilized a fun attitude in her teaching style to reach as many people as possible.

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Iris, an employee who attended the event, particularly enjoyed the presentation of food with personality. She had previously incorporated information from one of Megan’s cooking demos into her life by eating salads for breakfast. The most recent demo, which included recipes for three salads, will help her add variety to her morning meals. Iris was taken aback by the versatility and nutritional benefits of radishes, an underappreciated superfood. This vegetable will be appearing more often in her home made dishes. In addition, the idea of briefly heating kale, another superfood, surprised Iris, who frequently eats kale raw. For more information about the health benefits of kale, other superfoods, and many great recipes, check out Megan’s blog at Healthy Eating 101.

Megan is very realistic about nutrition. Eating a purely raw foods diet is not practical for those who get hungry, she jokes. Likewise, eating a highly restrictive diet is not practical for those who have intense cravings for “forbidden” foods. Instead, it is important to add something healthy and cut out something unhealthy on a daily basis. The sound of opening happiness echoed  in the room as someone opened a can of Coca-Cola. Megan flashed a judgmental look and got real. “If you do one thing for your health,” she said “then give up soda.” Next time, reach for a Dasani instead of a Diet Coke and you will be one step closer to living a healthy life.

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IMG_1330IMG_1348IMG_1327Setting up a chef cooking demo is easy to do and something that will be a sure hit as part of any employee engagement and wellness program. We bring all equipment, food, and energy! Literately, all you need at the office is a power outlet and a table to host a fun, collaborative cooking class with useful healthy tips. Feel free to contact us at mail@cooleaf.com to learn more about setting up your own healthy cooking chef demo.

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Happy employees are key to driving a strong culture for an organization. Cooleaf will set up a program that is based on creating fun, engaging group activities to help you achieve this goal.

Excelling at Wellness through a Fitness Boot Camp

The sunlight was hot and the wind was blowing as the Dekalb Medical Center employees walked to the roof of a parking garage. After a long day of work, a nervous chatter filled the atmosphere. Their bodies may have been sore and their minds apprehensive, but their faces were smiling and words were encouraging. No matter how hard David Nash made the workout, they were in it together. DeKalb Medical Fitness Bootcamp1

The participants generally acknowledged their preference to work out with others, as opposed to alone. Scott, a boot camp regular, commented, “I love the camaraderie.” Before the boot camp, he had never participated in a group exercise program, but found the environment encouraging. The boot camp fosters growing relationships between employees from different departments. Scott confirmed that he has definitely built relationships with whom he does not directly collaborate. Furthermore, the group sessions have reminded coworkers that aches and pains are a normal part of the fitness process. No pain, no gain, right? Or as David Nash would say “No Excuses! Just results!”

DeKalb Medical Fitness Bootcamp2David Nash, the owner of Pinnacle Fitness Bootcamp,  is a certified teacher, trainer, and functional nutritionist. After working in the fitness industry for over a decade, he has learned how to effectively train people of all ages and abilities. For the boot camp, he gauges the workout intensity by those who can do the most, and everybody else will complete a percentage of the workout, which is determined by their individual abilities. This approach ensures a challenging workout for all.

Shatavia, a participant, admits, “He pushes you, but also checks your limits.” Through experience, David Nash developed a keen awareness of fatigue. He knows if you are becoming physically fatigued or just mentally weak. You can’t trick him, and he will push you to your limits! Why is David Nash such an effective motivator? He makes working out fun, military style. Through army calls, he promotes vocal participation and laughter, as seen in the following video clip.

Typically, the largest downfall of group workout sessions is a lack of individual attention. However, David Nash not only raced the track star around the parking lot, but also guided the non-athletes with form correction. Being pushed without feedback increases the risk of injury. At Pinnacle Fitness, David teaches a class focused on form, but there isn’t time to teach form in detail in the boot camp. He spent time explaining and setting form the first day, but it takes time to fully implement good form. He compensated for lost time by fixing form individually throughout the workout session.

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David Nash’s goal is to push each individual to their limits, but he also encourages communication. Breathing hard and sweating after the hard workout, Shatavia reflected,  “He is a great motivator, but also comes around and quietly asks if you are okay.” After a combination of stretching, core exercises, running, and other aerobics activities, the participants left hungry for dinner, but full of physical accomplishment.

When the bootcamp is complete, employees will have an option to continue working with Pinnacle Fitness Bootcamp and take advantage of their Cooleaf discounted rate as an employee of Dekalb Medical.

DeKalb Medical Fitness Bootcamp6The DeKalb Medical Fitness Bootcamp is just one part of an overall employee engagement program put together by the Cooleaf team. The goal of this program is to bring employees together in a fun way that focuses on real-life activities and experiences. The results of these programs lead to more authentic relationships among employees and a happier, more productive work environment.

The Get Real Diet – a step-by-step plan for transitioning to a plant-rich, real food diet.

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Summer is just around the corner and for many people this means panic attacks at the thought of oneself in swimwear, especially after this bizarre year of colder and wetter than usual weather we’ve had in Atlanta.  I don’t know about you, but I was craving hearty stews and wearing bulky layers until just about last week. With thoughts of yourself in a bikini or briefs looming large, you, like millions of others, may be considering a fast or cleanse to drop a few pounds before you hit the Jet Ski or the beach blanket.  But before you give up everything but wheatgrass and water, think for a few minutes about the last time you went on a fad diet and whether or not it worked, or if it did work, exactly how long it took to gain the weight back.

I taught Pilates for almost ten years and, as you can imagine, a lot of my conversations with clients revolved around weight, exercise, diet and food. So many of my clients were constantly searching for that one thing – whether it was a new type of exercise or a fad diet – that would make them thin (or thinner). I taught people through Atkins, Slim Fast, The Zone and South Beach. I stopped teaching right around the time of raw foods, meal delivery plans and the Skinny Bitch book. I saw people lose and regain a lot of weight over the years. In my health coaching practice, I am frequently asked about a gluten-free diet, juicing and “Paleo” because these are the diets trending now, with now being the key word of this sentence.

Research shows people can lose weight on any and every diet if they stick to it. No matter what theory it’s based on, every diet on the market involves some form of calorie restriction even if it never mentions the word calorie. When you take in fewer calories, you lose weight. However, research also shows that 90% of diets fail in the long term because nearly everyone who loses weight on a diet eventually gains it back.

Tons of Americans are trapped in the unforgiving cycle of trying and failing to lose weight. It’s as if we have the same approach to dieting that naïve teenagers have to love. We really want to believe Paleo or juicing or Nutrisystem will be the equivalent of our soul mate – once we find the perfect plan, losing and maintaining weight will be easy and problem free. But as those of us who have built successful long-term relationships know, anything that lasts a long time requires some serious work. But this doesn’t mean it can’t also be fun.

There is no magic bullet for weight loss. If you are overweight or coming off a long lapse in self-care, achieving an optimal weight and lowering your risk factors for disease will take time and energy, but this is a GOOD thing.  We all know that the harder the work, the sweeter the reward. In order to win the war on your weight, you have to lose the battle with fad dieting for good.

It is possible to have a flexible, balanced approach to healthy eating and achieve permanent weight loss, improve your energy level, your skin and your moods.  In fact, study after study has shown us what the best diet is: the Mediterranean diet or any low-glycemic diet similar to it that is full of fresh fruits and vegetables, low in saturated fat but allows good fat in the form of healthy oils, fish, nuts and seeds, and low in processed food, flour and added sugarSo, this time, before you consider a fast, consider food.

Learning to prepare and eat real food in realistic portions is the key to long-term health and weight maintenance. Going on a restrictive fast might make you look better in a bikini next week but transitioning to a real food diet will ensure you never have to worry about bathing suit season again!

I wrote The Get Real Diet to offer people a step-by-step plan for transitioning to a plant-rich, real food diet so they can put an end to fad dieting and weight worries for good. The book includes a complete weight loss program as well as meal plans, recipes, strategies and tips to help you progress from losing weight to living well.

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Guest Blog Post: Lindsay Hill, Author of The Get Real Diet

Lindsay Hill is a board-certified health coach, a graduate of The Institute for Integrative Nutrition and the author of The Get Real Diet, available on Amazon.com.

How Fun, Healthy Experiences Can Drive Employee Engagement and a Culture of Wellness

Isn’t it time you had a break?  Not a lunch break, but a break from work that enhances your day and rejuvenates your mind and body.  Today, employees at Alere Health received just that when Pilates instructor Betsy Hughes from Lotus Studios arrived at noon to teach a one hour stretch & strengthen class. Employees walked in eager to break up their day to de-stress, refresh and work out.

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Alere employees enjoying Pilates

Alere Health is participating in a 30-Day Health Back, Healthy Body Challenge in which Cooleaf is catering to the employees’ specific health and fitness requests.  They sign up on at Cooleaf.com and select their personal favorite workouts and health activities. “Our software is simple and at their fingertips,” says Co-founder Prem Bhatia.  This week – Pilates.  The employees will also redeem rewards for booking activities, such as iPads and Amazon gift cards; you can check it out here.  The most popular programs for companies are in-office yoga, afternoon group runs, off-site rock climbing, Zumba and cooking classes with co-workers.  Cooleaf is a fitness platform that functions to fit your lifestyle.

 Alere Pilates Classes

Co-workers and friends Alicia and Michelle

 When we asked Alicia and Michelle if they enjoyed their afternoon Pilates workout they enthusiastically responded “Yes!”  Michelle said fitting in a workout like Pilates or Yoga within the workday is nice because it’s difficult for most employees to find time to workout in the mornings or after hours due to childcare issues or the demands of an hourly workday. It’s great to fit it all in.  Both Alicia and Michelle personally enjoy classes that involve stretching and flexibility to complement their static workday.  Michelle tries to take a yoga class every Thursday at work and stated that she looks forward to that day because after stretching and relaxing “I sleep so well” at night.  Aleres’ use of Cooleaf with classes on a regular basis for the employees is a true benefit.

Cooleaf is excited to build a happy and healthy workplace for Alere.  We believe in making fitness fun and accessible for everyone.   As we say, “Find it, book it, enjoy it and then build on the rewards.” Thank you Alere for jumping onboard with Cooleaf!

For more information about how Cooleaf can support a program for your company, please visit us here or contact us at mail@cooleaf.com.

Catalyst Fitness – Small Group Training when you’re serious about your workout

Walking into Catalyst Fitness, you immediately realize this is not your average big-box gym.  Treadmills and ellipticals do not line the walls, there are no TVs, and weight training machines are scarce to be seen.  Instead, you’re likely to lay eyes on a lot of equipment you’ve never worked with — Redcord systems, ViPRs, Halo Bells, PowerMax 360, TRX systems, Dynamax balls, Kettlebells, and Sandbells, to name a few pieces.  Catalyst isn’t your typical gym – it’s a place for those who are serious about their workout.

What it is:  Catalyst Fitness describes their Small Group Training as follows: “This our most popular package because the return on your investment is so great and it is fun too!  Think… Recess! Unlike other Boot Camps that are all work and no play, we will get you the results you are looking for while having a good time! Our Small Group Personal Training Sessions utilize an evidence based approach to program design. They include Flexibility, Core, Balance, Reactive, SAQ (Speed, Agility, and Quickness), Resistance and Cardio-respiratory Training.

In addition to small group training, Catalyst Fitness offers personal training.

Where it is:  Catalyst Fitness is located at 742 Ponce De Leon Place NE, Atlanta, GA, close to Virginia Highlands and Poncey-Highland.  There is a parking lot behind the building, and spots are plentiful.  It’s best to enter through the top back door (take the outdoor staircase up to the main level) or front door.

When it is:  Catalyst is open for small group training from 6 am – 12:00 pm and 4:30 pm – 7:30 pm.  There are no set start times.  Members can simply show up at any time during small group training hours.  This is particularly convenient for those whose schedules vary, who tend to run late, or who just appreciate scheduling flexibility.

How it is:  Top-notch in many ways.  Signing up is a quick process.  Cooleaf offers a 10-day pass for $10 intro offer, which, I think, is a crazy-good deal.  After that, a monthly membership is available.  Although not necessary, I would email or call Catalyst in advance to let them know you’re coming in for your first session.  Then, just show up during small group training hours and let the trainer know it is your first visit.

All small group training sessions have at least one trainer running the program.  When we went for our review, Casey Noble, who is the main small group trainer, was there to work with us.

Each day the workout is written on a series of 3-4 boards.  The first board always includes myofascial release (more below) and a warm-up.  The remaining boards involve a combination of strength training, balance work, agility exercises, and cardio.  The workouts are unique, and almost certainly will involve some equipment and exercises you’ve never seen before.  Catalyst frequently posts their daily workout on Facebook, for those members who like to know what to expect in advance.

After a quick introduction to the gym, Casey walked us through the beginning of any workout at Catalyst – the “roll out” or what is more formally known as myofascial release or triggerpoint therapy.  The idea behind rolling out is to release the restrictions and knots in the body’s fascia, which is a soft tissue layer covering the muscle throughout the body.  The fasica often becomes restricted and knotted, causing loss in range of motion, strength and flexibility, as well as pain, muscle tension, and injury.

Using a serious of tools, including rollers, a block, and a ball, we worked the knots out of our muscles, similar to the way a masseuse would work out tension during a deep tissue massage.  It was shocking how many knots I had in my legs, back, and shoulders.  We probably could have done this all day.  Catalyst advocates for the use of myofasical release prior to any workout, citing improved performance, strength, and flexibility, as a result of removing muscle adhesions.

After finishing our roll out, Casey walked us through the first board, showing us the correct form for each of the moves, which were on the Redcord.

Redcords are rare to find in a gym; more commonly they are found in high-end physical therapy facilities.  The Redcord system consists of adjustable ropes suspended from above that support the body.  Instead of traditional weight training, the Redcord system leverages body weight as resistance meanwhile demanding the recruitment of various muscles.  It’s an impressive piece of equipment, and neat to find in a gym setting.

Once we’d warmed up, we moved on to the workout, which involved the following:

With each board, Casey demonstrated, and then we got to work.  Many of the moves Catalyst uses are unique, and work not only on strength, but also on balance and correction of movement patterns.  Before coming to Catalyst, I’d never heard of a ViPR, which is essentially a weighted rubber tube that can be lifted, pushed, pulled, and swung.  Many of the other exercises on the boards, like dive bombers (surprisingly difficult) and T pulls, were also new to me.  Unlike many gyms with a workout of the day, Catalyst doesn’t just set you loose – they demonstrate and then watch to make sure you’re executing everything with correct form.  This is a good thing with so many unique exercises, and particularly important for someone like me, as my form always leaves something to be desired.

Because we spent so much time rolling out at the beginning, and only had time for an hour-long workout, we were only able to make it through the boards once.  At Catalyst, you can stay for as little or much time as you’d like, but most members go through the boards 2-3 times.

For those who need to shower after, Catalyst has a full locker room facility with a couple showers, lockers, and towels.

Who should go:  The gym is great for people looking for a serious workout with a lot of one-on-on attention.  It’s appropriate for beginners through very advance athletes (Catalyst does train some pro athletes).  If you’re looking to check out on a treadmill or exercise bike, or are looking for a purely cardio workout, this probably won’t be the gym for you.  If you’re wanting to take your training to the next level, or hoping to fix form problems or other injuries, this gym is definitely for you.  If you’re somewhere in between, and just want a good full body work out, you’ll also enjoy Catalyst.

Catalyst has an expensive price tag when compared to many other gym’s monthly memberships, but if you’re planning to go at least three times a week, the cost is well worth the expense.  A monthly membership is far cheaper than personal training, which is essentially what you’ll get, either in a very small group or one-on-one if no other members are there.  Moreover, the trainers at Catalyst are extremely knowledgeable, and have a deeper understanding of body mechanics and corrective exercise than any other trainers I’ve worked with.

What to wear:  Athletic shoes and clothes.

What to bring:  Nothing needed — the gym has towels and a water fountain.

Class Length:  Member’s choice.  You can stay for as long as you’d like, but you’ll probably need a little over an hour to get through the warm-up and get a solid workout.

Overall Catalyst is a great gym for someone looking to advance their training, in need of corrective training, or trying to prevent or treat injuries.  The workouts vary from day to day, but focus on strength training and stability/core work.  The trainers are always willing to modify the workout based on individual members, and provide a huge amount of personal attention.  One downfall I find is that I personally like to work out in a group setting, but you never know whether there will be other members at Catalyst.  I find the open gym (as opposed to specific class schedule) and personal attention to be huge perks to outweigh this, though.

Given that you can get ten sessions for only $10, why not try it out?

Overall ratings:  The workouts of the day vary.  Some days are more cardio intense, core focused, or strength concentrated.  But, considering my time there over a series of sessions I’d rate Catalyst follows:

Katie Manley ~The Cooleaf Team

Indoor Cycling Urban Body Style

Nearly every gym in Atlanta offers cycling (aka spin) classes, but finding a good class, with good music, can be hard.  Hearing good things about Urban Body’s classes since moving to Midtown four years ago, I was excited to visit for Indoor Cycling Urban Body Style.

What it is:  According to Urban Body Fitness, “Indoor Cycling Urban Body Style is a group exercise class done on stationary bikes.  During the class the instructor simulates a ride.  Together, you travel on flat roads, climb hills, sprint and race! It is truly a fantastic cardiovascular class.”

Indoor Cycling Urban Body Style is offered at Urban Body Fitness, a full service gym with cardio equipment, weights, and a full schedule of cycling, step, kickboxing, bootcamp, and sculpting classes.  In addition to the classes offered at Urban Body Fitness, Urban Body Studios offers yoga, Pilates, and TRX classes – view classes.

Where it is:  Urban Body Fitness is located at 500 Amsterdam Ave., Atlanta, GA 30306, close to Piedmont Park and Virginia Highlands.  The parking lot is shared with several other stores, so parking was abundant (at least at 6:15 a.m.).

When it is:  Urban Body Fitness is open Monday through Friday from 5:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m., Saturday from 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m., and Sunday from 8:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.  Their schedule of classes is posted online, and includes several cycling classes.

How it is:  Urban Body offers a solid cycling class at a nice gym, and in a good environment.

Signing up was easy.  I purchased this class from Cooleaf, and showed up 15 minutes prior to the class start time.  Members can reserve class spots on Urban Body Fitness’s website so that they are guaranteed a bike.  The class I went to was close to full, so, although I didn’t do so, calling ahead to reserve a bike is a good idea.

When I arrived, the woman at the front desk was very helpful.  I told her it was my first time at Urban Body, and, after filling out a waiver, she gave me a short tour of the facility.  She also asked me if I needed a lock for the locker.  This was fortunate, since I hadn’t brought a lock with me, and was just planning to cart my stuff into the spin room.  Interestingly, she also gave me my seat for my spin bike.  This was new for me — I’ve never seen a gym hand out the spin bike seats.  Fortunately, attaching the seat to the bike is actually pretty simple.  I assume this is done to control the sign-up/waitlist process.

The facility itself is very nice, and has a cool vibe.  The walls are exposed red brick, and the floor is stained concrete.  The space appeared clean, and well maintained.  Although the gym isn’t huge, it’s well organized and offers a lot of equipment.

I also noticed that the gym didn’t appear to be a scene – the people there seemed like their intention was to get a good workout.

After checking out the spin room and attaching my seat, I headed to the locker room with my complimentary lock.  The locker room was really very nice for a gym.

This would provide plenty of space for someone wanting to get ready for work at the gym.  It’s also nice that the gym provides towels – one less thing I have to remember to bring.

When I returned to the classroom, the instructor was there, socializing with class members.  When she realized I was new to the class, she provided a brief introduction.  She also checked my bike to make sure I’d adjusted the seat and handlebars correctly.

We started with a few stretches and a warm-up on the bike.  Then, we proceeded to work through a series of climbs, flat roads, and jumps.  Throughout the class, the instructor suggested a level of exertion, 1-5, and a hand position, typically 2 or 3.  This was a bit confusing at first, as it wasn’t always clear if the number shouted was for hand position or effort level.  The instructor didn’t explain the hand positions, and how they coordinated to the numbers (i.e., where to put your hands when she shouted “2” or “3”).   Luckily I’d been to cycling classes before, and I pretty quickly realized a “2” or “3” could indicate either hand position or effort.   If you’re a newbie to cycling, you should ask for a brief rundown to make sure you understand the cues.

My favorite part of the class was the music, which I find to be a vital element to any good cycling class.  It was upbeat, fun, and had a good beat for the workout.  I also liked the variety on the bike; we did some speed work (low resistance, fast pace), some climbs (high resistance, slower pace), spent some time standing in the saddle, and did a series of jumps.  I do wish there would have been more variation with the jumps.  We did only sets of two-second-up jumps, and I personally find that my form goes out the window with a series of such quick jumps.

We worked through close to the end of the hour, which I much prefer over an extended cool down.  We ended the class with some quick, basic stretching to get at the muscles used most during the class.

(Thanks to those class members who were willing to stick around for a picture!)

Who should go:  This class is a well-suited for those who enjoy cycling and/or are looking for a good, fun cardio workout.  It’s appropriate for beginner spinners (with the caveat that it would be helpful to ask for a short primer and help setting up your bike before the class starts) through advanced spinners (if you push yourself and don’t mind the lack of a bike computer).   As in any spin class, because you are in control of your resistance and speed, the class is as hard or as easy as you want to make it.

What to wear:  Athletic shoes and clothes.  Biking shorts and cycling shoes are optional, but not necessary (and did not appear to be the norm).

What to bring:  Water.  No need to bring a towel, as the gym supplies them.

Class Length:  One hour.

Overall:  I enjoyed the class and consider it to be a solid spin class option with fun music.  I would happily go again.  I didn’t find this class to be as difficult as some of the other spin classes I’ve taken, but my heart rate monitor suggested that I’d still gotten a very good workout.  One downfall is that the bikes don’t have computers to provide information on cadence, distance, and power level.  I find that I’m able to push a little harder when I have some numbers in front of me to challenge myself with.  The instructor was, however, helpful in pushing us, particularly during speed intervals.

Overall ratings:  While the ratings are somewhat subjective because, as a rider, you can always increase the intensity, up your cardio by going faster, or amplify strength by increasing resistance, these are all partially dependent on the pace and style of the instructor, music, and ride style.

Katie Manley ~The Cooleaf Team