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.

Cooking with Chef Megan1

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.

Cooking with Chef Megan3

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.


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.


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.

DeKalb Medical Fitness Bootcamp3DeKalb Medical Fitness Bootcamp4

DeKalb Medical Fitness Bootcamp5

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.

Inhabit Health

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.

Alere Pilates Class

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

The Atlanta Triathlon Club . . . Swim, Bike, Run

Having competed in my first triathlon (a sprint) in May of this year with almost no training, I realize that my own preparation skills are somewhat lacking.  I really struggle with finding the motivation to train alone, particularly as the training time gets longer (which is necessary for any triathlon distance of more than a sprint).  I’ve been looking into triathlon training groups for quite some time, knowing that I would much prefer to do my swimming, biking, and running with company.  There are a few triathlon clubs in Atlanta, but the largest and most active appears to be the Atlanta Triathlon Club (the “ATC”).  After eyeing their schedule for several weeks, I recently decided it was time to dive in (literally :)), and see what the ATC was all about.

What it is:  According to their website:

The Atlanta Triathlon Club training program is designed for athletes of all levels (beginners to advanced) who want to train for triathlons in a group setting.  Our triathlon training program includes group training activities 6 times/week (during the regular season) and works on endurance, speed, power, and technique.

The ATC coaching staff consists of 45 coaches and includes: 5 USA Triathlon certified coaches, 5 USA Track & Field certified coaches, 5 USA Cycling certified coaches, 2 Certified Water Safety Instructors, 8 AFAA certified spin instructors, 28 Ironman Finishers, a professional triathlete, and a 4-time All-American swimmer.

Full memberships include UNLIMITED access to all City of Atlanta indoor pools (4 year-round indoor pools, multiple outdoor summer-time pools, and three 50 meter pools), access to two full weight rooms, and FREE spinning classes!!

Detailed training schedules and group training sessions are e-mailed weekly and posted on the on-line discussion forum.  Most training sessions will be broken down into ability based groups to allow you to train with others of similar abilities. In addition to the full triathlon training program, ATC has a “run-only” option, “swim-only” option, and “bike-only” option.

Information seminars, hands-on clinics, and performance testing help members maximize their potential.  We have specific target group races; however, training schedules can be modified for most other races.

Where it is:  The training locations used by the ATC vary by workout.  Their website and weekly emails offer information regarding the location for each training session.

When it is:  The ATC currently has training sessions available seven days a week (during the off season, approximately October – April, there are training sessions five days a week).  Their schedule  is posted online, and is updated weekly.  A typical week’s training schedule looks like this:

  • Monday: Group Swim (Washington Park at 6:30 PM)
  • Tuesday: Short Run or Tempo Run (Buckhead at 6:30 PM)
  • Wednesday: Spin Class (Adamsville Natatorium at 6:00 PM or 7:15 PM)
  • Thursday: Track Intervals (Phoenix Park II at 6:15 PM)
  • Friday: Endurance Swim (Pittman Pool at 5:45 PM)
  • Saturday: Long Run (Piedmont Park at 8:00 AM)
  • Sunday: Long Bike Ride/Optional Run After (various biking locations at 8:00 AM)

Most of the weekday training occurs too early for my later work schedule.  Through the friendships you make by joining the club and the members’ forum, it’s likely you can find some training buddies who will train with you at alternate times.

How it is:  So far, I’ve had a great experience with the ATC.  One of my favorite things about the club is the large number of training events they offer, which means that even for a person with an unforgiving schedule (like mine), I can find some options that work.  The members are also a very friendly and welcoming bunch. 

The ATC allows people to attend twice for free before signing up for a membership.  Their website states that if you’d like to try a session, to email them.  I did, but didn’t hear back.  After a couple days, I sent them a facebook message, and got a response within minutes.

Whoever responded was friendly, and provided me with details about the swim and bike training I wanted to try out that weekend.  After my two trial sessions, I purchased a one month membership from Cooleaf here:  1 Month Full Training Program.

I’ve attended two ATC events thus far – a Saturday open water swim and a Sunday long bike ride followed by a run.  Both training sessions were great.

The Saturday Open Water Swim:  I was excited to find that the ATC has an open water swim twice per month on Saturdays during the warmer months (1:00 pm for beginners and 1:30 pm for non-beginners).  For anyone considering a triathlon, go try out an open water swim – it’s completely different from swimming in a pool.

The open water swims are held at Mary Alice Park – Lake Lanier, a drive of about 40 minutes from Midtown.  Mary Alice Park was easy to find, even for someone as directionally challenged as myself.

Although I’m not a beginner-swimmer in the pool, I am a beginner in the open water (the only other time I’ve done an open water swim was in my first triathlon a couple months ago, and it was unexpectedly difficult!).  I arrived at 1:00, and joined the group in the water.  There were about ten other beginners.  The swim coach had us do some practice drills to work on spotting/sighting (looking up and to the front to stay on track while swimming freestyle in the open water) and swim stroke.  After some instruction, and a few practice drills, it was 1:30, and the non-beginner swimmers were arriving.

About six more people arrived (I was told it was a bit smaller group than normal because of a popular race that weekend), and a few left, and then it was time to put my new spotting skills to work.  We swam several sets of about 500 meters each, totaling around 3500 meters an hour later!  There was a person in a canoe paddling alongside the group the entire time, which was comforting in the open water.  There was also the option to swim shorter distances for each set.

The coach was friendly, encouraging, and happy to answer questions.  And, the other swimmers were welcoming.  It was nice starting with the beginners, as some of them were also new to the ATC.  As I left for the day, several of the members asked if I was planning to come to the long bike ride the next morning!

At the end of the swim, I was sufficiently tired, and felt like my open water skills had improved significantly only in a little over an hour.  I’ll definitely be going to as many of the open water swims as I can this season.  This isn’t something that I would be motivated to do alone, nor do I feel comfortable swimming long distances away from shore in a lake with boat traffic.  So, if you’re looking for a chance to swim in the open water (tri training or not), this is a great group to go out with.

The Sunday Long Bike Ride:  Getting up Sunday morning at 6:30 am in order to make an 8:00 am ride is painful, but doing it with the ATC made it so much better (I would even venture to say fun!).  Sunday ride locations vary.  I joined for a ride at Silver Comet Trail.

The ATC’s website recommends bikers to arrive 20 minutes early, which was my plan prior to getting lost on the way (the drive really isn’t too difficult, I just have unusually poor navigational skills).  I arrived a few minutes before 8:00, while one of the bike coaches was giving a 10 minute lesson on some sort of biking skill (which I unfortunately missed!).

One of the guys I had met at the open water swim (and who is also a run coach) was kind enough to jog over to my car and let me know there were different speed groups I could join, so that I could cycle with other members going my same pace.  There were about 20-30 people, some of whom biked for an hour, and some of whom were planning a 5-6 hour bike with a run after!

I, and my two friends who joined me for the ride, left a couple minutes behind the rest of the group, but caught up with several folks along the way.  Being out on the trail with so many other ATC members was really pretty cool.  Everyone was friendly, and I met several members as we rode along.  Many people were wearing ATC paraphernalia, so they were easy to spot among the many other cyclists and runners out on the trail.  We rode about an hour (16 miles) out with a small group, and then decided that, since we still had to bike back, it was time to stop for a snack and turn around.

Once we got back to our start location, the ATC had large coolers of water and Gatorade, as well as freeze pops.  I hung around the picnic tables talking to other members for a bit, trying to motivate myself to go for my planned run.  While waiting, a couple people asked me if I wanted to join them for their runs.  Fearing that I would slow anyone down since my legs were tired from the biking, I opted to head out on my own.  It was really encouraging, while running, to again see several ATC members out on the trail (it probably made me run faster, too!).

The group bike ride was great.  I went a lot farther than I would have gone on my own, and it was 100% more enjoyable in the company of others (2+ hours on a bike is significantly better with company).  Since I’m still not completely comfortable biking, and don’t know how to change a flat tire (yes, I need to learn this), I felt a lot better riding with a group.  Next time, I think I’ll take up an offer for a running partner, too.

Who should join:  Certainly those training for a triathlon, and looking for a group to do so with would like the ATC.  But, even if you aren’t currently training for a triathlon, this is a great group of people to swim, bike, and run with (and you will probably catch the tri bug within a few training sessions!).  There are several members who do the swim-only, bike-only, and run-only memberships.  The sessions are geared towards including people of varied speeds and skills, though absolute beginners may want to contact the ATC in advance.  Coaches attend every training session, and appear to do a good job of helping the beginners out. 

What to wear:  Clothing depends on the activity.  For biking, it’s helpful to have a pair of cycling or triathlon shorts.  Swimming is best done in a sport suit that will stay put!  And, for the runs, running shoes are really the only necessity.

What to bring:  Again, this depends on the activity.  Bike rides require a bike (probably a road bike, or you’ll be going a lot slower than the remainder of the group), a helmet, liquids, and a snack or a few.  It’s helpful to have goggles, a towel, and maybe a swim cap for swimming.  Depending on the run distance, you might want to bring liquid and nutrition.

Overall:  After attending these two sessions, I was sold on the value of an ATC membership.  This is a great group to train with, and it’s a huge bang for your buck if you’re able to attend all of the activities.  Even if you’re not, the group provides a wealth of knowledge on triathlon training and the potential to make friends and training buddies.  All members are given access to the ATC online forum, where you can post questions, seek advice, and discuss training endeavors.

Katie Manley ~The Cooleaf Team


How would you like to blast 900 calories in one hour?  Yeah, me too.  That’s the thought behind BLAST900’s one hour Full Body Workout!   

What it is:  According to their website, BLAST900 is an interval-based workout that is designed to challenge and motivate all levels of fitness. Each 60-minute workout consists of short, but intense treadmill blocks alternating with challenging full-body strength intervals. Specially designed, state of the art treadmills and cutting edge fitness equipment are utilized for maximum effect.

In addition to offering classes, BLAST900 offers nutritional evaluations and body-age assessments.  I can’t report on either of these offerings, though the body-age assessment, measuring body fat %, blood pressure, VO2 max, cardiovascular fitness, strength, and flexibility) looks pretty cool.

Where it is:  BLAST900’s website lists six locations, including two in Atlanta – Buckhead and Dunwoody.  I visited the Buckhead studio, located at 56 E Andrews Drive, Suite 11, Atlanta, GA 30305, which is in the same complex as Souper Jenny and East Andrews.  Parking at 7:15am was not a problem.  Because the lot is shared with a lot of other retail, there were a plenty of spots available.

When it is:  BLAST900 is open seven days a week, with classes in the morning, afternoon, and evening.  Their schedule is posted online and has a lot of offerings.

How it is:  In one word – awesome.  If you’re looking for a workout to blast your heart rate (and the calories associated with doing so), this is the class for you.

Signing up through Cooleaf was easy.  I purchased a class, and called the studio to let them know I was planning to come the following day.  Points to BLAST900 for answering their phone, which seems rare for a fitness facility.

Here is the class I purchased using Cooleaf: BLAST Full Body Single Class.

When I arrived, the folks at the desk were friendly.  The facility was clean, and the vibe was positive.  I stopped off in the bathroom, and immediately noticed the super-fancy shower and free toiletries, including all the fixins needed for a post-workout shower (shampoo, conditioner, razors, lotion, deodorant, etc.).  Note that I only noticed two restrooms, so I’m not sure how common it is for Blasters to shower at the gym.

When we entered the classroom, the instructor was enthusiastic and friendly, which was particularly helpful at 7am, and as a newbie.  She learned that I was new to the class and gave me a brief tutorial on the format of the class and how to use the treadmill.  She explained that the class would involve intervals, switching between the treadmill and the floor.  On the treadmill, we had the option to walk, jog, or run while she called out various speeds for walkers, joggers, and runners, as well as various inclines.

On the floor, she explained that we would be using dumbbells, resistance bands, and our own body weight to strength train (the equipment used in the classes varies — I also noticed Swiss balls, medicine balls, and Bosus).

At the end, we would work our core.  She then encouraged me to get used to the treadmill and do some walking on my own to warm up.

Class began promptly at 7:15am with a brief warm up on the treadmill.  Then, it was off to the races.  I appreciated the shorter warm up, which allowed us to maximize class time.  So, if you need more than a couple minutes to warm up, I recommend getting there a few minutes early to walk on your own.  For sixty minutes we moved back and forth between the treadmill and the floor.   Having the class broken down into five minute chunks of time made it go by quickly.  As soon as I thought I was going to die on the treadmill, we’d hop off for some strength training.  Even better, the segments on the treadmill and the floor were further broken down.  A five minute round of treadmill time would involve 30-60 second chunks of sprinting and walking, often at an incline!  Having the work time broken down into 30-60 second chunks made it much easier to push yourself.  Just when I thought I couldn’t increase my speed, the instructor would call out, “You can do anything for 30 seconds,” and she was right.

Top speeds for runners were in the 11mph range.  On the last treadmill round, and particularly the final sprint, the instructor told us to give it our all.  I’d already been ratcheting up my speeds on that final round, so my last 30 second sprint was around 11.5mph!  I didn’t realize my legs could move that fast, but, hey, I could do it for 30 seconds.  The top incline was 21%.  BLAST900 treadmills incline all the way to 24%.  A standard gym treadmill only inclines to 15%, so even the 18% and 21% inclines we used in class were new to me.  Try running at 21% — yes, we did this.  Running may be an overstatement, though.  My 21%-incline run was more of a trot, which I truly could manage for only 30 seconds.

On the floor, we got a full body workout, including lunges, bench pushups, and plenty of dumbbell and resistance band work.  As my arms were screaming for mercy, I was again reminded that I could do it for 30 seconds, or that I only had five more reps to go.

With about ten minutes to go, we moved on to an abs segment that was much more than your typical round of crunches.  Different moves focused on upper and lower abs, as well as the obliques.  It was tough.

We completed the class with a brief, but efficient, round of stretching.

At the end of the class, in all of my sweaty glory, I felt amazing.  The class format, breaking down the hard-work segments into manageable chunks, allowed me to work much harder than I would in a standard workout.  And, the motivation of the instructor and the class environment made me push myself significantly more than I ever would in a solo workout.  I also really appreciated the full-body strength training.  Many of the classes which I attend, such as spinning and step, offer a great cardio workout, but no real strength training.  Getting both in one workout was great.

Who should go:  This class is a great one for anyone looking to get a good cardio workout, combined with weight training.  BLAST900 is one of the more intense classes I’ve taken, but this was largely dependent on the extent to which I was able to push myself.  You don’t need to be a sprinter, or even a jogger, to join.  If you’re able to walk at an incline on a treadmill and do basic weight training movements, the class is very easily modified to various fitness abilities.  If you’re in killer shape, this class will still provide a challenge.  The instructor called out different speeds for walkers, joggers, and runners while on the treadmill.  Likewise, when working with the weights and resistance bands on the floor, there were options for weight and band resistance.  If you’ve never been on a treadmill before, you’ll definitely want a brief intro on how to control the speed and resistance (which is quite easy).  The instructor also kept an eye on form while we were working on the floor, offering some friendly corrections and suggestions to me and my classmates.

What to wear:  Running shoes and clothes that will allow you to sprint, lift weights, and bend over.

What to bring:  Yourself, wearing running shoes.  No need to bring water, towel, or a mat.  Major points to BLAST900 for supplying towels and water, which they refilled throughout the class.

Class Length:  One hour.

Overall:  Highly recommended.  I will definitely go again.  I was sore, but not too sore, from the weights the next day, which made me happy.  Did I blast 900 calories?  Not quite, but my heart rate monitor told me I ended somewhere in the 600 range, which is huge for me in a one-hour class.  (Since calorie burn is based on heart rate and weight, someone weighing +150lbs. could easily burn 900 calories in the hour.)

The only downfall of the gym I see is the expensive class price tag.  Through Cooleaf, BLAST900 first timers can get a buy one get one free class pass.  When I go to another BLAST900 class, I’ll remind myself that it’s cheaper than one hour of personal training, with a workout intensity similar to what I would get from a personal training session.

Overall ratings:

One free class giveawayHave you ever been to BLAST900?  If so, leave us a comment about your BLAST900 experiences!  If not, tell us why you want to try out your first BLAST900 class.

Cooleaf will be raffling off a free one hour BLAST900 Full Body Workout class to one person who posts a comment below and shares this blog post on Facebook or Twitter.  We’ll randomly select a winner on July 27th, so let us hear you!

Katie Manley ~The Cooleaf Team

Group Run at Piedmont Park

Group Run & Happy Hour


When: Wednesday, July 11th at 7pm
Where: Piedmont Park (meet at Park Tavern by the park entrance)
Cost: Free
Sign up: RSVP here for yourself and friends

Join us for a training run as we get ready for the Atlanta BeltLine 5K. The group run will be 2-4 miles and directed by Sunlight Fitness. Afterwards all runners can enjoy a complimentary beer at Park Tavern. If you have requested a running shirt from a previous BeltLine training event, they will be available for pick-up at this group run.
Still on the fence about joining us? Here are a few reasons to come out:

  • Anyone is welcome to join no matter how experienced of a runner you are
  • Learn your running pace with the help of a running coach
  • Win gift cards to Fresh to Order and The American Bootcamp Co.
  • It’s free!

If you haven’t yet signed up for the Atlanta BeltLine 5K, click here to register and remember to enter Cooleaf as your team to be eligible for a $5 discount off your registration entry fee.

We are looking forward to seeing everyone on Wednesday!

Strength Training for Runners

What: Strength Training for Runners Class
When: Wednesday, June 27th at 7pm
Where: FormWell Personal Training Studio (View Map)
Cost: $10
Sign up: You must pre-register for this event. Register here for yourself and friends

Join us for this training class as we get ready to run the Atlanta BeltLine 5K. Learn techniques to avoid injuries and maximize your workouts to achieve better performance. Here is what to expect:

  • Personal assessment and 5-10 minute light jog
  • 5-10 minute warm-up with mobility work
  • 30 minute strength training workout
  • Short run cool-down with stretching

Everyone will receive a free running shirt and have a chance to win F2O gift cards.


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