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Smart Workout Fitness Vacation in New York, New York
Julie Register experienced this urban "destination" spa in March, 2012

Sunday

Smart Workout Logo courtesy Smart Workout

It's Sunday morning. I'm on the train heading into NYC for a three-day Fitness Vacation at Smart Workout, which had been described to me as an urban destination spa experience by Elaine Platt, the owner. She had given me my itinerary over a week ago, but this was the first time I actually read and thought about what I had committed myself to doing. I knew if I thought about it for too long before now, I would chicken out. I am overweight, out of shape and over 50. The photos on the Smart Workout web site are filled with thin, in-shape and young women - not exactly my demographic.

Yikes!...14 fitness classes over one and two half days. That's more classes than I've taken in the last 5 years combined. I have no doubt I will be challenged. At least Elaine had said there's a spa break. Wait a minute...there's no spa break in this itinerary! No massage? No reward for all this work?? No relief for my sure to be sore muscles??? I check the Smart Workout web site on my phone. Although it says, "We'll indulge in decadent spas (NYC has the best!)," it looks like spa services are only offered on the Weekend (2 nights) and Mid-Week (3 nights) Fitness Vacations but not the Mini (2 nights) that I signed up for. Why aren't spa services offered on the Mini Fitness Vacations? Why didn't I sign up for the Weekend or Mid-Week? Heavy sigh.

The train arrives in Penn Station, and I walk the mile or so to Smart Fitness at 124 East 40th Street. I take the tiny elevator to the 6th floor and enter Smart Workout. I am welcomed by one of the instructors and meet the other five fitness vacation participants. I look around the compact space. On one side of the room is a multi-station weight machine, a Smith machine, lockers, a small boutique and an open area for group classes. On the other side is an area with cardio equipment - an elliptical, two treadmills and a stationary bike - as well as a number of Pilates Reformers.

Dining at Smart Workout Fitness Vacation photo copyright Julie Register 2012*At precisely 12:45 pm, we are invited to descend the spiral staircase to the lower level of the gym. There we meet Elaine who has prepared lunch for us at a table set up in the exercise area between the office and kitchen. This is the area where TRX and Helix classes are held. Elaine explains that the approach to eating for this vacation is a 1250 calorie/day, four course/meal diet based on Volumetrics, which uses low-density foods such as fruits and vegetables that are low in calories but high in volume to help fill you up and feel satisfied. Elaine compares meal planning to a bank account. She has a budget of 1250 calories (350 for breakfast, 400 for lunch and 500 for dinner). From that she sets aside calories for a minimum of 60 grams of protein and 40 grams of fiber, makes sure fat stays below a total of 40 calories and then gets creative. We would be eating a lot of fish and seafood because they are "good deals" on calories for the protein they provide. Elaine tells us that variety fights boredom and increases the likelihood of weight loss success. She also explains that she simply does not cook and is a fan of "buying and laying down" where she plans out the menu, buys the food already prepared then lays it out in a nice presentation. This lunch is an example of this style of meal (the first of four styles). Over four courses, it includes salad, shrimp cocktail, poached salmon, sweet potato, grilled asparagus, cantaloupe and rice cakes topped with banana and peanut butter. It is - like all of the meals we were to have - tasty, filling and satisfying. She provides us with a food journal and the lunch menu that provides the calories, fiber, fat and protein for each item. Similar menus would be provided for each meal of the vacation.

Wedge group fitness class at Smart Workout Fitness Vacation in New York, New York. Photo courtesy of Smart Workout.
Wedge
TRX group fitness class at Smart Workout Fitness Vacation in New York, New York. Photo courtesy of Smart Workout.
TRX

As soon as we finish our meal, it is time for our first exercise class. All of the ~30 different types of classes last 45 minutes and have no more than 6 participants, which allow personal attention from the instructors as well as camaraderie with the other participants. Half of our group stays downstairs to do TRX. I go upstairs for the Wedge class - a first for me. Our instructor leads us through a series of exercises using this wedge-shaped foam block on the incline and decline positions to work the abs, butt, thighs, triceps, chest and lower back. By the time it is over, I am reacquainted with muscles I forgot I had. I am impressed with my instructor. She - like every instructor we have throughout the vacation - is enthusiastic, knowledgeable and keeps us focused and motivated.

Boxing group fitness class at Smart Workout Fitness Vacation in New York, New York. Photo courtesy of Smart Workout.
Boxing
Helix group fitness class at Smart Workout Fitness Vacation in New York, New York. Photo courtesy of Smart Workout.
Helix

The next class - Boxing for me and Helix for some of the others of the group - begins immediately after our first class. This is another first for me. Our instructor shows us how to tape our hands and put on the gloves. While she doesn't have us use the punching bag or heavy bag, she does use hand pads for us to aim at as we go through an aerobic workout with leg work, cross-punches, jabs, hooks and upper cuts. I feel a sense of accomplishment when the class ends. I didn't know I had it in me.

Circuit Resistance Weight Machines at Smart Workout in NYC. Photo copyright Julie Register 2012.
Circuit*
Indoor Rowing group fitness class at Smart Workout Fitness Vacation in New York, New York. Photo courtesy of Smart Workout.
Indoor Rowing

I stay upstairs for our last class of the day - Circuit. Some of the others go downstairs for Indoor Rowing. Having gone through personal training sessions a number of years ago, I am familiar with all of these strength training exercises on this cable resistance weight-based machine. Audio cues prompt us to change stations every two minutes, as the instructor shows us the exercise to do at each station that includes both upper and lower body workouts. I use a very low weight at each station and feel I could have challenged myself more.

We all meet downstairs for a chat with Elaine. She tells us she has owned the gym for about five years, but the fitness vacation is a new concept. In fact, we are the first group to experience it. She will use our feedback to make improvements for future groups.

St Giles Hotel New York, our home during the Smart Workout Fintess Vacation. Photo courtesy of St Giles Hotel New York.
St Giles Hotel New York**
Double Queen room at St Giles Hotel New York. St Giles Hotel New York, our home during the Smart Workout Fintess Vacation. Photo courtesy of St Giles Hotel New York. St Giles Hotel New York, our home during the Smart Workout Fintess Vacation. Photo courtesy of St Giles Hotel New York. Photo courtesy St. Giles Hotel New York.
Double Queen Room at St Giles Hotel New York**

We are dismissed and walk one block to our hotel, the St Giles Hotel New York. We check in, unpack, clean up and change clothes for our evening on the town. The hotel room is large and comfortable. The linens on the bed are soft and luxurious. We are two to a room. I feel fortunate that I really enjoy my roommate's company.

Docks Oyster Bar. Photo courtesy Docks Oyster Bar in New York City
Docks Oyster Bar***
1/2 of a 3-lb lobster at Docks Oyster Bar in New York City. Photo copyright Julie Register 2012
1/2 of a 3-lb lobster at Docks Oyster Bar*

At precisely 5:20 (Elaine is a stickler for keeping a tight schedule), we meet one of Smart Workout's fitness instructors in the hotel lobby. She walks us less than a quarter mile to Docks Oyster Bar on 3rd Avenue near 41st Street. Here we meet Elaine who has preordered our meal - four courses including salad, roll with 2 t. butter, 1.5 lb. lobster (without butter), corn on the cob (without butter) and fruit salad. Dining out is the second of four types of meals we enjoy on this vacation.

Frames Dance Lounge. Photo courtesy Frames NYC.
Frames Dance Lounge ****
Frames Bowling Lounge. Photo courtesy Frames NYC.
Frames Bowling Lounge ****

We are swept from Docks to Frames via a stretch limo. Here we are given Salsa dance lessons and play a frame of bowling. I am challenged with dancing, but have fun trying Salsa. I get two strikes bowling but don't break 100. It's probably been over 20 years since the last time I bowled. The limo takes us to the hotel where I end the night with an Advil and fall immediately to sleep.

Monday

Monday starts upstairs at Smart Workout at 7:15 am with a cup of tea followed by a 15 minute stretch. Breakfast is served downstairs promptly at 7:45 and includes Puffins cereal, skim milk, pancake topped with berries, a breakfast sandwich of English muffin, turkey bacon and fat-free cheese as well as mango.

TRX group fitness class at Smart Workout Fitness Vacation in New York, New York. Photo courtesy of Smart Workout.group fitness class at Smart Workout Fitness Vacation in New York, New York. Photo courtesy of Smart Workout.
Yoga
TRX group fitness class at Smart Workout Fitness Vacation in New York, New York. Photo courtesy of Smart Workout.
TRX

The first class of the day is Yoga for me and TRX for others in the group. I started a Yoga class at home a few weeks ago, so I feel pretty comfortable with all the poses we go through. I particularly like that the instructor helps to ensure our positions and alignment are correct - the benefit of having a small class size. I enjoy the flexibility that Yoga helps my body to have. I also find it relaxing, although I work up a good sweat by the end of class.

Zumba group fitness class at Smart Workout Fitness Vacation in New York, New York. Photo courtesy of Smart Workout.
Zumba
BOSU Ball group fitness class at Smart Workout Fitness Vacation in New York, New York. Photo courtesy of Smart Workout.
BOSU

Kickboxing group fitness class at Smart Workout Fitness Vacation in New York, New York. Photo courtesy of Smart Workout.
Kickboxing

The entire group meets for the next three classes: Zumba, BOSU and Kickboxing.

I've heard of Zumba before, but it is another new experience for me. According to Smart Workout, Zumba is a Columbian expression that means "move fast and have fun." Zumba combines a variety of Latin dance styles in its routine - merengue, salsa, mambo, rhumba, flamenco, and calypso - to create an aerobic workout. Did I mention I am dance challenged? Even so, I have fun and work up a good sweat.

After a minute to catch our breaths, BOSU starts. The BOSU ball is like a large rubber ball cut in half. Most of the workout is done balancing on the ball, which works on stabilizing core muscles while working other muscle groups in the arms and legs. Again - this is a first for me. I find it a bit challenging but make it through just fine.

Kickboxing is similar to Boxing, but our hands are not wrapped nor are boxing gloves used. Instead, we use weights for our jabs, crosses, hooks, uppercuts. Our legs get a workout with kicks and foot work. It is an aerobics class that is designed to burn calories and build strength and endurance. I am grateful that this is the last class of the morning.

We have 15 minutes of stretching before heading downstairs for lunch.

Sharon Wouters of For Vibrant Living prepares lunch at Smart Workout Fitness Vacation. Photo copyright 2012 Julie Register.
Sharon Wouters of For Vibrant Living
Bean Dip and Jicama prepared by Sharon Wouters of For Vibrant Living at Smart Workout Fitness Vacation. Photo copyright 2012 Julie Register.
Navy Bean Herb Avocado Spread with Jicama sticks
Sauteed Broccolini Garlic Infused Soy Sauce and Spring Asparagus and Chicken prepared by Sharon Wouters of For Vibrant Living at Smart Workout Fitness Vacation. Photo copyright 2012 Julie Register.
Sautéed Broccolini in Garlic Infused Soy Sauce with Spring Asparagus and Chicken

Lunch today is the third of four types of meal styles - cooked "at home." Sharon Wouters, a nutritionist from For Vibrant Living, prepares Navy Bean Herb Avocado Spread with Jicama sticks, Sautéed Broccolini in Garlic Infused Soy Sauce, Spring Asparagus and Chicken and Raspberries with Lemon Cream while she chats about nutrition and answers our questions. She follows up with a talk about sugar. The food is delicious and topics interesting. She shared the recipes with us. Here is one of them:

Raspberries with Lemon Cream

  • 3 oz Neufchatel cream cheese
  • 3.4 c low fat yogurt
  • 3 t raw honey
  • 2 t freshly grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 c raspberries (~10)
  • 6 drops Stevia

Drain off liquid from yogurt. Put everything in a food processor and mix for a minute until smooth. Chill before serving.

Serving: 1/3 c

  • Cal: 87
  • Sodium: 98 mg
  • Fat: 3.7 g
  • Carb: 9 g
  • Fiber: 1 g
  • Protein: 10 g

    Pilates Reformer group fitness class at Smart Workout Fitness Vacation in New York, New York. Photo courtesy of Smart Workout.
    Pilates Reformer
    Trampoline group fitness class at Smart Workout Fitness Vacation in New York, New York. Photo courtesy of Smart Workout.
    Trampoline

There is just one class this afternoon (but more this evening). I head upstairs for Pilates Reformer. The others stay down for Trampoline. I am actually excited about taking a class with Pilates Reformer. I've taken Pilates classes at spas before, but they were always mat classes. The Reformer was an additional cost that I never chose to pay for. At Smart Workout, the Reformer is included. The Reformer is an apparatus specially designed to help achieve maximum results in Pilates, which primarily conditions the core (abs, glutes, hips, inner thighs, and lower back). It looks so easy, but really gives a great workout. I am painfully aware of how out of shape my core is, but happy to rediscover it.

Discovery Museum Times Square. Photo courtesy of Discovery Museum Times Square.
Discovery Museum Times Square*****
Dead Sea Scrolls at the Discovery Museum Times Square. Photo courtesy of Discovery Museum Times Square.
Dead Sea Scrolls at the Discovery Museum Times Square*****

We take an hour or so to go back to the hotel, clean up and change. Elaine meets us a 3:00 sharp to walk us to the Discovery Museum Times Square - about a mile. We have been given pedometers. We see the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition. One of our group notes that we have walked 6,000 steps. By the time we go to bed, we will have exceeded the daily goal of 10,000 steps. The exhibit is interesting and, apparently, changes often.

Photo courtesy of Pershing Square Café and Restaurant
Pershing Square Café and Restaurant******

Mixed Greens Topped with Lobster Meat at Pershing Square*
Steamed Mussels in White Wine at Pershing Square. Photo copyright Julie Register 2012
Steamed Mussels in White Wine at Pershing Square *

We walk back along 42nd Street to the Pershing Square Café and Restaurant, which is across from Grand Central Station. They are all ready for us. The menu includes a biscuit, mixed greens topped with lobster meat, steamed mussels in white wine, steamed spinach. Delicious! Later we have a Vitatop for dessert.

Helix group fitness class at Smart Workout Fitness Vacation in New York, New York. Photo courtesy of Smart Workout.
Helix
Ballet Burn group fitness class at Smart Workout Fitness Vacation in New York, New York. Photo courtesy of Smart Workout.
Ballet Burn

We walk back to Smart Workout for more classes. The first is a choice between Helix and Ballet Burn. I choose Helix - another new experience. This machine is similar in concept to the elliptical, but instead of a front to back motion, it provides a side to side figure 8 motion. It tones the inner and outer thighs, glutes and core, while delivering an intense aerobic workout. It is guided by an instructor much in the same way spinning classes are. She had us go through a range of “Helix motions”: arcs, surfing, leg pumps, squats, grinding, semi’s and ball riding - all executed at varying speeds and resistance levels. At the end of 45 minutes, I know I've been through a workout.

The Wave group fitness class at Smart Workout Fitness Vacation in New York, New York. Photo courtesy of Smart Workout.
The Wave


While we have the choice of Upper Body or WAVE for the last class of the day, we all choose The Wave. Once again, this is a first for me. The instructor gives us all a “C” shaped stepper. He leads us through a cardio workout that engages our core by keeping our balance while rocking side to side and front to back. We use free weights for strength moves. It is the only class we take that is only 30 minutes long. While I like the class, I am ready to end the day. I feel good that I actually participated in and completed all the classes on our schedule.

Back at the hotel, I take an Advil and fall into a deep sleep.

Tuesday

I wake up to find my knees a bit stiff from all those squats and lunges but am amazed that I am otherwise not the least bit sore. I am so glad I brought Advil with me and remembered to take it.

The day at Smart Workout again starts upstairs at 7:15 am with a cup of tea followed by a 15 minute stretch. Breakfast is served downstairs promptly at 7:45 and includes Puffins cereal, skim milk, Egg Beater with fresh spinach and Swiss Knight cheese, turkey sausage, a "scooped" bagel with low fat scallion cream cheese and lox as well as papaya.

I start the countdown. Four classes to go.

Pilates Reformer group fitness class at Smart Workout Fitness Vacation in New York, New York. Photo courtesy of Smart Workout.
Pilates Reformer
Indoor Rowing group fitness class at Smart Workout Fitness Vacation in New York, New York. Photo courtesy of Smart Workout.
Indoor Rowing

We have a choice between Pilates Reformer and Indoor Rowing. We all choose Pilates Reformer. I can already feel a difference in my core strength and am able to more easily go through the exercises. Three classes left.

Yoga group fitness class at Smart Workout Fitness Vacation in New York, New York. Photo courtesy of Smart Workout.
Yoga
Spinning group fitness class at Smart Workout Fitness Vacation in New York, New York. Photo courtesy of Smart Workout.
Spinning

Our next choice is between Yoga and Spinning. I am the only one to choose Yoga. Therefore, I have a private lesson. It was really terrific! The instructor crafted the moves to help me with my specific issues. Two classes to go - both aerobic. First comes Warrior Workout, a boot camp body conditioning using an obstacle course, steps and weights.

roadway Blast group fitness class at Smart Workout Fitness Vacation in New York, New York. Photo courtesy of Smart Workout.
Broadway Blast

Our last class is Broadway Blast, a fitting finale for our time in New York City. This workout has us dancing to the sounds of 14 Broadway classics. I believe mentioned that I am dance challenged. Even so, I have fun and again work up a good sweat. We wrap up with a half hour stretch.

Our final meal is an example of Elaine's fourth style of meal - take out. For this lunch, she ordered from Dig Inn Seasonal Market. We enjoy watermelon, rosemary turkey, spinach, brown rice, chili and balsamic mushrooms. It is delicious! Dessert is a chocolate mint vita top with a strawberry and Cool Whip. Yum!

Julie's Smart Workout Fitness Vacation Itinerary
  Sunday Monday Tuesday
7:15   Tea service Tea service
7:30   Stretch Stretch
7:45   Breakfast Breakfast
8:15   Yoga or TRX Pilates Reformer or Indoor Row
9:00   Zumba Yoga or Spin
9:45   BOSU Warrior Workout
10:30   Kickboxing Circuit or Broadway Blast
11:15   Stretch Stretch
11:45   Cooking demonstration and lunch Lunch
12:30   Nutrition talk  
12:45 Lunch    
1:00   Pilates Reformer or Trampoline  
1:30 Wedge or TRX Suspension    
1:45   Break  
2:15 Boxing or Helix    
3:00 Circuit or Indoor Row Walk to Times Square visit Discovery Museum, Dead Sea Scrolls Exhibit  
3:45 Orientation    
4:15 Check in to hotel    
5:30 Lobster dinner at Docks Walk to Pershing Square restaurant for dinner  
6:30 Frames for salsa dance lesson and bowling    
7:30   Return to Smart Workout  
7:45   Ballet Burn or Helix  
    WAVE or Upper Body  
9:00 Return to hotel Return to hotel  

That was our Smart Workout Fitness Vacation. Others will include ice skating lessons in Bryant Park in the winter, rollerblading along the Hudson River Path in the summer and walks on the Highline, the paths of the Cloisters, the trails in the Bronx Zoo, and the waterfront of City Island. Other museums will include the Metropolitan Museum and the American Museum of Natural History. Some will see Broadway plays.

Since we were essentially a focus group, I offered two main suggestions for improvement to Elaine: 1) there should be time allowed to digest between the end of a meal and the next fitness class and 2) offer massage for every group. Other than that, I enjoyed the experience. I felt stronger and fitter when I left And I lost a pound!

Services offered at Smart Workout Fitness Vacation at the time of my visit include:

  • Facility Access - Unlimited access to cardio and resistance machines, boxing bags, TRX, free weights, (and much more), plus steam and sauna.
  • Personal Trainings
  • Class Pack -15 small group exercise classes
  • Membership - Includes Facility Access, and unlimited small group classes
  • Platinum Membership - 1 year Facility access, unlimited classes, plus 50 Personal Trainings for
  • Fitness Vacations (with or without hotel) - All packages include: 3 healthy meals daily; daily fitness classes; lifestyle education lectures; cooking demonstrations; guided group excursions to NYC cultural attractions; spa services; evening activities (theatre, museums, dance lessons), all taxes and gratuities. Weekend Package, Midweek Package, Mini Package and Full Week Stay
  • Weight Loss Program - Includes 90 minute Assessment (baseline tests and interview); 15 Personal Trainings; 6 private nutrition counseling sessions with our CHC; 24 small group exercise classes; and a 60 minute review Assessment.
  • 6 Week Shape Up - 12 Personal Trainings, and 12 small group exercise classes
  • Pilates Package - 5 Private Sessions on the Reformer, plus 5 small group Reformer classes.
  • Nutrition Counseling - Six private sessions for nutrition education and motivational counseling.
  • Locker and Laundry Service
  • Day Passes - Entitles purchaser to 6 days, which can be used within a year. Purchaser has all privileges of membership on each date of use.

More Information

Contact
Smart Workout Fitness Vacation
• Address: 
124 East 40th Street, Suite 603
New York, NY 10016
• Telephone: (212) 661-1660
• Web Site: www.smartworkout.net/fitnessvacation
• Location:View Map

More Resources
Smart Workout Fitness Vacation Listing on DiscoverSpas.com
New York Spa Directory
St Giles Hotel New York
Docks Oyster Bar
Frames NYC
Discovery Museum
Pershing Square Café and Restaurant
Dig Inn Seasonal Market



hotos courtesy of Smart Workout Fitness Vacation, unless marked
* which are copyright Julie Register 2012
** which are courtesy St Giles Hotel New York
*** which are courtesy Docks Oyster Bar
**** which are courtesy Frames NYC
***** which are courtesy Discovery Museum Times Square
****** which are courtesy Pershing Square Café and Restaurant


 

As is common in the travel industry, Julie Register was provided with a complimentary fitness vacation at Smart Workout for the purpose of reviewing those services. While it has not influenced this review, she believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest.

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