Ambassador’s Corner: Ro Fitness + Shape Method Pilates Recap

By Jason Bourgeois – August 1, 2021

This Ambassador’s Corner recaps a training experience you don’t want to miss — especially if you’re seeking a workout that is sure to kick your power and endurance gains into hyperdrive. This blaster of a session included eye-bulging intervals and a fantastic view of Lady Bird Lake, which may have become slightly blurred for me around the fourth set of our speed-themed class.

This month’s edition of Ambassador’s Corner is continuing efforts to support the Central Texas Food Bank and their mission to respond to the ongoing presence of food insecurity in Austin. We are grateful for your generous donations which are aiding the work of keeping Austin fed, and every cent counts as we work to increase food access to those who are in need.

Jason’s Chosen Nonprofit: Central Texas Food Bank

Central Texas Food Bank

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Rō Fitness 

This local rowing studio is made by rowers for rowing experts and novices alike. They serve big, small, tall, young, old and anywhere in-between, and each person leaves class feeling stronger and accomplished. All levels of fitness are capable and can join the fun with little to no rowing experience. At Rō, they care a whole lot about proper form, and that’s just step one. Once form is established, the sky’s the limit on one’s fitness gains through their challenging intervals. 

Because most people don’t know what to expect, owner and coach Chelsea Moore guides you every step of the way. Just come expecting to learn proper form, because that’s the first step, and trust me, when you hear, “You’re racing yourself!” it is a reminder that every stat is going to be produced by you

Did you know Rō offers your first class free if you attend their INTRō class on Sunday at their Tarrytown studio? It’s actually not an easy workout, as it may seem — but it’s the absolute best way to understand proper form and class expectations. I’m just saying, you heard it here first.

Coach Moore set me up for success with a short and sweet orientation to the Concept 2 Rowing Machine. Checkpoints included foot placement so the strap tightens over the middle of your feet. With the help of a chant I repeated to myself to settle into proper form: legs, body, arms, and the return sequence was arms, body, legs, in that order. Pretty soon, I was able to follow Coach Moore’s cues to find the right body alignment to safely maximize efficiency and power. I know when I found just the right alignment and timing, there was a huge difference in how little effort produced big power output. 

In 2014, Coach Moore had the opportunity to start Rō Fitness, an indoor rowing studio sharing space at the Waller Creek Boathouse. She partnered with co-founder and entrepreneurially-minded Zach Richardson to craft their business plan to set up Rō for success. The task of creating tough-but-doable workouts for all fitness levels was a challenge, and after seven years of developing that concept, they just keep coming up with interesting and fun sessions — challenge accepted! Think: spin class model for rowing machines, and I say it’s brilliant! 

The theme of my Saturday morning class was speed. The class format included a warmup where, at the time, I didn’t even realize Coach Moore was helping us fine tune our form, but she was. In rowing, there’s a drive (the push) and a return (the movement back toward the machine to reset your body for the next stroke). We did a pause drill in our class, and it helped me fix a common mistake that occurs during the “return.”

Mistake: I was allowing my knees to bend before the handle came forward on the return. This mistake, if made while rowing on the water, is much more unforgiving, but less noticeable on an indoor rowing machine, unless you have a Coach Moore watching out for you.

Correction: The return sequence is arms, body, legs, in that order (remember that chant). 

The Pause Drill: On the return, you pause as the handle is over your shins (legs are straight). During the pause, the shoulders are in front of the hips, you’re sitting on your hips and the chest is proud to activate the core. After pausing for two seconds, you return by drawing the shins in vertically and pushing through the legs from there. 

Following the warmup, Coach Moore led us into our first 1,000-meter set. She instructed us on how to set our screen to cap our distance, change our metrics to read watts and set our resistance. 

After completing the first set at 80% effort, Coach Moore reviewed our average watts output and gave us a number that corresponded to our start positioning for the remaining sets. Each set from that point on utilized a staggered start. What I loved about this is that, whether you started first or you started last, you were in the race — the race against yourself and your pace you set for every interval after. However, if you’re like me and can benefit from a little external pressure of trying to catch the person who started in front of you, or at least finish before anyone who started after you, then you might push your pace — and there lies the brilliance in this race format. Every stat is set by you! Four sets later, I was heavily reliant on Coach Moore’s playlist to get me through the final 500 meters. The hard rock bangers were exactly what was needed to close out our sets and lead us into an oh-so needed warm-down. 

What I found most challenging was holding my pace earlier in our interval so I didn’t gas out too soon in the set. It’s tough early in the set because you feel good, the class is hyped and it feels like you’re in a race. That said, the crash that follows a fast start is real! Pace yourself wisely — you’ve been warned.  

Thanks, Coach Moore, to you and your class for allowing us to tag along for class!

Recovery: Shape Method

The recovery segment of Ambassador’s Corner led us to Shape Method Pilates. Founder Jennifer McCamish leverages her experiences from her professional dance career and utilizes the principles of pilates and interval overload training along with movement technique to achieve maximum results for fitness while building a foundation of injury prevention. Thus, the recovery portion of AC led to my enrollment in the Restorative + Rehabilitative Barre Class led by Carissa Topham. 

When I entered the studio, Topham checked in with me to ask if I had any pre-existing injuries or limitations. She was very attentive and had all clients leave their things in cubbies just outside the door. Shortly after everyone was situated, the lights dimmed and the tranquil instrumental music filled the space. Our opening flow began with lengthening the muscles around the cervical spine and neck.

Topham cued the class to allow our right ear to fall toward our right shoulder, then she delivered a cue to turn our chin toward our right shoulder, attempting to look over and behind us while still allowing our ear to fall toward the ground. Almost immediately, I felt a release of tension so much that it gave me a chill down my spine. It’s a fantastic extension to the stretch, and I highly recommend it to anyone who spends even a smidge of time staring at a computer or at a desk during their day. 

The next portion of the class was my favorite. We utilized the massage ball for muscle fascia and soft tissue release. The texture of the massage ball was similar to that of a stress ball you might squeeze. However, the density of the massage ball was comparable to that of a tennis ball. The sequence that followed is fully responsible for redefining my concept of restoration.

Topham cued the class to stand and place our foot on top of the ball, positioning the ball just in front of the heel bone. At this time, I was inclined to want to roll my foot on the ball, but it was not time for that yet. The positioning of the ball remained and we were instructed to slowly shift all of our weight on the ball, easing off if the tension became painful. We held this position for 15 to 30 seconds before re-positioning the ball to the center of the arch of the foot. Following another hold for 15 seconds, we shifted the placement of the ball to just shy of the ball of the joint, allowing our toes to fold over the ball. Viola! Another release through the entirety of the arch of my foot, and another chill went down my spine. I never once contemplated how much tension and stress the arch of my foot is constantly experiencing, but the release and relaxation that followed is all I needed to know that I was doing something right.

After completing the progression on our opposite side, the next sequence in our flow I definitely found the most challenging. Hip mobility is a chore for me and something I have to work at often. What I appreciated was how Coach Carissa’s cues allowed me to experience the stretch with a modification to address my less-than-stellar hip mobility. At this time, I was laying flat on my back, and my feet were on the wall while maintaining a 90-degree bend at the knee. I positioned my right ankle across my left knee and, oh, the sensations I felt going through my glutes, hip flexors and my LIFE. Then, Topham shared that, if the sensations were too much, I can shift my hips further away from the wall. Or, if I need more of a stretch, I can shift my hips closer to the wall. These subtle but effective coaching tips made all the difference and kept me in a “Ooooh, ahhh, this is nice,” feeling rather than the “I’m stuck in this position, someone come get me” feeling. 

The last and final stretch consisted of holding onto the barre with both hands and sinking back into our hips, creating length all throughout our arms, back and hips.

It was 60 minutes of an absolutely full reset. I felt energized, mobile and ready to take on the rest of the day. Learning a new technique to release the tension in the arches of my feet changed my outlook on life!

Please treat yourself to this 60-minute reset with Shape Method and their staff because you deserve it, but if you desire to dial up the intensity and get more sweat, you deserve that, too, and they have just the team to coach you up.


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