The benefit of living 2 miles from University Village is that you can easily spend a lot of time there. Back in May, I noticed that Teavana had moved out and there were signs for 'Katalyst Fitness Coming Soon'. You know I stopped in my tracks and immediately Googled it. To say I was excited when I read about 'more efficient' workouts and '20 minutes' with 'Electronic Muscle Stimulation' would be an understatement. The only thing I was upset about was that to I could not check out classes immediately and didn't know when they were scheduled to open. Fortunately I am at UVillage 2-3 times a week so it was easy for me to pop over to see if they were open.
So I was excited when I noticed they had opened their doors and even more excited to hear the first session is free. It took me awhile to find time in the schedule to make it work so I had already heard from a few friends who had tried it. I asked them if they liked it and what it was like. Strangely enough, everyone kept saying the same thing, "You have to just try it. I can't really explain it." I was curious and intrigued that everyone kept saying these same two things. Now that I've experienced a session, I fully understand why everyone kept saying that.
You know I don't workout without a friend or a member of the Fit Squad so I asked Rosalie and Kenzie to try out Katalyst with me. Fortunately, they are always up for anything and were happy to try something different. When I walked down the sidewalk towards the studio, I was greeted by two friendly team members who were standing outside. Once I let them know I had an appointment, they had me check in at the desk which was staffed with 3 team members who were ready to help us out.
Lacey, who is a certified trainer and fitness coach, was my coach for the session. She was friendly and immediately engaging. The session starts with a sit down question and answer period. It gives the coach an opportunity to ask questions about your fitness routine and your goals and then gives you an opportunity to ask any questions you may have.
We spent about 10-15 minutes chatting and then moved onto the 'weigh in' as I call it. It's not really a weigh in, but more of a baseline measurement of all the key metrics that Katalyst uses to track progress. They use the InBody Scope machine which looks like the scale at the doctor's office but comes with handle bars that you hold. Once you input your age and height, The machine pulls all your metrics - weight, BMI and skeletal muscle mass. It even pulls how much water and muscle weight you have and measures the muscle mass and weight in your right arm vs. your left arm; right leg vs. left leg. Pretty cool and also interesting to see that in some cases, you really are stronger on one side than the other. This is also how Katalyst tracks progress. Ideally you would check in every 4-6 weeks and see progress in those numbers. Their focus is on your 'Skeletal Muscle Mass' and seeing that number improve over time.
Then comes the next part - the suit up. Lacey had the suit laid out on the counter and one of the other team members was spraying it down with water. Lacey explained how the suit was set up (think bullet proof vest with legs, with lots of Velcro and some wires). She also explained that the muscle mechanics work better when the suit is wet which is why they spray it down right before you put it on. Then came the part I was NOT prepared for. She handed me small package which is the body suit. It's ultimately a short sleeved t-shirt and shorts that are made out of a thin fiber-y fabric. It reminded me of a lighter version of long underwear. But they ask you to put on JUST the body suit. Nothing underneath it. And when I say nothing they mean NOTHING. No sports bra, no underwear, nothing. I think the three of us asked 4 or 5 times if they really meant nothing. I was not prepared for this and not sure.
They led us to the back dressing room which is a nice area with cubbies, 3 dressing rooms and a restroom. We changed into our body suits and spent a good 5 minutes laughing at ourselves before we felt comfortable walking out to meet our coaches. That's when the team suits you up. The idea is to get the suit on as tight as possible so they adjust all the straps before they clip the top and bottom onto you. It was a bit of a shock when the suit first comes on - it's wet and cold but then the process of strapping you isn't too bad. Lacey adjusted as needed and made sure it was tight enough but not too tight. Then there are two bicep bands that she straps on and clips to the vest. It was not as uncomfortable as you would think.
We then walk over to one of the stations. The studio is set up with three stations so Kenzie, Rosalie and I were able to work out at the same time in our individual stations. Each station is set up with a computer, wooden bar and a small table holding a bunch of rolled up towels. These towels would serve as "weights" and not for wiping the sweat off as I originally thought.
The computer is set up with a bunch of knobs at the bottom of the screen. These knobs control the amount of muscle stimulation in each area - back, abs, hamstrings, gluts and arms. Throughout the workout, Lacey would watch me and adjust as needed. The first thing Lacey did was explain the workout to me. It is a full 20 minute session - 4 seconds off, 4 seconds on. It only took the first 3 rounds for me to realize that I was naive to think, "4 seconds!? How can this be a workout?!" She starts you off in the base/starting position which is ultimately a squat with a bicep curl. She had me try out this position and then started by stimulating my hamstrings, adding my gluts, adding my core, etc. until all areas were 'on'. I cannot explain the sensation. It's almost a cross between a shock, a major vibration and tickling throughout your entire body. But it got even more interesting.
Lacey worked me through a series of exercises. None of them were new - think squats, lunges, tricep kick backs, bicep curls. But they felt SO strange. The idea was to be in position as the 4 second work period started. Once the muscle stimulation started, you had to work through the exercise for 4 seconds. Depending on the strength of the stimulation and the workout, it was hard in a way I cannot explain. The most interesting part of the workout is not being able to reconcile how it feels with the concept that you're not holding any weights or nothing is pushing against you to cause the unexpected resistance. The punches were the hardest for me. The idea was to literally just do 4 seconds of quick punches. But because of the muscles that are being stimulated, the simple concept of punching was nearly impossible. For most of the rounds, my left arm (which is clearly weaker than my right) could not punch out straight. Whenever I tried, it would lock up into this weird C position. It was a little scary to know your brain was telling your body to do something and it was doing something entirely different.
Unlike other workouts, it didn't actually feel like a workout during the session. For the majority of the workout, I could not stop laughing because it was so hard to get over the strange sensation of the stimulation and how ridiculous some of the simple exercises felt. After the 20 minute session, Lacey had me change into my regular clothes and go through a post session analysis where she asks a few questions about the experience. She also reminded me that I should drink a lot of water and keep moving. Although it's a 20 minute session, leave yourself about an hour.
The most memorable part of this workout actually had nothing to do with the workout but what happened afterwards.
Day 1 Post Workout - The morning after, the text messages started early. Rosalie, Kenzie and I were already feeling it in ways that we had never felt. As Kenzie put it 'I've never felt this before!!' and we all work hard, play hard so you know this means something. For me, it started with my biceps and triceps. I literally could not lift up the phone to text without groaning. And throughout the day, it became more and more noticeable. I took a cycling class that morning and at the time, it seemed like the best workout given my arms were so tender but I'm not sure this was the right call.
Day 2 Post Workout - How is it even possible? The pain was worse on Day 2. By A LOT. My gluts and hamstrings were SO SORE. It's hard to know if it was just the Katalyst workout or the combo of cycling and Katalyst. But my muscles were so sore that when I went to get a massage that night, my muscles were tender to the touch. It HURT and not in the satisfied, I worked hard, sore kind of way. It hurt in a way where I wondered if I had done something wrong or maybe seriously injured myself in some way. I was actually pretty concerned that I would be in pain for awhile. So I put in some extra time foam rolling and planned to have a rest day the next day.
Day 3 Post Workout - Day 3 was the worst. I was in so much pain that the minute I woke up, I knew I was in trouble. Rolling over to get out of bed was not comfortable or easy. I spent most of the day walking awkwardly (yes, it hurt to walk!!) and sitting down meant lost of wincing, cringing and groaning. It HURT to sit. I essentially spent my Rest Day standing because even laying down was challenging. I tried to foam roll and everything about it was so uncomfortable I gave up.
But somehow, on Day 4, I was much better. It was almost like someone had flipped a switch. I was feeling better by the night of Day 3 but by Day 4, I was feeling 75% - 80% better. I'm still in a bit of shock over how it all happened. I have never been in that much pain for that long post workout. My guess is that it was such a different workout and my muscles had been stimulated in such a new way that they were in 'shock' themselves.
All in all, I don't know that EMS is the workout for me. While the post workout pain was memorable, the workout itself doesn't provide the same adrenaline rush you get from riding to the beat in a cycling class or sweating through your shirt in a Tabata class. It doesn't provide the same level of satisfaction you get from shaking through a pilates class either. And because the session is based on a one on one coaching model, it doesn't allow for the sense of community or energy you get from working out in a room full of people. And you guys know how much I love my Fit Squad.
While it may have not filled all the requirements for me, t I can see how this workout is perfect for someone who needs an efficient workout, does not have a lot of time and is cautious of their joints and long term health. I can also see how it can become a bit like therapy as you develop a relationship with your coach. I wanted to pull up a chair and open up a bottle of wine with Lacey and that was only after knowing her for an hour!