Photography by Joseph Brewster

Class Review

A Beginner’s Guide: Rise Nation

How to get the most out of the Los Angeles-based, 30-minute workout.

There’s a wide variety of perfectly acceptable reasons to be intimidated by a workout class. Maybe it’s been a while since your last sweat sesh. Or your friend told you it was the hardest thing they’ve ever done. Perhaps you laid eyes on a particularly intimidating video on Instagram and now fear for your well-being. Regardless of the reason, we’re here to help.  

In this series, we give you all the need-to-know info about the most popular (and daunting) workouts around town.

Rise Nation, the boutique studio just off Knox Street, isn’t just new to Dallas. In 2015, trainer Jason Walsh chose Los Angeles’ West Hollywood neighborhood for the first Rise Nation studio, frequented by many of Walsh’s celebrity clients, including Jennifer Aniston and Mandy Moore. Dallas is only the third location (the second is, somewhat inexplicably, in Cleveland) for Walsh’s concept, the first to create a fitness empire around the funky, vertical fitness machine called the VersaClimber.

So while the Lebron James Rise Nation video is enough to intimidate, the most daunting part about the studio is the virtual unknown of what a VersaClimber class actually entails. (The closest match is a spin class, but it’s still a bit hard to describe.) We stopped by the brand-new studio (which has excellent parking, by the way) to chat with Tyler White, Rise Nation’s lead instructor, to demystify the towering piece of equipment and help you get the most of the 30-minute workout.

First Things First: Take Level 1

Seriously, don’t skip out on the beginner’s class. “Most people step into a spin class and they’ve probably been on some sort of bike in the last ten years, but most people haven’t been on a VersaClimber ever, or even crawled — which is essentially what you’re doing — since they were a toddler,” says White. “It’s a disservice to the client to come in for Level 2 where there’s no instruction or help with setting up. They really need to get comfortable with Level 1 first.”

Plus, Level 1 may be the “beginner” class, but it’s still a crazy good workout. “A Level 1 class is really the same thing as a Level 2 class, we’ve just slowed down the tempo,” says White.

Getting Set Up. 

Strap yourself in.

If your first instinct is to make the Velcro around your fight as tight as possible on the pedals, you’re not alone, but you would be wrong. “You want to have nice, loose foot straps, and even loosely tied shoes so that your toes can still move around. Otherwise, your feet are going to go numb,” says White. “When you’re going on the machine, a bunch of blood is shooting to your toes. If you have any bit of tightness there, you’re going to start to lose feeling.” 

Size things up.  

The VersaClimber’s handlebars are adjustable for size (just press in the button on the end of the bar to release it). Ideally, the bars should be positioned just at or slightly below shoulder lever. (For reference, I’m 5’4” and I keep my handles at the lowest rung.)

While You’re Climbing. 

Can you handle it?

Keep a soft grip on the handles during the class. “Most people do a death grip when they first come in and try to control the whole machine with their arms, when, in actuality, the tempo all comes from the core,” says White.

Don’t stand up straight.

Your posture during the class is key. “Just think, booty back, hinge forward,” says White. “Have a soft bend in the knees. Your hips should be pulled back — honestly, it takes people a couple of classes before they feel comfortable shooting their butt back as far as they need to. Pull your shoulders back and relax them, keep your elbows in, and hinge forward.”

It Does Get Better.

One sentiment you’ll hear over and over no matter which Rise Nation instructor you visit: It gets better.

“It usually takes about three or four classes for people to be like, ‘Okay, I did really good in that class.’ That’s why we will always have that three classes for $30 deal. It’s a steal, but we need you to come in here and try three classes,” says White. “Most people feel like they start to get it just as their first class is ending. Every time you come, you’re going to get better and better.”

When to Take on Level 2.

The answer depends on your fitness level of course, but the general rule is that when you can hold the tempo of a Level 1 class, you’re ready for Level 2. “We’re not really throwing any new choreography at you in Level 2, but the class just has a better, faster flow.”

Why Rise Nation?

“It’s a strength and conditioning workout that literally everyone can do,” says White. “It’s insane when you teach a class and you have someone who’s 70-years-old on one VersaClimber, someone who’s 300 pounds on another, and a fitness instructor who teaches 15 classes a week all on the same machine, getting a killer workout.”

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