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Shape Up

You Can Do Almost Anything for 35 Seconds at Burn Dallas

I faced one of my biggest fears at the Preston Hollow HIIT studio.
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Burn Dallas, which is minimal on design—you’re there to work. Catherine Wendlandt

Before I started this series, I decided I wouldn’t attend any cycling classes. My reasoning was simple: I cannot ride a bike. Shape Up is about accessibility, and if I know I can’t physically do the class, I’m not going to attempt it. But at a Burn Dallas HIIT class, I confronted my fear head-on. 

Driving to the Preston Hollow gym, I was nervous. HIIT classes push me to my limits, and this one was founded by David Thompson, a former NFL football player, and his wife, Juanita. But, when I walked in, Thompson literally took me by the hand and asked me about any injuries he should know about. I told him about the arthrogryposis, and he nodded and asked a few more questions about my abilities and my previous workout history. 

He took my picture (something all new members do, I believe) and led me to a spot on the far end of the room. The class—about 20 people—started with a group warmup, then Thompson walked us through the class’s four stations: floor, treadmill, arms, and (gulp) bikes. 

Burn cycles through sets of three exercises at each station. Each exercise we did twice, in 35-second intervals with 10-second rests between. We did every station twice, back-to-back. In other HIIT classes, we’ve cycled through all the stations before returning to one. Here, once you’ve finished crunches, you’ve finished crunches.

As established, I can’t crunch, but I did my best attempt and Thompson talked me through a few modifications. After that, we did some pushup variations, which Thompson also modified. The third exercise involved weights (I grabbed five pounders from the rack). With these, we hinged forward and lifted one leg back so we would be balancing on one leg. Then we curled the weights up. I didn’t need to modify this, but my form wasn’t the best. Others in my group didn’t lift their back leg up.  

While we worked out, David moved around the room, checking in and helping modify others when needed. He also took videos of people working out for social media, and joked about the music. 

After a bell rang, my group moved to the treadmill. Thompson asked if I was comfortable, which was thoughtful. He had me set the machine to a slower speed than the others. We hit the speed to 2.0–2.5 (I was around 1.6) and the elevation to 10 percent. Then we did side shuffles on both sides and backwards walking, then power walking to the front. After that, we ran full out, but I just power walked, which was totally acceptable here. For the third exercise, we got off the treadmill and did step-ups on a little platform at the end of the machine. 

The third station was arms. We moved over to a row of TRX machines. We started with arm presses, pulling forward on a handle. Then we grabbed two sets of straps and hinged forward, suspending our bodies out at an angle. From here, we were supposed to pull ourselves up. I opted to do standing pushups from this position, which I had done once at KIVA Pilates. Thompson gave me a nod of approval. For the third exercise, we kneeled in front of a rope and pulled down on it, curling our bodies as we did it to work our abs.

It was almost fitting that my final station was the one I was most scared of: the bikes. We didn’t start on them, though. We did squats and lunges, and lifted weights over our heads (Thompson had me do bicep curls instead). Then we got to the stationary bikes. 

Now, my reluctance to ride a bike in class isn’t unfounded. I’ve had several failed attempts at learning how to ride over the years. Anytime I’ve climbed onto a stationary bike, I’ve managed about a minute before it becomes too much. I just don’t have the core strength and balance to stay on, nor the upper body strength to hold my chest and head up. 

Here, Thompson helped me adjust the bike’s seat height and resistance, then he helped me climb on. Like I said, I can only ride a stationary bike for about a minute. But even though we had about two minutes total on the bikes here, it was broken up in 35-second intervals. When the final bell dinged, and I hobbled off the machine, I was proud of myself. I did it! 

This class felt like a turning point for me. It was the first HIIT class I’ve taken where I felt I could do most of the exercises, even if I had to modify. And I rode a bike. It was satisfying to do something that I’ve literally never been able to do, even if it was for a short period of time. And while I’m not going to start writing cycling reviews anytime soon, I’m glad I had to face that fear. 

Final Thoughts

Aesthetics 

Burn’s is a no-nonsense studio design—you’re there to work. But the music was loud and fun, with a strong beat to power you through. It was clear that this was a family business. Thompson made everyone feel like regulars. And after class ended, he asked us to make a good luck video for his daughter, who was going to state soon in weightlifting. 

Difficulty

I think one of the biggest reasons HIIT classes are so intimidating is that the instructors run through all of the stations at once. When Thompson went over the class, I literally saw fear on people’s faces. But everything is broken up, and when you’re in the thick of it, you really can do almost anything for 35 seconds. That said, the class was hard. My arms were shaking when I drove home, and I was definitely sore the next day.

Accessibility

Throughout this series, I’ve noticed that HIIT instructors and studios are some of the best at dealing with modifications. Burn was no exception. Thompson was great at making sure I felt safe and adjusting movements, so I’d work out the same muscle groups, just within my own abilities. Also, the intake form at the beginning was more thorough than any I’d seen before: The form asked me about any recent injuries or surgeries, asked my fitness level, and even what my fitness goal was. It felt like the gym wanted to tailor my experience to what I needed. 

The Cost of It All 

A single class at Burn costs $28. But you get your first two classes free. Burn has three membership options, ranging $59­–$135 a month. There are also online classes and personal training options available. 

Would I Go Back? 

Absolutely. 

Author

Catherine Wendlandt

Catherine Wendlandt

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Catherine Wendlandt is the online associate editor for D Magazine’s Living and Home and Garden blogs, where she covers all…
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