Author Topic: Gyms in DC area?  (Read 2844 times)

Offline fbitomboy007

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Gyms in DC area?
« on: September 20, 2014, 02:46:51 PM »
Hi all,

I'm new to parkour and the DC area. I've been looking into local gyms and am thinking about Urban Evolution in Alexandria or Primal Fitness in DC. Anyone been to either or have suggestions?


Offline Pseudoninja

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Re: Gyms in DC area?
« Reply #1 on: October 30, 2014, 07:26:05 AM »
Welcome to the neighborhood!  I've been a monthly member at Urban Evolution in Alexandria for about three months now.  I'd never done parkour before going to UE.  I absolutely love it.  Here are my thoughts and opinions on UE. Disclaimer:  I don't know how to compare it to other gyms in the area since I haven't been to Primal Fitness or any other parkour gyms. 

Price:  On the surface, it can look a bit pricey.  However, if you plan on taking it seriously, they offer a flat monthly fee ($140 per month) that will give you the ability to go to as many classes as you want for the month.  They also provide a buddy discount if you get a friend to sign up at the same time.  Doing the math, I go four or five days a week, usually for two classes each visit. With the buddy discount, that breaks down to around $3 per hour.  Most don't go that often, and I admit, starting in pretty good shape that pace still leaves me exhausted many weeks.  Still, it's not hard to get your money's worth.

Staff:  The staff at UE is very friendly.  The owners, Salil and Malikah, are very involved, and are at the gym several days a week.  As for trainers, the experience level varies.  Salil, Sean, and David are the most experienced parkour trainers who regularly teach at the Alexandria location.  You can see Salil and Sean in some of UE's youtube videos.  There are a few younger guys, mainly Frank and Jorge, who worked their way up to training positions in the gym and teach a lot of the beginner and conditioning classes.  All of them are good at their job, though the more experienced guys are the best at explaining new techniques.  You don't really know who will be teaching when you show up, but I have never had a problem with any of the trainers.

Classes:  UE has a pretty broad range of classes, not all of them parkour related.   The staff puts a lot of effort into providing options that are appropriate to all ages and skill levels.  I've seen people in classes from age six to mid-sixties with fitness levels ranging from ninja warrior contestant to significantly overweight.  They have several classes specifically for children, as well as 401PK classes meant for older clients who need to avoid some higher impact training.  I won't go through the whole list of classes (you can check their website for that), but I will say the UrbanFit classes offer good strength training to help you out if some of the climbing and landing you have to do in the parkour classes gives you trouble.  They also have a class they call "Eat Your Veggies" that focuses on conditioning and safety specific to parkour.  Class size varies somewhat randomly: I've been in classes with 20 people, and I've had unexpected private lessons because nobody else showed up.  The average is closer to the 6-10 range.

Safety:  There's no sugarcoating it, parkour offers a lot of opportunities to hurt yourself.  Gyms can control that with cushioned floors and padded mats, but if you want to really do parkour, you should be training to do these moves on hard walls, metal rails, and concrete.  I've banged up my shins pretty hard, and rail and wall training will rip up your hands when you start.  There's no avoiding that.  With that in mind, I think UE does a good job trying to control the risk you face.  They have a wristband system similar to a martial arts belt system that allows them to control supervision and gym usage based on skill level.  All beginners have a white band, and with a white band you may only use the gym in class with supervision.  To graduate to a green band, which allows for unsupervised training, you have to pass a test.  The cost of the test is included in your standard membership fee.  The time it takes to get to an adequate skill level for the green band test can range from one to several months.  After three months, I still think I'm a few weeks from being competent enough to take it.

Location:  From talking to people who have been to all three UE locations, the Alexandria one sounds like the smallest of the three.  That said, there's plenty of room most days.  The only trouble comes when there are multiple classes overlapping or an unusually large number of people taking a class.  On days the weather is nice, the trainers will take classes outside to neighboring office buildings to try things in a quasi-urban setting.  This particular part of Alexandria is not very urban, so there's a limit to "real world" practice you'll get near the gym.  I imagine the DC gym you mentioned will have the advantage in that area.

Atmosphere:  The first thing I noticed going into UE before joining was the playful atmosphere.  I think of a gym, I think of jocks.  UE (and parkour in general, I think) is different.  If you are a bit nerdy, it is very welcoming.  There are video game murals painted on the walls, t-shirts proclaiming that "zombies can't parkour," and regular games of "Cops vs. Ninjas."  It's like being a kid on the playground again, except there are no adults telling you not to do dangerous stuff.  Instead there are trainers teaching you how to do potentially dangerous stuff safely and efficiently.

Cons:  I don't want to make it sound like UE is perfect, so here are my minor gripes/warnings.  The class schedule on weekdays mixed with the location near 395 can make it really difficult to make it to class during rush hour.  On weekdays, there is ALWAYS traffic on that road around the beginning of both the six and seven o'clock evening classes.  There are back roads to get to the location, but not many that aren't also plagued with rush hour traffic.  One other warning, the owners will regularly bring their dogs to the gym.  Their dogs are very sweet and mild mannered, but it does mean there is quite a bit of fur around.  If you don't like dogs or are allergic, this might be a barrier for you.


Pros - Very friendly, knowledgeable staff.  Pricing system encourages participation.  Buddy discount! Good variety of classes.  Training is tailored to skill, age, and fitness level.  Band system is there to keep you safe and supervised.  Very playful atmosphere.

Cons - Pricing can be high without discount, especially if you don't plan to go often (check out the alternatives to the monthly membership if you don't go at least three times a week).  Traffic near the location can be a pain.  Must love dogs!

Hope that helped!

Offline SebastianCannon

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Re: Gyms in DC area?
« Reply #2 on: October 30, 2014, 09:28:31 AM »
apk is primal fitness
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