HEAT: Feeling the Burn in a World of Acronyms

by Charman Driver
photograph by Scott Sharpe


The evening before my exercise adventure at heat Studios, I got a membership card in the mail asking me to join the American Association of Retired Persons. Huh?

Why on earth, I wondered, is AARP is asking me to join? I won’t divulge my age, but I am nowhere near retirement. As I sat sulking through dinner, my husband tried to reassure me that AARP begins marketing to potential members early (very early, I might add).

After dinner, I placed the card in the shredder.

The next morning, I met a Walter photographer at the HEAT studios for the studio’s signature class. Over the last year or so, I’ve heard from friends and clients about the popular interval classes at HEAT, which stands for Highly Effective Athletic Training.  Because I’m an eager, young adult (hear that, AARP?) I wanted to try it for myself.

Interval training 

HEAT’s studio is in the historic Creamery Building on a bright corner of Glenwood South. The space is cool – all hardwood floors and storefront windows – and, unlike a  typical gym, it feels (and smells) inviting the moment you step inside.

HEAT Studios is all about interval training – alternating short bursts of maximum effort with a slower recovery – and if you haven’t heard, it works. Fast. According to a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, bursts of hard exercise not only improve cardiovascular fitness, but also boost the body’s ability to burn fat.

Coaches and athletes use intervals to improve performance, but interval training is not only for the already super-fit. HEAT’s website maintains that its signature class is for anyone, but that everyone will be challenged. The names alone of some of their other classes, like Burn & Turn, Shock Treatment, and Tread & Shed, are a clue that challenge lies ahead.

Heart-pumping, bass-thumping… 

The instructor for my class, Ashley Farrar, asks me to grab a yoga mat, a BOSU ball, heavy dumbbells, and an 18-pound kettle bell. I find a space on the floor. Half of the class of about 15 people (most under AARP age, by the way) will start the warm up on the mat, and the other half on the treadmill.

The music comes on and the once-calm space is now filled with deafening, heart-pumping, bass-thumping electronic music with aggressive shouting (not singing) about making me sweat. And the deceptively cheerful Ashley has now donned a headset and is barking directives into a microphone. Dare I say, I’m suddenly feeling rather… mature.

On Ashley’s cue, everyone begins.  Just when I think my senses are on complete overload, I surprise myself by becoming very focused. The deafening music is now an afterthought, and Ashley’s voice is appreciatively motivating. Three minutes later, it’s my turn on the treadmill and I am on fire!

And so it goes for one fast-paced, sweat-filled hour –  alternating between intense intervals of 3 to 15 minutes on the treadmill (at 7 to 10 mph), with strength and resistance intervals on the floor. The floor exercises include everything from crunches, pushups and burpees (a four-step, squat-plank-jump move) to bicep curls, lunges and lateral raises using kettlebells.

The HEAT class was hard work, but its fast pace leaves little time to think about the demands or to get bored. Interval training is an excellent way to maximize a workout that is limited on time, too. Plus, research proves you can improve your strength, speed and endurance with just one hour per week of interval training – as much as you’d get with five hours of traditional endurance training.

Shortly after class, I get a text from Robin Fitzgerald, the owner of HEAT Studios, asking if I enjoyed the workout.  She also said she was asked via text, “Who was that in class with a photographer, an Olympic athlete?”

Robin didn’t know it, but she just made my day!

I still won’t divulge my age and will admit that I am nowhere near Olympic athlete age either, but I jumped into the fire at HEAT and came out smokin’! Take that, AARP!

For more information on Heat Studios, at 400 Glenwood Avenue, go to www.heatstudios.com. The price for a walk-in class is $18.