You did it again, Milwaukee… didn’t you?

Despite your best intentions, the holidays came and went, and your self control was conveniently nowhere to be found. Whether it was the cookies, the cheese dips, or the constant stream of alcoholic beverages (or all three), you likely woke up on New Year’s Day feeling a little bit bigger, slower, and sadder.

Look- I’m not here to judge. Two years ago I came back from a week long cruise with a case of gout so bad that I was on crutches for a week. The only reason I ever ran a marathon (now seven years ago, but I’m still bragging about it) is because I woke up one morning next to a bowl of half eaten popcorn and chocolate chips scattered all over my bed (and my white t-shirt). And while I didn’t invent the dad bod, I’ll be damned if I wasn’t one of the first to publicly endorse the trend.

I know you, Milwaukee… because I am you.

So what are we going to do about it? Fear not- MKE. In the true spirit of Tony Perkins: “I’m not gonna give you the light… I’m gonna SHOW YOU THE LIGHT!”

Like any recently married man, I have a healthy fear of my wife; I’ve been conditioned to feel shame unless I earn my Old Fashioneds by making sure I get my workouts in. And as a Millennial, I bore easily, so I’m always on the lookout for new workouts.

If you want to go the old route and sign up for a gym, good for you- they’re everywhere and they’re all offering New Year’s specials. But if you’re looking for something a little different, check out one of these three spots around town. I can personally guarantee you’ll sweat, you’ll be sore, and you’ll feel a whole lot better about yourself the next morning.

Power Cycle – Wauwatosa

Where is it? 7954 Harwood Ave, Wauwatosa, WI 53213

What is it? 45 minutes of heart-pounding cardio on high tech stationary bikes. Classes are instructor-led, take place in a dark room lit by LED lights, and feature loud, upbeat music that will keep you going when your body is yelling at you to quit. It’s like a high intensity workout with a DJ.

What do I bring? Standard workout clothes and a water bottle are all you need. Clip in shoes, which are an absolute game changer for those who have never used them, are provided by the studio, as are towels, gum, and hair ties… it’s the little things, right? Smart-lock lockers are also available at no charge. New riders are encouraged to sign up online ahead of time- your first ride is free (just tell them Rob from The Squeaky Curd sent you).

Photo from Power Cycle’s Instagram. All other photos by Rob Petrie for The Squeaky Curd unless otherwise noted.

Why should I go? I walked into Power Cycle for my first ride with every intention of getting my free workout and not coming back. Four weeks later, I’m about to pass the 15 ride mark, and my wife and I are now members. I’ve been doing standard spin classes for years; these are different.

You own your workout at PowerCycle. All of your stats are displayed on two flat screen TVs that show your RPMs, your watts produced, and your power zones, which are color coded and coordinate with how hard you’re working. If you’re competitive like me, you can “race” against your peers for 45 minutes. If you’re not competitive at all, fear not- when there’s 20 riders on a screen, it’s hard to focus on anything other than your numbers. While it’s a class setting, the workout is truly personalized to you. You control the speed and the resistance on your bike, and ultimately how hard you want to work.

Instructors frequently lead themed rides (Hip-Hop, One Hit Wonders, and my personal favorite- the Justin Bieber ride). The lyrics are explicit, the music is loud, and the sweat is guaranteed.

What’s going to be sore? Hamstrings and glutes for sure. Most classes also feature at least one song’s worth of arm workouts with 2-5 lb weights, which doesn’t sound difficult, but is sneaky tough.

The Bottom Line: Power Cycle has taken my winter cardio routine to the next level. I feel noticeably stronger after just one month of taking 2-3 classes per weeks. I’m still running, and have noticed an improvement in my breathing and endurance. It’s just 45 minutes of your day, but you’ll feel the positive effects long after class ends. Bar none, it’s the best cardio workout I’ve ever done.

Adventure Rock – Milwaukee

Where is it? 2220 N. Commerce Street, Milwaukee, WI 53212

What is it? Adventure Rock’s new downtown location features a massive 4.5 story climbing wall and a sprawling bouldering wall for a harness-free workout. Technology has advanced since my 3rd grade cub scout trip to Adventure Rock’s Brookfield location (still in business), and you no longer need a human to help you rock climb. The “Clip N’ Go” system features an automatic belay that will ensure you have a safe and enjoyable climb, even if you slip three stories up!

What do I bring? Standard workout clothes will work. I wore shorts and a dri-fit style t-shirt, but a lot of the more official looking climbers were wearing sweats (or yoga pants for the ladies) and shirts with longer sleeves, presumably to avoid “rock burn”. Just make sure the material is flexible- you’re going to find yourself in some unusual positions as you try to scale these walls. Shoes and harnesses are provided for an additional fee. Lockers are available, but you’ll need to bring your own lock.

Why should I go? It’s really fun, and as challenging as you want it to be. There is a 10 minute orientation for new climbers where they cover how to use the “Clip N Go” system, and you’re on your own after that. You can challenge yourself to try to scale different color-coded climbs that are rated on a points scale (I finished a 5.8, but failed after multiple attempts at a 5.9). You can also just ignore all of that and enjoy working your way to the top using whatever color foot holds you please.

What’s going to be sore? Your forearms and wrists are going to be sore- there’s just not a lot of real world situations where you’re hanging your entire body weight on tiny objects. Your ego might be a little sore as well- these climbs look a lot easier from the ground as your watching a bunch tweens scale the walls like they’re Spiderman.

The Bottom Line: You’re not going to leave Adventure rock drenched in sweat and out of breath, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a great workout. If your having one of those days where you can’t bring yourself to jump on a treadmill- break up the routine with a day of climbing. It’s something new, out of the ordinary, and is a fun and un-intimidating way to get the adrenaline running. Final advice- bring a friend- I was lucky to try it out with three!

Hot Yoga Milwaukee

Where is it? Downtown – 2084 N. Commerce Street, Milwaukee, WI 53212; Brookfield – 17800 W. Bluemound Rd, Brookfield WI 53045

What is it? It’s Yoga- in a 105 degree room. While both studios offer multiple styles of classes, I stick to the Bikram-style classes, which are either one or two sets (class depending) of the same 26 postures and 2 breathing exercises. You will stretch every muscle in your body as the instructors lead you through one of the most mentally challenging workouts you’ll find in Milwaukee.

What do I bring? Gym shorts (no boxers) or yoga shorts for men. Shirts optional, I don’t wear one because there’s no point. Yoga pants or shorts / running shorts and sports bras or workout tops for the ladies. A good rule of thumb- wear what you’re comfortable wearing… everyone will be too focused on survival to care about others in the room. You will also need the following: a mat, a large towel to cover your mat, and a water bottle (no glass bottles allowed). Bring a spare towel if you plan to shower after- garbage bags are provided to take your sweaty clothes home in. Mats and towels are available for rent.

Very Very Important- you have to hydrate before class. I hit the water hard all day long when I’m planning to go to class, and then enforce a hard stop on the H2O an hour before class so I don’t have to fight the urge to go to the bathroom during class.

Why should I go? Hot Yoga is the only thing that has ever consistently helped me reduce frequent back pain. It increases balance and flexibility, both of which are good for the golf game, but more importantly- for sleeping. I’ve been sleeping regularly for almost 28 years now, and I have yet to find something that helps me fall and stay asleep like a 60 minute hot yoga class.

June will mark my 5th anniversary as a hot yogi- and I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for Hot Yoga Milwaukee. It’s far and away the most mentally challenging workout I do, every time I do it. It’s not so much the physical stress of the movement and the heat, but rather the mental stress of trying to keep your body calm and still as your mind is shouting at you to leave the room. The body high you earn from class is like none other, but it’s the mental satisfaction and clarity that keeps me coming back. If you can make it through a 90 minute hot yoga class (and you can, I promise, because I have, and I just ate 6 tacos), then you can get through anything.

What’s going to be sore? Nothing is terribly “sore”, per say, but everything feels loose. If you start to go frequently, you’ll notice simple every day tasks become easier, such as bending down to grab something off the floor, or turning around to drive in reverse. But once again, if you go to a night class, you must hydrate properly.

The Bottom Lines: Hot Yoga is intimidating, especially if you’ve never done it before. I’ll admit, before I took my first class, the idea of flaunting my dad bod to a bunch of lean yoga enthusiasts doing head stands seemed crazy to me. But after just five minutes of my first class, I realized that my survival depended on my ability to focus on myself, the teacher’s voice, and my body. Everyone else in the room quickly fades away when you’re trying not to die. All dramatics aside- there’s no reason to be intimidated; I’ve seen people of all shapes and sizes walk into that room. It’s easier said than done, but something it only takes one class to realize: it’s one of the most welcoming and accepting communities of people I’ve ever been a part of. There’s nothing to be afraid of. Take one class, and the intimidation factor disappears.

As Jana, one of my favorite instructors, says “Don’t let the heat intimidate you. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed, we’ve all been there. Don’t compare yourself to those around you. Relish in the group energy. Trust the process.” And, of course, tell them Rob Petrie from the Squeaky Curd sent you!

Photo by Hot Yoga Milwaukee.

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