Before the holiday switch gets flipped on the Plaza, we try to work off those preholiday pounds

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While furiously pedaling on a stationary bike at 8:30 on a Monday morning, I started dreaming about sweet-potato casserole. Thanksgiving was a week away, and I could already taste the baked marshmallow crust dissolving on my tongue like a well-kept secret. I equated every revolution of the bike’s pedals with another guilt-free bite.

I hoped that squeezing in a few extra preholiday workouts would help my body survive the most indulgent time of the year and avoid the need for larger pants — “eatin’ pants,” as I like to call them. With the Country Club Plaza’s annual lighting ceremony one of Kansas City’s most popular traditions, I decided to see if I could get fit in the epicenter of holiday cheer.

That’s what took me to Mojo Cycling Studio, the five-month-old “high-end boutique” that “does one thing and does it very well,” co-founder Amanda Rismiller told me over the phone. Hearing this description, I assumed that everyone there would be wearing $80 gym pants, but I decided to pull on my 10-year-old tights from Target and hit it.

For Kansas City residents, the first class at Mojo is free. (After that, the drop-in price is $22; packages are also available.) The woman at the front desk gave me a quick greeting, and I wandered into the modern second-story space. A Christmas tree glittered by a lobby window. In the cycling room, Schwinn stationary bikes in several rows of descending platforms faced an instructor and a floor-to-ceiling mirror.

Fortunately, the lights were dimmed — or off entirely — for most of the class. A soft neon glow filled the room. According to Rismiller, this is part of the plan.

“You kind of escape from the real world,” she said. “You’re able to zone out and just groove with the music.”
The experience felt like cycling in a nightclub, and I was able to turn off my brain for an hour and focus only on pedaling to the beat.

After class, sweaty and hungry, I skipped my usual coffee-shop pastry and went to T. Loft, the so-called “health café” that opened on the Plaza’s main drag in July. With its fresh-pressed juices, organic teas and all-natural snacks, the casual restaurant seemed ideal for a quick post-workout meal. After examining the detailed menu for what felt like 45 minutes, I ordered a veggie scramble bowl, a “Fast Focus” juice (pear, pineapple, apple, cucumber and green tea) and a pumpkin-pie “protein ball.” (Side note: When a cookie is presented in this manner, I really do feel better about eating it.)

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Following such an intense workout, I devoured the pumpkin ball in a single bite, but it tasted too healthy to satisfy my appetite for rebellion. The juice was pleasantly smooth and sweet, but the scrambled eggs lacked a key component: hot sauce. There were no salt and pepper shakers on the tables, so I assumed that they would judge me for requesting my favorite condiment. Instead, they gave me a generous serving on the side.

The next day, I went to Power Life Yoga, a Des Moines-based studio that opened its first out-of-state location this summer in Kansas City, in the south Plaza area. I immediately liked studio manager Jenny Anderson, a KC native, and co-manager Michelle Howe, who moved here from Des Moines. They’re the kind of people who hug you the first time they meet you, and they genuinely believe in the yoga-based community that their studio promotes.

%{[ data-embed-type=”image” data-embed-id=”” data-embed-element=”aside” ]}%“We want people to come early and hang out on the couch,” Howe said. “Many yoga studios are quiet, but we strive to create a connection.”

New students get a free week of classes at Power Life, so I tried out Power Sculpt, a class that Anderson said “remains challenging no matter how many times you do it.” The first thing our instructor asked us to do was turn to the person to our left and tell him or her what we hoped people would say about us if we reached our 100th birthday. After a somewhat awkward exchange, the man next to me warned that this class was “a real butt-kicker.”

He wasn’t kidding. Unlike traditional yoga, Power Sculpt involves weights and cardio in a heated room, a three-pronged attack designed to make you as sweaty as possible. If that’s not your thing, Power Life also offers beginning and advanced vinyasa classes, as well as “cardio barre” classes. Anderson said the Power 1 class is ideal for beginners.

And yoga in general, she added, is ideal for everyone over the holidays.

“It’s nice to come into a warm class on a cold day,” she said. “It’s a place to calm down but also feel like you’ve worked. Spending so much time focusing on everyone else can cause resentment, so it’s important to take time for yourself.”

It’s also important to treat yourself. With or without yoga, the holiday season will be stressful. But at least I’ll feel better about eating a second helping of sweet-potato casserole.

Categories: Dining, Food & Drink