Instructor Spotlight: Sara Ortlip

Looking for some fitness inspiration? Sara Ortlip is your girl! This incredible mama is a former diver and gymnast, turned Pilates instructor, and if taking her classes would make me look as incredible as her, sign me up!

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In fact, I did sign up! In addition to Pilates (which I simply MUST experience someday soon), Sara teaches a class called Lift, at Melt Hot Fitness in Westerville. It takes a special person to get me to set an alarm for 4:20am and drive to Westerville to take a class. More so if the class is in a heated room, which it was. That person was Sara Ortlip.

The two of us sat down over delicious, delicious Northstar lunch to chat fitness, Columbus, and balancing it all. I learned that the same drive and determination that fueled her competitive diving and gymnastics training is what shines in her fitness practices.  This girl is fierce! I want you to go follow her so you can see how damn hard she wors, but wait, stick around another minute so I can tell you what it was like taking her class.

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The class Sara talked me into taking invited me to is called Lift, and it is a heated resistance training class at Melt (no, not the grilled cheese restaurant). The whole heated fitness thing is growing on me, though as a medical professional, I can tell you there are pros, cons, and some misconceptions when it comes to hot fitness. I will happily go into that at another time, but it’s good to know that a warm or hot room is safe as long as you hydrate before, during, and after class and take breaks when your body tells you to and avoid if you have a breathing condition.

I want you to know that you have options. This class was early, which is not my usual routine, but it may be your jam! You can go later; it just didn’t fit my schedule at the later times. Check their schedule for offerings.

At any rate, I was excited to try it out. Something about Sara’s style drew me in and I knew it was going to be a destination-worthy experience taking class from her. The beautiful studio welcomed me, figuratively and literally!

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Lets hear it for the water taps!

Here’s what I learned:

It kicked butt. Picture this. You’re in a dimly lit, surprisingly wonderful-smelling, 85 degree room. There are mats spaced around the edges of the room with a mirror and barre to your back. The instructor, Sara, is in the center where everyone can easily see despite the low lighting. You have a set or two of hand weights. Your shoes are still on despite what a yoga mat might otherwise suggest. The music begins, and it is the good stuff that keeps you wide awake and alert in the wee hours.

I was trying to decide if Sara was about to teach yoga, Pilates, or strength training. The answer is yes. I’ll clarify that she is not a yoga teacher, but she did something that Pilates and strength training instructors rarely incorporate. She inspired us. From the beginning of class, she set the tone with an important message. “You’re not here for anyone else but you. You’re about to walk out of here and give a little piece of yourself away to everyone and everything else. Get what you need for you. Finish strong.”

Each class is different, so when you try the class, you will experience a different set of exercises, just as you would going to a trainer. I’ll share with you a taste of what Sara led us through. The class was dense in material but only 45 minutes in length, including cool-down. We flowed quickly from one challenging move to another. Several times a Tabata format was set forth, pushing us hard for 20 seconds, resting for 10, and repeating 8 times. The “rest”, however, was not always restful. Unless, of course, a plank is restful for you. It is, however, comparatively easier than weighted jump squats. That’s not a complaint though. You will definitely work hard and get what you need from this workout, both physically, as well as mentally. When things got tough, Sara was there doing the moves full-out, and circulating the room with encouragement and lifting the class members up. Although there were no official breaks, Sara made it clear to everyone participating that drinking water was encouraged and taking short breaks was acceptable. I loved the pairing of high intensity with the permission to listen to my own body. As a physical therapist, I know it is essential to progress to be adequately challenged and kept safe.

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Also, based on my few pre-6am workouts, I have made a cool observation. People who exercise before sunrise, it seems, are there because they really want to be there, and that kind of energy is contagious. Plus, it actually boosted my energy all day and I got to spend time taking care of other things later that morning. I will always be honest. The next 2 days I was pretty tired. I am wondering if I make it it a once- or twice- weekly routine if I will get used to it. Do you have any advice?

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I will definitely be back to Melt! They offer all kinds of classes, from yoga to barre to spinning, and for me at least, I am more likely to try the hot ones because they have a shower and nice changing area. I am such a weenie for being sweaty going out in the cold and having to drive home like that. Anyone else?! I will happily sweat if there is a shower handy for right after class.

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Sweaty bathroom selfie. Duh.

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