Last month, I tried a workout so challenging that when I finished, I swear even my eyebrows hurt.

I hadn't expected that. The TRX Suspension Trainer is pretty innocuous looking—just a couple of adjustable straps made of nylon webbing with an anchor on one end and a couple of handles on the other. This whole "no sweat" impression was bolstered when I met my trainer, Leigh Crews, a petite dynamo with a warm smile and a friendly, distinctly un-über-trainer-like demeanor that belied her title of Senior Master Trainer with TRX. How hard could it be, I thought?

That was before I learned that Crews is a finalist for the IDEA World Instructor of the Year (for the second year in a row). And before I actually started the workout.

Here's how the TRX system works: You use your own weight as resistance, adjusting the angle of your body and position of your feet to make the exercise easier or harder. This last part is key, because it allows Crews to kick the butt of an aiming-for-the-pros athlete, then train an 80-something guy on the very same equipment.

The same equipment that, after a dozen exercises, had every fiber of my being screaming for mercy. The hardest hit area: my core, since virtually every move requires your ab and back muscles to stabilize you on those swaying straps.


Once I made it through, though, I was elated. Elated. OK, it's no secret that I'm gung-ho about exercise and think strength training is crucial, but rarely do I get so enthused about a workout that I would consider driving a couple of hours to take a class. (TRX classes are popping up all over, but haven't hit Birmingham, Ala.—yet.)

So enthused, too, that I got one for my home. It's not a bad substitute (though I miss the motivating power of Crews remarking, "I think you have one more in you," as my muscles begin to quake uncontrollably). The system is the same as the one used by trainers, plus the accompanying DVD has a 25-minute how-to segment on how to adjust the straps, get your feet into the foot loops, and other essentials. Trust me: It's worth your time to watch this.

The DVD also offers a 40-minute workout, but there's a lot of downtime in between moves, so once you get comfortable you'll want to find other sources. That won't be hard: The TRX comes with a workout guide, and its website is a treasure trove of free routines (click on the "Train" and "Connect" buttons). You can buy other DVDs, too, but they're pricey.

One more thing: This workout is truly portable. The whole system takes up about the same amount of room as a pair of shoes, so you can pack it in a suitcase or overnight bag. To anchor it, use a door, a tree, a playground bar—lots of options here.

I'll sum it up for you in four words: I love this workout!

  • Product: TRX Suspension Trainer
  • Category: Classes/Gear
  • Pros: It's a super-effective, versatile, challenging—and portable!—way to work out. Kudos to TRX for providing so many workout routines on its website, too.
  • Cons: Some cities still don't have classes, and the workout DVDs are a tad pricey.
  • Cost: $189.95 for TRX, carrying bag, Basic Training DVD, and Quick Start Guide ($199.95 with door anchor) at
  • Extra tip: Take a class first, if you can. Click here to find a trainer near you.