This week, the Greatist team met up with Emran Riaz, founder of Reality Enhanced Athletic Cross Training (a.k.a. REACT) Method, and our personal trainer for the day. Having worked with Riaz before as a part of her Greatist Challenge, Laura knew what to expect, but the rest of us were definitely shaking in our sneakers. And Riaz got straight down to business, putting us through the paces with his own brand of intense cardio, butt-kicking plyometrics, and strength training.

We met up at McCarren Park in Brooklyn, and Riaz says the outdoor environment encourages teamwork and enhances the “reality” aspect of this reality-based workout. We started with a quick warm-up followed by challenging cardio, including— but definitely not limited to— sprinting, shuffling, and even a few high-speed push-ups.

Then there were the plyometric exercises, a type of training that involves stretching the muscles before contracting them (essentially, jumping). The “snowboarders” we did were definitely tougher than a quick jaunt down the slopes— my quads were shaking before we even finished a full set. While pumping iron builds size and definition, Riaz says plyometrics also build strength and power effectively.

Next it was on to “the circuit.” These five stations worked our arms, legs, and core, not to mention our endurance. It took full-body effort to mimic Riaz’s elegant-looking waves with the monstrous ropes, plus we did dips, crunches, and some work with the TRX bands. Finally, we cooled down with core exercises— everything from side planks to a yoga-esque half boat pose. It didn’t earn us a savasana, but we did leave feeling pretty seriously accomplished.

REACT definitely wasn’t easy, but Riaz made it doable for each of us by modifying exercises to suit our varying fitness levels. We loved getting a little extra personal attention, and Riaz offers the first training session for free for REACT newbies. Contact him at or check out REACT on Twitter.

Photo by Kelli Kerkman