New Yorkers love the new and the next, from restaurants to bands to workouts. So when I heard about ClassPass last spring, I was intrigued. The NYC-based offers a $79-$99/month passport to the fitness classes around the city. The membership gains you unlimited access to hundreds of gyms and studios in the New York area (even Hoboken!), with activities ranging from boxing and boot camps to spinning and pilates. The only catch is that you’re limited to three classes at an individual studio per month, so no matter how much you love the dance-like-Beyonce class, you’ll have to get your fix elsewhere until your next cycle. It seemed like an antidote to every gym excuse out there: proximity to work and my apartment, not having the right equipment, not open early or late enough, and the drag of falling into a workout rut. After my first week of classes, I’ve never looked back.
While ClassPass truly lets you become a fitness junkie, with some members taking more than one class on a daily basis, I try to set more personally attainable goals. A four-class weekly routine makes me feel like Sporty Spice while getting a balanced diet of kickboxing, spinning and yoga. As a mini-adventure, I always reserve a weekly slot to try something I’m afraid of, like tango or traveling above 42nd Street. Not only does it keep things interesting–it inspires my mind while teaching my body about muscles I never knew I had. Take a peek behind the scenes of some of my favorite classes, and discover just how many ways there are to sweat in this city, besides chugging a marg mid-July at Habana Outpost.
Hot Mess (Hot Core), Sacred Brooklyn, 197 Clifton Pl, Bed-Stuy
Hot Mess (Hot Core) is my #1 class in New York City. I know, I know, hot yoga totally blows. I agree. If you can deal with the heat, though, this class will give you a Sunday afternoon respite that sets the tone for your week in a way that Netflix just can’t do. Developed and taught by former Alvin Ailey dancer Aimee Cox, the 1.5 hour class is a fusion of yoga and dance without too much of either one.
You know that icky feeling you get in a yoga class when they start going on about the true meaning of the tree pose? Aimee Cox cuts the bullshit. With a focus on proper form, this class is all about drawing confidence and energy through your body so you start your week feeling a little less like a hot mess. The movements are so simple and subtle that you think, “This can’t possibly be working.” I was sore for a week straight. Insider tip: show up really early for this one to get a decent spot—the studio fills with mats at least ten minutes before class.
Poletry Newbies, Brooklyn’s Finest Pole Dancing Studio, 1492 Carroll St, Crown Heights [UPDATE 2016: This class is no longer available!]
Pole dance exercise classes have become trendy to a nauseating extent throughout our five boroughs. After rolling my eyes at the concept on numerous occasions, an email newsletter alerted me that a studio in Crown Heights had finally joined ClassPass, and it was a pole dancing studio. On a sunny morning, I walked deep into Crown Heights and stood outside the door of what looked like someone’s apartment. I almost backed out, but I’m glad I didn’t–and not just because of the $20 late cancellation fee. Of the dozens of classes I’ve tried through ClassPass, this was by far the hardest. As I signed a waiver and took in the room, I felt immediately realized I was overdressed and very underqualified.
A dozen girls were warming up upside down and fanning their legs around the pole in sports bras and neon short shorts like it was nothing. It was like Rihanna’s “Pour It Up” video in there. I squeaked out, “This is a beginner’s class, right?” and the instructor laughed and said, “Yes, you’re in the right place.” I’m still skeptical about that, but my takeaway is that pole dancing is possibly the best full-body workout you can get. Another small class, the instructor waits until you master each step to move on to the next one. Unfortunately, I couldn’t master any of the moves, and she was forced to move on each time without me. By the end of class, I took pride in being able to mount the pole without falling back off immediately. I called my mom about my experience on the walk home, and she said, “Well, at least I know you’ll never make it as a stripper.”
Kickboxing, CKO Kickboxing, various locations, Brooklyn
Of all the strength training options on ClassPass, I’ve tried out the broadest range of kickboxing classes, but I always come back to CKO Kickboxing. While a lot of studios that offer variations on kickboxing leave you feeling a little gypped on the calorie burn, this chain brings in high-energy instructors who dedicate equal time to cardio and bagwork. A range of jump rope, squats and planks, and attack rounds ensure that you’re completely out of breath and have worked out all your anger issues by the end of class.
Bodyburn, Brooklyn Bodyburn, 34 N 6th St, Williamsburg
The LA-based Bodyburn revolves around one elaborate piece of equipment called the MegaFormer, and it’s just as Transformer-esque as it sounds. This 55-minute intense workout is like trying to do pilates on a moving conveyer belt without any handrails. The MegaFormer’s sliding panel for your legs and resistance bands allow for no breaks. Throughout the hour of controlled endurance training moves, your body has to be “on” at all times, or else you’ll literally fall off the machine. The feeling at the end of class when you realize you actually made it through is worth all the pain, I promise.
Everyday Athlete, Everyday Athlete, 130 Clinton St, Brooklyn Heights
While Everyday Athlete is technically a boot camp class, it feels more like a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) class to me. Packed into the tiny technicolor room are climbing walls, suspension bands, medicine balls, kettlebells, and more. You’ll move rapidly through circuits reminiscent of ballet, boxing, and climbing to the back-drop of bass-heavy house music. The class is challenging, but the community atmosphere and support of other participants under the watchful eye of a jacked-up instructor keep you from slowing down.
Fly 45, Flywheel, various locations, Manhattan
When I want to pretend that I am a fancy, rich Upper West Side mom with a great post-baby bod, I go to Flywheel. While I’m partial to the TriBeCa branch, all the Flywheel spin boutiques are top-notch. What sets them apart from the other elite cycling chains (ahem, SoulCycle) is their TorqBoard technology, which charts your individual power metrics as you ride, then delivers your personal calories burned straight to your email after the workout. For the Type A among us, you can opt into placement on the TorqBoard in the front of the room and see how you rank compared to the rest of the riders. For me, knowing I’m only a few pedal strokes away from beating the girl in seat 27 is amazing motivation. The most brokester-friendly part of Flywheel, however, is the amenities. Free apples and bananas, plus gorgeous individual showers with dry shampoo? I’m sold.
JumpDANCE, JumpLife, 404 Broadway, Chinatown
Even your go-to studio gets old after awhile. When you start to feel the gym blues settle in, browse the ClassPass map for studios near you that offer a workout you know was dreamed up after a few strong drinks. When I first saw JumpLife on the studio list, I thought, “Honestly, this is just trying too hard.” All classes are held on mini-trampolines and include a range of strength training and aerobics. Here’s the thing–shaking it to Shakira under a disco ball in club lighting at a 45-minute JumpDANCE class truly makes you forget you’re working out. If booty-bumping isn’t for you, the standard JumpLife classes will still make you feel like a kid again, with the added benefit of serious muscle tone.
Boot Camp, Warrior Fitness Boot Camp, 29 W 35th St, Koreatown
While searching for classes near my Midtown East office, I stumbled upon Warrior Fitness Boot Camp. Sure, the name is a little cheesy until you realize that the classes are taught by actual Marines, thus making it an actual boot camp. This class is not for the casual athlete. If you miss a push-up on the hup-two-three-four, they make you start over, and just when you think you’re done running up and down ten flights of stairs, they make you do it again. Take it from a girl who dreamed of being a Navy Seal when she was twelve–this class will kick your ass. What it won’t do is leave you feeling like a schlup. Realizing that you can, in fact, do more mountain climbers after you climb over a wall twice your height is an incomparable confidence boost.
BalletBungee, ChaiseFitness, 40 E 23rd St, Flatiron
Confession: I do not have a graceful bone in my body. Not one. I can’t even recover fluidly when someone bumps into me on the sidewalk. Because of this, I avoid barre and other ballet-based workouts like the plague. On an evening when I really needed to sweat and BalletBungee was the only class still available to reserve, I begrudgingly booked it. The bubbly blonde instructor was exactly the type of flawless human I expected to be teaching the class–and she was great. BalletBungee incorporates classical ballet movements into a core workout aided by rows of bungee cords hanging from the ceiling. For fearsome newbies like me, classes are small enough to receive individual guidance from the instructor, and mirrored walls allow you to follow along closely with more experienced pseudo-ballerinas. You may not leave the studio any more poised, but your obliques will thank you.
MOVE, The Movement, 32 W 18th St, Flatiron
Growing up, my mom used to recruit me to do Gilad’s “Bodies in Motion” with her in the living room, pushing aside the living room table for an intense thirty minutes of step aerobics. When the instructor at The Movement’s signature MOVE class announced that the first half would be spent doing cardio aerobic dance, I felt right at home. As it turned out, I had totally misinterpreted. MOVE is an hour-long class split evenly between dance and body sculpting. The first portion is much less reminiscent of 80s jazzercise and more of contemporary dance mash-up, with guided choreography blending hip hop, Latin, and classical moves. You spend the entire half an hour in motion on your toes. By the end, at least half of the back row was bent over, red-faced and wheezing. The second half involves body resistance toning and mat work, ensuring you’re thoroughly fatigued by the end of the hour. Don’t let the intensity scare you away, though. This class attracts plenty of beginners, and instructors are great about reviewing steps or slowing the rhythm to adjust to the pace of the participants.