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Gentle Gyms, or How to Break Into the Boutique Fitness Scene

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Work your way up to those Tone House bungee cords. Photo: <a href="http://wellandgood.com/2014/04/02/does-this-new-fitness-studio-have-the-coolest-workout-toys-in-new-york-city/">Well + Good</a>
Work your way up to those Tone House bungee cords. Photo: Well + Good

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Welcome to Workout Wednesday: every hump-day, we'll be rounding up some of the city's hottest fitness trends and studios.

We get it—boutique fitness classes can be downright scary. Whether it's gymtimidation of fellow classmates or you're just not quite ready, physically or mentally, to sprint while wearing a bungee cord attached to a wall (hey, Tone House), you may have already given yourself plenty of reasons to just stick to your elliptical routine forever.

But all you really need is a good entry point to open yourself up to a new set of workouts that can change both your body and your mind. Below, we've listed the studios where you can dip a proverbial toe—from barre to cycling to yoga and even a wild card—in the boutique fitness world.

Before we get started, don't let the notion of "gentle gyms" lull you into thinking that these workouts are easy—these studios were chosen for their beginner-friendly attitudes that cater to all fitness levels, not because you can coast through their classes.

And while we're not all cut out for high-intensity interval training right off the bat, putting in more effort than you think you can—whether it's adding just one more touch of resistance on your stationary bike or holding a challenging pose for just a few seconds longer—is the key to building the stamina (and confidence) needed to get into more challenging workouts.

Photo: Xtend Barre Brooklyn Heights

Maybe you think you can't plié, but you can bend your knees, right? That's pretty much the extent of the skill level you need to take a barre class. Xtend Barre Brooklyn Heights is extremely welcoming to newcomers, both in instructor attitude and in variations on specific moves. Plus, you won't run into any intimidating, Tracy Anderson-esque classmates here. (Bonus: Brush up on your moves before you even hit the studio with these GIFs)

Byklyn. Photo: Well + Good

Indoor cycling is a great place to start because, in a dark, loud room, no one can see how fast you're pedaling or what your resistance level is. Work your way up to competition-focused brands that display real-time rider stats (that's your Swerve, your Flywheel, your Peloton) and start with indie studios that are light on both bike technology and upper body choreography (a favorite of places like SyncStudio). Byklyn on Flatbush Avenue and Revolve in Union Square both meet these criteria—and if you want to take on the added challenge of a bike that moves side-to-side, try out one of the super-small FlowCycle classes (there's just 11 bikes in there).

Photo: Doonya World/Facebook

Dance Cardio
At one point or another, we've all had to learn dance steps (seventh grade PE, anyone?)—so even if you're not the best dancer out there, you know how to follow the leader. New studio Doonya is eager to teach New Yorkers its Bollywood-style workout at an introductory-level pace. Even The Vixen Workout can be labeled beginner-friendly, because even if you can't catch all the moves from their hot instructors, you know how to shake it hard enough to work up a sweat.

Yoga to the People. Photo: Village Alliance

Avoid inversions and basically any other completely terrifying pose in Yoga to the People, an all-levels, donation-based studio that lets students take each movement as far as they feel comfortable. If you're looking for a little more personal instruction, try a Level 1 class at Stanton Street Yoga, an intimate Lower East Side studio where instructors will help you perfect your form in standard poses (which means you'll have to be okay with someone pressing on your hips while you're in downward dog).

Photo: @rackedny/Instagram

Wild Card
Looking to test out one of those crazy-looking classes (surfboard yoga! cycling in a pool!) that doesn't look too painful? Try JumpLife, a low-impact workout where you bounce around on a mini-trampoline while club lights swirl around the room. Don't worry—each trampoline is equipped with a hand rail for balance, so you won't go flying.

City Row. Photo: Love Life Eat

Built for Beginners
Gyms with notoriously hardcore reputations have built out their own programs to introduce newcomers to their ways—most notably, the Soulcycle 101 program. Similarly, barre studio Physique 57 recommends that new students take at least eight of their Beginner classes before moving on to Intermediate. And City Row is gearing up to debut a weekly "Fundamentals Workshop" in December that'll introduce students to rowing machines, proper form, and class terminology.

· Workout Wednesday [Racked NY]