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Driely S.

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Sweating My Way Through Boutique Fitness For the Very First Time

Fancy fitness classes don't need to be totally avoided — just chosen carefully.

Let's just get this out of the way: I'm not a "fitness person." My idea of working out is running outside in the park, drowning out the thud of my Nike Shocks hitting the pavement with whatever's pumping through my iPod at the moment. I like that it clears my mind and gives me the chance to get some fresh air, two things that are hard to come by in New York City. The thought of clamoring for a spot in a dark, crowded group fitness class sounded anything but freeing.

But working as fashion writer, I quickly learned that the trends aren't just on the clothing racks: They're in the local gyms, specifically in the boutique fitness studios my coworkers would just about break their thumbs refreshing whatever the latest booking app was to score a coveted class.

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So when they would change out of their designers shoes and into designer sneakers, rushing off for the spot they worked so hard to get, I sat by, contently typing, finding solace in the fact that I didn't have such an expensive habit. When I could work out for free, these classes seemed like a waste of money. Or so I thought. With all this fitness content coming my way on a near-daily basis, I decided that I should try out a few classes and judge for myself whether I really did hate fitness classes — you know, for research purposes.

It all started with a workout in Athleta's brand new fitness studio. This one happened to be free because it was part of Racked Fit Club, but all the programming that the activewear brand offers at its Flatiron store is gratis anyway. HIIT IT! by Daphine Yang was my first time back in a gym in months, and I wasn't sure what to expect. Yang's classes center around getting your heart pumping with with bursts of all-out effort that are supposed to burn up to 800 calories in 60 minutes. In other words, this wasn't for newbies. And yet there I was, doing reps of burpees, push-ups, and lunges — but mostly trying not to throw up during the slower, cool-down intervals.

There I was, doing reps of burpees, push-ups, and lunges — but mostly trying not to throw up during the slower, cool-down intervals.

Realizing that I forgot to eat lunch, I took a break after 15 minutes to chug some water. I didn't make it through all of the fast-paced reps without pausing to catch my breath, but I did make it to the end of class. I limped to the 6 train in Union Square, sore but inspired to see what else was out there.

Next, there was ((305)) Fitness. Billed as a fun, full-body workout featuring a live DJ, the 55-minute classes are supposed to resemble a night out in a Miami club, if your dance moves happened to include jumping jacks and a little grapevine action. The atmosphere at the new midtown location, which I checked out during its inaugural week, definitely looked like a night out with friends: There was a photo booth, a juice bar, spandex-clad dancers twerking on get the idea.

As for the class itself, ((305)) Cardio Basics is supposed to be more moderately-paced than the regular class, but I was still sweating like crazy doing dances not unlike what I do alone in the mirror in my studio apartment, coupled with toning exercises (remember, solo dancing is free). It was hard to keep up with the routines, but I was determined to pick them up. I never stopped moving while Fetty Wap's "Trap Queen" blared from the speakers. I was sweating from places I didn't even know existed, but I was having fun.


Driely S.

Mentally, this didn't really feel like exercise, so what we were doing wasn't too intimidating for this fitness newb. I loved that I could feel the instructor's energy from my spot in the back of the studio, pushing me to go harder, to jump higher, to up my pace with each rep. I didn't want to cower in the corner, the way I felt one week prior during my first rowing class (more on that in a bit). In fact, I found myself wishing that I were closer to the front for a better spot in the mirror.

On my way home, I Googled the cost of ((305))'s packages: New clients get a two-for-one deal for $32, and the largest package (20 classes) brought the price per class down to $24 each. I haven't purchased anything yet, but I'm tempted.

I was wondering if my form was correct, if I was going to fall off the seat if I leaned back too far, and what the instructor was saying because the music was way, way too loud.

Everything that previously scared me off about venturing into boutique fitness reared its ugly head when I went to Row House. The rowing-focused studio is supposed to work all the major muscles with exercises both on and off the machine, but I spent the entire class working my brain instead. I was wondering if my form was correct, if I was going to fall off the seat if I leaned back too far, and what the instructor was saying because the music was way, way too loud. I didn't have any idea what the numbers on the machine's monitor represented, so I tried to gauge my progress on what flashed across my neighbor's screen — but then I realized that he wasn't doing what everyone else in the room was doing. Maybe he couldn't hear the directions either? I'll never know.

The one time the instructor stooped down to say something to me, she only told me to bring my arms up to my chest when pulling in. The time off the machine was equally as confusing, since I couldn't see her demonstrations in the center of the room and was again left to mimic what those around me were doing. "Fake it until you make it" was the name of that game, and I was happy when the 50 minutes were finally up. I left not sure I would try rowing again.


And finally, this wouldn't be a true experiment in boutique fitness if I didn't pray at the alter of Soulcycle at least once. I found myself rushing to a class after stressing over a mouse in my apartment all day, determined to get a good bike assignment (this was a press event, so we weren't booking seats ahead of time). I tried to push everything I had heard about the class, both good and bad, out of my head as I climbed onto the bike, though I remained skeptical that the next 45 minutes could really be that empowering. I wasn't prepared for how freeing the class would be, hearing the instructor's motivational call outs, watching the candles flicker, and forcing myself to stay on this bike, "tapping it back" like I knew what that really meant.

I really did want to leave it all in the studio — the mouse, the impeding apartment search that said mouse was prompting — and I began to see how someone could want to take these classes multiple times a week, or, in extreme cases, in a single day. I could tell that the instructor was taking it easy on us since it was a media class, but I was completely okay with that.

It wasn't all enlightenment, though. I was unprepared for how badly my crotch would hurt, surprised that it was more sore than my legs or arms the next day. Isn't working out supposed to make me feel rejuvenated? And while it did feel like therapy in a way, I'm not sure I'll be back. At $34 a class, it's cheaper than real therapy (and definitely cheaper than retail therapy), but money is my bottom line, and $34 is a lot for 45 minutes of inner peace.

I've always considered myself someone who hated working out, but the truth is that I hadn't really tried enough stuff to realize that it's not all terrible torture. It just took figuring out that in order for me to stick with something, I need to be having fun. And the determination to finish a class — whether or not I was having fun — has taught me endurance that is paying off in aspects of my life outside of the gym.

So I don't hate boutique fitness. I hate the thought of paying for an experience and feeling cheated. You probably won't find me rushing off a fitness studio class on the regular, though if I decide to go, I've got a running list of places I want to check out next.