When I interviewed for a position at mindbodygreen, I told my now-boss that I loved trying new things when it came to fitness. For the most part, I was telling the truth, but what I left out was that "trying new things" meant allowing a more adventurous friend to drag me to a group class once a month to break up the monotony of my standard gym/elliptical/treadmill routine.
But then I was hired as the fitness editor and I had to whip myself into open-minded shape. And so I set about hopping around the city, trying interesting classes and talking to seasoned instructors.
Some were hilariously awkward, others inspirational. Some I've gone back to again and again, others I ran away from so fast I forgot to wipe down my mat (sorry!).
Now that I've handed the reins over to someone who actually knows what she's talking about when it comes to fitness (hey, Gabrielle!), it's time to look back at my last year of being a fitness guinea pig. Here are nine reasons I love the New York fitness scene right now (and why you should, too!):
1. Trapeze School NY
Less a "traditional workout" than the others on this list, Trapeze School New York's flying trapeze class was, hands down, one of the greatest mornings of my life. It was scary. It was challenging. It was empowering. It was freakin' thrilling.
Sure the views of downtown Manhattan and the Hudson river were stunning. But the takeaway for me here was that I could do it: I could climb and jump and swing and flip and catch.
Even when my insides knotted every time I climbed the ladder to mount a platform 23 feet in the air, or when it felt like my stomach was in my feet the split second between when the instructor yelled "Hep!" (trapeze code for "Jump!") and when I leapt, the class was exhilarating.
I walked away as if I were the Beyonce of the trapeze world. How could I not? I was FLYING.
2. Everyday Ballet
If, like me, you lose yourself in hours-long YouTube dance video binges and resent your parents for letting you quit dance as a kid (think of where you'd be today), Everyday Ballet is the answer to your arabesque-fueled dreams.
The founder and teacher, Tiekka Tellier, is not only a total sweetheart (she lent me her socks when I forgot proper footwear), but she's a former professional ballerina. She translates fancy-sounding ballet terms into easy-to-follow instruction even I, a ballet drop-out at age six, could understand.
With an emphasis on alignment and posture, it took a few Tchaikovsky tracks for me to find my groove, but once I did ... I felt graceful, strong, balanced and determined. A Misty Copeland in the making.
3. Mile High Run Club
I know you're not supposed to say, "I'm a bad runner," but I am a bad runner. Running is something I could never get down with: my feet feel too heavy, my arms flail, my neck hurts from trying not to look down at the distance tracker to know how much longer I have to go.
So Mile High Run Club was a a bit of running revelation for me. With a focus on proper form over speed or distance, MHRC is the first time I can remember actually enjoying a run.
The instructor made it crystal clear from the start we weren’t running against anyone. The class wasn’t a race; it was a practice in proper form, learning what felt right for your body and pushing yourself only if you wanted to.
As someone who can barely run a slow mile, I surprised myself by increasing my speed and incline out of the “moderate” group toward the end of class. It felt good to know I wasn’t such a terrible runner after all — what I needed was a little instruction.
It's rare that a studio can satisfy all your fitness needs at once, but SYNC is truly a one-stop shop. With yoga, cycling and conditioning classes on the schedule, you can peddle it out in the “bassment” and then relax, stretch and breath upstairs, all in the same day if you’re feeling ambitious.
Aside from the energizing classes, what I loved most about SYNC is that it really felt like a family. By my second visit, they knew my name. By my third, I was chatting with an instructor about our shared neighborhood and exchanging “hey I know you!” smiles with classmates.
When, after weeks of struggling with an inversion, I finally got up, the yoga teacher let out a genuinely excited, “YES, Allie! That’s it!” She knew my progress and wanted to celebrate it. And that's a workout I can definitely get behind.
Did you know there's a right way to jump on a trampoline and a wrong way? Me either. Until I took a class at bari.
I felt like a hybrid cheerleader/gymnast/ninja as I jumped, chasséd and squated my way across (and up and down) the studio space. And the variety of props and tools we used (trampoline, TRX, weights, gliders, resistance bands, step) had my muscles feeling a serious but pleasant burn for days after.
An intense class for sure, but also intensely fun.
6. the class
Sure, I've cried in a workout class before. Give me some Kelly Clarkson in a dark spin studio after a hard day and it's easy to let go.
But the class with Taryn Toomey takes the idea of an emotional workout to a new level. Combining yoga philosophy with bootcamp-style intensity, the class left me breathless within the first five minutes.
For 75 minutes, I burpee-d, yelled, mountain climbed, flailed my arms like a mad woman, meditated, planked and "got the sludge out" during a workout that released emotions I didn’t know I had along with sweat from parts of my body I didn’t know could perspire.
I was yelled at and I was coddled. I was pushed to my physical limit and then told to lie down. I fought through serious burn as Taryn shouted, “Oh FUCK YES!” and then embraced her soothing whisper.
It was weird, it was different and it was wonderful. When it was over, I wanted to sit with my thoughts, but also do push ups.
Sparring for me is a mental sport: I'll opt for words over brawn any day. But I gotta say, something about securing boxing gloves with my teeth and beating the crap out of a heavy bag made me feel GOOD.
That's what Shadowbox is all about. With a vibe closer to that of a nightclub than a fitness studio, the dim lights and thumping music helped my lose myself in the workout. I wasn’t close enough to a mirror to check my form, but I could feel when I was doing something the right way. My body responded to the instructor’s directions like the bag responded to my punches. Maybe I was a gladiator in a past life, but my muscles seemed to know what to do without much effort from my brain.
It was fun and induced some serious badass feelings as I jabbed, crossed, upper cut and hooked. I felt lean, quick and agile. I was floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee. I was ready to bite an ear off.
8. Strala Yoga
In my yoga practice, I often find myself looking around the room to see if I'm holding a pose correctly or if I'm as deep into something as my neighbor. I know that's not what yoga is about, but I'm a first-born child and competition is innate. So Strala's "no judgement, come as you are" mantra was a challenge, but one I'm happy I accepted.
It was an athletic class, quickly moving from pose to pose and got my heart rate up. I was just getting into a groove with the pace when we were invited to "feel" our bodies and freestyle.
Unsure of what that meant, I broke the rules and scanned the room. Every one was doing something different. I was utterly lost, not having the confidence in myself or my practice to move with the abandon of my classmates.
So I wussed out and assumed Child's Pose. For a minute, I lay with my forehead on the mat before remembering the class wasn't about rigidity — it was about the lack thereof.
I realized it wasn't about me vs. them. It was about me and my practice. It was about my ability to just be in my body and accept that it had limits. It was about lifting my head off the floor, closing my eyes and trying something on my own.
My first and only experience with models was when I had to cover the backstage area at the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show for my first job. Needless to say, my self-esteem took a pretty serious hit after hours of watching gorgeous women in tiny underwear parade around like it was no big deal. So just the name “modelFIT” elicited a cold sweat.
Fortunately for my psyche, there were no models present the day I attended, but the workout was fit as much for them as it was for us “normals.”
Simultaneously retro and modern, it combined Top 40 remixes with Jane Fonda-esque props like ankle weights and steps. The movements and weights were tiny, but good god did they pack a serious punch! After 15 seconds of arm raises with one-pound weights, I thought the class would be a breeze. After 30 seconds, I grit my teeth and tried to push through.
Though I didn’t sweat the way I assume one should when getting a quality workout — fitness is measured by perspiration, right? — I absolutely noticed new definition in my arms, shoulders and tush the next day. modelFIT is about small, targeted movements where everything you do means something. You want to squat an inch lower next time? You’re going to feel it, and see it.
For all my fear and complaining leading up to the class, it was empowering to know I could finish the same workout as women who are paid to look good. And while I may not wear tiny pieces of fabric for my day job, I'll be damned if I didn't STRUT up Bowery as if it were my personal runway afterward.