NikkiFitness Faves: NYC Boutique Class Review
I work in fitness, and I love it so much, that sampling the city’s hottest boutique classes has become a hobby. Often, instead of going to restaurants, museums and broadway plays, I multitask workouts and hanging with friends at the newest fitness club or studio. I started thinking fitness should be fun at an early age as a college cheerleader at Syracuse University. After graduation, I became a fitness instructor to build my schedule with classes that mimic “practices with my best friends” – sweat sessions that didn’t feel like work even though they completely worked your body. Even while traveling, sampling the local workout is a must.
And, different from other bloggers out there who write about taking classes, I am actually certified and have been teaching and training for over 15 years. I know what works, what doesn’t, what’s dangerous, and what’s a gimmick. You may seen amy NikkiFitness Faves on TV – fitness product reviews and best moves to sculpt and slim the body. Now I am reviewing classes!
My motto is “fitness- fit it in.” This is how I built my schedule (and my body) last week. Maybe you try these classes as you build yours? WHAT a BLAST!
Ratings- “Boost”: what was great and different/”Sweat”: how tough of a workout/”Safety”: what I don’t love/ “Fun Factor”: was it as much fun as a night out?
1=lowest 10=highest rating
Saturday: Barry’s Boot Camp, W. Village (42 total, overall high scores on everything)
The Look: 8-Fun graffiti/chalkboard writing above the entrance to the fitness room reads, “The dream is free, but the hustle is sold separately.” Orange light glows warm and energetically while reflecting off the completely mirrored walls, treadmills on platforms on the left, and step-height benches and weights on the right. It’s a long room with two rows for the two circuits. Lots of people packed in, but it feels connected, not crowded. The loud fast-paced, current music wakes you up without ringing in your ears post-workout. It was a friend’s birthday, so the instructor was nice about adding some beats for her and shout-outs.
The Boost Factor: 8– The circuits start either on the floor or on the “tred” and change places 3 times. From weighted burpees, to kickboxing seated ab twists, to weighted squat-jumps with biceps curls, they push you and use intervals so that you don’t break down. Both the floor and the tred combine weight training and cardio. The treaders run slow and fast on a low incline, then build up in intervals to full hill sprints alternated with phill walks and back down again. Both circuit intervals are times together, so you all feel like you are working together on the same timeline. It’s not enough time to really recover, and that’s what makes it tough.
The Sweat Factor: 8 – I thought it might be harder, but what’s great is that you can use 5-8 lb weights and run slower if you are a beginner or not feeling great one day, and increase the weight and kill it on the speed if you want to earn your lunch. So you can make it as hard as you want to, really. I like that there were upper back plank rows included because many instructors neglect the trapezious and rhomboids.
The Safety Factor: 7 – The instructor didn’t ask about injuries, but when someone told him about one, he offered several modifications and checked in during class. ‘t was a little unsafe that some of the members jump onto the sides of the treadmills because they are so tired after their all–out sprints. I would advise taking the effort to slow down the speed and walk or step off when the floor isn’t whizzing by. Also, the instructor stretched our hamstrings by hinging at the hips and bringing the nose to the knees. After any workout this is not a good stretch because it puts your head below your heart and blood rushes there. It would be best to stretch by sitting back on the hips with hands on one bent knee and the stretching leg straight in front with a flexed foot, keeping the head above the heart. Also, I thought he did a few too many quad moves, like variations on lunges and squats over and over, especially since the uphill running burn your quads up so much. Instead I would have liked working the inner and outer thighs more.
The Body Shocker: Love that they put in dead-sleds. This is a move I have done on TV for treadmill tricks segments and have used on clients, but have never seen in a class before. You turn on the treadmill, hang onto the front handles, and push the floor away from you in short intervals. Totally gives your lungs and legs a workout.
Sore Factor: 4–Just my quads, but I am sure that people who don’t work out with weights much would have total body soreness.
Fun Factor: 7
Sunday: Teach my own boot camp called Diesel at Crunch
Monday: Flywheel, UWS (52 points, win for sweat factor!)
The Look: 8– Beautiful room and check-in area with chalkboard art, enough computer terminals so that there is no line at the desk to check in, and you get your shoes fast in your “mailbox” based on the number of your bike. They have lots of amenities from hand sanitizer and bike wipes, to extra seat cushions, earplugs, towels, free water bottles and fruit. The stadium seating for the bikes provide most spots with a great view. They could use more showers.
The Boost Factor: 10 I used to hate spin classes because they were boring and ambiguous – yes even Soul Cycle, which I only was “meh” about because they CAN bring the party, but not the workout metrics. Flywheel is better than Soul Cycle because there is never an instruction to “increase the resistance by an 1/8th” or “back off a quarter turn.” Instead, you have 4 numbers on your bike computer which link to your iPhone app to track all the classes. The first is torque (how hard it is to push the pedal), the second is rpm (how fast you’re going). During the entire class the instructor guides you to be at 15 torque and 80 RPMS, or 40 torque and 50 rpms. During a sprint you might aim for 100 rpms. You always know where the class is and you can work harder or easier depending on how you feel and your fitness level. It takes the guesswork out of it.
The Sweat Factor: 10 – Competition makes you drenched..and almost not able to move for the rest of your day. You also use weights in class and they really do burn up your shoulders and chest.
The Safety Factor: 8– The music can get a bit loud, but not as bad as at Revolve, where I had ringing for days. Earplugs make it a perfect volume. I could do with a little less shoulders and more biceps and triceps in the arm weight portion. They should turn off the torque board sooner for a longer recovery. Usually people push to the very last second you can for your power score, then only have a 30 second recovery before the stretch. Stretches at the end do hit the right leg areas the right way, but they neglect to stretch the arms.
The Body Shocker: The best part, for me, involves the competition with yourself and others, and the 3rd and 4th numbers on the bike screen.
The third number is power now (if you are pedaling hard and fast, like in a hill sprint it will be higher, when recovering on low torque and speed it will be less) and the final number is your power number for the class. While you are a team, all aiming for the same range at the same time, and often pedaling L,R,L,R with the beat of the music, members whose workouts thrive from competing with others in classes can sign up to be on the torque board (a ranking screen on two TV s above the instructor). Several times in class, the instructor will light up the torque board so you know where you rank, and if you’re like me, you’ll push even harder in torque, rpms, or both to get to the top 3! If you are not into competition with others, but like to see how much you progress day-to-day and week-to-week, then you simply download the app and you can see charts that simply show your numbers. I know I my lowest number was 137 and highest was 160 and when and why that happened. And I know the next time at class I want to hit 161.
Sore Factor: 9-When you really push yourself, your whole body is like jelly and you need a nap. The next day quad soreness and a little glute/outerthigh set in. People who don’t normally work out with weights will likely have shoulder soreness as well.
Fun Factor: 7
Tuesday: S Factor, Chelsea (35 points, win for FUN)
The Look: 8– The classy interior sets the mood for the two-hour beginner class series. (I took a pole dancing class a few years ago in a bright sterile gym facility, and did NOT feel the vibe. It took me 5 years and a friend’s birthday to decide to give this a try and I am SO glad I did.) The women-only facility is divided into rooms glowing in red light with candles, pillars, and yes, poles…almost like a dance studio with yoga mats. Each room is generally the size of a large bedroom, for small classes and an intimate feel. The boutique’s clothes could be more classy to go with the ambiance of the classrooms, but instead they feel cheap. The locker rooms are pretty basic and not fancy, and some of the women in the more advanced classes who have been attending for a long time could stand to wear more clothes. The intro-class attire was generally black tank tops and cropped workout pants. We were told that there is a high heel aspect later in the 8 weeks and a shirt strip-off later (with a tank or sports bra under – don’t get crazy.)
The Boost Factor: 6– Each class has a similar flow: you have a warmup on yoga mats to get in the mood and slow down. Then you learn a pole trick, for us it was the firefly – way harder than it looks (and I was a gymnast). After mastering that, and most everyone did, you move to the sultry dance. It is utterly amazing how the 10-part choreographed sensual dance transformed even previously-average women into confident sirens. You lose yourself in the music and the moves are carefully orchestrated to flow and make you look good no mater what your size. (You also look good because the choreography looks like you just made it all up as you went along.) They teach sexy and confident. I would recommend this to any woman who just went through a breakup, new moms who want to reconnect with themselves, and anyone who wants to show up for a date and really show up.
The Sweat Factor: 4– This two-hour workout is not as tough as HIIT, Spin or Power Yoga, but I would equate it with pilates. The warmup is long and the moves are slow, so it might try a New Yorker’s patience. However that seems to be what it takes to makes us let go of the frenetic pace and be present in the room and connected with our bodies and sensuality. The hip-circling warm-up did include a good ab section and some booty bridges for glute toning and later the bent-knee wall squats work gluteus and quads as you practice the dance.
The Safety Factor: 8– It you get motion sickness, only do a few (4-7) spins around the pole. Any more and you might get dizzy and nauseous.
The Body Shocker: First of all, I was shocked to find out that the founder, Sheila Kelly, was initially a ballerina and actress. She trained as a stripper for a film role and discovered how some choreography can bring the “S.” Sexy? Ass? Whatever it is meant to allude to, it must work for her. She is married to the character “Toby” from the West Wing series and has many studios now across the country. She is actually credited with starting the pole dancing fitness movement.
Second, I was shocked by what music I really lost myself in during the dance portion. I thought something like “Fever” by Madonna or some deep R&B would be my jam. Instead, I like dancing to LIVE. As in Lightning Crashes. Who Knew? The instructors change up the music styles so everyone finds what speaks to them, and the instructors participate the entire time, so you don’t feel embarrassed. Just seeing how these normal-looking women turn into Demi Moore once the music starts is enough to know that you can do it too! I signed up for the 8 week class. It was just as much fun, if not more, than a night our dancing or happy hour.
Fun factor: 9
Wednesday: My Crunch PowerBall/Ass&Abs
Thursday: Pure Yoga, Upper West SIde (24)
The Look: 9 – Entering pure feels like entering a posh hotel spa. From the heavy wooden door with intricate handles, to the Buddha artifacts sprinkling the hallways and plush, velvety lounge areas near each of the several underground studios, you are zen before you strike your first pose. I brought my own yoga mat but didn’t use it because orange mats were already sprinkled on the floor for my Vinyasa 2 class to begin. A Ganesha statue served as an altar at the front of the classroom and the lit candles propped in different windows around the elephant-headed deity cast elegant light into the room.
The Boost Factor: 3- It was interesting that the instructor brought in a miniature piano-type instrument (I was not close enough to get a good look at it) and instead of simply chanting Ohm three times, had us sing a whole yogic song, but it went on too long.
The Sweat Factor: 5– It was a good amount of sweat and effort for a Vinyasa yoga class. I do not love heated yoga rooms, and this was a nice, comfortable temperature. The postures were appropriately challenging for a non-power-yoga class.
The Safety Factor: 1 – This was a big problem. The instructor played a song instead of warming us up and had us sit for about 10 minutes at the beginning of class, then jumped right into full sun salutations and down dog poses without modifying and beginning with spinal extensions, kneeling planks and kneeling crescent lunges, or walking out the down dog. So my triceps were forced into a heavy workout cold, and my hamstrings and calves shocked into a big stretch right away. The instructor did not ask about injuries or if anyone was new to Pure or his class, or yoga for that matter. The pacing was way too fast. Yoga is about long deep breaths and he rushed through the poses while barking quick “inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale” so that everything felt rushed and frantic. I was trying to deepen my breath and go a little slower, and he actually walked behind me and kicked me in the calf while I was in down dog, saying, “move” to catch me up into mountain pose. I chose a Vinyasa class because I like to flow instead of hold poses forever, but this was ridiculous. He also came and put some sort of oil all over my back and harshly adjusted me without asking. When in bow pose and he came and lifted me off the ground to deepen the stretch I finally had to make it clear that I was recovering from a herniated disc from 2.5 months ago. He said “I could tell something was going on there, you didn’t have to say it, I am just very good at it.”
The Body Shocker: 2- the instructor had the class hold headstands for five minutes at the end. I feel like this might be a long time and would prefer a few more slow flows instead. Then he instructed us to meditate for about 5 minutes at the end, which would have been nice if he had stopped at the “simply watch the breath, nothing else,” but instead continued to talk for another 3 minutes.
Fun factor: 4 – The decore and good music playlist saved this from being a totally bad experience, but I would never take this instructor’s class again.
Friday: Run Outside
Saturday: Run Outside
Fitness – fit it in your week with cross-training and fun class visits!
Nikki is a hard-core class fitness instructor, celebrity personal trainer, yoga teacher, TV Fitness personality, creator of 11 DVDs and author of the Slimnastics Workout. Follow her on FB, Insta + Twitter: @NikkiFitness or www.nikkifitness.com