50 fitness classes reviewed

The TONY staff rates everything from Warrior Boot Camp to Booty Slide. (And, um, Eye Yoga.)

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  • Art of Strength at Mid City Gym

  • Warrior Boot Camp

  • Stoked 360 instructor Kira Stokes at Reebok Sports Club/NY

Art of Strength at Mid City Gym


RECOMMENDED: Fitness guide to NYC

Cardio | Dance | Martial arts
Pilates | Toning and strength | Yoga | Crazy

 

Cardio classes

The Art of Strength
Mid City Gym (345 W 42nd St between Eighth and Ninth Aves; 212-757-0850,
midcitygym.com). Monthly membership $49, plus enrollment fee starting at $29; day pass $15.
Length: 45--60 minutes
Type of activity: Strength training
What to expect: A circuit of strength-based exercises using kettlebells, ropes and logs. Twenty-second microsets are followed by one-minute rest periods.
How in shape you need to be: Gym regular
The verdict: Before this workout, I'd never lifted a kettlebell (picture a cannonball with a handle, ranging from 8 to 32 kilos), so I didn't know what to expect. Surprisingly, the unusual weight proved versatile: We used them in everything from dead lifts to through-the-legs-and-round-the-back figure eights. Additional exercises with ropes, logs and a medicine ball on a leash (menacingly dubbed the "tornado ball") kept the workout both interesting and challenging. There's definitely a community of seasoned regulars here, and the quick pace results in a steep learning curve for newbies. You'll be panting by the third station, but the abbreviated sets encourage a full-throttle approach.—Dan Lopez

Booty Slide
Crunch (various locations; crunch.com). Membership prices vary; day pass $16.
Length: 1 hour
Type of activity: Cardio/toning
What to expect: The booties in question are both anatomical and literal: You wear footgear that enables you to slide across the floor, performing lunges reminiscent of speed skating and Pilates. In part two, you press, sweep and stretch your upper body and legs, aided by a bandanna, resistance band and Bosu ball. Overall, it's 60 solid minutes of working on your glutes and core.
How in shape you need to be: Gym regular
The verdict: Although I accepted the assignment for its comic value and was regarded as a novelty once there ("We have a token male tonight, ladies!"), the workout was no joke. It raised my heart rate, I broke a sweat, and my lower body was sore for days afterward. Gents, don't fear the booty: The instructor plans to rebrand the class as Core Slide to appeal to men, but whatever it's called, it beats the stair climber by a mile.—Michael Martin

Cardiolates
Pilates on Fifth (501 Fifth Ave between 41st and 42nd Sts; 212-687-8885, pilatesonfifth.com). $22 per class, five-class intro package $85.
Length: 1 hour
Type of activity: Cardio on trampolines with a Pilates twist
What to expect: The workout begins with, as you'd expect, core work—but then moves on to mini trampolines for the heart-pumping portion.
How in shape you need to be: Occasional exerciser
The verdict: Cardiolates is a Pilates-infused workout created by identical twins and former Rockettes Kimberly and Katherine Corp. The idea here is that you can get your fat-burning-cardio fix, in addition to the conditioning and alignment benefits that Pilates offers. If you're like me, you'll also get a good dose of the giggles: The cardio part takes place on mini trampolines, which make the class—populated by a handful of youthful women and led by the fabulous Ron, who at moments was definitely channeling Richard Simmons—feel more like a slumber party than an exercise routine. After several initial minutes of focused core work (it really burns!), we mounted our trampolines and set to work putting our sports bras through the toughest crash test since the invention of the pogo stick. At first, it was easy (see above: giggles and slumber parties). About 20 minutes in, the nonstop jumping paired with hand-weight tricks and repetitive leg kicks started taking its toll. While I never reached heart-pounding exhaustion, 35 minutes of bouncing, plus that initial abs routine, made this a full-body workout. One that I'll regret tomorrow, no doubt.—Kate Lowenstein

Cardio Capoeira
Crunch (330 Flatbush Ave between Park and Sterling Pls, Park Slope, Brooklyn; 718-783-5152,
crunch.com). Membership prices vary.
Length: 1 hour
Type of activity: Capoeira
What to expect: After practicing basic moves in front of the mirror, we partner up to execute combinations of kicks and escapes, plus cartwheels and handstands. Class ends with a roda, in which two people spar in the center of a circle while everyone sings in traditional capoeira call-and-response.
How in shape you need to be: Gym regular
The verdict: Despite the gym setting and cardio buzzword, this is a genuine capoeira class; about half the students are regular practitioners. If you're not naturally coordinated, it can be hard to keep up with the kicks and fancy footwork, which are done in time to high-energy rhythmic music and, later, in coordination with your partner (it helps that students are divided into two levels). I hoped to be a wallflower during the end-of-class roda, but the teacher beckoned me in. When my armada, a kick that begins with a spin, sprayed my classmates with my sweat, I realized there was a cardio component after all—I'd barely stopped moving since class started.—Megan Gendell

FleXpress
Sports Center at Chelsea Piers (Pier 60, W 23rd St at the Hudson River; 212-336-6000,
chelseapiers.com). Monthly membership fee $158; initiation fee varies.
Length: 1 hour
Type of activity: Cardio
What to expect: For the non-cardio-inclined, hell. This is hard-core aerobics, an hour of constant motion incorporating hand weights, riser work, body bar and Bosu ball. You squat, flex, press, crunch and question your existence.
How in shape you need to be: Gym regular
The verdict: One step below boot camp, one step above death. I felt deeply insecure in the intimate space amid the class regulars, who were far superior in strength and coordination (this is a more choreographed routine than most cardio classes I've attended). But the instructor took me under his seriously toned wing, and the high skill set of the room forced me to keep pace. By the end I felt something close to instantly fit—there's no way to phone it in here.—Michael Martin

Nike Running Club
Meets at NikeTown (6 E 57th St between Fifth and Madison Aves, 212-891-6453). Free.
Length: Varies depending on your stamina
Type of activity: Running
What to expect: This run through Central Park is usually three, five or seven miles—just pick which group you want to run with. After a ten-minute stretch, "pacers" lead runners through the park; the session concludes with another guided stretch.
How in shape you need to be: Gym regular
The verdict: I enjoy running because it's a solitary sport, but this group, which often exceeds 100, is a great example of how a running community can be fun and physically rewarding. The path can be congested during the quarter-mile warm-up trot, but after that it spreads out nicely. You choose your speed. That said, the pacers will help you push yourself, and I definitely ran faster than I do when I'm alone. Overall, the vibe is a nice mix of camaraderie and endearing runners-club nerdiness: Even before the workout starts, people are revved up, supportive and just a tad fanatical. Will the club stop when it gets cold? No way. As one pacer put it, "We'll run right through the snow." Surrounded by that kind of perseverance, you might just do it too.—Michael Miller

Spinning
McBurney YMCA (125 W 14th St between Sixth and Seventh Aves; 212-912-2300, ymcanyc.org). Membership $70--$142 per month, plus initial fee $75--$125.
Length: 45 minutes to an hour
Type of activity: Spinning
What to expect: As soon as you arrive, sit down and pedal. After a few minutes of upper-body stretching (while pedaling), you'll ride for almost 40 minutes, with climbing, sprinting, jumping and more sprinting. Stretch it all out for a few minutes at the end.
How in shape you need to be: Gym regular
The verdict: Thanks to the resistance dial on the stationary bike, this class is good for those new to spinning, while still a challenge to those with a bit more experience in the gym. Either way, you will break a sweat. Our instructor kept the class moving with a mix of nonstop funk, encouraging the class to keep to the rhythm by adjusting resistance. Each leg of class—fast sprints, slow climbs, midtempo jumps—is timed to a song, so you can get a feel for just how long you'll need to keep up before you can rest and sip water. Just don't stop pedaling.—Amanda Meffert

SoulCycle Signature Class
SoulCycle (117 W 72nd St between Columbus and Amsterdam Aves, rear lobby; 212-787-1300, soul-cycle.com * 1470 Third Ave at 83rd St, 212-639-1300). $32 per class, package deals available.
Length: 45 minutes
Type of activity: Indoor cycling
What to expect: A pedaling warm-up, followed by on-bike abdominal and endurance work, and then ten minutes of upper-arm weights done while still pedaling, and finishing with a cooldown
How in shape you need to be: Occasional exerciser
The verdict: Cycling for your soul? The candlelit spin room won't quite get you to nirvana, but at least this cardio workout comes without barking from the teacher. The music is upbeat, the instruction is encouraging, and a hand-weights portion means the arms don't get short shrift. It's an invigorating sweat, with none of the postcycling soreness that can make spinners walk like cowpokes. When first-timers manage to get the pedaling crunch maneuvers in sync with the rest of the class—which attracts high-profile types such as Chelsea Clinton when we visited—it's almost transcendent. Almost.—Allison Williams

Stoked 360
Reebok Sports Club/NY (160 Columbus Ave at 67th St; 212-362-6800,
mpsportsclub.com)
Length: 75 minutes
Type of activity: Cardio and strength training
What to expect: A mixture of cardiovascular exercises (think running and jump roping) and strength-building exercises like lunges, weights, push-ups and crunches.
How in shape you need to be: Gym regular
The verdict: Instructor Kira Stokes did a great job of motivating and energizing her students (most of whom were regulars), and the constantly changing activities will definitely get you sweating. Unfortunately, the class's scattershot approach is also its downfall; just as you get the rhythm of one set, Stokes moves on to something else. And though Reebok's schedule indicates the class is 75 minutes, we busted our asses for nearly 90.—Christy Purington

Warrior Fitness Boot Camp
Warrior Fitness Boot Camp (29 W 35th St between Fifth and Sixth Aves, third floor; 212-967-7977,
warriorfitnessbootcamp.com). Five-week program (15 classes) $600. TONY DEALLength: 1 hour
Type of activity: Military-style circuit training
What to expect:The workout starts with brief stretching, and then moves into a variety of strengthening activities and calisthenics, including lunging, crunching, climbing and an obstacle course.
How in shape you need to be: Gym regular
The verdict: My regular exercise routine consists of a Spin class and some free weights, but that's child's play compared with this boot camp. It was intense, and I was sweating from the get-go, but the drill instructors were both firm and encouraging, which really motivated me to get through the hour. I thought I was faring pretty well during all the jumping jacks, crunches and even the obstacle course—but then I came to the stairs. Running up and down 12 flights after hoisting myself over walls and swinging from monkey bars was enough to drive a girl to the brink; I had to hang my head out a window to keep from tossing the humus I ate a couple of hours earlier. But when it looked as though I was losing steam, the other participants offered their support, cheering, "You can do it, you're almost there!" and "You're doing great!" Their votes of confidence kept my energy up. This class was definitely one of the most challenging regimes I've ever put myself through, but I would do it all over again. Just next time, I'd do it without the hummus.—Shaina Park
Note: Look for Mommy and Bridal Boot Camps coming this fall.

YogaWorks Body Slim
YogaWorks Soho (459 Broadway at Grand St; 212-965-0801, yogaworks.com)
. YogaWorks East Side (1319 Third Ave between 75th and 76th Sts, second floor; 212-650-9642, yogaworks.com)Soho: Monthly members only (no drop-ins); Membership $108 per month; East Side drop-ins $22 per class
Length of class: 1 hour
Type of activity: Yoga
What to expect: Modeled after interval training, the class alternates between quick posture changes for an aerobic workout (you'll sweat buckets) and challenging posture holds for strengthening (tomorrow = ow!).
How in shape you need to be: Gym regular
The verdict: As a runner, I was looking for a cross-training option that addresses upper-body strength and all-over flexibility. I really felt the burn during the cardio portions, not just in my arms and core but in my legs as well (a humbling surprise). Stretching was disappointingly minimal. An advanced classmate—who performed sit-ups with her legs lifted at a 90-degree angle to the floor—might disagree. Beginner blues aside, I would try this workout again—as with aerobic classes, it's hard to gauge the full benefit until you've mastered the choreography. But I wouldn't recommend the class for the touted slimming effects—I burned just 212 calories according to my heart-rate monitor, compared to twice that for an hour of running.—Maureen Shelly
Also try: Cardio Groove and Fame: The Class

 

Cardio | Dance | Martial arts
Pilates | Toning and strength | Yoga | Crazy

 


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