From the Equinox flagship on Market Street to the Lyon Streets steps, there’s no shortage of workout spots in San Francisco. In fact, there are so many different options that it can be sweat-inducing just trying to find the right gym for you. So we spent the past two weeks stretching, lifting and spinning all over the city to help narrow down your options. Whether you prefer a quick full-body workout or a leisurely lap swim in a heated pool, there is something for everyone on this list of the ten best gyms in San Francisco.
San Francisco’s top ten gyms
StudioMix is a gym for people who hate gyms. There are no straight up workout rooms here; instead, the space is broken up into seven bright, large-windowed studios on several floors of the AMC Theater building on Van Ness and Geary. StudioMix is all about the classes—over 15 a day including rock climbing, pilates, kickboxing, Zumba and more—and for $145 per month, you can take an unlimited amount. If you go five days a week, it breaks down to less than $10 a class, which is an incredibly reasonable price for this level of coaching. StudioMix offers a good amount of variety: there’s a 3-story indoor rock wall, a power studio with TRX training tools and a pilates studio with reformers, wall units and wunda chairs. The staff is friendly and helpful, and includes personal trainers and nutritionists. And as for the extra amenities? StudioMix has a massage suite, private men’s and women’s steam and sauna, personal locker services, towel service and a healthy cafe with smoothies and salads.
A boutique fitness craze has recently taken San Francisco by storm, and if you want to go to the best of the specialized high-end workout spots, you should head to Barry’s Bootcamp in SOMA. Owner Adam Shane is a wildly friendly guy who has spent the last year creating a welcoming community at Barry’s. Not only is Shane super nice, he and his staff are also a good-looking and well-toned crew. The workout here is 55 minutes of high-intensity interval training; you’ll start either on the treadmill or on the floor (with weights) and alternate back and forth between the two areas. It’s an intense and difficult routine, but the dark club-like lighting, fun dance music and energetic instructors shouting positive encouragement all help you survive—and hopefully thrive—during the workout. It’s definitely a masochistic and expensive endeavor (each class is $30), but if you can afford it, your body and brain will thank you. You really do feel fitter after even one of Barry’s sweat sessions.
Founded by one of the owners of Zappos, the first Basecamp gym opened on Filbert and Van Ness in April. Basecamp focuses on fast fitness routines; you’ll get in, work hard and get out in less than 45 minutes. Each day of the week works out a different part of the body. For example, on Monday it might be a lower body workout, on Tuesday you’ll work your butt and gut and on Wednesday the space will be set up for a full body cardio blast. Director of Operations Nik Kish says the purpose of Basecamp “is to build strong hearts and to have a positive workout in all aspects: physically, mentally and emotionally. We like to be there to cheer you on when you’re tired and celebrate with you when you accomplish things.” It sounds pretty nice, as it should be with classes at $29.99 a pop.
There are four Bay Club locations in San Francisco and each offer different amenities. The Gateway location on the Embarcadero has two outdoor pools and nine tennis courts, while the Greenwich Street location has a squash program, yoga and pilates studio and a sanctuary spa. For the most rewarding overall experience, we recommend getting a campus membership, which allows you to reap the benefits of every location. The most important thing to know is that the Bay Club is much more than a gym—it’s really an exclusive club with fun member events and lots of perks, if you can afford it. It’s also great for children as there are swimming lessons and summer camps on offer. One great bonus is the Bay Club complimentary shuttle, which transports members to and from the gym around the Financial District Monday through Friday.
The most cult-like workout class in San Francisco (the world?) is definitely SoulCycle. There are three locations in SF: one in SOMA, another in the Marina and a brand-spanking new studio in the Castro. The workout is 45 minutes of strong cycling set to dance music in a dark and packed room. If you get claustrophobic, you might want to skip this experience—there’s less than a foot of space between each bike. But if you’re not afraid to sweat dangerously close to your neighbor, grab a bike and get ready to work. The best thing about SoulCycle is that the workout feels super quick. At the end of every class you can’t help but think, wait, that’s it? Do note that you’ll need special cycling shoes that clip into the bikes; they cost $2 per class, so if you don’t have your own, the total cost for one session is $32. Each location has a different locker room setup, so if you have to use the showers post-workout, be sure to call ahead and find out how many there are and how packed it’ll be.
Crunch is a well-known national chain with six locations in San Francisco. Our favorite is the one on Polk Street: the gym is housed in an old, incredibly ornate movie theater, and movies are constantly playing on a large projector screen that can be seen from most machines and stations. The cardio equipment is on the mezzanine level, and on the ground floor (where you’d normally find orchestra seating) are strength-training tools and an open-air group fitness area. The vibe is casual and it definitely feels like a gym person’s gym. If you like to do your own thing, Crunch is an ideal place. There are plenty of classes too, if you prefer a group setting, from mat pilates and cycling to yoga and singular focuses sessions (“washboard abs”) as well as weight and cardio training. It’ll cost you $160 per month to join one location, or $178 for a membership that allows you to visit all the Crunch gyms in SF.
Pilates ProWorks is a gym with an emphasis on pilates and barre-based fitness routines. There are two locations in San Francisco: one in the Financial District and the Pilates ProWorks flagship in the Marina. There is no traditional cardio equipment at either location; instead you’ll find unique pilates reformers, TRX straps and punching bags. Pilates is a superb workout for those who have undergone surgery or suffer from chronic injuries because it builds strength, flexibility and balance while remaining gentle on the body. One of the gym’s most popular classes is a fusion of mat pilates, cardio kickboxing and yoga known as MatBox. It may seem like an odd combination of workouts, but this fast-paced 45 minute class is awesome. You’ll interval stress-relieving punches with relaxing stretches for a full body workout that’s also a brain boost. Classes are $30 each or $225 for an unlimited monthly pass.
If you’re into boxing, there is no better place to go then the Polk Street Gym. This no-nonsense spot, with a ring smack in the center of the space, is for serious boxers. They do offer beginners classes, so don’t be intimidated if you don’t know the basics. We recommend the special $70 4-class introductory package, where you’ll learn the difference between a hook and a right cross. Note that you’ll need to wrap your hands and wear boxing gloves—you’ll feel more badass immediately. The Polk Street Gym also offers TRX, circuit training and extreme 4-week boot camp sessions. There are several types of memberships that range in price from $99 to $200, but if you’re just curious, a single class is $25.
Want a large and in charge gym experience? With six different studios, an eight-lane indoor pool, basketball courts and three full levels of equipment, Equinox is your best bet. Equinox caters to every workout need from personal training to weights to yoga, and excels at the little details that make a gym memorable—friendly staff who welcome you by name, complimentary cold towels soaked in invigorating eucalyptus and personal televisions and charging stations at every cardio machine. The locker rooms are clean, spacious and filled with anything you may have forgotten, from shampoo and shave gel to tampons and deodorant. There’s also a restaurant and cafe, clothing shop and even a hair salon. The SF flagship is on Market Street right next to the Four Seasons hotel, so it’s great fitness spot for those who work downtown. It’s open seven days a week, 365 days a year and memberships start at $175 per month. Fun fact: When the Cavaliers came to town for the NBA finals, LeBron and his teammates worked out at Equinox. Swoon.
For a specialized workout unlike any other, try the TRX Training Center on Pacific Street between Van Ness and Polk. TRX stands for Total Resistance Exercise and it involves a special set of straps that hang from the ceiling. The straps can be a little awkward to use at first and are somewhat tricky, but before you can take any of the training center’s classes, you must enroll in a complimentary basics course to, ahem, learn the ropes. From there, you can sign up for any of the gym’s other sessions: there’s classic TRX, circuit training, flow and dance—all of which include use of the straps. The main focus of TRX is on the body’s core, and you’re constantly trying to find that perfect plank no matter what type of class you’re in. Pro tip: Sign up for a class with Miguel; he’s easy on the eyes and a great motivator. Drop in classes are $25 each; or $60 for an unlimited week and $185 for an unlimited month.