Maybe this makes me weird, but I have to say, I love trying out new exercise classes. I would actually consider it a hobby of mine. That being said, I usually stick to ones that are "in my wheel house," so to speak. I like yoga of all varieties, dance classes like ballet or Kukuwa, and maybe a spin class if I'm feeling up to it. But when it comes to "cult" classes that have a reputation for being intense and cardio-driven, I usually scurry backward in the other direction. Well, I'm not scurrying anymore, my friends. I've come to realize the importance of learning how to push yourself out of your comfort zone, and by God, I did it. I pushed myself to try a few different fitness classes that, normally, I wouldn't even dream of attending. And, to be honest, as far as the workouts went, there wasn't a single one I didn't get something out of.
The most unfortunate thing about all of the classes across the board? The green stuff. The dough. The rather shockingly high prices. We're talking roughly between $25 and $37 for just one class.
So, while it might not be a sustainable weekly venture for everyone (myself included), there are ways to work specialty classes into your routine if it's of interest. Many of these places offer community or donation-based classes, special package deals, or sometimes they show up on ClassPass or Groupon. Or you could just splurge once or twice, and take what you've learned to incorporate into your own personal regimen.
But when all is said and done, if you're looking for a class to kick your ass out of your usual workout comfort zone, these five are where it's at.
1. The Class By Taryn Toomey
The first time I heard about The Class by Taryn Toomey was when someone told me they had a friend who started sobbing in the middle of her first time there. Despite that anecdote, I wanted to try it for myself.
On their website, The Class by Taryn Toomey is described as a “cathartic movement experience” that originally came about as a hybrid of yoga and spiritual trainings the creator, Taryn Toomey, learned in Peru. The experience is meant to include “simple, repetitive calisthenics and plyometrics.”
While The Class by Taryn Toomey is rather difficult to accurately explain, after trying it out myself, it felt like a mixture of Kundalini yoga, hardcore Richard Simmons-style dance aerobics, and some self-help thrown in there, too. It was, in a word, intense.
My instructor, Jaycee Gossett, who's a senior teacher at The Class by Taryn Toomey, guided us on a headset mic the whole time while music played, cueing us to be present and listen to our bodies throughout the very serious, and somewhat repetitive challenge.
During a set of non-stop burpees, for example, she encouraged us to use sound as we powered through the movements. While it took a minute for me to get loose and lost in it, once I managed to do it, I really did it. I even snarled at one point.
After getting a chance to speak with Gossett myself, she described The Class by Taryn Toomey in her own words:
We use simple, repetitive exercises to build that intensity, and use that to access stress, tension, and stored energy in the body [and then] we can invite those energies to release.
The whole "release" thing is no joke. While my body really took to the movements and felt incredible afterward, there was also a marked and noticeable lift in my spirits that seemed to last well into the next day.
Zoe LePage, who recently finished her teacher training for The Class by Taryn Toomey, echoed Gossett's words, describing the experience as "its own animal," and something "you have to experience for yourself."
Intense workouts aside, I have to admit there's no denying the fanciful nature of The Class by Taryn Toomey. It was expensive as all hell to be there (it's $35 for one class), the crowd there with me was pretty homogenous, and the studio seemed to pretty much nail that luxury wellness spa aesthetic. Like, there were Chanel soaps in the bathroom, guys.
Don't get me wrong, I like nice things. But the apparent message of this workout class -- that deep self-love, self-expression, and bodily awareness are for everyone -- felt frustratingly incongruent with certain parts of The Class by Taryn Toomey's brand that seem to actively cultivate exclusivity.
So, while I did enjoy myself, I imagine not everyone would feel comfortable taking a class there -- which is really unfortunate, TBH, because the workout itself is freaking powerful.
First of all, I've never liked exercise machines. Something about them just feels dangerous to me, for no particularly rational reason. So a rowing class was, quite firmly, outside of my usual comfort zone.
I arrived at Current in SoHo to take a 45-minute rowing class in a candlelit studio. There were about seven people in there with me on a Saturday morning, and we were all of different ages and body types.
Throughout the class, the instructor reminded us that we were doing something good for ourselves, to go at a pace that felt right, and that our bodies are already incredible machines in and of themselves. So yeah, Current takes the cake for “pump-up” language during a fitness class, which I'm always super sensitive to. (I do not like it, for example, when people tell me to “get ready for swimsuit season.”)
Truth be told, it was for that reason alone that I was just so impressed by this place. The workout itself was fun and really physically challenging, but they maintained an environment that felt inclusive and low-key. I feel best and most comfortable -- and most willing to push myself -- in fitness settings where lots of different kinds of people come to feel good and enjoy a workout.
Josh Ozeri, Current's founder, tells Elite Daily,
We believe community is key, and it starts with our instructors. We look for inspiring people who believe in being inclusive rather than exclusive, and they cultivate incredible vibes.
Consider those vibes cultivated, Josh. I honestly wanted to do a slow clap at the end. More of this, please.
3. 305 Fitness
The story behind 305 Fitness -- a 55-minute, basically non-stop cardio dance class -- is pretty great. Sadie Kurzban, the founder, was teaching hugely popular dance classes in college. During her senior year, she and her best friend went to a Miami Beach nightclub one night, and it was there that they came up with the idea to combine the classes Sadie was teaching with this crazy club atmosphere. They went home that night, still drunk at 4 a.m., and googled "how to start a business." And thus, 305 Fitness was born.
Kurzban tells Elite Daily she wants 305 to be a "feminist-inspired paradise," and for people to come with the intention of really letting loose and enjoying themselves in an irreverent, club-like environment.
Now, was I thrilled to take a class that was essentially a full-blown, constantly intense session of cardio made to feel like a Miami rave? Let's just say I was apprehensive. It was an early Saturday morning, after all.
But, lucky for me, I took my class with Walter Kemp who, aside from having remarkable dance moves, was an enlivening leader. He joyously encouraged us multiple times to love and care for ourselves even while we pushed our bodies to the limit to do crazy things like box jump squatting.
I was exhausted by the end, but it was so, so worth it.
4. Physique 57
Never have my muscles ever shaken like they shook at Physique 57.
Looking at this class from the outside, you might not think it's that difficult. Most of the movements, though repetitive, are tiny. What could possibly be so hard about squeezing a bouncy ball between your legs while balancing on the balls of your feet?
Again, I shook in a way I can only describe as hypothermic. Let's just say the exercises in Physique 57 target parts of your body I'd be willing to bet you didn't even know existed. While I have no doubt it works to get those muscles strong as hell, it was also an experience that I wanted to be over quickly.
My instructor Cecily (a dancer, like most of her fellow instructors) was really technical and thorough, but she was also super down to earth and had a sense of humor about the whole thing. Talking to her afterward, she spoke about how important it is for "every body to feel strong," and she stressed that's what they want for people coming into the studio to focus on.
Did I yelp in pain every time I tried to pick something up the next day? I did, yes, I definitely yelped. But maybe that's a good thing. It's not fun, but it means I'm getting stronger, right?
But here's a cool bonus: Physique 57 also has an online streaming platform, meaning you can log in at home and access a whole class, or even just 10 minutes of stretching.
5. Overthrow New York
A 45-minute HIIT class at Overthrow will teach you the basics of boxing stances and punches while guiding you through a pretty intense cardio workout. But it might also kind of make you feel you're going to die.
During my own experience, I remember earnestly thinking to myself, “I didn't think this was how it was going to go.” I was also surprised by how remarkably uncoordinated I was.
But you know what else this class made me feel? It made me, and my body, feel really, really strong. And I had fun. Despite my lack of coordination, I didn't feel the least bit self-conscious about not knowing what I was doing.
Plus, the trainers even encourage you to get rid of your anger and punch a bag at the end of class, like you're punching a sh*tty boss or a bad ex. I don't condone violence, friends, but sometimes, you just have to punch a bag like it's your stupid ex's face.
That said, the environment at Overthrow can't be beat. The trainers are all wonderful and quite different. And while they push you to the limits of your strength (and then some), the vibe is really all about community. It's supportive, down to earth, gritty, badass, and everyone seems to genuinely enjoy being there.
All in all, I'm really glad I pushed myself out of the normal comfort zone of my workouts to try something else, and I definitely recommend following your curiosity to push yourself beyond your normal routine. Trust me, you'll learn more about what feels best for your body every time you step into a new experience like this.
Plus, stepping out of my comfort zone like this helped me realize how important it is to me that the environment I'm exercising in feels like it's actively working toward being an inclusive, safe space for everybody and every body. Good things to know as I continue this life-long fitness journey, amirite?