From jogging around the track or breaking a sweat at dance team practice in middle and high school to present-day workout classes galore, I’ve always been a fairly active person. And with parents highly involved in the fitness world (dad is an exercise-science professor, mom is a personal trainer), living a balanced, healthy lifestyle has been something instilled in me since birth.
I’m decently athletic, but that’s not to say I’m fearless when it comes to physical activities. Though I’ve always wanted to try it, surfing terrifies me (I still want nothing more than to be the real-life incarnation of Kate Bosworth’s character in Blue Crush); I hate lifting weights, and I am more than a little averse to the idea of participating in a public boot camp class in which park-goers and passersby can silently judge how red my face gets while doing burpees.
When I moved to LA from the Midwest, I was excited to explore some of the more boutique fitness offerings I didn’t have in Indiana. (At that point, going to a yoga class with my sorority sisters felt progressive.) Thanks to Classpass, I recently started deviating from my normal routine—a casual run after work, followed by an amalgamation of “stretches” I convinced myself were somehow working my abs. Along the way, I’ve learned a lot. Here, my highly scientific (not) breakdown of a few of today’s most talked-about workouts.
Cycling: My foray into cycling classes began with former coworkers, whose friends own a very popular West Hollywood studio. At first, I was definitely intimidated—the instructors, male and female, looked like they were chiseled out of stone. Additionally, the thought of staring at myself in a mirror while pedaling like the Wicked Witch of the West was mildly horrifying. “They turn the lights off, and you basically see only the instructor and nothing else,” I was assured by cycling-enthusiast friends. Perfect. After one class, I was smitten. Zoning out in a dark room and matching my movements to the rhythm of deafeningly loud music beats a measly jog around the block any day.
At first my level of self-awareness was quite high: I felt weird if I was offbeat, always peering around to see how I measured up to others in the class, but I eventually let all that go and now find it a great way to completely get out of my head for 45 minutes. While some find yoga therapeutic, cycling does the trick for me: If you get the right instructor (those at Flywheel, Cycle House and SoulCycle are top-notch), the experience can be inspiring, especially if you’re in a vulnerable head space. Unless, of course, the class is more gimmicky than productive—I once went to a session in which, unbeknownst to me, a live bongo player performed. The cherry on top was realizing midway that the instructor’s teaching method included tribal whooping noises. Everyone else seemed unfazed. Never had I longed for a familiar pop song (Drake? Justin Bieber? Anyone?) more than I did in that moment. Key takeaways? Give cycling a chance—but run if you see bongos.
Barre: I caught wind of the barre class movement after reading seemingly back-to-back rave reviews online from influencers and cool 20-somethings saying that the workout changed their bodies. (I think the exact phrase that hooked me was “it raised my ass like, two inches.” Sold.) While I’d usually enlist a friend to come with me to a class for the first time, I was in a particularly brave mood and waltzed into Bar Method alone, socks in hand and ready to have my mind blown at how small, isometric movements could cause such serious soreness (I was warned beforehand). The hour-long class began by going through several repetitious exercises on the floor and at the barre, during many of which my legs shook compulsively—the instructors assure you it's normal.
Honestly, it’s weird to find yourself convulsing in dilapidated ballerina poses but also oddly satisfying as you know this has to be doing something good for your body. (Why would people subject themselves to this if not?!) Now that I regularly hit up Pop Physique and Pure Barre for my routine ass-kicking, I can actually feel myself getting stronger—a cool source of motivation I’d yet to experience until now. Has it changed my body? Though subtly, absolutely—I’m far more toned than I was months ago. For anyone that wants to see and feel a difference, run don’t walk to barre class—just prepare to hear “and tuck, tuck, tuck, tuck and squeeze, squeeze, squeeze, squeeze” in your dreams.
And then there comes the “alternative,” super-innovative set of offerings one would expect in a fitness-obsessed town like LA. While it seems there’s a new hot gym, method or trainer every week, it’s hard to stand out in such a crowded space—so when something sticks, it’s usually worth the hype (or at least worth checking out). Two such crazes that come to mind are stationary climbing and aerial fitness.
Climbing: When I first heard about Rise Nation, I was intrigued—excited, even—to get my sweat on there. The climbing studio was just down the street from my office, and the classes were only 30 minutes long yet promised to consist of effective, high-intensity cardio. I had also read the day before that Hilary Duff frequented the spot—and she’s been looking pretty incredible these days—so I didn’t need to be asked twice to give it a try. Although a slightly unfamiliar experience at first (climbing in place on a machine felt more foreign than running on a treadmill or cycling on a stationary bike to me), it was equal parts challenging and unique, despite a relatively shorter class duration.
An added kicker was that actresses Emma Stone and Ashley Greene were both in my first class—perhaps I can attribute a hefty chunk of my motivation to not wanting Emma Stone to catch me in her periphery clutching onto my machine for dear life. (Looking “cool” on this kind of contraption is pretty hard to do, for the record.) The light-up, color-changing ceiling display and a rooftop patio for post-class hangs felt overtly cosmopolitan—the kind of fancy-schmancy finishing touches one would expect from a premiere studio. If you’re craving a fitness experience that feels quintessentially LA, give it a shot—but be prepared to potentially run into your celeb crush.
Aerial Yoga: If there’s one workout that’s been blowing up my Instagram feed lately, it’s aerial yoga. Often referred to as “silks” or “air fitness,” the idea at least looks cool, if nothing else. Without fully thinking through the logistics of how I magically intended to pull off Cirque du Soleil-style moves, I showed up for a class at AIR with a few PR-girl pals. The session began with a series of warm-up stretches and before I knew it, my backside was anchored in a silk hammock, feet wrapped around it, and I was hanging from the ceiling—just like I’d seen on Instagram. Once I got over the fact I had no blood left in the lower half of my body due to my inverted position, I realized the movements required quite a bit of upper-body strength—it was specifically strenuous on my hands since you grip the silk to pull your body up and into various positions. It was also a lot of trial and error: Several people in the class were newbies as well, so it was more of a tutorial for me and my fellow aspiring acrobats than a true workout. But still, the variety of positions and sequences managed to engage parts of my body different than any of the aforementioned workouts. Will I go back for regular air-twirling—er, flailing, in my case—as a means to burn calories? Probably not, but I'd recommend this for the yoga-loving set, of which I am not. But it was fun, different and a serious photo opp if ever there was one.
I've come a long way since my runs around the block. From exercises that are downright bizarre to workouts that are life-changing, the LA fitness scene guarantees one thing for sure: There is truly something for everyone.
Have you tried these, or any number of new and trendy workouts in your city? Tell us about it in the comments below.