I’ve Taken Over 200 Studio Fitness Classes – This Is What I Learned

I’ve a bit of a veteran to the studio fitness scene. In fact, I took my first class nearly five years ago when I moved into the city of Atlanta and have been pretty much hooked ever since. Whenever I post that I go to class I get so many questions from folks asking my opinion on one studio vs. another or what I thought of certain fitness methods. I get it. These classes are ridiculously expensive – some clocking in at nearly $30 per class. You want to know what you are getting yourself into before you make the commitment – so I’m breaking it down for you. Note: I did try to make this list for a nationwide audience which worked out well since many of the studios are national chains.

Barre

What is it? Imagine if you had the strength of a gymnast, the grace of a ballerina, and the flexibility of a contortionist – you may have to for a barre class. This is one of those “oh that looks easy!” classes that will quite literally kick your ass. Barre-advocates take a note from Misty Copeland and make it look easy, almost too easy. Barre uses “micro-movements” that are actually “one inch up & one inch down” – it’s so small you could miss it, but you will definitely feel it.

My favorite thing ever was taking Sahir to a class and watching his face when the instructor said “Ok! You’re almost done with the warm-up!” He literally almost died. It was awesome.

What do I need to know?

  • Classes are usually 50-55 minutes.
  • You need to know what a “tuck” is – read this post before you go.
  • Most barre classes follow a similar format: Warm-up, Arms, Thigh-work, Glute-work, Core, and then a little back. Your warm up may include a 90 second plank, don’t panic – you’ll get there.

& If I’m New: Tell the instructor (they are usually SUPER friendly) and get there a little early. You’ll want a spot in the front where you can watch the instructor demonstrate the moves and also have them adjust you to make sure you are doing it correctly.

Where can I take it? Pure Barre, The Bar Method, Barre 3, LAF: Pink Barre

Related: Barre Instructors Share What They Wish First-Timers Knew

Megareformer

What is it? Pretty much a pilates machine on steroids. Remember those commercials in the 00s about the “Bowflex Extreme” – it’s pretty similar – but not at all. These studio fitness classes are designed to be full body but every move will work your core. 

What do I need to know?

  • These moves were designed to be done slowly. You are usually not in a move for longer than 2 minutes.
  • Shaking is totally normal and your muscles will twitch
  • You will likely fatigue one muscle group before moving onto another, but remember whatever you do on one side must be done to the other, so it’ll come back around.

& If I’m New: The machines are complicated and the names of the moves are not intuitive. Except “newspaper” that one is easy, but don’t try to guess what “bear”, “catfish”, and “serve the platter” are.

How I Met Your Mother News GIF

Where can I take it? Solidcore, SLT, LAF: SculptHouse

Related: Megareformer Pilates: What is it and Why You Need It

HIIT

What is it? HIIT stands for “high intensity interval training” and can come in a variety of studio fitness class-types. Interval training usually includes cardio & anaerobic exercise with short recovery periods to keep your heart rate up. The most common classes usually are 50/50 time splits between cardio & strength either in an equal split of time in each section OR short alternating intervals.

What do I need to know?

  • HIIT is hard and there is usually a lot of equipment involved.
  • Pay close attention as instructors demonstrate and know that most classes aren’t the same.
  • You don’t want to go super fast all the time. Instead you want to be in your “fat-burning zone” and that’s at 70% of your maximum heart rate. Your maximum heart rate is the maximum number of times your heart should beat during activity. To determine your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220.

& If I’m New: Get there early & always let your instructors know if you are new. I used to tell mine I was new until I had taken 5 classes under my belt.

Where can I take it? Orange Theory Fitness , Barry’s Bootcamp, F45, LAF: Blast

Related: Fitness Pro Dishes: 5 Tricks To Get Excited About Working Out

Spin

What is it? Also known as “cycling” a spin class is a cardio based workout. Spin is great for anyone who loves aggressively loud music, an assertive instructor shouting at people to go harder, and rooms that aren’t vented nearly enough for how much sweat the room collects – spin is for you! Fair warning: you will not look like Ariana doing it. You may think you do – hold onto that.

What do I need to know?

  • Studio fitness classes are usually 45 minutes long & in the dark-ish.
  • You may do some arm moves towards the end of class – these are usually optional but a good way to get some strength work into a cardio class.
  • You’ll want to rent shoes and choose a studio that has you “clip” into the bikes. This is what makes this experience different vs a gym spin class.

& If I’m New: It’s gonna hurt. Oh no, not in class. In class you will be fine. But tomorrow? It’s gonna hurt to walk, hurt to sit, just hurt in general. You will adopt penguin-like tendencies and begin to waddle. You’ll swear that you will never go back – but you will. We all do.

Image result for penguin gif waddle

Where can I take it? Flywheel, SoulCycle, Cyclebar, LAF: Sweatshoppe

Related: The Best Spin Studios You Have To Try

Yoga / Pilates

What is it? Yoga was designed in India for the purpose of connecting an individual to their physical, mental and spiritual self. Pilates on the other hand was designed by a man named Joseph Pilates as a method of physical rehabilitation.

What do I need to know?

  • There are so many types of these classes. All instructors and studios do things a little differently and because of this there are less nationwide chains. Local studios reign supreme in this field.
  • Classes range from 30-90 minutes
  • Both Yoga & Pilates are great for core work and flexibility. Pilates is the cousin of Megareformer classes (in fact MR classes fall into the pilates family) but true mat pilates is closer to yoga or barre in comparison.

& If I’m New: Many classes will be heated so if that’s not what you are looking for make sure you read the fine print or ask in advance. Some classes are heated over 100 degrees which can be jarring if you weren’t mentally prepared for that.

Where can I take it? Corepower Yoga, YogaWorks, Club Pilates, LAF: The Daily

Related: My Updated Workout Routine with Classpass


Studio fitness classes can range from $20-$35 dollars each. Yikes! Yes, these classes are expensive, so you are better off finding a studio they love and purchasing a class pack for a better rate. You can also use congregate platforms like MindBody or Classpass. (Read more about my Classpass experience here or try it for yourself!)

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