My Top 6 Go-To HIIT Classes

If you’ve been reading, you know I recently joined FitReserve instead of ClassPass. This was because I was too overwhelmed by the choices with ClassPass, and often couldn’t book the classes I really wanted. Also, FitReserve offered me a great deal and gives me discounts on some services like Zeel, in-home massage. FitReserve also has a great selection of HIIT-style workouts to choose from.

My favorite workout of all time is the Orange Theory Fitness workout (and I still go there at least once a week even though they are not a part of FitReserve or ClassPass). But, because of OTF‘s price-tag and my body’s endless need for variety (I’m talking about workouts), I’ve let myself roam.

My favorite workouts tend to be high-intensity, bootcamp-style ones. The kind where you are getting both cardio and strength all at once and getting high on pushing yourself harder than you thought you could. Sorry folks, but despite the acute pain I experience doing Barre or Pilates, they just don’t give that I-am-strong-like-bull feeling, nor do they seem to burn as many calories if that’s what you’re after. I’d like to do more research on how HIIT fitness differs from Barre-style workouts and what benefits you get from each, but I’ll save that for another post.

In the meantime, here are my top 6 favorite classes for High Intensity Interval Training (a.k.a. HIIT):

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#6 As One Effect at As One Studios located at 3rd Floor, 1845 Broadway, New York, NY 10023 (Columbus Circle. See my full review here: A Hidden Gem.

 

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#5 EVF 360 at EVF with locations at both Columbus Circle and the Upper East Sid. I love this not-quite-cross-fit style workout in a Cross-Fit “box” studio. See my full review.

 

brick 2#4 The B/X class at BRICK NYC, with 3 studios in New York located in Chelsea, Grad Central, and Brooklyn. This is another Cross-Fit box that offers non-cross-fit classes that are non-stop and hard core, but fun and friendly. You can check my original review of BRICK too.

Logo_FeaturedImage-353x210.png#3 Barry’s Bootcamp with 3 NYC locations in Chelsea, Noho, and Tribeca (and more in Miami, LA, Boston and London). Yes, folks, it’s dropped down from my once favorite in recent experience, as the customer service skills at the front desk and the smoothie bar are sometimes NYC-snob, and it’s more of a “beautiful people” scene than I like these days. It’s still a great workout though, and it’s now available through FitReserve.

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#2 The Workout at Exceed Physical Culture (with Upper East Side and Tribeca locations), I loved the space, the trainers, and the workout itself. I felt safe, strong, challenged and encouraged. Here’s the full scoop: Exceeded Expectations.

 

And, as I said before, although not offered on FitReserve (yet?), my all time favorite workout is:

OTF-splat1-714x930#1 The Workout at ORANGE THEORY FITNESS .

I’ve been going there regularly for a year, and can say that it helped me discover the joys of sticking with one studio as opposed to constantly hopping around. They know me there. The trainers comment on not just my form, but my progress. And it’s just all-round awesome– treadmill, rower, TRX, and weights in every class. I don’t even use the heart rate monitor that often any more, but that’s another great benefit of the workout- you can see what your heart is doing. And they are located all over the country including my hometown of Tallahassee, Fl. You can read more about it here and here.

Tell me about your favorite workouts in the comments below. I’d love to find some new places to hop to!

By the way, if you’re interested in joining FitReserve (see pricing here), use my discount code (https://www.fitreserve.com/r/15affd93) and get $50 off!

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Surf’s Up @ SurfSET (and I’ve got a Secret)

In honor of the new Point Break movie (at least the original was awesome), I trekked to the Sports Center at Chelsea Piers  to try the SurfSET class that you can book through either ClassPass or FitReserve even if you aren’t a member of the gym. (And by the way, considering all the amenities including the giant pool, indoor track, super-spacious locker room, and a full class menu, at less than $200 a month, it’s not a bad deal. The trick is getting there.)

It was a humbling experience. Coming off my runner’s high from Mile High Run Club and feeling the burn of total body training at Exceed, I thought for sure a silly surfing-style class would be a breeze. But just standing without wobbling was a challenge!

 

The perky, but tough teacher, Diana, had to hold my hand at one point so I could keep my balance as I attempted lunges on a surfboard that was attached to unstable inflated balls. In a 45-minute class she had us alternate between intensive cardio, strength and balance intervals. There were a lot of what she called wave runners that were basically plank mountain climbers on the unstable surf board.

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In addition, we did squats half-on and half off the board, pretended to kick sharks in a Pilates-esque move, and went from face-down “paddling” to a wide-stance squat in mock stand-up for a wave on the board. I’m sure it’s not sufficient training for the real thing, but it was a decent workout with lots of core work. And more importantly it was novel and FUN!

It’s good to feel humble once in a while, and to challenge your muscles (and balance) in new ways. In fact this takes the whole core stability trend to a peak. Rather than feeling silly on a balance board or Bosu, why not feel even sillier pretending to be a surfer dude for the day?

I wouldn’t make this my main fitness source (not enough cardio and no extra weights, although we did use bands), but I’ll definitely be back. Plus, and I’m hesitant to write this for fear of them cracking down, but here’s the secret: after class I hung out at the Sports Center checking out the indoor track and enjoying the sauna in the locker room. I could easily spend the afternoon there and stop by the cafe for some post-workout sushi and smoothies on the way out.

SurfSET at Chelsea Piers

PROS: Awesome space including the giant locker rooms with plush showers and towels (bring your own lock); great teacher; fun and different; no shoes needed.

CONS: Location (a pier is by nature not centrally located); not the most efficient workout if you’re looking for total body plus cardio, but tougher than your average Pilates class and I haven’t graduated to the advanced classes yet, so who knows!

Racking up miles at the Mile High Run Club

Every time I tell my partner that I’m going to try out the Mile High Run Club he giggles. Can’t help but picture something naughty on an airplane or in this case, a treadmill.

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But my workout at Mile High was no joke. I took the 45-minute Dash 28 class which consists of a warm-up, 28 minutes of interval running on the treadmill, and 10 minutes of strength training. This workout had all the ingredients of what I love at Orange Theory Fitness (my gold standard in fitness classes) minus the rower and the heart rate monitor:

  • Encouraging, knowledgable trainer
  • Cardio plus strength all in one workout
  • High-intensity intervals

I’ll definitely be putting Mile High into my FitReserve rotation. The trainer even had me itching to sign myself up for a 5K race in the real world as she related pace choices for intervals to paces for a 10K or a half marathon. Another cool perk at Mile High is that you can try out new pairs of Nike shoes for free. So as long as you’re not grossed out by wearing shared footwear, you can’t use forgetting your sneakers as an excuse not to go.

It may have been a bit ambitious to follow my Exceed workout with this one. The subway stairs were painful after class, but I guess that’s a sign that mixing it up is working.

Also, does anyone know if different treadmills are harder or easier than one another. I found 7.0 speed at a 1% incline much more challenging at Mile High than at Orange Theory. Could have been my own lag, but it’s curious.

Here’s the skinny:

Mile High Run Club

Locations in NoHo (E. 4th St.) and NoMad (W. 25th St.)

PROS: Great for any kind of runner from beginner to marathoner; good space in both workout room and locker room; choose from endurance running or total body workout classes; pace your own intensity; usual boutique amenities: lockers, showers, and hair ties; Nike shoe trials; friendly staff.

CONS: If you’re not into treadmills or running this is obviously not the workout for you; I’ll have to try the NoMad location- the NoHo one was far from the subway

 

Exceeded Expectations

I finally made it to Exceed Physical Culture on the Upper East Side thanks to FitReserve. I could never find a convenient time that wasn’t booked as soon as the booking window opened on ClassPass.

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This was an all-out, HIIT workout with very little down time, and not for beginners. Unlike Barre and Yoga classes, this is the kind of class a guy could attend while still maintaining bro status. And I’m not trying to maintain society’s silly gender boundaries. I’ve seen men in Pilates classes too. But, it’s no secret that fitness class attendance rosters run heavy on the estrogen. And readers of both sexes have asked me which classes tend to have more guys.

Turns out the number of men in a class can depend on timing, and at Exceed, some evening and Saturday classes are split about 50/50 along gender lines. The three guys that were in my 14-person 10:30 am class were definitely as sweaty and tired as I was when the clock ran out. The Masters classes (which you can only attend after the prerequisite 5 signature classes, and proof that you can correctly perform dead lifts, thrusters and box jumps) are even heavier on the guys to gals ratio.

Similar to many of my favorite classes (like EVF, Brick, and As One), Exceed’s 50-min signature class features different combinations of intervals, including Tabata, and 2-minute circuits so you get total body strength training while keeping your heart rate up. (Next time I’ll wear my heart rate monitor to find out exactly how high).

The instructor (I had Tracey who was awesome!) carefully demonstrated moves and corrected students’ form through movements that used TRX, kettle balls, and the rowing machine. This workout had the level of intensity I’d hoped for at Kore, but didn’t quite get. Another thing that sets them apart is their physical space. As in, they have some: several big, open rooms for workouts, and a full-size locker room. Plus, I can tell today that I hit muscle groups I haven’t in a while because my delts and quads are just the right amount of sore to remind me they exist, but moveable enough that I can still go try out Mile High Run Club this afternoon!

Here’s the skinny version:

Exceed Physical Culture

“A full service boutique gym that offers group classes to all levels of athletes, and a space for personal trainers looking to achieve their personal best and help their clients do the same.”

Locations:  Upper East Side and Tribeca

PROS: Efficient, truly high-intensity, total-body workout with knowledgable, friendly trainers; great space with showers, towels and lockers provided.

CONS: I’d feel intimidated if I were a beginner (most people in class were athlete level!); location isn’t the easiest for me as I live on Upper West Side.

ClassPass v. FitReserve Update

During my classhopping-hiatus, there’s been some changes to both FitReserve and ClassPass. Here’s the update:

ClassPass:

  • Various pricing plans starting at $49/27-credits a month and go up to $174/100 credits a month with a Blink Gym membership included.
  • Classes range in “credit price” from 2-16 credits per class depending on the posh-ness and desirability of the studio/gym.
  • Up to 10 credits will roll over to the next month.
  • You can visit most studios as often as you which, although the credit cost might increase.
  • You can buy extra credit packs starting at $5 for 2 credits (in case you’re just short of being able to book a coveted spot at Barry’s Bootcamp!)
  • Class Cancellation Policy: you’ll be charged $15 for late cancel (less than 12 hours) or $20 for missing a class in the U.S.
  • ClassPass is available in multiple cities across the globe.
  • Membership Cancellation Policycancel anytime (before your next billing-cycle), but there “could be” a $79 re-activation fee.
  • Has app for iOS and Android

FitReserve

  • Flexible price structure starting at $49/month for 3 classes and going up to $349/month for 20 classes or a FitReserve Plus which includes membership to New York Sports Club gyms starting at $99/month.
  • 4 classes per studio each month.
  • Cancellation fees for late cancel and missed classes vary depending on the studio
  • Includes discounts with affiliated partners on things like clothing, healthy snacks and massage
  • Can cancel anytime, but there is a $49 re-activation fee if you cancel your FitReserve membership and want to re-join
  • iOS app available (but no Android app yet).

Whereas, before it looked more like this:

ClassPass:

  • $125/month for unlimited classes at over 300 studios in New York metro area (previously $99/month)
  • offered in 30 major cities
  • 3 classes per studio each month
  • no included discounts with affiliated partners
  • can be VERY hard to book classes at peak hours for hot studios like Exceed and Barry’s Bootcamp
  • Can cancel anytime (before your next billing-cycle), but there is a $79 re-activation fee if you cancel your ClassPass membership and then want to re-join
  • Has mobile app for iPhone, but not Android users

FitReserve

  • More flexible price structure: $79/month for 5 classes, $149/month for 10 classes, $249 for 20 classes at over 70 studios (so far) in NYC
  • offered NYC Metro area and Boston
  • 4 classes per studio each month
  • incudes discounts with affiliated partners on things like clothing, healthy snacks and massage
  • access to all class time slots (easier to book choice time slots than ClassPass)
  • Can cancel anytime, but there is a $49 re-activation fee if you cancel your FitReserve membership and want to re-join
  • No mobile app yet

BOTH Services:

  • Have a $15 late cancellation fee (if you cancel less than 12 hours before class starts)
  • Charge $20 if you don’t show up to a class you booked (I’ve heard of people checking in to their classes and  walking right back out the door to avoid the fee!)

Hopping Back to FitReserve

First off, I want to apologize for the long hiatus. I haven’t posted in a while or replied to comments as I was dealing with some health issues (more on that in a later post), but now, I’m back!

For the last 9 months I’ve been semi-exclusive with Orange Theory Fitness (occasionally visiting FlyWheel and Yoga to the People on the side). I LOVE OTF! But alas, monogamy fitness is not my cup of tea. The body craves variety. Orange Theory does mix it up between the treadmill, rowing machine, TRX, and weight work focusing alternately on endurance, strength, and power depending on the day. And I feel a bit guilty leaving them as they have taken me to a much higher level of fitness than I was achieving in my ClassPass days. I can run faster, and uphill. I feel stronger and have more definition in my legs, arms and abs. I love the intensity and efficiency of their heart-rate monitored, total body fitness classes. The coaches (especially Eddie!) are excellent– really watching your form and encouraging progress. Plus, there’s one in my hometown, so I can travel and still go to my own gym. I can safely say, that in all my class hopping thus far, OTF takes the cake (as in the cake I ate off of my butt).

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But it ain’t cheap. In NYC, a monthly membership for unlimited classes cost me $329 a month. I have NEVER paid that much for a gym before. Then, I thought, I’ll do it for one month, at least 4 times a week to get in shape for summer. I got hooked. I could no longer push myself without the coaches and the meticulously-planned full-body focus. I justified the expenditure because it was my health, and figured I’d cut back on eating out and clothes. I also found out that I could get $200 back from my health insurance with proof that I’d attended the gym at least 50 times in a 6-month period. But $329 a month is a big chunk of change, no matter how you cut it. I dropped down to the 8-times-per-month membership for $219 a month.

But now, It’s time to face the fact that I need to save a little money. That, and I’ve got to see how my new fit-self does back at Barry’s Bootcamp (now on the FitReserve roster!). With a wandering eye and a hankering to try some kinkier, wilder fitness forays in 2016 (like aerial fabric pole dancing and Thai Kickboxing, I’m putting my OTF membership on hold, and taking FitReserve for another spin.

I’m choosing FitReserve over ClassPass for now as the price of ClassPass has gone up (to $125 from $99 per month), and I’m haunted by nightmares of setting calendar alarms for the booking windows of my favorite classes, scrolling through endless choices, the choicest of which were always un-bookable on ClassPass.

But whether you’re using FitReserve, ClassPass, or just class-hopping on your own, this classhopper is happy to be sharing her adventures with you once again. I plan to try new classes, return to old faves, and hopefully catch up on some requests, like finding out which classes have the most guys in attendance.

Happy 2016 and Happy Hopping!

Flirting with FitReserve

I’m still using ClassPass. A Lot. (4-5 times a week which means I’m probably one of the people they are not making much money on). But, I’m also flirting with the competition. FitReserve reached out and offered me a deal to try them out, and so I have.

On the surface it’s really hard to compete with ClassPass’s simplicity: $99=classes at hundreds of studios in the city (unlimited number of workouts, but only 3 at any one studio per month).

Here’s the catch. There are so many ClassPass members that it’s getting harder and harder to book spots at the most popular studios. I’ve seen the words “No Spots” enough to want to cry.

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Their new cancellation policy which punishes you more for not showing up ($20) than for canceling less than 12 hours in advance ($15) has helped to free up more last minute spots. So even if you’re not consistently free at noon everyday to sit by your computer and hope for a coveted spot when the booking-window bell rings, you can check the schedule last-minute to see if people have canceled their spots. There’s much more last-minute movement than before. That said, I still spend an inordinate amount of time trying to schedule, book, and re-book classes. (Sometimes this is worth it, like today when I happened to scroll across the words Barry’s Bootcamp with a friendly purple Reserve button next to them!)

There are still plenty of choices to stay in shape on ClassPass, even if they’re not my first choices. But, I have found FitReserve‘s promise of being able to book classes at hot spots in convenient time slots to hold true. It is rare to see the “Sold Out” button on FitReserve’s website. In general, I’d have to say FitReserve’s website is better. It’s clearer with bigger font, easier filtering options, and simple navigation. (I do wish they’d offer the same kind of easy, add-to-calendar feature when you get the reservation confirmation pop-up though.)

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Another one of their claims to better-ness is their partner discount offers. Some of them seem pretty good, and I might check out Zeel, massage on-demand and Bestowed healthy snacks. I’m not sold on these partner offers being much of a perk though. You can often find the same sorts of deals on your own.

So far I like FitReserve quite a bit. The biggest drawback is that they don’t have as many participating studios as ClassPass and their lowest-cost membership option only allows you 10 classes per month and it’s still a bit pricer than ClassPass’s $99. If they can get a bigger roster of studios, and maybe open that up to 12 classes a month (which would let you workout at 3 days a week), I think it might be worth switching.

Here’s an older post with more deets on the differences.

I’m getting pretty spoiled this month using both. If money isn’t an issue, you don’t have to choose. You could have the best of both fitness worlds.