ClassPass News Flash: New Cancellation Policy

Woo hoo! ClassPass has (finally) updated and improved their cancellation policy! They’ve also given their website a facelift which includes giving you the ability to create a favorites list of classes and become more social by adding ClassPass friends who can see what classes you’re taking.

Here’s a look at the new personalized homepage:

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And the new cancellation policy is that you can cancel with no charge up until 12 hours before a class, and even more clever is the fact that you’ll only get charged $15 for cancelling within that 12 hour window versus $20 for just not showing up.

I’m very happy about this! Oh and, you can friend me on ClassPass with this link: http://classpass.com/member/karla606

4th on the Fly and 60 Minutes at Drill

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That’s right, I finished fourth on the leaderboard in my latest FlyWheel class! Granted, the class was on the small side, but that’s quite an improvement from my first SWERVE rides class two months ago where I finished 28 out of 35. Now’s the time that I’m thankful for those metrics since the numbers on my scale and my pants size haven’t budged much.

Since comparing FlyWheel to SWERVE is apples to oranges, I’ll have to head back to SWERVE soon. In the meantime, I did a 60 minute ride downtown at Drill Fitness. I was dragging a bit on a Sunday morning, but wearing a heart monitor and seeing my numbers on the screen kept my heart in it. (Pardon the pun.) Even though you can slack off during a ride by not pushing yourself as hard as you can or turning your resistance knob down when no one’s looking, staring at your hear rate on the screen shames you into going faster.

The teacher I had a Drill was Prozac-happy even though the crowd was hung over, and the facilities are pristine. Plenty of room in the locker room, free shoes, and a smoothie bar. It is tempting to purchase the heart-rate monitor so that I can sync-up with their system and track my progress. And I might if they weren’t so far away. Tribeca is a hike, and FlyWheel is everywhere. I’d love for someone to do some kind of test though to see how accurate the metrics are at all these place.  And, I’m kind of jonesing for a metrics-free drumroll ride at Cyc.

Drill Fitness 

Located in Tribeca, offers Indoor Cycling and Bootcamp-style, HIIT conditioning classes.

PROS

Super-solid ride with decent music; complimentary heart-rate monitors and shoes for your ride; beautiful facility with ample room in the lockers and nice showers; smoothie bar; they offer HIIT classes in addition to cycling.

CONS

Felt a little bit sterile, and the staff could have been friendlier; can’t track your numbers unless you purchase the hear rate monitor from them.

Sweating Barry

Feeling especially overwhelmed this week (hence the dearth of new posts), I was just given the gift of a couple of free hours. I tried to schedule a last-minute class on ClassPass, but that is proving harder as more and more people join ClassPass. I’m convinced that there are people who sit by their computers everyday at noon just to book a coveted spot at Exceed or Barry’s.barrys

And speaking of Barry, even though I think of him as a boyfriend who tosses my heart around, I can’t give him up. I took a class at Barry’s Bootcamp Chelsea on Monday. I was still often totally unsure whether or not I was doing the floor work correctly, and frankly, didn’t feel like I was fit enough to enter the room. I sheepishly watched girls who were cut like boxers change into high-fashion workout wear in the locker room while asking each other if they were staying for the next class too. Two classes in a row? But then I hit a new high speed on the treadmill. 8.0! Yes! I felt like a speed demon until I saw the girl next to me reach 11.2. It’s like one of those unhealthy relationships with a super-hot narcissist who’s really good in bed. Oh Barry, I want to impress you, to feel the pain and the rush I get from being near you, yet I probably deserve a little better.

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I don’t mean to diss Barry’s, but it does bother me that the instructors have so many students to watch at once, and that some of the people at the front desk are rude in that I-don’t-need-you-as-much-as-you-need-me kind of way. In fact, I left my FitBit in the shower after class, and when I called to ask if they could hold it for me, the guy who answered the phone completely brushed me off saying I’d have to come in and check with the maintenance crew. Dreading a cab ride back downtown to Barry’s after work, I called again and a young woman with a soul answered. She found my FitBit and held it for me at the front desk.

When I went to retrieve my FitBit, I felt the pull to get back in that room and be able to lift that next level of weights and reach the numbers on the treadmill that the instructor will shout at me. I cannot stop seeing Barry. Much better boyfriend material though, would be BFX.

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Yesterday I took the BFX Burn class with Derek, and is was an equally challenging workout. But I got attention to my form by not one, but two instructors. I even felt a bit pampered. The plush new mats, the spotless new-ness of everything from the floors to the coat rack, and the sticky sweet smiles of every employee. I should totally like them better than Barry’s. They were nicer to me, their locker rooms allow me to open the door without hitting someone else, and they’re so high tech. I do, I like them. But is it possible for a studio to be too perfect?

ClassPass really is like dating. I’m starting to get that feeling that settling down instead of playing the field would be nice, but I’m not sure I’ve found the perfect place yet. The place that gets to know me, supports me, but also gives me space to lay low and not feel self-conscious. For now, I’ll keep fishing around.

On that note, just got an e-mail from ClassPass that members can now use Crunch Gym and go to their classes! Woot! Tomorrow I’m giving FlyBarre a second date. Despite all the raves (even from those super fit double-day class go-ers) I’m not sold on the Barre idea yet. But everyone deserves a second chance.

Best of ClassPass and Me, Day 28

8950165394_534b1c43dc_zIt’s day 28. I was back at Brick New York in Chelsea today for another awesome workout. It’s high on my list of favs. Really feel stronger after my workouts there with an extra side of endorphin rush. Then chatting with some other ClassPassers in the locker room, I got some more suggestions for new, similar-in-style studios to check out. These were some serious class-goers. Here I thought I was daring with 100 classes in 100 days, and these girls are often hitting two different studios a day. (Granted one was a professional actor/dancer.)

But I’m feeling strong, sleeping better, am down 3 pounds in weight, and 1 whole inch off my hips, and discovered the answer to world peace. Actually, I can’t even keep the peace in my own house sometimes. I struggle to make it to every class and find time to write about it. I always feel better after a great workout though. Here’s a list of my favorites of the 26 studios I’ve tried thus far:

Best Total Body Workouts

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1. BFX Studio – love the Fusion workouts that involve both cycling and weight training. Beautiful space with lots of personal attention from the staff.

2. Brick New York– Honestly I had a hard time deciding between this place and EVF Performance for #2. Both are intense total body workouts that leave you feeling strong and motivated because of amazing instructors. But Brick has a nice lounge area and locker room and EVF doesn’t.

3. EVF Performance – Like Brick, it’s a CrossFit gym that also offers classes that are super intense, functional fitness workouts for non-CrossFitters. Instructors pay attention to form and encourage you by name. Really love this place.

Barry’s Bootcamp was also a kick-ass workout, and I plan to return. I’m just a little concerned about the size of the classes that make it hard for the instructors to check your form. And locker room gossip has it that I should also check out Exceed and PushLab Fitness. I’m also looking forward to trying out Drill Fitness this weekend.

2945594079_d28487da4f_zBest Yoga Studios

1. Upper West Side Yoga and Wellness – The more yoga I do, the pickier I am about the studio space and the instructor. This is a clean open studio, and the classes I’ve taken here are the perfect balance of mind and body alignment.

2. YogaMaya – Again this place has a large studio and instructors who take the time to remind you of the new-ness of every pose every time you experience it. They also often start class with a short reading, reminding you of the more spiritual aspect of the practice without overwhelming you with it.

3. Exhale Spa – This was the most luxurious of all the studios so far, and while it wasn’t spiritual yoga in any way, the instructor was fun, accommodating, and knowledgeable. And then there were the plush robes in the locker room.

I’m loathe to start my next list since I haven’t yet hit all the cycling studios I want to. I definitely already have my favorites though.

2370276576_c1d308368b_zBest Indoor Cycling

1. Cyc – It has a special place in my heart since it helped me kick off my 100 days, but it was also the most fun of all the cycling I’ve done so far. And my upper body got worked too!

2. Crank – This was a pleasant surprise find. It’s smaller than most and located only on UES and Long Island. They include more of an upper body workout mixed in with the cycling and it was FUN!

3. FlyWheel – (especially with Danielle) These classes are consistent. They are challenging and they track your metrics. I LOVE that they provide shoes, free water, and fruit, and the space is clean with nice amenities. Secret hint: the blue lockers at some locations have plugs so you can charge your mobile device while you ride.

That stated, I’m scheduled to take an off-ClassPass class at the infamous SoulCycle tomorrow. Looking forward to seeing whether they really are worth the hype as the industry standard. Pretty soon I’m gonna have to move on to a new genre. I’m thinking dance so I can try out this new ClassPass studio addition: StripXpertease.

Murray Hill’s Studio 360

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Ventured all the way to Murray Hill to hit another cycling studio, Studio 360. The quick summary is that if I lived nearby, I’d probably go back, but it’s not worth traveling for. I signed up for their Signature Series class which they say is 40 minutes of cycling and 20 minutes of Yoga. I got there just in time, only to find out that you don’t automatically get to do the Yoga part. There’s not enough space in the Yoga studio to accommodate all the riders. I was put on the wait list, and luckily I was the last person admitted.

360 yogaRather than a long rant, I’ll just get straight to it.

PROS: Good, accurate metrics (you can input your gender, age, and weight for more accurate calorie burn count) and a light on every bike so you can see the readout; a teacher that seemed to really know what she was doing; if you put in your own effort, it was a great burn; decent music; lockers with locks and cycling shoes provided.

CONS: The mic was broken so the teacher had to shout at us off her bike; the whole ride was in the seat (unless you chose to stand) and that can get boring, not to mention uncomfortable since the bikes were by far the least comfortable I’ve experienced; no showers, dry shampoo, or deodorant so don’t plan on going anywhere but home right after your workout; have to get there early if you want in on the Yoga part of the Signature Series.

WHAT TO WEAR: Cycling pants, and any kind of shoes because cycling shoes are provided.

One little rant: I take issue with the fact that their website says they are the only studio in Manhattan dedicated exclusively to Cycling and Yoga, because Monster Cycle also offers Cycling and Yoga exclusively, unless you count that Monster Cycle has an awesome juice bar and Studio 360 does not.

Day 25: Brick by Brick at BRICK New York

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Have your abs ever been so sore that it hurts when you laugh? That’s me today after the Friday Abs B/X class at Brick New York in Chelsea. If there’s anything that’s clear after 25 days of my ClassPass adventure, it’s that there is no shortage of awesome gyms and boutique studios, especially in Chelsea. Brick New York was another great find.

I flew into the studio one minute before my scheduled class, and the girl at the front desk checked me in, and assured me that all was fine– that I should change and go on in. Downstairs, it took me a minute to figure out which locker room was the women’s as the two doors facing me read, “Squat” and “Jerk,” a little CrossFit inside humor perhaps? While not huge, the locker room space was well-planned for minimal traffic jams. The lockers (bring your own lock) are outside the locker rooms, so that inside there’s space to change, hang your coat, use the bathroom, and shower. They have all the little amenities you need like the hair ties and complimentary razors, deodorant, and tampons. I so appreciate the gyms and studios that provide these things for forgetful me.

The workout was equally well-planned and efficient. CrossFit gyms or boxes, as their known, don’t mess around. I sidled past an actual CrossFit class into my own B/X class which, like the EVF 360 classes at EVF Performance, seems to be a class reminiscent in style to CrossFit, but a bit more accessible. Don’t let that fool you into thinking that it’s gonna be in any way easy. I thought maybe I was in the wrong place when the first thing I saw the instructor demonstrate (as a part of the warm-up, no less) was a move called a “Wall Walk” in which, basically you start in push-up position an then literally walk your feet up the wall and your hands backwards until you are in a hand stand against the wall.

“What?” I yelped. The class laughed, and the instructor gave us an example for a modification that still involved walking up the wall as far as we could, and surprisingly, I was able to get much straighter than I thought I’d be able to. I couldn’t do all of the exercises without modifications (the Toes to Bar, for example), but I did more than I ever thought I was capable of. We were in constant motion going through 5 stations of 3 exercises each. The music was spot on, cranking me through my Plank Jacks (on the rings!) when I wanted to quit.

brick lobbyAfter the workout, I enjoyed a large free sample of a protein shake in the lounge. You can also purchase all kinds of Paleo salads and snacks as well as coconut water and protein bars. I feel inspired to go back, and perhaps even try out the Academy classes which are a series of 8 classes that you’re required to take at Brick before beginning the CrossFit classes. I love that, because I’ve been completely intimidated by CrossFit, and frankly worried that I might injure myself. The Academy is designed to make sure you know proper form and technique so you don’t get hurt. This is a studio that will help you become an athlete, brick by brick.

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LOCATIONS: Chelsea, Grand Central, Brooklyn, L.A, Chicago, Boston

PROS: Challenging, efficient workout. Classes are not tiny, but small enough for instructors to pay attention to your form and push you to our max; good music; plenty of amenities including showers, towels, shampoo, lockers (bring your own lock), and a protein smoothie bar.

CONS: They should make the towels and water available in more places than the front as it’s a big space, and you will need extra water. Towels and a water cooler in back workout room would rock. There was no stretching after the workout, and I could’ve really used a stretch.

WHAT TO WEAR: Regular workout clothes and sneakers. Bring water and a lock.

MY BRICK GOAL: Toes to the Bar

Backtracking: Tribeca Health and Fitness and Pablo Fitness

I haven’t yet written about a couple of classes I took last week. That’s because they were nothing to write home about. But if you’re a ClassPasser or just passing by, you get to have my two cents about them anyhow. Both of them felt a bit like stepping back in time compared with some of the sparkling new studios I’ve been to lately.

The first was Tribeca Health and Fitness, which is not a boutique studio, but an actual gym with weight rooms and treadmills in addition to a windowless exercise class room. With the word Tribeca in the title, I was expecting understated swank and a little snobbery. Instead I was greeted at the door with a sign that said TANNING in bold print. It foreshadowed more anachronisms circa 1985. Either I was in a time warp or they just haven’t remodeled or changed their playlists in quite a while.

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Passing through a weight room of muscle-heads straining to Twisted Sister, I found the hidden room that houses the exercise classes which include Karate, Zumba, Elf Tennis (I really hope this does not involve tossing elves around), Flat Iron Express (I don’t think it’s a hair styling class), and the class I’d come for, Body Shred. The room was large, but dingy and covered in cushy padded vinyl flooring (see above). Even the teacher was wearing 80s-style floral leggings. But she was welcoming, asked my name, and had prepared a fun, sweat-filled class for us. Apparently, it’s not just a catchy title, Body Shred, but a specific kind of circuit training that includes several sets of strength training, cardio, and abs. We were constantly in motion. It was an efficient 30 minutes well spent, with a wonderful 15 minute stretch segment afterward using foam rollers (that once again looked as though they were purchased many years ago).

After my surprisingly gratifying workout, I headed two deep stories down where the locker room is. There was plenty of room, but don’t expect Bliss personal care products or any freebies. I was really wishing I’d brought my own flip-flops as I tip-toed across the moldy tiles into the shower which had a totally exposed light bulb on the ceiling. Health code violation? But maybe I’m being too harsh. I’m getting spoiled by David Barton and Exhale. There were two hotel-style hair dryers and some body lotion which was really all I needed to get ready for work.

PROS: Great teacher and a quick, efficient workout with a wonderful stretch afterward.

CONS: Bring flip-flops, or better yet, shower at home. Locker room leaves much to be desired.

pablo fitness

And now I’ve written so much about one place that I claimed was nothing to write home about that I don’t have time to write as much about Pablo Fitness. As a part of my quest to try all the cycling studios in Manhattan, I ventured to Midtown East to try out their Interval Cycling class. The bikes were basic, with RPM meters attached, and it was clean and well-kept, complete with two bathrooms (that also had small showers) and a changing area with cubbies (not lockers). I found the workout a little on the easy side, but truthfully, I could have put more energy in. The teacher was peppy and the music was better than most, with more of a Latin vibe. If I didn’t have so many other snazzy cycling options closer to my apartment, I’d probably go back if only to have a ride with good music.

PROS: Good music with Latin vibe; friendly staff; clean space; decent burn

CONS: Older style bikes with limited metrics; nothing special about the ride and no upper body; no lockers

Speaking of music, I’ve been to so many classes with mediocre music, I’ve stop expecting to get into my workouts through the music, but the class I took this morning at FlyWheel had the BEST playlist ever. I was singing along to Janis Joplin and Cindy Lauper (which reveals something about my age). I’ll write more about the class in my soon-to-come Tour de Spin post. In the meantime, check out Danielle’s classes at FlyWheel.

Day 21: Bollywood Boogie with Booya Fitness

The blizzard was a bust, and with my son home from school on a snow day I thought maybe I could call it a snow day from my 100 days of classes too. Then, my conscious got the best of me when I saw that Booya Fitness was offering a Blizzard of 2015 promo code on their Facebook page. Booya Fitness promises boutique workouts without the crowd. That’s because you’re at home watching videos of the classes. They charge $10 a month or $100 a year which seems reasonable, but I’ve only committed to my free first month so far.

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After registering, I clicked on the box that said “Dance (Ethnic),” because are people seriously using the word ethnic to describe things other than what they’re used to? I had a friend in college from Kentucky who called pizza and tacos “ethnic food.” Is Zumba “ethnic?” Yoga?

(FYI, the founder of Booya Fitness is Harvard Business grad Prita Kumar, also not a name I’d feel comfortable describing as ethnic.) Turns out this “Dance (Ethnic)” workout was a 30-minute video of the Bolly X workout which is also a studio class offered on ClassPass. It’s a lot like Zumba, Bollywood style. I’ve enjoyed Zumba workouts in the past, but usually feel like the girl in the back with two left feet. So this Booya Fitness chance to practice Bollywood dancing in the privacy of my own home was especially appealing. The only problem is, I live in NYC and my neighbors can see directly into my apartment, so I had an audience anyway.

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It was a fun way to sneak in a quick workout, and maybe after I practice 3 or 4 or 10 times, I’ll be able to stand at the front of the Bolly X line-up. In the meantime, I’ll keep dancing for my neighbors.

It would have been a decent workout too, a little on the easier side (I’m not one to complain), but I walked away from the video several times to get water or check my e-mail. I didn’t hit pause. Yes, I could have paused it. But, I didn’t. That’s why I go to in-person classes: lack of willpower without the mandate to save face. On-line college classes are the same. I’ll take a C in an on-line class, no sweat. Have a professor look me in the eye though, and I’m the one sitting in front, batting my eyelashes, and turning in all the extra credit.

PROS: Don’t have to leave your house; good filtering options; fun workout

CONS: No teacher feedback or personal attention; workout was on the easy side

If you have a friend who’ll come over and do it with you, or if you are that motivated, Booya Fitness offers more than “Dance (Ethnic).” They also have Yoga (with Zander Gladish), Pilates, HIIT, bootcamps, and circuit training to name a few, and you can filter workouts by your energy level, your goal, or the equipment you have available. It certainly comes in handy on snow days. Here’s a shout out to my NYC friends: if someone wants to come over and help me give it another shot, you can pick the class.

Or for those of you who are a little more adventurous, I’d also like to try this new Reggae/Dancehall fitness class: Brukwine.

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Day 18: A New Fav, BFX Studio!

Continuing my quest to visit every indoor cycling studio in Manhattan, I finally made it to BFX Studio in Chelsea. I woke up feeling slow after cocktails at another new fav, STATE Bar and Grill last night, but I pulled myself together and made it out the door by 8:15 AM to make the 9 AM class I’d reserved on ClassPass. (Must avoid racking up anymore of those $20 no-show fees!) Feeling quite proud of myself for my early departure and the will to brave both snow and rain, I soon found myself staring at the subway tunnel walls. News flash: incessantly checking the time on your phone does not cause the train to start moving.

I arrived2014_07_bfx-techs at 9:05, and the girls behind the front desk said they’d let me in, if I went in right away. But I really had to pee (nor did I feel like rushing). I explained my ClassPass plight and asked if there was anyway I could take a later class instead.  The smiling girl politely informed me that Class Pass was very nice in these situations, and she was sure I could call them and work something out.

Crestfallen at the thought of a phone call and no class for the day, I was quickly rescued by the studio’s manager who came over to help me figure something out. After perusing their schedule, I was able to find a spot in Juan’s 11:00 FusionRide and Build class. I am a changed woman.

Prior to today, I’ve been wondering why anyone would pay upwards of $500 a month for an indoor cycling studio or any type of boutique studio membership, only to be locked into that one studio when you can get ClassPass for $99 a month and go to several different studios. I know a community factor comes into play. On ClassPass you’re roaming rogue (which you can also do by purchasing packs of classes at various studios). But if you join a studio, you get to know the people there, feel part of the tribe, and have the added benefit of accountability for your fitness goals. I’m kinda into anonymity myself, which may be why I’ve stayed in NYC after growing up in a small town. However, after today I saw the appeal of joining. Well, joining BFX Studio anyway.

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BFX stands for Boutique Fitness Experience, and they fit the bill. Not only is the space exquisite– open, bright, they also offer a lot more than just indoor cycling classes including Barre, Pilates, HIIT-style conditioning classes, and personal training sessions. And, if you’re into metrics, they go the extra mile. While waiting for my class, I got a Fit3D body scan which collected 450 body-circumference measurements in 30 seconds. I’ll be going back to take a strength and endurance test as well. In addition to offering members an initial consultation where you are assessed and set goals, (which I’ve done at every traditional gym I’ve joined and then never referenced again), they have MyZone tracking belts that you can strap on during workouts on or off site. The workouts then get uploaded to their system so that you can track accurate data like heart rate and effort.

So that leads me back BFX-2to the mebfxclasstrics debate. From my rides in various classes, I’ve really enjoyed being able to let go and forget about the numbers at places like Cyc and another new studio I found on the UES called Crank Cycling Studios (look for classes with Amina who was top-notch). Non-metrics style classes depend on stellar instructors and carefully chosen music whereas riding with metrics often leaves me checking my watch along with my RPMs. Focusing on numbers is boring. And how the hell does the FlyWheel bike know how many calories I’ve burned when it doesn’t know how much I weigh or whether I’m a man or a woman?

But at BFX, they seem to look at numbers as a part of the whole picture, and they only offer you numbers if the ones they can give you are accurate. In the 30-minute ride I took as a part of my FusionRide and Build class, we were asked to look at RPMs and our effort number, and the instructor provided a nice balance of suggested specific-RPM numbers and general calls to increase our individual effort numbers. Hungover though I was, I pushed myself as hard as I could. The music was decent, but not terribly inspiring. The instructor was inspiring, and unlike the instructors at Barry’s Bootcamp, he managed to watch and correct our form during the Build portion of the class. (I’m sure the instructors at Barry’s are great, but the layout of the studio and number of people in each class there make it impossible for them to keep an eye on everyone.) I felt equally challenged, but much safer.

BFX has also convinced me that a studio that doesn’t provide you with cycling shoes can be worth it. One of my favorite things about picking classes is picking them based on how little stuff I’ll have to tote along with me after work and before meeting up with friends. BFX makes an it’s-more-safe-and-sanitary claim for not having having cycling shoes, and the cages on their bikes felt very secure. At least I don’t have to lug my own lock. They have the built-in lock lockers, plenty of them, and all those little goodies the best studios seem to have now, like complimentary hair ties, bobby pins, and mints. Needless to say, I’m sure I’ll be back for another class at BFX Studio soon.

img_0176PROS: Great class selection; accurate metrics; super friendly staff; amazing space with plenty of amenities, lots of personalized attention.

CONS: I wasn’t able to buy a pair of socks because they’re computer system was a little messed up. Maybe they’re still working out some kinks, but I wouldn’t hold that against them. Would be super expensive without ClassPass; have to bring your own shoes.

The Not-a-class Class: Yabla for Language Learning

My shin splints are on the mend thanks to ice, Arnica cream, and the couch. And while that ice is icing, I can take an on-line language learning class with Yabla. It’s not actually a class though. In fact if you’re a total beginner or someone looking for a traditional grammar-centered approach, it’s probably not what you’re looking for. Those of you who know me personally might think this is a shameless plug (I will admit I’m a friend of the founder). Think what you will, I use this website and count it as a class on the days that my body needs a rest from working out and/or something happens, like I get to class and realize that I forgot my sneakers. (This might have happened today. Yet another reason why classes in which you don’t need shoes– Yoga and Pilates or studios that provide you with shoes for indoor cycling are on my list of favs.)

fr_screenshot_enYabla is an on-line collection of videos with captions in the language you’re learning with an English translation (both of which can be hidden if you want). Its most helpful feature is the slow player which allows you to hear the audio clearly. Video segments are 3-5 minutes long so you can practice even when you only have a few free minutes. There are interviews, news shows, dramas, documentaries, and music from various Spanish speaking countries, all with authentic, native speakers. You can also play a listening game that tracks your points as well as review flashcards that are personally chosen for you based on words you’ve clicked on or looked up.

I first started using it as a beginner before I went on a trip to Spain 10 years ago. The music videos (especially the ones that had repetitive lyrics or Juanes) were my favorites. Yabla paired with a beginner’s book for learning Spanish had me on my way to a basic conversation. I’ve since taken several classroom classes and then private lessons while I lived in Argentina. Now that I’m more conversant, I still use Yabla Spanish to practice because it’s a fun way to improve my vocabulary and catch up on current events and music. I’m also now starting to use Yabla French in hopes of a trip to Paris, although I’d settle for Montreal too. I tried out a site called The Mimic Method for French which was amazing for learning pronunciation, especially since French spelling is so whacky.

Yabla (which comes in Spanish, French, German, Italian, and Mandarin flavors) will run you about $10 a month or $100 a year, but with more and more research pointing out the benefits of learning a language (here’s on of my favorites) besides not looking like a stupid American when you travel, it seems worth it to me. It’s also a lot more fun than some of the free sites out there like DuoLingo which makes me feel like a grade school kid earning stars and getting nowhere fast, and it’s way less expensive than something like Rosetta Stone that makes impossible promises about language learning. The bottom line is that learning a language as an adult is REALLY, REALLY hard. The only real way to learn is to go total immersion. You might as well have fun and get to watch some cool videos on Yabla which is pretty close to immersion, in the meantime.

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