From amped-up rowing classes and bad-ass ballet boot camps to nightclub-inspired cardio classes and beyond, there are more choices than ever for how you want to get your best body ever. These hot fitness spots may have flashy lights and tricked-out studios, but underneath it all lies truly effective fitness methods and healthy psychological foundations.
There’s a reason we’re all willing to shell out good money every month to experience these cult-like classes. So we got the brilliant instructors behind the madness to shed some light on what truly makes these workouts go ’round. And although we’re not suggesting you break up with your studio membership, you can take these tips and apply them almost anywhere. And for more fresh ways to shed the extra layer, check out these 35 Fun Ways to Lose Weight!
Celebrate the Small Wins
“We celebrate every little win in class, whether it is making it though that 90-second plank or holding on to your thigh work as your legs start to quiver,” says Shalisa Pouw, senior master teacher trainer at Pure Barre. “With each accomplishment, you are able to get one step closer to your fitness goals, and you realize more and more that you are becoming stronger than you ever thought you could be. I think the beauty of that feeling and that motto is that you can carry it with you outside of the Pure Barre studio and let it help you through any obstacle life throws your way.”
Combine Small Movements with Higher Reps
“In [a barre class], you are getting a full body workout while toning and strengthening your muscles from head to toe. We use small movements and isometric contractions that allow you to do more reps, build endurance, and fatigue your muscles in a different way than some of the more high-impact workouts,” says Pouw.
Don’t Confuse Low Impact With Low Intensity
“The workout is low impact, so there is no added strain on your ligaments and tendons, giving you less risk of injury and more longevity with the technique. However, there is a big difference between low impact and low intensity. The burning and shaking that happens when you are doing multiple reps and holding position brings the intensity level way up,” says Pouw.
Connect With a Healthy Motto
“One of my favorite things that you will often hear in a Pure Barre class is ‘you are stronger than you think.’ Pure Barre is a challenging workout that can humble even the toughest athlete, but it is also a workout that can be done by people of all ages, sizes, and fitness levels,” says Pouw. For other mottos to try out, don’t miss these 12 Inspiring Yoga Mantras to Change Your Life.
Use Mindfulness to Take Your Workout to the Next Level
“Tap into the mind-body connection that you get with [a barre class]. It is sometimes the only chance you get to really listen to your body and start to understand it. Once you do that, you can learn how to intensify each position by finding your best form and using the right muscles to do each exercise. You would be amazed by how much more you will get out of your workout just by paying a little extra attention,” says Pouw.
If You Want to Look Like a Ballerina, Workout Like One
“Pure Barre Platform is our newest class offering that includes the full body workout that you get in the studio but has the added element of cardio. It is great for clients who are looking for a low-impact way to burn extra calories and speed up metabolism while revealing that long, lean dancer body,” says Pouw.
“I try to eat an hour or two before class, and I shoot for a mixture of complex carbs and protein. While a lot of people shy away from carbs, I think that choosing the right kind of carbs is really important for anyone who is active and getting ready for an intense workout. Slowly digested, complex carbs deliver a sustained blood sugar release and are the best way to keep you energized through your workout. I usually work out in the morning, so I opt for a bowl of oatmeal with blueberries and half a tablespoon of almond butter or a sprouted wheat toast with almond butter and banana slices,” says Pouw.
Harness Your Natural Body Weight
“The group classes I teach tend to be high-intensity interval training, often with nothing more than body weight,” says Adam Rosante, C9 Champion brand ambassador, trainer, and Founder of The People’s Bootcamp in NYC. “The high-intensity component is what delivers results—fast. Plus it allows you to get a great workout in a shorter amount of time.” For more ways to get the body you’ve always wanted, don’t miss these 40 Tips That’ll Double Your Weight Loss.
Whole Foods Are One of Your Greatest Recovery Tools
“I fuel my body with whole foods: Lean proteins and veggies at every meal, starchy carbs on workout days for additional energy, and at least half my body weight in ounces of water every day,” says Rosante.
Rest is Key to Greater Results
“Beyond [refueling with the right foods], my recovery comes from seven to nine hours of great sleep every night, as well as foam rolling, sauna and an occasional massage. You have to remember that when you’re working out, you’re not building muscle; you’re tearing it down. It’s in the periods of rest and recovery that it gets stronger,” says Rosante.
Aim for Progress, Not Perfection
“Focus on making progress over attaining perfection. Small steps taken consistently are the key to success,” says Rosante. Nothing truly great was ever built in a day. By concentrating on the journey, you’ll be able to adhere to your goals better and achieve those results you’ve been longing for.”
High-Energy Dance Classes
Get Up and Dance
“Dancing can improve muscle tone, strength, and endurance,” says Maria Macsay, Dancer, Yoga Teacher, and 305 Fitness Instructor. “It is also an effective way to connect the mind and body. It brings us into the present moment, which can increase joy and body appreciation. For many people, dance is enjoyable, and that’s really much more important than choosing a workout based on calorie burning. When we dread a workout, we go into stress response, which in the long run as a negative effect on our health.”
Set Good Intentions and Travel With Them
“I encourage clients to use class as a place to set an intention for the day, or even the week, that they can then build on outside of class. I also find that the challenging moments in class offer clients the opportunity to prove to themselves that they are more capable than they might think,” says Macsay.
Seek Out Good Vibes
“The movement, the music and the lights are all instant mood enhancers, and I would add that the sense of community at ((305)) elevates everyone’s energy. It is so powerful to show up with a group of people who have the same interests. It allows us human beings to feel like we are a part of something, to remember that we are supported, and that we are not alone. It’s easy to forget these things in the fast-paced world we live in,” says Macsay.
Re-Think Your Motivation
“I’ve found that a lot of the fitness world promotes the idea that skinnier is happier or muscular is better,” says Macsay. “There are plenty of skinny people who aren’t happy and plenty of people who aren’t fitness models but are some of the happiest people. If the motivation behind adopting a fitness regimen is born out of self-hate and a desire to fix oneself, well, that’s a painful experience and many of us get caught in that frame of mind. In my opinion, the way to stick to a fitness regimen is to do movement you actually enjoy. The calories burned are completely insignificant. What do you love to do? What feels good on your body? What do you look forward to? What challenges you in a way that excites you? That’s the workout for you and that’s the one you’ll stick to!”
Turn to Exercise for Stress Relief
“[The greatest results I notice from regular class-goers] is stress relief and enhanced mood. Some days aren’t very fun so getting to leave that outside the door by getting lost in dance-cardio moves to heart-thumping music is cathartic; it’s like therapy. You get to let go of [what’s bothering you] or at least get to move out of a mentally exhausting place into a state of physical connection, expressivity, and just plain ol’ fun,” says Macsay. For even more ways to relax and let go, don’t miss these 32 Foods That Turn Off Stress Hormones.
Use Your Breath Throughout the Day
“Yoga gives us an opportunity to slow down and connect to our breath. Breath work, or even just becoming aware of the breath a few times throughout the day, is a simple and powerful way of practicing mindfulness to improve health. You can do this when standing in line, when on the train, or while walking down the street. Simply notice how you are breathing and where in the body the breath is moving from. By bringing awareness to your breath, you are bringing awareness to your body and therefore the moment, where life is actually happening,” says Macsay.
Balance High-Intensity Workouts with More Restorative Practices Like Yoga
“HIIT workouts can be stressful to the nervous system, so it’s important to balance them with some type of slow, mindful movement. In addition, many HIIT workouts develop shorter and tighter muscles, whereas yoga lengthens the muscles and brings more space to our joints, making it great for injury prevention,” says Macsay.
“Meditation can seem intimidating, but it’s also a simple and effective tool when done 5 to 10 mins per day,” says Macsay. Meditation has been touted with lowering blood pressure, reducing anxiety, and strengthening immunity.
Turn Off the TV
“People often work out while reading or watching TV, but if you are one unit and you mentally check out of your body, do you really think you are going to get the results you are after? Mind over matter isn’t just a clever slogan—there’s a lot of scientific evidence showing that where the mind goes, the body follows. Not to mention, when you are checked out, you are unable to notice the signals your body is sending you which can lead to injury when working out,” says Macsay.
When in Doubt, Plank
“I love plank pose because it’s great for building core strength and stabilizing the torso. Back problems are usually a result of a weak core, so this is a staple move [that I recommend to almost everyone],” says Macsay. Bonus: The front plank is one of the 7 Best Ab Moves for Women!
Reap the Benefits of Downward Dog
“Downward-Facing Dog is a winner on so many levels. It stretches and strengthens the major muscles of the legs, it strengthens and stabilizes the shoulder girdle, and it also relieves tension in both the neck and low back. And as if that wasn’t good enough, it strengthens the core and the wrists, too,” says Macsay.
Don’t Let Injuries Sideline You For Good
“Whether we’re working on the rower or on the floor, all levels can do City Row, which is really nice,” says Hollis Lotharius, Certified Personal Trainer and Instructor at City Row. “We have young rowers, more advanced-aged rowers, and everyone in between. We also have a lot of people who have injuries or who are unable to run or ride anymore because of hips, knees, shoulder or back problems—but who are still able to row because it’s low impact.”
Warm Up First
“We always begin with a warm-up on the floor that helps with mobility, opens up our hips, and loosens up our joints. That way, when we continue to progress, we’re progressing in a safe and effective fashion,” says Hollis. “We then start to implement intervals, and all of a sudden you’ll be on the rower for 90 seconds doing a hard push, getting breathless; shortly after, you’ll be on the floor doing squats and lunges or working on your abs or upper body by utilizing the weights, which is where we bring that strength portion in. Every class is always a full-body workout.”
Focus on Variety
“The variety of movements in the class allows you to get that high heart rate, and then catch your breath, recover, flush out that lactic acid and prepare to work hard again. Also, incorporating strength training helps develop your muscular system, which will help you become a better, stronger rower. Rowing is 60 percent leg driven, so we want to help build your leg muscles, and we do that with the weights. It’s 20 percent core, so we work on our abdominal muscles, including the core and the back of the body. It’s also 20 percent upper body, so we work on our upper-body strength with the weights as well. Everything we do on the floor helps support you on the rower,” says Hollis.
Hydrate Well Before You Step Foot in the Studio
“It’s important to stay hydrated and to continue to drink water throughout the day rather than guzzling a whole bunch of water before your workout—because then all you want to do is get up and go pee,” says Hollis. Hydrate well and often throughout the day to prepare your body for the most effective workout possible, with minimal interruptions. If you’re not a fan of plain H20, make a batch of fruit-infused detox water.
Avoid Too Many Fats Shortly After Exercise
“Complex carbohydrates are going to be incredibly important to restore your glycogen post-workout and to help rebuild your muscle. You only need a couple hundred calories to replenish your glycogen stores, which should be predominantly carbs and a little lean protein. A couple hours later you can have a nice big meal incorporating your healthy fats. If you have too much fat post workout, it will actually slow the absorption of the nutrients your body needs [for recovery],” says Hollis. For more on what you munch after you leave the gym, dig into our report, 20 Trainers Reveal What They Eat After a Workout.
Allow Your Body and Mind Time to Adjust
“[When trying something new like City Row], commit to at least three classes. Rowing is so different from everything else we’ve done growing up, unless you’ve had the opportunity to row as a youngster. Some people who have excellent mind-muscle connection are able to connect to the stroke really well and it clicks immediately, while others may not have that relationship and may struggle a little more in the beginning. I tell all first-timers to be patient and be kind to yourself. This is something new; you didn’t learn how to walk in one day, you didn’t learn how to run or ride a bike in one day, so the same thing applies here,” says Hollis.
Find a Supportive Community
“Everybody at City Row—all fitness levels, all ages—can workout in the same space together. The workout is scalable, and if anyone needs to make weight adjustments or modify a pushup they can—there’s no judgment here. We’re all in there together and we’re all working as hard as we can go, and that’s really remarkable,” says Hollis.
Listen to Your Body
“Rowing is one of those sports that you can make as easy or as challenging as you want. Some days you’re well rested, you’re well hydrated, you’ve eaten well and you can come in and work really well. Other days you don’t sleep as well or you’re dehydrated and your body’s not working as efficiently as it could be and you’re just working to get through that workout, so it’s [important to listen to your body, but also know that you have the ability to modify accordingly],” says Hollis. Speaking of listening to your body, make sure you know about these 21 Signs You Should Change Your Diet!