It’s like Netflix for exercise. So… the opposite of Netflix.
A friend recently introduced me to a service called ClassPass, which allows you to take a seemingly-unlimited number of exercise classes for $99 a month. There’s no cap on how many classes you can take overall, however, you can only take three per studio in a given month. The service isn’t available everywhere (yet?), but it’s in a lot of major cities: NYC, LA, San Francisco, Boston, Philly, Austin, Washington DC, Seattle, Chicago, Atlanta, Miami, Charlotte, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Portland (OR), San Diego, Vegas, Raleigh, Baltimore, Tampa, Orlando, Nashville, St. Louis, and Kansas City. It appears that you can sign up for a class starting seven days in advance.
If you’ve ever looked at the costs of joining a gym and taking classes, especially in an expensive city like New York, this is a decent deal. I’ve been taking yoga for several months now, at an amazing studio that’s specifically for fat people, and I adore it, but it’s pretty spendy for only one class per week and I’d like to do more than just yoga. So I signed up for ClassPass, downloaded the iPhone app, and starting shopping for workouts. (Mental note: also start shopping for more sports bras.)
One of my biggest fears when looking for new ways to move is the rampant fatphobia in the fitness community — hence why I was willing to shell out more than I can afford for a small number of yoga classes at a studio where I was guaranteed not to face that. But, like I said, I want more than just yoga and needed a little financial break. So I decided to start off with classes that played to my strength: swimming and dancing.
My first class was Aqua Zumba. I’d never done any form of Zumba before, and my only experience with aquatic aerobics is what my mom used to teach when I was in middle school, which was geared toward an older age bracket. But I am a good swimmer, I have dance experience, and I love any activity that puts me in the water, so I had to try it out.
The place itself was a little hard to find — tucked away behind a swanky hotel on the Upper East Side, I walked by it twice before I found the door. From there, I checked in at the front desk and was directed to the locker room and pool area. The facility was nice, as was the class itself. The instructor knew it was my first time, and she was very good about demonstrating and directing so I didn’t miss too many moves. There was no nonsense about beach bodies or fat burning or anything else that would have made me uncomfortable. I had a great time, and would have immediately signed up for the following week’s class, except it was full. Bummer. I was able to get it later, on a different day of the week, though.
I had signed up for a barre class two days later, but I was still really sore from the Aqua Zumba, so I canceled. In hindsight, I probably could have pulled it off, but you had to cancel 24 hours in advance or you’re charged a $20 fee (note: this has since been changed to 12 hours).
It was a week before I got to another class. The Aqua Zumba class was full, and I couldn’t do pole dancing because my wrist was bothering me, but I finally got to a Crunch class called Aerobics with an Attitude. It was basically a modernized version of the aerobics classes of the ’80s and ’90s that my mom used to teach, so there was a nice dose of nostalgia. You know, to distract me from the feeling that I was going to die. However, I’m not convinced it was right for me as a long-term regular class.
I was also able to try out some places that would be prohibitively expensive otherwise. My mother had gone to an aquatic spinning class a few months ago, and I’ve wanted to try it, but could never afford to. They’re part of ClassPass, though, so I tried to do it — but had several failed attempts where the classes fill up almost instantly. But I hit some good fortune during spring break and was able to get into a class that met when I would normally be working. I also took a regular spin class on dry land though FlyWheel, which I would have liked a lot if I’d adjusted the bike seat to the right height (and maybe brought along a gel cover).
After nearly a month of using the service, I’m pretty happy with it. If you like variety in your workout routines, it’s definitely a good thing to try — and if you just work out twice a week it brings the per-class cost to a reasonable amount. However, if you’re the kind of person who needs a regular routine, it’s probably not the best choice long-term, as it can be hit-or-miss what classes you get into and there’s a cap on the number of times you can go to a given studio. But as someone who gets bored, it works, and I plan to continue my membership.
Pros: You get to try a bunch of different kinds of classes, if you don’t like a place you never have to go back, it’s a flat fee with a clear cancellation policy, it’s affordable when compared to most gym memberships and per-class costs, you can go as much or as little as you like, and there’s a class to take at almost any time on any day.
Cons: There’s no guarantee you’ll get into the same classes regularly, you can only take three classes at one studio per month, some classes don’t have great descriptions so you don’t always know what you’re getting into, you can only sign up one week in advance so it can be hard to plan ahead, and (for me) guilt that you’re not going to enough classes to truly get your money’s worth.