‘Sweatworking’ and social fitness are increasingly popular, and many say that working out is the new going out. But is it really? Are people actually forming communities and relationships around fitness?
I took a trip to New York City, the mecca of boutique fitness, to find out. In two days, I danced, sprinted, boxed, and burpeed my way through the city’s finest fitness studios to get a taste of their cultures. Here’s what I discovered.
Raving away at 305 Fitness
My experiment started at 7 a.m. with a class described as ‘rave-meets-workout.’ I walked into the 305 Fitness studio, which was decked out with vibrant pink-tinted lights, pop art lips on the walls, and 90’s pop songs bumping in the background.
The woman at the front desk greeted me with a big smile. I walked into a packed room of more than 20 young women stretching and chatting, a live DJ, and an enthusiastic instructor, J.J., who I later learned has appeared in several Hollywood movies.
The class included lots of jumping and dancing, a toning section with dumbbells, ending with a full-body stretch.
The Culture: The atmosphere is fun, free, and judgement-free. Everyone went full out for all of the dance moves without hesitation. Even when the choreography got difficult or more sensual, the women in the class would cheer, sing along, and shake it without second thought.
The People: The demographic of my class was almost completely women in their 20’s. Some came with a friend or two, and others flew solo like me. Whether you had a buddy or not, it didn’t matter when the music and dancing started. The class is suitable for all fitness levels, but some modifications may be necessary for beginners.
Custom punches at Shadowbox
My second stop was Shadowbox. The beachy boxing studio had a cafe and a juice bar, a long wood high-top table for people to socialize or do work, and a boxing ring in the middle that’s used for private lessons. Towards the back was the group fitness room, which had a club-like feel. The room was dark with light blue lights, and heavy bags were hanging from the ceiling.
Ray, the instructor, came to introduce himself and show me the ropes. Throughout the 45-minute class of punch combos, bodyweight strength moves, and heavy bag work, Ray stopped by my station to motivate and cheer me on.
The Culture: Shadowbox is high-energy, individualized, and intense. The regulars knew Ray on a personal level, which was great to see. Ray called me by name the whole class, which I appreciated. The laid-back cafe encourages people to stick around after class or even hang out on a rest day. This creates a community feel and a relaxed atmosphere.
The people: My class was pretty varied as far as age, abilities, and gender are concerned. The workout is scalable to whatever fitness level you’re at. Boxing experience helps, but isn’t necessary.
Working out those kinks at Wellvyl
I went to a yoga class that focused on working out the kinks in your life – and yes, there were sexual undertones. The night started with about 20 of us sitting around in a circle. We talked with a partner about life stressors and areas of our bodies that were tense. We then all claimed a ‘kinky’ yoga name for the rest of the night. Mine was Voluptuous Reverse Triangle. I was pretty impressed with my creativity.
Our yoga teacher, Emily Nachazel, led us through a 20-minute yoga sequence followed by partner stretching and poses. The mood there was light-hearted and playful. We finished up with a quick debrief, healthy snacks, and time to mingle with each other.
The Culture: Wellvyl does a great job of getting you out of your comfort zone. It’s not every day you get thrown into a room with strangers, embody a sexy yoga name, and do partner poses. The environment is outgoing and supportive, which helps to alleviate any awkwardness.
The People: Health-conscious men and women in their 20’s and early 30’s. I would highly recommend Wellvyl events to folks who are either new to NYC or would like to expand their friend group.
Part of a sports team at Tone House
The final stop on my NYC fitness tour was Tone House, an extreme, athletic-based group fitness studio that’s bringing sports conditioning to the mainstream. Their classes are not for the faint of heart. As I walked into the dim room with red lights, I saw all of the horrifying equipment that brought me back to my soccer preseason days.
First, everyone circled up and did a team cheer. We then went through 50 minutes of sprints, burpees, agility drills, and core work that left me absolutely wiped. I’m in pretty good shape, but this class was humbling. The team atmosphere was encouraging; everyone cheered, congratulated one another, and acted like we were on the same sports team.
The Culture: Tone House treats you like an athlete; team is everything. The classes open and close with a group cheer, and everyone motivates one another throughout the session. The regulars have formed a tight bond, but they are also welcoming to newcomers. The atmosphere is competitive, intense, and supportive all at the same time.
The People: This class is best suited for athletes who are looking for a grueling workout and team-like atmosphere. The class I took was made up of NYU soccer athletes, competitive runners, and other extremely fit people.
So is working out the new going out?
For New York City, it definitely is. The boutique fitness culture is fostering community-focused venues that allow people of all fitness levels to make new friends, have fun, and get fit at the same time.
Whether you’re just starting a workout regime, are a seasoned athlete, or just looking for something fun to do on the weekends, there’s a fitness class for you.