- More and more people are opting to take fitness classes rather than simply working out in the gym by themselves
- Experts say that regular fitness classes, sleep and a healthy diet take just a few weeks to make a real difference to your appearance and well-being
- FEMAIL tried some of the latest classes on offer that claim to target all of the key areas of the body without forcing you to slog it out solo in a gym
Miranda Bryant For Dailymail.com
09:24 EST, 15 July 2016
09:26 EST, 15 July 2016
Summer may officially be here but for those whose pre-vacation fitness regimes have failed to get off the ground it is not too late to get started.
Experts claim regular fitness classes, combined with sleep and a healthy diet, take just a few weeks to make a noticeable difference – especially if it is fun. Scientific research has found that people exercise harder when they are with others – even in the form of a virtual fitness buddy, according to the a study by Kansas State University.
FEMAIL tested out some of the latest classes on offer in the US – from dancing in candlelight, to bedroom lunging, spiritual cycling and brain workouts – that claim to get all the key areas toned up for summer without even having to step into a gym.
Holiday: Summer is officially here but it is not too late to get started on a pre-vacation fitness regime. KGBody founder Katherine Greiner, pictured center with A Bikini A Day’s Tash Oakley, left, and Devin Brugman, right
Motivated: Experts, including Katherine, pictured center left and right, claim regular fitness classes, combined with sleep and a healthy diet, take just a few weeks to make a noticeable difference – especially if it is fun
WHAT IS IT? A 55-minute class combining dance, cardio and aerobics with an entire section dedicated to focused leg-work. Class founder Katherine Greiner describes her signature class as ‘dance-letic’ and ‘yoga-informed’. ‘It’s awesome because it moves your body in every single way,’ she says.
BURN FACTOR: Depends on the person’s weight and fitness levels but roughly 200-400 calories, plus an increased metabolism and calories burn for 24 hours after class.
WHERE? YG Studios, New York, but there are plans to launch online later this year.
PRICE: $28 for one 55-minute class
THE EXPERIENCE (tested by NY Senior Femail Reporter Miranda Bryant): Katherine does not waste any time getting down to business. The class, which takes place in a high-ceilinged candlelit room at YG Studios in Manhattan, kicks off with a short warm-up before launching into upbeat high energy dance moves.
There are no long sequences or complicated choreography, so anybody with a little dance or aerobics experience should not have trouble keeping up, but it does require 100 per cent concentration at all times and it’s physically demanding.
Katherine switches up songs and the choreography constantly so there is no time to get bored and letting your mind drift means getting left behind.
Unlike plain aerobics, the choreography actually looks nice which helped me feel a sense of achievement and like I was working towards mastering something, but it’s not difficult to learn.
I particularly enjoy a dancehall sequence Katherine teaches us and another dance that involved doing lots of turns.
After six songs – she uses dance/top 40 hits and remixes – I am visibly red, sweaty and endorphin-filled before she moves on to arm work.
Using three-pound weights she guides us through highly targeted exercises to tone the arms, then core, before a nine-to-ten minute session entirely devoted to the legs which is agony but I can feel it working – especially in my glutes. The class ends with a short relaxation.
The class is better than the gym because it is ‘super motivating’, says Katherine, because people put more into their workout when they are ‘motivated and having fun’.
Group fitness: FEMAIL tested out some of the latest classes on offer, including KGBody, pictured, that claim to get all the key areas toned up for summer without even having to step into a gym
Instant results: Katherine, pictured, said students will ‘immediately feel the difference’ after her class which features dancing, toning and arm weights
DOES IT WORK? Katherine says I should ‘immediately feel the difference’ – and I really do. The class leaves me feeling happy and energized and my glutes and thighs are still burning days later – so I know it had some impact. I also notice a tiny bit of definition in my arms.
But to see more dramatic changes, Katherine recommends doing it three times a week. First she says people will notice the difference in their arms – especially shoulders and upper arms – and then in their outer thighs which she says will ‘start to go in and their butt starts to lift’.
The stomach, she says, takes three-to-four weeks to show changes but warns: ‘Abs are truly made in the kitchen’. She said as well as working out, a healthy balanced diet is the route to a ‘tight small waist’. She recommends ‘clean whole foods’, avoiding processed foods and sugar and trying to eat organic.
The other key ingredient to a strong and lean body is sleep and hydration, she says: ‘[You] need to get eight hours of sleep. Eight is great but at least seven.
‘You can’t make up sleep once you’ve lost it.’
CLASS: NW Method by Nicole Winhoffer
WHAT IS IT? A 55-minute workout class that includes 35 minutes of full-body toning, ten minutes of intense cardio and then ten minutes of choreography and dance.
NW Method creator Nicole Winhoffer says of her class: ‘Accessing the meridians used in acupuncture, clients focus on the three major problem areas of the body: behind the arms, the waist, and the buttocks.
‘The 55-minute workout works every muscle in the body and done on beat of each unique song. The purpose is to have the most time effective challenging workout that’s fun, shocks the body, and opens the mind to connect with your personal power.
‘NW Method blends art, science, music and sports to calm the mind, transform the body, and free the soul.’
A bit of everything: New Yorker Nicole Winhoffer’s NW Method workout classes combine intense toning, cardio and choreography
Squad goals: The New York-based classes take place throughout the week at the Standard High Line and in the studios at 149 Christopher Street but those not based in the city can stream Nicole’s workouts online
BURN FACTOR: Depending on your height, weight and metabolism, you can burn anywhere between 600 and 1,000 calories in one 55-minute class.
WHERE? The New York-based classes take place throughout the week at both The Standard High Line and in the studios at 149 Christopher Street. But for those not based in the city, you can also stream Nicole’s workouts online.
PRICE: $35 per class, $80-per-month streaming subscription
THE EXPERIENCE (tested by US Femail Editor Charlie Lankston): When I walked into my first NW Method class, the first thing I noticed was the incredibly high temperature in the room; before I had even stretched a single muscle I started working up a sweat.
But while I assumed that there was simply an issue with the air conditioning – ‘They’re probably working on fixing it right now!’ – I was quickly informed by a regular attendee that the tropical environment was all part and parcel of the NW Method experience.
‘Nicole really likes you to sweat,’ I was told. Consider that mission accomplished.
As soon as the actual workout began, however, all concerns about my sweaty brow and damp upper lip vanished.
Before starting the class, Nicole walked around the room introducing herself to all of the newcomers, and promising us ‘the best workout of your whole life’, before quickly cranking up some Beyonce and launching into a series of arm exercises that, to me, looked more like intricate dance routines than workout moves.
After a few minutes of arms, it was on to the full-body toning; during this portion you do 30 reps of each exercise, which – I won’t lie – involve some rather bizarre positions and moves that made me feel a bit like a dog cocking its leg on a hydrant.
But at that moment I was just so focused on making it through the 35-minute toning portion of the class without falling over or fainting that I didn’t really care at all about my general appearance – which is a good thing, because the sweat levels had become so extreme at this point, I probably looked worse than I ever have.
Ironically, however, it felt pretty darn amazing to make it through all of that tough toning work, and by the time we reached the end of the abs workout, I was about ready to cry with joy that I had survived.
Feeling good inside and out: Nicole says of the NW Method that it ‘blends art, science, music and sports to calm the mind, transform the body, and free the soul’
One of a kind: The workout guru describes herself as a ‘unicorn of the fitness world’
Thankfully, there was no time for me to fall into a sobbing pile on the floor – which I admit would have been a bit embarrassing – because within seconds of finishing the ab work, Nicole and her fellow trainer Emily were up and at ’em, dancing around the room, urging everyone around them to join in and get moving.
Consider yourself uncoordinated and totally lacking in rhythm? Me too. But surprisingly I wasn’t really that bothered by how much of a flailing mess I looked – Nicole and Emily cheered everyone on through the whole routine and actually made me feel pretty darn great, no matter how much of a disaster I actually looked.
The class – which, as my sore muscles the next morning confirmed, is one of the hardest, but most rewarding workouts I’ve ever done – ended with a few words of wisdom and motivation from Nicole, who urged everyone to take a few minutes to themselves, focus on their own thoughts and then, finally, to ‘love yourselves’.
I won’t lie and pretend that her words made the unbearable stiffness any less painful the following day, but it certainly made me feel pretty darn positive in the moment.
DOES IT WORK? As someone who has never really been able to stick to motivate myself in the gym, or stick to a regimented workout routine, these classes are perfect.
The workout is different every time I go (but be warned, that doesn’t mean it ever gets easier!) and that really helps to keep me interested, and motivates me to keep going back.
They are without a doubt some of the toughest classes I’ve ever done – and I won’t lie, upon leaving class, I tend to be sweatier than I’ve ever been in my entire life. We’re talking a full drenching here…
But that just adds to my overall feeling of accomplishment at the end of each session, to be honest – yes I’m usually sore and exhausted after bending my body into all manner of weird toning positions, but that doesn’t take away from the ‘hurrah I worked my butt off and survived!’ feeling that I end up with each and every time.
I also find the dancing portion at the end of the classes so much fun, despite my total lack of coordination, and that serves as the perfect motivation to get me through the 35 minutes of toning at the start.
For me, the classes are also about so much more than simply toning up and getting in shape, in fact I’d say they’re just as much about goodness for the mind as they are the body.
Nicole and her trainers always have such a positive attitude, which means I always walk out of the workouts with a smile on my face, even if I’ve had a really rough day, or found the toning particularly painful, which I still do – even six months after my very first class.
CLASS: Tone House
WHAT IS IT? The classes are focused around ‘movement training’, with participants being put through a series of different ‘explosive and non-explosive’ exercises that are combined with resistance and velocity training as well as active recovery periods to keep the heart rate up throughout the session.
‘Movement training focuses on the utilization of more muscle groups, or the entire body, which expends more energy and results in more effective and efficient workout sessions rather than isolating specific muscles or exercising in a stationary spot,’ the Tone House website explains.
‘Training movements is critical to making any physical and mental strides, from burning more calories, improving overall strength, speed, agility, and endurance, to gaining more lean muscle, core strength, balance, and flexibility.’
Get moving: Tone House, a New York-based workout, focuses on ‘movement training’, putting its clients through a series of tough ‘explosive and non-explosive’ exercises
All over: ‘Movement training focuses on the utilization of more muscle groups, which expends more energy and results in more effective and efficient workout sessions,’ the Tone House website explains
Group activity: Julie Stein, who tested the classes, said that she loved the support she got from other participants throughout the session
BURN FACTOR: Trainers estimate you burn between 800 and 1,000 calories per class.
WHERE? Their 2,000 square foot studio is based in New York.
PRICE: $40 for single class pass, or other deals include $185 for five classes
THE EXPERIENCE (tested by US Moderator Julie Stein): Is your workout comfortable? Feel as if you have plateau-ed in your daily routine? If so, then you are ready for the TH crew.
The tag line to Tone House is ‘unleash your inner athlete’ which leads to visions of grandeur and glory. The reality is more of sweating, grunting and pushing through to finish the drill.
It can be humbling, especially if your level of fitness is not at peak levels (‘Check your ego’ is written on the door) but everyone is extremely supportive and the high-fives I received after reaching the finish line makes up for any lack of perfection in my performance.
I’m nervous about going back but more afraid of what will happen to my fitness levels if I don’t go.
DOES IT WORK? Tone House is a high intensity, no-nonsense workout and does not pretend to be anything else.
I want quicker recovery time in my SoulCycle classes and to be less winded from the drills that I do in bootcamp classes, and going to Tone House helped me to recover faster after every consecutive week.
I admit I haven’t gone since I pulled a muscle in my back recently, but after consulting with my other trainer, who says that I am indeed strong enough for the routine (I just need to ‘warm-up properly’ first), I’m excited to give it another go as I don’t ever want to plateau.
CLASS: Akin’s Army
WHAT IS IT? Model-turned-fitness trainer Akin Akman’s bootcamp sessions, which he runs in between teaching regular SoulCycle classes, which many of his most dedicated clients regularly attend.
Classes are aimed at focusing on different areas of the body, and on different skills and exercises, with sessions including ‘killer legs and abs’, ‘full body’, and ‘agility’.
Expect to try out a wide variety of tough exercises, from bear crawls to handstands.
BURN FACTOR: It is difficult to give a real estimate as it depends on your weight, height and your workout rate during the class.
WHERE? Classes are held throughout the week at Bandier’s Studio B in New York.
PRICE: $34 per class
THE EXPERIENCE (tested by Julie): If you want a challenging workout that trains the body and mind yet still manages to be fun, take Akin Akman’s bootcamps and spin classes.
Akin helps us push past our limits with a positive mental philosophy and a hot music playlist. (‘You have all the power – you always did’ or ‘get out of your head’ are some of my favorite quotes.)
As a member of ‘Akin’s Army’, you have the opportunity to work out with an amazing group of people that support and move you forward.
All the way up! Fitness trainer Akin Akman’s bootcamp sessions see participants put through a series of tough exercises, from handstands to bear crawls
Toughen up: Akin’s most devoted group of clients are known as ‘Akin’s Army’, and many of them regularly attend his SoulCycle classes as well as his Bandier bootcamp sessions
Although it’s not uncommon to see recognizable faces like former Bravo Princesses of Long Island cast member/SALIDO co-founder Casey Cohen, model Nina Agdal, Jake Gyllanhal and David Beckham, the only star that matters is on the podium.
I love every class as it is constantly changing and evolving – we set goals and move on to the next one. This is for life.
DOES IT WORK? Working out with Akin has opened me up to a whole new world of possibilities. The intensity of his routines combined with the positive mental philosophy of ‘no limits’ has allowed me to not fear pushing further.
My cardio levels have gone up and I am definitely stronger. (Before working out with Akin I never would have attempted to hit the treadmill at Barry’s Bootcamp or take a Tone House class.)
It’s definitely a process as Akin continues to set the bar higher with his routines; ‘we never plateau’ is frequently mentioned in class. I look forward to continuing my fitness journey as I know it’s all on me to achieve my goals, outside of the gym as well as in class.
CLASS: Slay with K&K!
WHAT IS IT? Karena Dawn and Katrina Scott, the Los Angeles-based women behind the fitness lifestyle brand Tone It Up, sweating it out on the beach and screaming encouragement as they show viewers how to get toned physiques like theirs.
The 12-minute video, which is one of a number of their free YouTube workouts, goes through more than a dozen exercises in real-time, each to be done for 30 seconds each and designed to target every muscle group.
BURN FACTOR: They say they cannot put a figure on it but they promise it will ‘torch some serious calories’.
PRICE: Free, but there are also paid for packages such as their nutrition plan and Beach Babe Four premium workouts which can be bought for a total of $170.
Virtual trainers: Katrina Scott, pictured left, and Karena Dawn, pictured right, founders of Tone It Up, have created numerous online workouts that fans can do at home
Efficient: In Slay with K&K! Katrina and Karena demonstrate a high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workout that can be done in 12 minutes
THE EXPERIENCE (tested by Miranda): Filmed on a beach in Turks and Caicos, complete with waves crashing and passing boats, it definitely helps to get in the zone of being on a beach in a bikini. Meanwhile, abs-piration comes from the supremely fit and toned Karena and Katrina who demonstrate the exercises.
Starting off with step-touch and jumping jacks lures me into a sense of false confidence that the workout is going to be easy.
As it progresses, intensity builds and the exercises become more challenging, the intervals start to feel much longer than 30 seconds.
It helps to see that even Karena and Katrina are sweating – I ignore the fact that they are on a hot sunny beach while I’m in the cooler setting of my home – and they try to make it as fun as possible with words of encouragement at painful moments and the occasional water break. They also look like they’re having fun which can be helpful or annoying, depending on your mood.
Other exercises include a downward facing dog bent leg kick, plyometric lunges, jump squats and the particularly painful tricep push-up with a booty kick back and an abdominal exercise that involves lying on your back and touching your toe.
At this point, Katrina is there to motivate me. Well, sort of. She says: ‘I’m right there, I’m in your living room, I’m at the gym with you right now, I’m waiting for your hand. Let’s go, you’re working your abs, the tops of your thighs, your booty.’
She also offers slightly cheesy but helpful pearls of worldly wisdom. At one point she says: ‘The one thing i want you to remember, when you work out with us or on your own, is don’t listen to yourself, talk to yourself…tell yourself “I can do this right now”.’
Enthusiastic: Katrina, pictured, gives viewers words of encouragement in the video
Strong: Karena, pictured, demonstrates the moves in real-time with Katrina
The workout finishes off with some side crunches and mountain climbers leaving me sweating and out of breath.
DOES IT WORK? The best thing about their workouts – and the exercises in this video – is they really seem to know what they’re doing, which is confirmed in the after affects.
They claim this workout will leave you ‘sweating and feeling that post-workout glow all day long’. They also say it is ‘perfect for that summer bikini’ by getting the heart rate up and working on the arms, abs, legs and glutes.
While I don’t doubt its effectiveness, for me it’s not quite as fun as doing a class. Although the video is great first time, the repetition of hearing the same things again might put me off doing it very often. But they also have other free workouts on their YouTube channel that I could mix it up with.
Tone It Up recommend teaming up with an ‘accountability buddy’ – which they say could be a girlfriend, coworker or neighbor – to do it together and keep each other motivated. For those in need of added motivation and inspiration, there is also their Bikini Series challenge.
WHAT IS IT? If you have managed to avoid it until now, the cult spinning class with a spiritual edge claims to be the perfect workout for the mind, body and soul. Although bike-based, it also uses weights to tone the arms and upper-body and movement, set to very loud music in a dark candlelit studio.
BURN FACTOR: It is about a ‘feeling’, says SoulCycle instructor Eve Kessner, ‘not a number on a watch’ – but you can expect to burn between 500 and 700 calories per hour.
WHERE? SoulCycle has studios across the US – including Water Mill, Bridgehampton, East Hampton and Montauk in the Hamptons, which get packed during the Summer.
PRICE: $30-$40 depending on the city (or $20 for first time ride).
THE EXPERIENCE (tested by Miranda): Eve says the construction of classes is ‘a flow more than a formula’ that is personalized for each group, the location and the time of day. But it’s safe to say all classes involve a bike, music, weights, encouraging words and a lot of sweat.
Apart from the expense, for first-timers the seating arrangements are probably the biggest hurdle to get over in order to enjoy SoulCycle: book a bike at the back unless you’re feeling extremely confident and arrive early so that you can be helped onto your bike instead of stumbling around in the dark like I did.
Ride: SoulCycle classes, pictured, are sweaty but they claim to burn up to 700 calories per hour
Impact: Instructor Eve Kessner, pictured, said SoulCycle, pictured left, said the classes ‘rev up your metabolism’ and ‘slim your mid section by tightening your abs’ as well as ’round that booty’
After that, it’s straight forward: pedal as hard as you can, sweat as much as possible and soak up the encouraging words of the instructor and driving beat of the music – you’ll need them.
Throughout the class we are instructed to gradually increase the resistance on the bike, with the occasional let off, which I blindly obey as I drip with sweat and regularly fall out of sync with the music.
Unlike an ordinary spin class, SoulCycle incorporates crunches, on-bike press-ups and a lot of moving around on or above the saddle.
The class is timed very smartly. Every time I am tempted to take off some resistance or ease off a bit, the music changes or the choreography on the bike changes so that I am distracted from my self-pity and carry on.
The group set-up of the room – everybody is facing inwards so you can see other people – helps to encourage me on when I see other people riding on even though they are obviously feeling the burn.
The weights section is painful – I ambitiously go for the heavier option – but a welcome change from focusing on the legs.
DOES IT WORK? Afterwards I am wobbly on my legs and drained but euphoric which feel like positive signs that the class has done the job. Eve says the high intensity interval training will ‘rev up that metabolism’ and ‘slim your mid section by tightening your abs’. It will also ’round that booty by shaping your backside,’ she says.
Getting to class is the priority, she says, rather than how long it will take to feel the affects. ‘If you love it, getting back into class will be easy. It’s about loving it. If you love it, it isn’t work, right? The more you go, the better you feel. It’s that simple,’ she adds.
But, as always, she says diet is key to getting in shape. ‘Fueling your body with the right foods helps maintain proper energy levels for functioning at your highest. Good food fuels your workout which fuels your happiness,’ she says.
Multi-tasking: HeadStrong, a new class at Equinox, claims to train the body and mind
Life lessons: The class, pictured, encourages participants to be creative with their bodies and find stamina in themselves
WHAT IS IT? A new class designed to train your body and brain in one go in a four-part ‘active regeneration’ workout. Through forcing participants to make their own decisions and exert their own will-power, founders Michael Gervais and Kai Karlstrom hope it will encourage people to ‘push physical and mental boundaries’.
BURN FACTOR: They were unable to give me a figure but considering the amount of solo work it is likely to vary enormously.
WHERE? Various Equinox branches across the US including New York, So Cal, Nor Cal and Chicago.
PRICE: Monthly membership costs between around $160 and $220 per month, depending on location.
THE EXPERIENCE (tested by Miranda): The studio-based class is split into four parts: focus, adapt, will power and reboot. During the first part, the instructor’s instructions – to face the back wall and perform seemingly random movements such as rolling across the floor – made me feel unsettled and un-trusting of it all.
During the second phase, adapt – which involves responding to numbers and words and at one point throwing sand bells suddenly at other members of the class – I find my brain is struggling to keep up.
Finally, towards the end of the section I start to have confidence in the class and enjoy the play factor and the opportunity to exercise freewill.
We are actively encouraged to adopt our own take on a task, change direction when we want and be creative with our movement and I start to realize just how prescriptive many fitness classes can often be.
Innovative: Class creators Michael Gervais and Kai Karlstrom, pictured, hope it will encourage people to ‘push physical and mental boundaries’
Mind power: The principle behind the class, pictured, is that ‘strong bodies make strong brains, and strong brains make strong bodies’
In the third phase our willpower is tested and we are asked to perform uncomfortable exercises – such as planks – with no countdown for an unknown amount of time. During this, something switches in my brain and I start to enjoy the challenge of it before the re-boot which involves breathing and mindfulness.
DOES IT WORK? Despite starting off skeptical, the class challenges me in a way that no exercise class, sport, yoga, dance or gym class has before and leaves me simultaneously exhausted and ready to take on the world.
Its founders created it on the principle that ‘strong bodies make strong brains, and strong brains make strong bodies’ and HeadStrong really demonstrates how the two do not often get trained to work together.
Having my brain so fully engaged makes it more challenging initially because it doesn’t allow you to switch off and get on with it but that makes me work physically harder in the class. Afterwards I am surprised at how hard I forced my body to work.
The class, which feels a bit like being in a science experiment, also helped me working out alone by helping me to train to find my own motivation to really sweat.