Fitness aficionados flock to these specialized classes because they really work. We tested the hottest offerings to find the seven so good that you'll never go back to your regular old elliptical routine. By Ava Feuer, REDBOOK.
In an ideal world, we'd do cardio one day, weights the next, and alternate the muscles we worked for optimal fitness. In the real world, devoting that much time to exercise is virtually impossible. Enter SLT (Strengthen, Lengthen, Tone) 30/30, sometimes referred to as "Pilates on crack." For 30 minutes, you'll perform lunges, squats, planks, bicep curls, and more on a Megareformer, a highly-evolved version of the a Pilates reformer featuring additional springs, straps, cords and handlebars. A half-hour, fast paced, yoga-flow practice follows. The lingering soreness in our inner-thighs, glutes, and upper abdominals is a testament to the class' immediate effects. Although SLT is currently only in New York City, studios throughout the country use similar machine technology. Find a full list here.
You may have done some kickboxing, but chances are, you've never punched like this. A dynamic one-hour class, willSTRIKE relies primarily on mixed martial arts and jui jitsu - hands are wrapped, gloves donned, and a punching bag hangs from the ceiling. A test of arm strength, core stability, and endurance, the program - much like your child's karate class - helps to develop discipline and patience that carry over to life outside of the studio. "We have found that even the most passive person loves to punch and kick," says Will Torres, founder of willspace. "Even though our clients are not fighters, they are gratified in knowing they are training like warriors." For a similar workout, visit a local martial arts studio - you're hardcore, after all.
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Even if you hate running, this killer interval training routine will have you sprinting your heart out. In each session, participants are split into two groups - one starts on the treadmill and the other begins strength training on the floor - who switch positions six times within the hour. We went in petrified of the 10 percent treadmill inclines, heavy weights, and pyramid running segments, but walked out self-satisfied, sweaty, and sold. "You are burning fat, building lean muscle tissue, and improving bone density and the heart and lungs all in one hour," says COO Joey Gonzalez. Barry's Bootcamp, which until recently was only in New York and California, just opened in Nashville, and is scouting spaces in other major cities such as Miami, Atlanta, and Chicago. Until then, cue up the DVDs at home.
Body by Simone
You know those girls nights where you come home so exhausted from hitting the dance-floor that you barely realized you've burned a ton of calories? Body by Simone is out to replicate this - only in a fitness studio. The brainchild of former professional dancer and celebrity trainer Simone De La Rue, the aptly-named dance cardio workout is "a fun, joyous way to work out," says De La Rue. We recommend steering clear if you have bad knees or back problems as the jumping is high-impact, but those with healthy joints will love the body-pumping music and high-energy environment. Body by Simone TV officially launches October 1, and a monthly membership fee grants unlimited access to regularly updated video segments that'll have you dancing your butt off - literally.
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The baby woke you up at 5 a.m. You still haven't paid this month's bills. Your office refuses to stop e-mailing you after-hours. When you're this stressed, a hardcore workout may be the last thing on your mind. "Yin Yoga is a luxurious experience made up of a series of long, passive holds to repair the body and calm the mind," says Stefanie Eris, National Yoga Director of Exhale Spa. Though not much of a calorie-burner, yin yoga helps to restore and relax sore muscles and overactive minds, and participants regularly report feeling emotionally recharged. Exhale offers the class at most of its 19 locations, and plans to expand their yoga program in the coming months.
Circuit of Change
If yoga isn't enough of a calorie-torcher, but you're not interested in being (almost literally) whipped into shape, try a mind-body bootcamp. A mix of plyometrics, martial arts, gymnastics, and yogic stretches, Circuit of Change is designed to be an escape from the myriad demands of everyday life - no shoes or cell phones allowed. An hour of uninterrupted movement definitely qualifies as workout; founder Brian Delmonico created the class to be "a physical and mental challenge that is still fun and playful." To develop your own mind-body connection, Delmonico urges you to concentrate on breathing - take it in for five breaths and out for five - in a seated position following every challenging interval.
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We feel you; things are more fun when there's a little healthy competition involved. That's why Flywheel fans pay tribute to the spin studio's TorqBoard, a live display of riders' performance data. Don't worry if you'd rather keep your stats private: You can opt out of sharing the speed and intensity of your out-of-the saddle, hill-climbing, cardio workout. (We did for our first class.) Either way, riders can review comprehensive performance data - speed, total power, total distance, and estimated calories burned - at home on Flywheel's "My Performance" page. With 15 studios throughout the country, and eight more to come by the end of the year in locations such as Dallas, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles, you'll be putting a positive spin on things in no time.
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