All words by Elsie Yang
My “newfound appreciation” for running that seemed so novel at the outset of the pandemic has gradually, but distinctly, devolved over the course of the last few months. Truth be told, no matter how much I tried to convince myself with fancy OnCloud shoes or Janji running gear that yes, I could indeed replace my daily workout classes with daily mileage, reality has sunk in.
Luckily, my renewed apathy for the quintessential COVID-friendly workout has come at a rather opportune time — if you too have exhausted your running routes and need to spice up your workout regimen once again (really, who doesn’t), there’s hope for us all yet. Some of our favorite fitness studios around the country are now offering (or continuing to offer) pandemic-approved workout classes that will boost your endorphins, keep you physically fit, and just maybe, maintain your mental state, too.
Here are just a few of our favorite workout studios offering limited in-person sessions, as well as live streaming and on-demand options for your fitness needs.
In-person and online workout studios
Over the last eight years, Sadie Kurzban has developed a dedicated 305 Fitness fan club, and with its Miami club-inspired beats and moves, it’s not hard to see why. At the outset of the pandemic, 305 Fitness took its community online, with daily live streams of their signature dance cardio classes on YouTube. But recently, the New York outpost of the studio has reintroduced in-person classes in the great outdoors. You can join perennially fun and fabulous 305 instructors in Bryant Park in front of the beautiful Morgan Library (which truly provides a stunning backdrop for your high energy class), and dance, squat, kick, and tone to your heart’s content. If you’re not in Manhattan, don’t worry – you can either subscribe to 305 Fitness’ at home program, or browse the catalogue of available classes ranging from quick HIIT workouts to a Cardio 3 class on YouTube.
Even if you don’t have bags hanging from your home gym (you don’t, right?), perhaps the best at-home workout I’ve found comes from Title Boxing. With 169 locations around the country, the self-proclaimed original boxing club offers a killer sweat session regardless of your fitness level. Some studios have returned to in-person classes with strict social distancing and safety measures in play, but just as impressive are the virtual live streaming options. Take a class with Courtney in Chicago Lincoln Park, whose 60 minute boxing and strength workout is unapologetically ruthless, and somehow leaves you smiling despite seriously hard work. You’ll shadowbox and use either your bodyweight, at-home objects, or dumbbells for a high-intensity workout that is as unique as it is challenging.
If you’re motivated by competition or a data junkie, there are few studios that will offer a more satisfying workout than Orange Theory. By leveraging a heartrate monitor (that you can also use outside of the studio), Orange Theory trainers guide athletes through their varying blocks of work on rowing machines, treadmills, and with free weights. Given that the workout is predicated upon switching stations, the Orange Theory team has taken particular precautions in sanitizing machines and significantly reducing class sizes. Classes I’ve seen have been extremely small, with far more than 6 feet between participants, and modifications to the routine to abide by COVID procedures (there are fewer switches in a class, no partner exercises, and no sitting or lying on the floor). Of course, if you’d rather enjoy Orange Theory at home, the team has provided daily workouts with different target areas each day that are challenging, especially when they go on for between 30 and 45 minutes.
Taking hot yoga classes in a mask isn’t exactly ideal, but the true Corepower lovers are back in the studio and doing it. While a number of Corepower locations are back to in-person practices, only a very select few are allowing yogis to take off their protective face coverings—reasonable, considering the amount of sweat you’ll work up and panting you’ll do in one of these high-powered yoga classes. But if the idea of breathing into a mask in a heated room isn’t your cup of tea, you can join Corepower Live, where the studio’s full roster of classes are streamed daily. It’s not quite the same as the in-person studio experience, of course, but it’s a fantastic option for those missing a vigorous vinyasa.
Barry’s Bootcamp, a true international phenomenon, broke fitness gurus’ hearts everywhere when it took its long hiatus in deference to the global pandemic. But now, it’s back and in-person in some locations, both inside the famous Red Room, and in an outdoor format. If you opt for the outdoor version, you’ll be taking a 50-minute strength and HIIT class, but without the treadmill. There will be no equipment sharing, and participants wear synced headphones so as to avoid bothering passer-byers. The Red Room, on the other hand, offers a more traditional bootcamp class, treadmills and all. But whereas the original Barry’s class moves athletes between the treadmill and weight work multiple times, the COVID version has just one round on each station. If you’re lucky enough to have a home gym, you can take advantage of Barry’s At Home, where the studio is offering familiar versions of its popular classes for folks to join from across the country.
For those looking for a low-impact workout that still delivers killer results, look no further than Barre3. The full body workout is a bit more dynamic than other barre classes I’ve taken, incorporating more aerobic movement and some high-intensity modifications for those looking to take their ballet-inspired classes to the next level. The studio has locations across the country (and a few internationally as well), and are offering a wide range of classes both via live stream and in-person formats. In DC, you can take Barre3 in the great outdoors, where instructors will guide you through one of their signature workouts on a soccer field (among other creative locations).
Online only workout studios
Another excellent boxing-based workout comes from Shadowbox, whose studios in Chicago and New York City remain closed for the time being. That said, you can still check out excellent virtual sessions throughout the day every day of the week, with a wide range of intensity levels and time commitments. If you’re not ready for a 60-minute TKO session, by all means, try a 30-minute workout instead. No props are necessary, and instructors do a fantastic job of teaching you the shadowboxing basics before sessions begin. And with classes clocking in at just $5 a pop, you can give this workout a try relatively risk-free.
If you’re looking for a one-stop shop for variety, Fithouse is undoubtedly the place to go. Though the New York-centric studio isn’t offering any in-person classes at the moment, its fantastic instructors are opening their homes (virtually) to eager fans looking to try sculpting, HIIT, or shadowboxing workouts. I love Fithouse for its wide range of classes that are well-suited to cross training athletes, or really, anyone who gets bored of the same workout easily. The low impact sculpt class is particularly of note — think of it as amped up pilates; certainly not for the faint of heart. The studio is running a number of deals on its live streaming classes, so be sure to check out the offerings regularly.
Streaming platforms and apps
You know them best as a purveyor of athleisure and athletic apparel, but during the pandemic, Outdoor Voices has also been live streaming several classes a week (many from the aforementioned studios). Classes are always free, and you may have the chance to win some apparel. Just RSVP on the events website, and you’ll be sent a Zoom link to join when class begins.
My favorite app for at-home workouts is undoubtedly Aaptiv, whose largely audio-based collection is more expansive than you could ever wish for. Whether you want a treadmill, elliptical, stair climber, cross-training, barre, or weight-based workout (or some combination thereof), Aaptiv’s elite trainers will coach you through the moves and help you burn calories. I love that you can filter workouts by type, equipment, level, length, and even music type, so you’re always getting exactly what you want. A seven-day trial is free, and a yearly subscription is just under $100, or about $8 a month.
If you want to switch between on-demand and live streaming workouts, FitReserve is undoubtedly the app for you. Depending on the package you select, you can reserve live classes across a wide range of studios from across the country (including many of the aforementioned), and if nothing fits with your schedule, you can take an on-demand workout (including some from Aaptiv). With plenty of variety and excellent trainers on deck, FitReserve is a fantastic supplement to any workout regimen.
Presence FIt is a virtual training and fitness app that launched just a few weeks ago, and combines world-class trainers with next-level technology for a class experience that the team claims to be better than the in-person version. By using your smartphone’s camera (and other technological advancements in body tracking), trainers are able to offer personalized insights and feedback about not only form, but also pace and vitals, during your workout. You can even connect the app to your Apple Watch for better tracking and a bit more customized attention. Presence isn’t the cheapest app at $50 a month, but given that it’s meant to completely replace the in-person studio experience, it’s not a bad investment to make.