Alternatively titled: “In Which Bethany Realizes She Should Stop Having Expectations Going Into Class.” Out of these four classes, there were two where I anticipated having less-than-stellar experiences, and two where I had no idea what to expect but imagined things would turn out just fine. Naturally, I ended up enjoying the two I expected to hate, and having some issues (to say the least — there’s a big rant coming up) with the others.
exhale (945 N. State)
Class: Core Fusion Barre
Time: Sunday, 4:15 p.m. to 5:15 p.m.
Normal drop-in rate: $25
Odds and Ends: I imagine as far as shower facilities go, I’m not going to find anything fancier than exhale. exhale is a spa in addition to a fitness studio, so unsurprisingly they have a BOMB locker room. I kicked myself for not thinking to bring clean clothes to class so I could have showered there instead of at my apartment when I got home!
Summary: Yeah, yeah, I know I swore off barre classes after my miserable experience at Power Sculpt Fitness. BUT I have a list of studios I really wanted to visit, exhale was on that list, and this class fit my schedule, so here we are. I had low expectations for Core Fusion Barre, given that I hate barre classes, but I was pleasantly surprised by this class. I think once again having a top-notch teacher made a HUGE difference (Ryan was great. I loved his enthusiasm, his encouragement, and his attitude.). Best of all, this was not an hour straight of pulsing and working your muscles to extreme exhaustion. Ryan incorporated magical things like stretching and catching your breath and my two favorite elements of yoga, child’s pose and savasana, into class, which personally I thought was a MUCH better way of handling barre instruction than what I’ve found elsewhere.
Also, random fun fact: Ryan was actually supposed to be my teacher at AIR on Saturday, but we had a sub. How stalkerish would it have seemed if I had shown up at two of his classes at two different studios on two consecutive days? Haha.
Would I go back?: Possibly. I’d still choose just about any style of exercise over barre, but if I had to go to a barre class, this is the one I’d pick. (Out of the barre classes I had taken up to this point, that is).
i.d. gym (2727 N. Lincoln)
Class: Target Zone
Time: Wednesday, 5:15 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Normal drop-in rate: $24…kind of.
Odds and Ends: i.d. gym is not a fitness studio. i.d. gym is an actual gym (albeit a small one — Lakeshore Sport and Fitness this is not.). The “normal drop-in rate” is the cost of a guest pass for someone who visits without a member, which would have been my situation if I had taken this class on my own.
Summary (of just the class): This was an old-school fitness class if ever I’ve attended one. Obviously I wasn’t attending too many group fitness classes in the late ’80s (the whole “not-being-alive-yet” thing makes that a challenge ;) ), but when I think old-school fitness class, something like this is what comes to mind. The exercises we did were all quite different from anything I had done in any other class, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing — just a different thing. If you’re looking for a trendy and cool fitness class, I wouldn’t send you to Target Zone, but I don’t mean that as a criticism of the class at all.
Would I go back?: No, but not because of the class. Like I said, i.d. gym is an actual gym, and it’s a gym that markets itself as a place where “everyone knows your name.” This, also, is not a bad thing–in fact, I imagine it’s a great thing that makes for a really wonderful community–but it does make it EXCEPTIONALLY awkward if you waltz in expecting a fitness studio vibe like I did. I felt out of place and like I was intruding in a place where I didn’t belong, and to be honest I don’t think i.d. gym should be in ClassPass’s network (or at least its group classes shouldn’t be available through ClassPass).
Creative Motion Chicago (1922 W. Montrose)
Class: Creative Barre
Time: Thursday, 5:15 p.m. to 6:15 p.m.
Normal drop-in rate: $15
Odds and Ends: This is a straight-up storefront sort of operation. I don’t know what used to be in Creative Motion’s location (a boutique, perhaps?), but it’s basically one big studio with lots of unobstructed windows that face Montrose. If you’re super duper self-conscious about having other people see you exercise, be aware that everyone passing by on Montrose can see into the studio. On the other hand, if you’re super duper self-conscious about having other people see you exercise, perhaps group fitness isn’t your best bet in general!
Summary: This “barre” class was unlike any other barre class I’ve taken. For one thing, the studio doesn’t have barres, which obviously impacts things :P I’ve never taken a ballet class, so I can’t speak from experience, but I felt that this class was MUCH more ballet barre than Lululemon barre, if you will — and I mean that as a good thing (since we all know how I feel about Lululemon barre). From our movements to the teacher’s language (telling us to put our feet in first position, for example), I felt like I was taking a “ballet lite” class, and I really enjoyed it! This was MUCH more my speed than a usual barre class, and it made me feel a little bit like a real dancer, which I liked.
Would I go back?: Yes! Not only did I enjoy the class, but I also liked the vibe of the studio. It felt FAR less pretentious than other studios (ahem, Power Sculpt Fitness), and since I have very little patience for pretentious people and/or places, I appreciated Creative Motion’s atmosphere. Plus this place is WAY, WAY, WAY more affordable than so many other studios I’ve visited ($81 for an unlimited month, or $59 for an unlimited month if you’re a member ($20 one time cost to become a member) — that’s amazing! A place like Shred415 will run you $205 for an unlimited month.), which is a big bonus for me and my itty bitty budget.
Sweat on State (1165 N. State)
Time: Friday, 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Normal drop-in rate: $25
Odds and Ends: According to Sweat on State’s website, the studio offers Sweat CrossFit classes and Sweat classes. The Sweat class I attended, however, did seem a bit CrossFit-esque, which is something worth knowing/keeping in mind, depending on your opinion of CrossFit <–foreshadowing.
Summary: Oh boy. Well, let’s just get this out of the way to start: I hated this class. Out of everything I’ve done with ClassPass up to this point, this was far and away my least favorite — I disliked it even more than Barre Express at Power Sculpt Fitness, which is REALLY saying something.
Every single day is different at Sweat on State, but when I went, we did a work out that started with five minutes of 30-second intervals on the treadmill (the same fancy pants ones they had a Trainology, in fact), five minutes of ab work and five minutes of 30-second rowing intervals. After that, we moved on to the strength portion of the workout. We had 25 minutes to do the following:
- 60 lunges (30/leg), with a bar over your shoulders (there’s a technical term for this, but I don’t remember it)
- 50 hand raise pushups
- 40…somethings. We had a bar in our hands and were supposed to push the bar over our heads. I want to call it an overhead press, but again, I’m not entirely sure that’s the actual technical name.
- 30 burpees
- 20 v-ups
- 10 wall climbs or bear crawls
- 20 v-ups
- 30 burpees
- 40 of those same somethings
- 50 hand raise pushups
- 60 lunges
A tall order for someone who hasn’t done any sort of CrossFit-esque workout since early 2012 (i.e., me).
Here’s my beef with my experience with Sweat on State: my teacher couldn’t have cared less about my form (or if she did care, she sure didn’t say anything.). This was like Pilates ProWorks all over again, except way, way worse, because instead of doing an exercise with poor form for a minute, I was expected to bust out 50 pushups regardless of how long it took me and how much my form had to deteriorate in order to complete all 50 pushups. I kid you not: by the end, I could manage cobras. That was it. I couldn’t even do pushups on my knees. In case you’ve never spent any time with a yoga mat, cobra and pushups are two ENTIRELY different exercises. They use different muscles, they accomplish different things — a cobra only resembles a pushup in the sense that your arms are straight and part of your torso is off the ground. But did the teacher care? Nope. All she cared about was that I got in 50 reps as quickly as possible. (If she cared about anything at all, that is. I got the impression that she did not want to be there, and it felt like we were putting her way out of her way by making her watch us exercise [since that's what she did, sitting in the back of the room for most of class]. This was my 12th fitness class, so I feel like I have a decent handle on what makes a person a good teacher by this point, and I can say in no uncertain terms that this girl, at least on this day, was not a good teacher. Not at all.)
DUMB. DUMB DUMB DUMB. Caring only about reps and throwing form out the window seems ineffective at best and downright dangerous at worst. No wonder my PT last year and my PT this year both independently said CrossFit keeps them in business, and the FIRST thing my trainer asked me when I told him about a co-worker who drank the CrossFit Kool-Aid was, “Has she gotten hurt yet?”
I think the best anecdote to show how I felt about this class came during my second round of 40 somethings. The teacher wanted us to keep the bar at shoulder height the entire time, but I kept dropping it lower (because, surprise! I can’t do 40 straight reps of that, thanks), and she said, “Keep the bar up, Brittany.” Now, I’ve been called Brittany many, many times in my 24 years, and it’s never once upset me. I don’t usually even correct people unless it happens repeatedly. But when this teacher called me Brittany, I was livid, and said, very angrily, “My name is BETHANY!” Haha.
(Another thing worth noting: I am extremely anti-CrossFit, not entirely because of the workout style, but because I am one thousand percent against any cult-like fitness movements that turn people into mindless lemmings. [If you can do CrossFit and still have an independent thought in your head, more power to you. Keep on keepin' on with your crazy workouts. I'll be over here doing anything else.] Therefore, I’m obviously pretty biased, which certainly impacts my review of the class. However, I did NOT know ahead of time that I’d be getting myself into a CrossFit-like workout, so I didn’t go into class biased against it or with a negative mindset that would have predisposed me to having a bad time.)
Would I go back: HELL TO THE NO. This would have to be literally the only option available for exercise in the entire city of Chicago–as in, even power walking would have to not be an option–for me to go back.