Reflections on a Month of ClassPass

When I received a month-long membership to ClassPass, I expected to try out all sorts of classes and (let’s be honest) get into arguably the best shape of my life. I did not expect to learn more about myself during this month than I had in any other month of my life. I’m not entirely sure that I’m in better shape now than I was when I started ClassPass (my lack of self-control around an open bag of chocolate chips may have something to do with that ūüėõ ), but I truly learned¬†so much¬†about myself by doing this for a month.

–¬†I need variety in my workouts.
By and large, my least favorite ClassPass classes were those that had us cemented in one location for an hour.¬†I loved workouts that had me moving around the room doing different things every minute or so. That kind of change kept me mentally engaged and interested, which made class way more enjoyable. I think this, in part, explains why I’ll run outside in just about any condition, whereas 30 or 40 minutes on a treadmill feels endless. Outside, the scenery constantly changes and I have to be aware of my surroundings to stay safe (not just from “bad guys” but also from cars, bikers, other runners, cracks in the pavement, black ice, etc.). The only thing that changes while I’m on a treadmill is my will to live. Haha.

– I have no patience for pretension.
This has been an ongoing frustration of mine, but it took me until ClassPass to put my finger on what, exactly, bothered me.¬†You’re more than welcome to correct me if you feel I’m wrong, but I think I’m a pretty down to earth sort of girl. I’ve always been far more Lizzie McGuire than Kate Sanders, if you will, and to be honest, that stopped upsetting me in like…seventh grade. I made a valiant effort to befriend the popular girls in sixth grade¬†(getting assigned to a seat¬†at the same table in science as the most popular girl in class helped that cause), but our teacher gave us a new seating chart and thusly died my dreams of popularity. This upset me for a few months¬†and then I moved on with my life. (Which is not to say that I was the most self-assured, confident teenager you ever did see. Quite the contrary. I was just insecure about everything¬†other¬†than my standing with the popular people. Haha.)

But while high school social hierarchy is likely unavoidable, it has irked¬†me TO NO END how many people seem to carry this mindset into The Real World — this idea that if you¬†don’t wear the right Tory Burch flats and don’t carry the right Longchamp bag and don’t have the right North Face coat and don’t wear exclusively Lululemon to workouts and don’t have the right Hunters and don’t drink Starbucks and don’t work for a PR or advertising agency and don’t¬†live off the Armitage/Diversey/Southport Brown Line stops and aren’t dating a Big 10 alum, you are below¬†those who do/have all of those things. NO. FALSE. WRONG. STOPPPPPPPPPPPP. We. Are. Not. In. Sixth. Grade!!

It’s certainly not the possession of any of those things that drives me crazy about a person. I’m sure there are plenty of wonderful women in Chicago with a Tory Burch flat on one foot and a Hunter boot on the other, fighting to keep her Longchamp bag up on her shoulder over her puffy North Face, underneath which she is wearing Lululemon on her way to barre¬†before meeting her boyfriend¬†at Starbucks. It’s the attitude–the air of superiority, the aura of importance, the general stench of pretentiousness–that some people who have these things (and, let’s be honest, some people who¬†don’t¬†have these things) tend to carry that I have¬†absolutely¬†zero patience for. I didn’t like people with this kind of attitude in high school, I didn’t like people with this kind of attitude in college, and I¬†certainly¬†don’t like people with this kind of attitude in Chicago.

I guess it’s not entirely surprising that these sorts of people tend to be rampant in studio fitness setting. Studio fitness, like most of the aforementioned brands, is pricey. If it’s important to you to own and do expensive things, whether that’s because you draw your self-worth from portraying an image of wealth (or simply because you have that kind of disposable income and want¬†to),¬†it makes sense that you’d gravitate towards a place where the workout isn’t cheap.

I crave diversity more than I ever realized.
Real talk: growing up, diversity was not a thing in my life.¬†The VAST majority of people in my life throughout school looked, acted, and thought like me.¬†While Chicago is hardly the poster child for racial and socioeconomic equality, I at least, you know, see people with skin colors and income levels different than mine, usually on a daily basis, and I think that’s a really, really good thing. I think surrounding yourself with only people who look like you, act like you, think like you and come from the same background as you creates an ideal breeding ground for intolerance, fear, misunderstanding, a whole host of -isms (racism, sexism, ageism, etc.), and just generally is not a good idea for anyone of ANY background/belief system. I certainly don’t think you should try to diversify your friend portfolio just for the sake of being able to say, “Actually, I do have a token Asian/gay/poor/old/guy/whatever friend,” BUT I also think it’s important to not actively–or, heck, inactively–avoid situations where you’ll¬†only¬†be in the company of those who are identical to you (and I think that goes for everyone, whether you’re white or black or brown of gay or straight or rich or poor or Christian or Muslim or Jewish or male or female or anything else).

Now, I’m not going to pretend like I’m some champion of diversity over here. Most of my friends are white. Most of my friends are straight. Most of my friends are women. Most of my friends make, more or less, the same amount of money I make. That being said, I’ve also found myself in several¬†situations throughout my two and a half years in Chicago where I have not been the “norm.” Most of my coworkers are Jewish. Most of the people at my church are gay. Most of my breakdance classmates are men, and most of them aren’t white (most of them, in fact, are Korean or Japanese). Again, this doesn’t make me an expert on cultures other than my own by ANY means, and I don’t want to come across as some more-diverse-than-thou hero, because I realize that is absolutely not the case. Compared to what I grew up with, however, this is an enormous improvement that has helped me break¬†down us/them barriers and see people for what they are — people. They are not whatever makes them an “other,” whether that be the color of their skin or their religious beliefs or their sexuality. They’re people, just like I’m a person.

On the whole, I found the fitness classes I took through ClassPass to be frustratingly¬†uniform. Time and again, most, if not all, of my classmates where white women in their 20s or early 30s. Every now and again one or two men would be in class. Every now and again someone not-white would be in class. By and large, however, everyone looked like me (except they wore Lululemon, Nike, and Gap, while I wore C9 and old race shirts). I think this is partially a reflection of the location of many of the studios I visited–Lincoln Park and Lakeview are pretty darn white–but I also wonder, and to a certain extent fear, if this is a reflection of studio fitness in general.

ClassPassChicagoMap

This map shows most of¬†ClassPass’s current Chicagoland locations. While it looks like a lot–and it is a lot–I think it’s telling to note the location of these studios.¬†If you lived on the south or west sides, you’re outta luck when it comes to ClassPass. With the exception of one CorePower Yoga studio in Hyde Park (not on this map), ClassPass doesn’t go any farther south than Cermak. The city limits continue for an additional 15 miles¬†south of there. I highly doubt that this is a reflection of ClassPass being “afraid” of the south side–I imagine there simply aren’t fitness studios on the south side.¬†While I certainly know fitness studios are¬†far¬†from the only possible way to exercise, the fact that studios, at least in Chicago, tend to gravitate towards white, upper class neighborhoods makes me worry that studio fitness on the whole has, intentionally or unintentionally, made itself–and by extension, many of its workout styles, including barre, yoga, Pilates, and equipment-heavy HIIT workouts–an indicator of privilege, something that only the “haves” are allowed to experience. I find that implication deeply troubling.

Last month was an incredible learning experience for me in a variety of ways. To be honest, I think I learned more about myself though my month of ClassPass than I learned over two full marathon training cycles. The things I took away from this are so much more valuable to me than the flat (or just flatter — I’m really not going to get too picky at this point) stomach I hoped to walk away with. Obviously I can’t guarantee that everyone who picks up ClassPass will have this kind of experience, but I think it shows the value of putting yourself in unfamiliar territory, even if only for a month. There is so much learning to be done beyond our comfort zones if we have the courage to get out of them.

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6 thoughts on “Reflections on a Month of ClassPass

  1. hahahahahaha your description of sixth grade notions that are now in the real world couldn’t be more accurate. And while I happen to be a lululemon-sporting lady (but if I didn’t work there, fahgettaboutit), I know exactly what you mean. I only feel that way at certain places though — usually (and I hate to say it) at barre studios. In my experience, the sweatier the workout, the more down-to-earth the people are (maybe you disagree though!) I’m just saying — usually it’s not the ones in the Tory Burch flats coming in to do 100 burpees. The one thing I really love about ClassPass is that I think it will eventually HELP classes become more diverse. Sure, right now it’s only the upper middle class white women using it. But it DOES make all these normally obscenely priced studios much more accessible to everyone, and I think that after a few seasons of ClassPass being in Chicago it will start to become more diverse and it becomes more of the norm. At least I hope so!

    • I think your assessment is pretty accurate of barre vs. sweaty workouts. I think cost/reputation plays into it a little as well: Flywheel felt way more pretentious to me than GoCycle, for example, but Flywheel is a national brand with much more of a “name” for itself, if you will.

      I hope ClassPass helps make studio fitness more accessible and diverse as well! I mean, it got me into studios, and trust me, homegirl does NOT self-identify as upper middle class. Hahaha. Just about all of those studios are prohibitively expensive for me, but ClassPass made it an option, which I think was great. It’s still expensive (cause, uh, I for sure don’t have $100 extra per month to drop on ClassPass), but not NEARLY as expensive as it would be to just visit the studios on their own.

  2. This is really, really interesting. I think you should see if Gymphoria will let you try a month for free and see how that’s different in terms of who goes to the classes. In terms of where the studios are located, well, that’s similar in that the furthest south one is by Museum Campus. I don’t know if it’s because there aren’t ANY workout-class-specific businesses on the south side (I highly doubt that) but I bet that when you get into more economically diverse areas that classes tend to be through the park district, gyms, etc that aren’t interested in participating in something like ClassPass or ClassPass doesn’t think they fit the model. Or, if it really does point to another type of desert – a fitness desert. I wonder if anyone is researching that…

    • I’ll have to look into Gymphoria, because that would make for an interesting comparison. To be totally honest I haven’t looked super closely into what kind of class settings are available on the south/west sides of Chicago, but I did find that there seem to be a LOT more “affordable” options (like the park district and the Y) in those areas than somewhere like Lincoln Park. It’d be a really fascinating thing to look into more!

  3. Wow this is SUCH an interesting perspective. I was not expecting such an honest post about way more than just how the classes were. Chicago is one of the most segregated cities I’ve ever been to and you’re right, there seems to be a whole sector of things devoted to the “haves” that the “have nots” couldn’t even dream of obtaining. Is that bad? Probably, but if I had the disposable income, I’d probably buy a class pass myself (and I might take said class while wearing a pair of lululemon tights), but I don’t. I don’t know. Access is such an interesting factor of just about everything. Thanks for the really thoughtful review.

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