The pitch: "We have experienced dancers, martial artists, and cosplayers that know a thing or two about saber choreography, and we offer classes to make you look as good as we do!"
The workout: A class where experts and newbies alike meet to go over the basics of lightsaber stage combat fighting (“stage combat” means you don’t actually hurt anyone, it’s all an elaborate act). Yes, forreals. I brought my boyfriend, Kevin, for both moral and physical support (also because he had the nerd cred to cover my lack of Wookie knowledge).
We joined a group with a completely unsurprising 8:2 male-to-female ratio in an open, high-ceilinged room. After a brief intro from our instructor, whose demeanor I can only compare to Tobias Bluth, the two hour class began. First, we went over the basics: footwork, dueling, and lunges (yes, those lunges). This is when I discovered that holding a lightsaber -- or the long, green plastic stick I picked from the communal weapon pile -- is hard. After basics, we split into pairs to practice fighting and corresponding defense mechanisms. I was partnered up with a Kevin -- weirdly, not my Kevin -- who was perfectly nice, but too timid to actually fight me while I poked him relentlessly in the chest. From there, the class split: beginners (ie, me) continued fine-tuning their skills in a separate room, while the more experienced fighters stayed behind to work on their latest choreography. In this portion of class I was actually able to partner up with the Kevin who wasn’t afraid to fight me back...but turns out, we both sucked at remembering the complicated routines.
With 10 minutes remaining, the group converged again. We returned to the original room -- which now reeked of body odor and old sweatpants -- to watch pairs showcase the choreography they’d worked on during class. Class ended in a ceremonious circle. The lights were turned off, and there was chanting I didn’t participate in because I don't speak Jedi.
My take: You don’t need to be a Star Wars fan to get into this method acting trend. However, while exercise is definitely a factor in class, it’s only secondary to mastering your Jedi technique. Maybe the force just wasn’t with me.
3. Do The Time At ConBody
The pitch: "While serving a sentence in his 9’x6′ prison cell, Coss [Marte] lost 70+ lbs. in just six months. From that experience, Coss refined a unique fitness program combining fun cardiovascular, aerobic, and running exercises."
The workout: I didn’t contemplate the possibility the workout was actually created in prison (I apparently didn't read far enough into the company's website). I just showed up to class, following an athletic-looking girl into to the basement of an insignificant-looking building. As I took in the studio’s “mug shot wall” where members get their photo taken with placards, and the barred door to the barefoot or sock-only workout area, it all started to make a scary amount of sense.
Before I had time to reassess my life choices, I was distracted by instructor Ray Acousta. It was “leg day,” he announced, and there was only one rule: The class had an “active rest” policy. If you stopped moving at any point before the 60 minutes were up, you had to drop and give 10 burpees. He then revealed his favorite type of active rest: salsa dancing. Class began, invoking a series of bodyweight and resistance exercises like wall-sits, squat jumps, bridges, burpees, and step-ups onto benches. At first I balked at Acousta’s request for us to dance as I marched in place during our “rest” periods. But later, after my adrenaline spiked and the exhaustion began setting in, I honored his requests with an awkward Irish jig that I’m still having flashbacks about. The smile on Acoutsa’s face was worth it, though, because it’s not everyday you impress a personal trainer... even if it's with a rendition of River Dance.
My take: I left the class sweaty, a little sore, and 80 percent more excited for the day than I had been when I got there. Participating in training inspired by a convicted felon definitely helps with the motivation.
The pitch: "You’ll be singing, grooving and moving, while getting some serious sweat on. It will be the most fun you have on a bike, so leave your inhibitions at home, and get ready to belt out some tunes."
The workout: Like most sane people, the only time I ever actually sing at karaoke is after 1am. But one Friday night, I left work at the decent hour of 6pm, armed with only a bottle of water, and headed to Cycle Karaoke at Crunch Gym with the intentions of sitting through a full hour of karaoke -- on a stationary bike. It was two days before Valentine’s Day, and the ride theme was “Badass Breakups.” I showed up -- solo, I may add -- and hopped on my bike in the front row. The class is set up like a normal cycling studio, but the room’s monitor displays lyrics on screen -- just as it would at your typical karaoke joint. The class instructor dons a headset for singing along, and walks around the room with a portable microphone so everyone’s voice can be heard. During the first song -- Backstreet Boy’s “Quit Playin’ Games With My Heart” -- I had stage fright, barely whispering into the mic when it came by. But by Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable,” I was shouting out the words with the best of ’em. Unfortunately, this was also when all of our hill climbs, sprints, and tempo rides were catching up with me, and I could barely breathe, let alone sing. Although the terrible combination of trying to sing while breathless made me sound like a dying animal, it was oddly comforting knowing I wasn’t the only one in the room suffering.
My take: While I felt like an idiot explaining the idea, “It’s like, karaoke on a spin bike” to my coworkers just an hour earlier, by the end of class I felt like I had just undergone the most intense, wonderful therapy session I’d ever had. Maybe that’s because I’ve never been to therapy, but either way -- I recommend going. Bring your friends. And if you have a song request, show up 5 to 10 minutes early and the instructor will try to make it happen.