NYC's Best Alternative Exercise Classes, for People Who Hate SoulCycle

Punk Rope
Punk Rope | Tom Egan
Punk Rope | Tom Egan

In New York City, it’s a toss-up what’s more popular at 5pm on a Friday: fitness classes, or happy hours. And in a city where yoga pants are as likely to show up at the bar as they are at barre class, there’s no shortage of boutique workouts to choose from. Still, sometimes you need something a little outside-the-box to get you motivated -- because quasi-dancing on a spin bike isn’t always going to cut it. To help you mix up your workout, we found eight of the best alternative exercise classes in New York City -- from working out with your dog to learning to fight like a Jedi.

Got another alternative workout we should try in NYC? Let us know in the comments.


If you're as pensive as you are active…

Runstreet’s Art Runs
Locations vary
If you’re trying to get cultured but also enjoy a little running every now and then, you need to check out Runstreet’s Art Runs. A cross between a workout and an art gallery opening, these relaxed runs (10-minute-per-mile pace) welcome all levels of runners to explore interesting street art throughout different neighborhoods. You’ll run a fixed set of miles, with planned stops for photos at key murals. There’s a different run every weekend, and locations vary, making it a great way to both see cool art and explore different neighborhoods, all while getting your workout in.

If you're missing fourth grade recess…

Punk Rope
Mondays from 7-8pm at 14th Street Y; Wednesdays from 7:30-8:30pm at the Greenpoint YMCA
Not only will Punk Rope remind you of being a kid at recess, it can also help you burn up to 600 calories per class. Combining throwback schoolyard games like jump rope with traditional exercises (think mountain climbers) and a healthy dose of fun (think themed workouts and a curated playlist to match), Punk Rope is designed so that everyone from the cardio queen to the couch potato can show up and get an effective workout. Classes involve conditioning drills, with five jump-roping intervals (totaling about 15 minutes of jump roping), relay races, core training, and stretching. The best part? You’ll rarely be inside a gym. Instead, you might get a fierce workout in a bowling alley, art gallery, or even a bar -- which is perfect for post-sweat mingling!

roller skates

If watching the X Games gets you amped…

Locations vary
If you’ve ever pined over a Sk8er Boi (or just have worn Vans), Skaterobics might answer your middle school dreams. Developed for individuals who want to have fun, improve their roller skating skills (because we all want to join those badass roller dancers in Central Park), or just get a good workout, Skaterobics offers three different classes to choose from, depending on what you’re looking for. Those who want to just get comfortable on wheels can check out Skaterobics Basics, while those who want to twirl like Olympians on ice can try out Skaterobics Dance. For a challenging workout, Skaterobics Fitness will put you through an intense, calorie-burning workout that supports and enhances coordination, balance, and stability.

If you want a 2016 spin on traditional yoga…

Y7 Studio
Union Square, Flatiron, SoHo, and Brooklyn
Yoga’s always been associated with deep breathing, feeling calm, and meditating. But Y7 is defying Buddha with hip-hop yoga, a unique spin on your standard vinyasa flow choreographed to music that ranges from The Weeknd to Stevie Wonder. Hip Hop Yoga ditches expectations of what yoga is supposed to be like (i.e. pretty boring) by inviting you to experience a new kind of flow that will have you swaying in your downward dog. The class is open to all levels, so you’ll fit right in whether you’ve been OM-ing for years or are just starting out.


If your OkCupid profile says you’re "outdoorsy"...

BodieSynergy’s Outdoor Bootcamp
Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6:30am; Saturdays at 8am; meet at the 15th St entrance to Prospect Park
Embrace your inner Reese Witherspoon in Wild at BodieSynergy’s Outdoor Bootcamp, an “organic fitness” class that utilizes the lay of Mother Nature’s land in Prospect Park to develop strategic bodyweight exercises. While jogging through the park, you’ll stop to perform dips on picnic tables, climb up stone staircases, or finish a set of lunges in the grass. Each workout combines resistance training, high-intensity cardiovascular intervals, and stretching, so you’ll get a workout paired with a breath of fresh air.

If you're a die-hard Star Wars Fan...

New York Jedi
Class meets at Columbus Circle in Central Park during the summer
If you’ve ever sat at the edge of your seat during a Star Wars fight scene, you’ll be delighted to know you can learn learn many of the same Force-defying moves at New York Jedi. The two-hour class (yes, that’s 120 minutes) teaches lightsaber stage combat fighting, which means you’ll look like a Jedi, talk like a Jedi, and fight like a Jedi -- except you won’t actually help anyone meet a fateful, ominous death. It’s not the same cardio-blasting workout you’d experience at a spin class, but this is more about indulging your inner nerd, anyway (and, at the very least, your arm will be stronger after holding up a sword for 80% of class).

Go Fetch Run
Go Fetch Run

If you prefer rat terriers to gym rats…

Go Fetch Run
Tuesdays at 6:45pm at Windsor Terrace in Prospect Park; Saturdays at 9am at Grand Army Plaza in Prospect Park
If you’ve got a furry friend (or have access to your buddy’s for a day), Go Fetch Run offers total-body conditioning classes for you and your dog in Prospect Park. Led by certified fitness trainers, Go Fetch Run will put you and your pup through a series of strength, agility, and cardio exercises through circuit training, trail running, and obstacle course drills. All human and canine fitness levels are welcome, so long as the humans refrain from sniffing anyone else’s butt.

If working out demands rewards in the form of drinks…

First and third Tuesdays of every month at 6:30pm in the back room at Otto’s Shrunken Head (538 E 14th St)
You’ve heard of barre class, but have you heard of bar class? MoshFit combines traditional bodyweight exercises (think push-ups, lunges, squats, etc.) in a nontraditional setting. How nontraditional? Well, for one thing, the workout takes place in the back room of a Tiki bar. You’ll get sweaty to the tune of punk music, and after you’ve put the work in, you can reward yourself by simply walking to the front of the bar and enjoying happy hour, with deals on well drinks and beer until 8pm.

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Erin Kelly is a writer, runner, and triathlete living in NYC who thinks all workouts are weird because they are essentially torture for your body. Follow her on Twitter at @erinkellysays.