17 Boutique Studios to Try in 2017
Most of us start the year with some kind of fitness goal, whether it's tone up, lose weight, hit the gym more often, or finally find that elusive six-pack. If you have a workout routine that works for you, that's amazing. Keep at it! But if you're looking to mix things up, here are 17 studios (and a map of their local outposts) you should definitely check out.
Contrary to popular belief, not all indoor bike classes count as "Spin." A company called Madd Dogg Athletics actually owns the terms "Spin" and "Spinning", and a true Spin class doesn't include rhythm based "jumps", pushups, and weights that have become popular in the SoulCycle age. For these recs, I'm going to divide studios into "indoor cycling" which I think of as sprints and climbs that you could execute on the road and "dance parties", which include tapbacks and weights.
Longtime athletes and instructors Shannon Baughn and Marissa Axell opened their Mission studio last fall, offering TRX, Circuit, and Cycling sessions. Shannon has coached the San Francisco Tri Club for years and Marissa is a Category 1 cyclist, which means she's really, really good at racing bikes. These ladies will kick your ass in any of their classes, but they really shine on the bikes, which are individually calibrated for each rider. Both instructors are super nice in real life, but it's easy to forget that when you're sweating buckets in their classes.
The newest addition to San Francisco's indoor cycling scene, Pelo expanded to Russian Hill in late December. Pelo bikes have sensors that measure the actual power that each rider is generating, so your workout is based on power output rather than turns on a resistance knob. Your zone 3 power may not look like your neighbor's zone 3 power, but that's okay. It's a workout that's designed to maximize your fitness progress.
Dance Parties on Bikes
The original "dance party on a bike", SoulCycle is known for outstanding music, tons of affirmations, and its cult-like following. If you can't afford both a workout and therapy, Soul is a happy compromise—you'll leave drenched in sweat and feeling like you can accomplish anything. For first-timers, I highly recommend Heather Anderson's class. She's encouraging, sassy, and an all-around rockstar.
Flywheel falls somewhere between my version of cycling and dance party— it really varies according to the instructor. Your performance during class is based on your power output, and rankings are displayed on the "Torque Board" through the class. At the end of class, you can see your ranking against other women or men in the class, as well as your overall ranking. While Slate described it as "Soulcycling for uber-competitive sadists", you can opt out of the rankings if you wish. As an uber-competitive sadist, I see no fun in that, but you do you.
Barre, Dance, and Aerial
If dance is more your thing, you have tons of options in the city. Most of the national barre chains have locations here, and there are top notch dance classes as well. When you want to fly through your workout, there are even pole and aerial options to help you stay fit.
Pole and Aerial Arts
Just so we're clear, this isn't a ballet barre class. It's a pole class. And we're talking about legit, athletic pole work: climbing, inversions, spins, and more. This is not the get-in-touch-with-your-inner-goddess world of S Factor. Vertical Barre has eight poles for instruction, including a brass pole for the more sweat prone, and members can use the space during off-hours for additional practice. (In other words, you don't need your own pole at home.) Bonus: They have a studio puppy who will give you all the snuggles before and after class.
Silks, Lyra, Acroyoga, and more: This SoMa studio will get you trained to fly. Classes include warm-up and flexibility training, followed by technique instruction. Since classes are small (eight max for silks and six max for lyra), tricks, poses and sequences are tailored to the strength and capability of individual students. The studio also offers workshops to help you perfect specific skill sets.
If you start taking circus classes now, running away to join the circus could become a viable career alternative later. The Circus Center turns mere mortals into trapeze artists, aerialists, and more; whether you’re learning to fly or balance, you’ll be building serious upper body and core strength. To get started, try the handstand class. Don’t worry: you needn’t be an aspiring performer to sign up.
So you've dreamed of dancing like J Lo since way back when she was a Fly Girl. Or maybe you used to be a Fly Girl in your own right, and you're looking to get back into the groove. ODC is a treasure for the local dance community, offering classes for beginners all the way to advanced. Hip hop, ballet, contemporary, Bollywood, Afro Haitian, jazz, and more—there's an options for practically every kind of dancer to break a sweat while busting a move.
There are lots of solid barre classes in San Francisco. I have yet to attend one that I actually hated. But Avant Barre remains my favorite. And I hear friends and strangers sing its praises as well. (Even Vogue gave this spot a shout out.) The small, sun-filled studio is intimate, not cramped. The classes move quickly, and include cardio—so you never feel like you're stuck in a single position for too long...though you'll definitely be sore the next day.
Bootcamps and HIIT
Why are folks so obsessed with high-intensity interval training? HIIT training mixes bursts of intense activity with periods of easier activity or rest to keep your body guessing. Just like switching up your workout routine during the week produces better results, HIIT switches up your routine during the workout. Instead of 60 minutes of cycling or running, your challenges keep changing. It's an efficient way to burn fat, strengthen your heart, and improve your metabolism.
Before I tried it, I was convinced that Barry's could be the death of me. So far, I've survived. More than once, I've been next to a "Barry's Cherry"—as first-timers are known—who insists during class that they feel like they're dying, only to declare at the end, "That was hard, but amazing." So if you haven't experienced their self-described "best workout in the world," do it. It's half weights, half running, and entirely adjustable to your fitness level. First-timers can try it for a $27 instead of the usual $32, so take advantage of the discounted rate before you get hooked.
Looking for a bootcamp in the Mission? Try Rogue & Saint. The abundance of red lighting makes the studio look like a Hollywood interpretation of a gym in hell, but don't let that stop you from going. Rogue & Saint's bootcamp repertoire includes a standard HIIT workout combining weights, TRX, and treadmill intervals, (not at the same time of course), as well as a Pilates bootcamp. Workouts are divided into body-zone focused areas (like "delts and guns" or "glutes and legs"), so choose a day according to what you want to work.
Orangetheory offers 60-minute workout sessions split into intervals of cardio and strength training with heart rate monitors to track intensity and maximize metabolic burn. The heart-rate monitored training is designed to keep heart rates in a target zone that stimulates metabolism and increases energy. The studio estimates that clients burn between 500 to 1000 calories per workout. Heads up: first time clients are asked to arrive 30 minutes prior to the start of class.
HitFit may be known as a boxing gym, but its bootcamps and TRX circuit training classes are top notch. Trainers will work you through an array of stations like battle ropes, medicine ball slams, box jumps, and more. Honestly, it's every type of torture you could possibly fear in a bootcamp, carefully combined in a 60-minute package. You can modify stations to your own fitness level, but the trainers will demand your best. If you can't afford personal training, this is the next best thing.
Technically, it's not a studio, and it's hardly convenient. Yoga on the Labyrinth at Grace Cathedral is at 6 pm on Tuesday evenings, and you need to arrive by 5:30 if you want a decent spot. But, oh, the experience! Live musicians. Sunlight streaming through the stained-glass windows in the summer. Gothic architecture. It's an utterly charming tradition in the city. Darren Main, who also teaches at Yoga Tree, leads this weekly, donation-based class. Gather your friends and try it at least once.
I can't say enough good things about Core40's megaformer classes. You will stretch and strengthen muscles that you never knew could be sore. And if the Megaformer alone isn't enough for you, four of the studio's six locations in SF—Nob Hill, Castro, SoMa, and Hayes Valley—offer ramped technology to add an extra gravitational challenge to the standard spring-based workout. Classes are a little pricey at $35 a pop, so be sure to take advantage of the $20 first-time student rate.
Lots of workouts (like bootcamps at HitFit, CrossFit, and Orangetheory) include rowing machines. But for all rowing, all-the-time, head to Row Club in the Financial District. Yes, you're seated on a machine through most of the class, but rowing is still a full-body workout! Rowing machines exercise every major muscle group and spike the heart rate. Based on your fitness level, you can burn anywhere between 400-800 calories in an hour.