In 1968, aerobic exercise emerged as an entirely new fitness practice. Leg warmers, boomboxes, and high kicks came to define the genre over time, but the true revolution lay in the class format. Never before had people congregated so energetically to side-lunge and step-up together. Fitness gurus of the day cited the benefits of sweating on-tempo en masse. The prevailing wisdom: those who struggled to find the motivation to exercise on their own were now eager to participate in classes where they received connection and support.
Today, yoga, Pilates, barre, and spin have taken over for Jazzercise—and the world of group fitness has undergone an attitude shift, as well. Exercise classes may have originally emphasized inclusivity, but today classes increasingly capitalize on cultivating a sense of exclusivity. A “can you handle it?” attitude, paired with a five a.m. wake-up call and the implicit expectation to style your hair before class, can leave one feeling either motivated or terrified, depending on disposition.
I scoped out some of the more “exclusive”—one-of-a-kind, luxury, intensive—exercise classes dominating the Vancouver scene at the moment to definitively find out what it’s like on the inside. And while initially intimidating, the verdict is that group fitness still serves its primal purpose—I undoubtedly worked harder at the mercy of an instructor wearing a Janet Jackson-style microphone headset than I ever would have on my own.
Megaformer at Lagree West
Visualize the kind of moves that typically have you shaking in barre or yoga class, and then add a moving platform and weighted springs. This 40-minute class engages every muscle through expert alignment cues that get you into a safe position before layering on tiny movements requiring unreal focus. Core strength is a necessity throughout to hold you stable, and each little pulse increases the tension of weights and straps that you are constantly being directed to grab, hold, pull, push, curl, press, and drop. Not for the faint of heart, or the easily distracted.
Firestarter at Equinox
It’s 30 minutes of high-intensity cardio intervals that will leave you sweating, panting, and smiling. Designed by two members of fitness royalty, Amy Dixon and Rachel Vaziralli, there is not a second wasted in this class. Using simply your own body weight and a step bench, expect plenty of squats, lunges, and jumps for 15-, 30-, and 45-second pushes, with a curated playlist and a buoyant, karaoke-crazed instructor to keep you on track. And if you haven’t quite had enough (doubtful), stick around for the core-focused Ab Lab offered immediately after.
The Class by Taryn Toomey at Turf
Lauded by a host of A-list celebrities (Jennifer Aniston, Christy Turlington), the Class, designed by Taryn Toomey, is taught by Angela Hartman at Turf, the only Canadian studio to offer this yoga-cardio-strength workout, otherwise only available in New York and LA. It’s full-body conditioning, not to mention a complete aesthetic experience. The floor will vibrate with the music, the instructor will incessantly emit empowering mantras, and you will be encouraged to yell, shout, and shake in place of ever taking a break. The intended result? Collective catharsis. The reality? A momentary loss of inhibitions and very sore inner thighs the next day.
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