Lifestyle

ClassPass lets you take thousands of fitness classes—which ones are best for you?

We tried Barry's Bootcamp, Pure Barre, CorePower Yoga, and more.

Credit: K. Aleisha Fetters / Sara Hendricks

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If you are familiar with ClassPass, you probably know of it from its ads on Facebook and Instagram, which purport to make the fitness classes and studios in your city cheaper and more accessible. We at Reviewed put this claim to a thorough test by having three people, in Boston, Chicago, and San Diego, try it out. The service itself got pretty good marks—but what about the actual classes?

Although ClassPass allows users to take advantage of local fitness studios and gyms, each the testers stuck to classes that have a presence in most places around the country. In Boston, Sara Hendricks, a staff writer, tried Flywheel cycling, Barry’s Bootcamp, and Exhale barre. In Chicago, K. Aleisha Fetters, a certified personal trainer and freelance writer, went to Cycle Bar, Pure Barre, and Title Boxing. In San Diego, Sea-Anna Thompson, a software developer here at Reviewed and a former personal trainer, took CorePower yoga, Yoga Six, and F45, a high-intensity interval (HIIT) workout. How did they all fare? Here are our reviews of each class.

Flywheel Method 45

flywheel
Credit: Reviewed / Sara Hendricks

If you go to a Flywheel class, prepare to sweat. A lot.

Flywheel’s 45-minute Method class follows the same structure as most indoor cycling classes, at least it did at the Boston studio where I took mine. You check in, receive a pair of cycling shoes if you didn’t bring your own (included with the price of the class), and head to a bike assigned to you in a dark, cavernous room. In this room, an instructor perches on another bike at the front lit by a spotlight on a raised platform and shouts out instructions regarding the speed and resistance at which you should be pedaling, how to position yourself on the bike, and when to do a special move like a “tap back” (when you shift your hips back while in an elevated position to activate the glutes) or lift the small weights that rest in holsters at the front of the bike.

With Flywheel, there’s one key distinction: a screen on the front of the bike and on the wall of the studio that tells you exactly how fast you are going, how many “points” you have, and where you rank against everyone else in the class. You can opt out of the virtual race, but if you make an account on Flywheel’s website, you’re automatically entered into it. How you feel about this probably depends on how you feel about competition—I thought it made me work harder, but you might not want to be ranked against other cyclists every time you go to class.

In my experience, spin instructors often play chaotic songs and this one was no exception—the instructor played at least three pop/hip-hop remixes, including a mashup of Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” and Savage’s “Swing.” (You can listen to it here if you want.)

Otherwise, again, it’s like a normal indoor-cycling class. I pedaled, I lifted tiny weights, the instructor shouted out encouraging platitudes, and I sweated. A lot. When I got off my bike, there was so much perspiration on my head that liquid dripped off the ends of my ponytail. If that’s something you’re into, you should try this class.

In Boston, a single Flywheel class costs $30. I used 11 ClassPass credits to take it, which meant it cost about $22—a pretty good deal. — Sara Hendricks

Barry’s Bootcamp Full Body

barry's bootcamp
Credit: Reviewed / Sara Hendricks

The Barry's workout occurs in the (appropriately named) Red Room.

Before going to my Barry’s class at the Boston studio in the Back Bay, I did something ill-advised: I ate a Reese’s Christmas tree candy. Actually, I ate four of them. I do not regret eating my chocolate-peanut butter forest, but I do regret the way it made me feel during the 50-minute high-intensity class, which entailed switching between a weightlifting bench, where you do strengthening exercises on different parts of the body, and a treadmill, where you run somewhere between 5 and 12.5 miles per hour for several-minute increments. All told, you spend about 25 minutes on each station, with a trainer telling everyone in the room what to do over a microphone.

Self-inflicted nausea aside, I liked it! The workout room is dark with a reddish glow, and suitably called the “Red Room” (for anyone familiar with the 50 Shades of Grey franchise, this has some interesting parallel meanings), which makes it feel private, even though you’re sharing the space with more than 20 other people. The instructor gave a wide enough range of weights and speeds to make the workout suitable for anyone of any fitness level, and the darkness means you could switch to walking on the treadmill or just rest instead of lifting weights and no one would really notice. However, I found it tough to tell if I was doing the right thing—my instructor was clear but didn’t offer personal corrections to anyone in class, and I didn’t have a good view of the mirror so I couldn’t check my form.

ClassPass saved me a few bucks to try out Barry’s. A single drop-in class in Boston is $32. The class I took cost 14 ClassPass credits, which equates to about $28. — S. H.

Exhale Barre

exhale
Credit: Reviewed / Sara Hendricks

Exhale's barre class challenges muscular endurance using small weights.

Walking into Exhale, I felt more calm and at peace than I typically do when entering a gym—in addition to being a fitness studio with barre, yoga, and cardio classes, Exhale is also a boutique spa that offers massages, facials, and acupuncture (and, in the Boston studio I went to, complimentary herbal tea and a steam room filled with a refreshing eucalyptus scent).

The chilled-out tone extended to the workout studio as well. But other than that, it didn’t feel all that different from a regular barre class. Exhale’s class had a warm-up followed by intervals that focus on each part of the body, starting with arms, moving to thighs, then the “seat” (glutes), and finishing with abs. Each section involves several reps of small movements, sometimes with light weights, and has a stretching session in between. The class itself wasn’t groundbreaking, but it hit all the aspects you’d expect in a barre class—basically, if you like barre, you’ll like Exhale. Conversely, if you’ve never tried a barre class but want to give it a shot, Exhale is great way to learn the techniques you can expect at other studios.

Like most barre classes, you have to wear socks with grippy soles to attend, so I wore these—they are nothing special, but they helped me avoid paying the $15 for Exhale’s branded grippy socks. The class itself focuses more on muscle toning than cardio, so I left with only a light layer of sweat on my body (and I generally sweat quite a lot during workouts), and a subtle-yet-solid burn in my thighs and abs that lasted until the next day.

With ClassPass, the class cost me eight credits, or about $16. A single drop-in class in Boston is $29, so this was a great deal for me. — S. H.

CycleBar Classic Ride

cyclebar
Credit: Reviewed / K. Aleisha Fetters

We found CycleBar's Chicago studio very welcoming to newcomers.

I was endeared to CycleBar as soon as I walked into the Chicago West Loop location. The staff was energetic, complimented me on my hair color (thank you very much), and I got a fist bump for being a newbie. The staff had also used dry-erase marker on the lockers to welcome everyone from ClassPass (and maybe all first-timers not from ClassPass?), and to denote what bike we were assigned.

That said, not getting to choose my own bike had me bummed, and I was even more bummed when I realized that my bike was as far as possible from the instructor and next to a wall. I had to look almost entirely to my side to see what she was doing and follow along. Partway through the class, I realized why my bike had been assigned: Each of the bikes are synched to the rider's name and a leaderboard of "CycleStats." After class, I received an email with everything the bike had been tracking: average and max RPM, average and max watts, calories burned, rank, and “power points,” or a combination of your RPM and watts combined with your gender, height, weight, and age.

Overall, the CycleBar class was more similar to performance-focused Flywheel than to music-driven SoulCycle, both of which I’ve taken in the past. Partway through the class, we did some arm work using a bar weighing three pounds. The choreography was pretty par-for-the-course: “push-ups” off the handlebars, tap backs, and popping out of and back into the saddle.

CycleBar in Chicago costs three to five credits on ClassPass (depending on the time and studio), or $6 to $10. A drop-in class is normally $29. — K. Aleisha Fetters

Pure Barre Classic

purebarre
Credit: Reviewed / K. Aleisha Fetters

You have to wear special grippy socks to get the most out of a Pure Barre class.

It had been a long time since I had taken a barre class, so I couldn't remember what to expect. But Jen, my instructor at the Chicago South Loop studio of Pure Barre, was awesome, and as soon as I signed in, she talked me through things, showed me around the room and equipment, and broke the class down for me, which I really appreciated.

I had to purchase a pair of grippy socks as I didn't have any with me. They set me back $19.85, which seemed a bit steep for socks. In class, we used resistance bands, a small ball, and a mat. We spent a good chunk of time working one muscle group then stretching it out, and repeated until we had covered the entire body. It was a test of my muscular endurance—if you go to this class, get ready to hit fatigue and then some. Despite the burn, I didn't break a sweat, which would make Pure Barre great for doing on your lunch break at work.

Pure Barre in Chicago costs five to 12 ClassPass credits (again, based on the time of the class and the studio), or $10 to $24. A full-price drop-in class is $30. — K. A. F.

Title Boxing Club Boxing 60

title boxing club
Credit: Reviewed / K. Aleisha Fetters

Title's boxing class is a great way to get your jabs—and upper cuts, and hooks, and more—in.

When I arrived at Title Boxing Club at the Chicago South Loop studio, the front desk clerk asked if I was from ClassPass, which makes me wonder if everyone else was a regular and I was the one they didn't recognize. It's plausible: A lot of the class-goers brought their own gloves and seemed to be pretty familiar with the combinations.

I was permitted to borrow a pair of the studio's gloves, but I purchased my own hand wraps for $12. I usually go for plain and black in all things apparel, but the ones decorated with pineapples and ice cream cones were too cute not to buy. When I got home, I realized that they has tinted my hands blue, but it came off in the shower, which I definitely needed anyway.

The class took us through a warm-up, nine rounds of boxing drills paired with "recovery" moves like lunges, and 15 minutes of core work at the end. It was high intensity, but you could also go at your own pace. How hard and fast do you want to hit that bag in front of you? The instructor reminded us several times that the intention wasn't to flail as fast as possible but to make each strike hard and decisive. Slowing things down also helped in terms of coordinating combos: jab, cross, cross, hook, hook, uppercut...

The class was fun, but I think to enjoy it more fully, you need a few classes under your belt. That way, you don't feel quite so uncoordinated (at least, I wouldn’t).

Title Boxing in Chicago costs seven to nine ClassPass credits, or $14 to $18. A full-price drop-in class is $35. — K. A. F.

Core Power Yoga Sculpt

corepower
Credit: Reviewed / Sea-Anna Thompson

Sea-Anna poses before and after CorePower's Sculpt class.

One pro tip before heading to a Yoga Sculpt class at CorePower: Bring a towel in addition to a yoga mat. The class is heated and you do a lot of cardio, so placing a towel on top of the mat helps sop up sweat and prevent slipping. I forgot mine when I attended the studio in the Point Loma area of San Diego, and it was bad. You move a lot with your body and with weights, so the space around you can get sweaty. Another surprise for a yoga class: There’s a lot of jumping. I didn’t know about this, so I did not wear the correct sports bra—if you go to this class, be forewarned.

Some yoga experience is helpful but not necessarily needed to get a good workout. The class kicked my butt and challenged me to think about the movements differently than I would have in a normal yoga class—the flow is fast-paced and set to music. During the “sculpting” exercises, I chose a much lighter weight than I would have on my own in a gym or other group fitness class because I did not know what to expect—it was a good call for my first class. I also thought that the music was too loud and the instructor was difficult to hear (she didn’t use a microphone). I went at 6 AM, which was aggressive for the energy level of this class, but once I was in it, I was glad to be there.

A CorePower class in San Diego costs six ClassPass credits, or $12. A full-price drop-in class is $27. — Sea-Anna Thompson

Yoga Six Y6 Power

yogasix
Credit: YogaSix

You can sweat and get your flow on at YogaSix.

I tried Yoga Six’s cardio yoga class, Y6 Power, at the Point Loma San Diego location. It’s similar to Core Power’s Yoga Sculpt, except it isn’t heated. The class started with a vinyasa-type flow, which I could see being confusing for someone who hasn't done a lot of yoga. Then we moved into the weights and cardio sections. The instructor recommended I choose pairs of three- and five-pound weights. I was glad for the suggestion—I might have opted for heavier weights otherwise, and going a little easy helped with form while I was learning the ropes.

Even though the class has additional weightlifting and cardio components, breathing is as important here as it is in other yoga classes. A lot of the movements with weights started in one position and the instructor gave us modifications to make it easier or more challenging. I also found it sometimes hard to balance while holding the weights, so I’d want more practice to get better at the balancing component.

Despite a few stumbles, I liked the workout a lot. I lt got my lower body, a bit of shoulders and biceps, and cardio, and it was easy to transition between the poses and different weights. The floor at my studio was padded, which made it more comfortable to do jumping exercises in bare feet. I preferred that the room wasn’t heated.

Yoga Six costs between four and six ClassPass credits, or $8 to $12. A full-price drop-in class is $30. — S. T.

F45 FoxTrot

f45
Credit: F45

F45's class includes lots of hands-on coaching.


Having never been to an F45 location, I had no idea what to expect for this FoxTrot cardio workout, which I took at the North Point Loma studio. Once I arrived, I saw the studio space was divided into numbered stations.

After a quick warm-up, the two instructors went over each movement we'd perform at each station, explaining we’d do 30 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest in between stations, adding modifications if needed depending on the movement. My first thought was How am I going to remember what to do? but then I noticed each station has a TV screen where the exercises are shown. We went through the entire cycle of nine movements three times.

While the workout was going on, the instructors approached people and offered modifications. I appreciated this personal attention, as my right tibia is still tender from an injury earlier this year. Still, I got lost a couple of times, and I didn’t love staring at a screen to follow the moves, as I stare at a screen all day for work anyway. But I liked that the class got my heart rate up for a total of 45 action-packed minutes and that the instructors were so attentive. As a bonus, I got a cold washcloth scented with tea tree and lavender at the end of class— amazing.

Since I took my class, it appears that F45 is no longer offered through ClassPass, in San Diego or anywhere else. A drop-in class is about $32. — S. T.

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