Friday, January 23, 2015

ClassPass Chicago Reviews: Exhale Spa, Flirty Girl Fitness and More

Either you guys are actually interested in hearing about my group fitness class reviews or, more likely, you like tales of me embarrassing myself on the reg... either way, I'm here to deliver. This Friday I'm sharing snippets of my first five ClassPass experiences doing, well, a little bit of everything. Enjoy!

Andersonville Bikram - Intro to Bikram
$19 drop in rate

Ah, yoga. My first ClassPass experience. The staff was very welcoming, but the inside is very plain and a little stark. The locker rooms are simple and get the job done, but are a little congested. The room was HOT (duh, Carolyn, this is hot yoga) and fairly crowded, which was surprising for an 8am Saturday morning class (WHO AM I). 

When the guy at the front desk (who turned out to be the instructor and whose name I forgot... sorry!) asked if I’d done Bikram before, I told him yes. But I quickly realized when class started that no, self, you have most definitely not done Bikram before. Our instructor provided helpful guidance and called out corrections and reminders from the back of the room. He didn’t do any of the poses, and I would’ve appreciated a little more individual feedback because I could tell there were some other people in the class who were also struggling at times. Still, his verbal cues were really helpful for a newbie, and he was always mentioning reminders (drop the shoulders, make sure your weight is in your heels) just as soon as I realized I was doing something wrong. One thing that definitely stood out to me was the variety of students in class— there were men and women of all ages, all body types, and definitely all different yoga levels. I left the class feeling mostly sweaty, but also both relaxed and energized. Even though yoga isn’t my favorite form of working out, I would definitely return to this studio for another beginner-friendly Bikram class.

Flirty Girl Fitness - POUND (Lindy Cashdollar)
$25 drop in rate

I used to work with Lindy, POUND instructor, a few years back, during my Mexican restaurant days. Her base level of energy is like me on 6.5 Redbulls. That, combined with the fact that she was Racked's Chicago Trainer of the Year (2013), I knew I was in for a tough class. I’d never been to Flirty Girl before, and based on decor alone, I’ll be honest, I was prepared to kind of hate it. I’m not a girly girl, so the pink and purple and butterflies everywhere were… a little much. But, I have to admit, this gym nails all of the necessities of a studio for women. From the fruity shampoo and conditioners, to the array of blow dryers, flat irons and curling irons available for use in the locker room, it made going from a sweaty workout class to brunch a breeze (sorry for being a cliche of a person). 

And the class? I loved it! Lindy is a trained musician, so I shouldn’t have been surprised that her song choices throughout the class were so on point with our moves. We each got a pair of drumsticks, and the easiest way to describe the class is that it’s like the love child of STOMP (the musical where they drum on everything) and an aerobics class. There was lots of squatting and drumming, intermixed with ab work on our mats and drumming and twisting. Even for a choreography-challenged person, Lindy’s cues were really helpful, she kept us all pumped up the entire class, both with her personality and the music, and I didn’t have any issues keeping up. The 45 minutes flew by (okay, well except the ab work), and I would absolutely go back! I’m also interested in trying some of the other classed Flirty Girl offers.

Creative Motion - Piloxing (Erin Franklin)
$25 drop in rate

GUYS. Guys. I watched a video before Piloxing so I thought I knew what I was getting myself into. The video looked like a combination of Kickboxing and pilates, so I figured I’d be able to keep up. Well, NOPE.

First, the studio is right on a semi-busy road, and the entire wall of the studio has windows at sidewalk-level. Which means exactly what you think it means: anyone who walks by (it's right near a train stop, BTW) can look directly in, which is kind of my worst fear. I have 0% desire to watch myself working out in a mirror, so my desire to let someone else watch is significantly less than that. Also, this is definitely a no-frills studio, with no locker room or anything. Still, I found Creative Motion to be very welcoming (Erin, the instructor, was very sweet), but not a place to go when you need to shower and head somewhere after.

And then we started. With body rolls. Like Beyonce’s backup dancers. Did I mention that choreography is not my strong suit? There was definitely more dancing than I was prepared for, but  Erin did a good job of breaking down the complicated moves before we started each song. That still wasn’t enough to help me look even remotely like a dancer, but I got a good workout nonetheless. I’d return to try another class at this studio, buuuuut I don’t think Piloxing is for me.

Exhale Spa - Barre Fusion (Holly Keskey-Koester)
$25 drop in rate

Located in the swanky Gold Coast is Exhale, a hybrid studio/spa that is every bit a luxury gym experience. At the recommendation of my co-worker and fellow ClassPass-er Erika, I went to Holly’s Tuesday morning Barre Fusion class. I was a little concerned about having time to shower before work after the 60-minute 7:05am class, but Erika assured me that it’s not that sweaty of a class. In hindsight: HAHAHAHA.

The employees of Exhale got me signed in and showed me back to the locker room, which is stocked with robes (!!) and flip flops (!!) for wearing around the very sleek (but slightly cramped) locker room. I made my way into the studio and Holly had us grab a variety of equipment and we got started. HOLY WOW, there’s no way around it: this class kicked my ass. As soon as we started with 2 minutes of planks, I knew I was in trouble, both because I hate planks and because I am terrible at them. With the exception of the arm workout, everything about this class was a challenge. Just when I thought I was properly positioned and surviving a set of poses, Holly came over, corrected me, made me sink it lower, AND made us hold it for 20 more pulses. She was a phenomenal instructor, and I kid you not, I could feel the trembling aftershocks in my legs for an hour after the class. 10/10 will definitely would go back.

Fat Shred - i.d. gym (Jennifer McGowan)
$24 drop in rate

Obviously I was a little worried about going to a class called Fat Shred, especially on the heels of the previous day’s killer barre class. i.d. gym is just down the street from my old apartment, and much larger inside than I expected. It looks to have pretty much all the equipment you’d need, but the locker rooms felt like the swim locker rooms of my high school. Also, they didn’t have blow dryers (suuuuuch a diva) so I opted to head to my office and shower at my office gym after class and before work. 

I was first to show up for the 6:15am class, so Jen, the instructor, gave me the runaround while the regulars trickled in. The class consisted of 11 stations: medicine ball squats, jump rope, TRX pull-ups, kettle bell squats, kettle bell rows, sandbag side lunges, burpees, ropes, russian twists, kettle bell swings, and bosu ball spidermans (I forget what the last one was actually called so I may have made that up). We did each station for 45 seconds and then switched, taking a 2 minute break at the end of each circuit and then repeating the whole circuit 3 times total. I’d never done anything TRX-related, so I was surprised to find that I really enjoyed the TRX pull-ups. The rope and burpees on the other hand, woof. Jen was also a stickler for form, so I really appreciated her corrections on my kettle bell swings. Jillian Michaels taught me the complete wrong way to do them— who knew?! Overall, I enjoyed the class and got a good workout, but it was a little hard to really push myself hard for every single set, since we completed the stations individually. i.d. gym has a ton of other classes, (I’m really intrigued by the Caveman Workout!) so I’ll definitely return to try some of their other options. 

What should I try next week? Already on my agenda: Brawl at Barre Code, a spin class at FlyWheel (kill me now), and restorative yoga at Core Power. I think I'm going to look for a TRX class, but I'm open to suggestions.

What is your favorite group fitness class? Least favorite?


  1. Desiree Penton MarshallJanuary 23, 2015 at 8:39 AM

    These sound so interesting! I wish we had more options like these around here to try!

  2. Fat shred sounds fun! Always so proud of your achievements. Keep it up!

  3. Loved hearing about your first week of Class Pass! I know I said it before but I'll say it again, you are really lucky to have so many options open to you in Chicago! Hope your second week is going well!