From palatial clubs to tiny storefront boutiques to oceanside exercises on the sand, fitness classes range from innovations such as trampoline, wall-climbing, and aerial hoop sessions to new takes on traditional exercises such as running and swimming. We’ve discovered enough indoor and outdoor routines and some non-workout workouts to keep you excited about staying in shape this year and beyond.
1. FLYING FOR FOREARMS
Urban Aerial Fitness
“People today want more than just the excitement of Cirque du Soleil,” says Alexandra Mata, 41. “They want the fitness.” She can relate. Four years ago, she couldn’t do a pullup or a pushup—then she began moving through the air on aerial silks and hoops suspended from a tall ceiling at Urban Aerial Fitness in Fountain Valley. In December, empowered by her new upper-body strength and eager to spread the word, she bought the company. One of a half-dozen aerial fitness studios in O.C., it offers four to six daily classes, all of which include 15 minutes of warmup before taking to the air. They attack muscles in your hands, forearms, and shoulders, which many aerobic routines don’t touch. With a wow factor like no conventional workout yet easier than it looks, this is a thrilling, smile-inducing, heart-pumping, skill-building experience unlike anything else. It might be the first time you ask someone to take a photo during your workout. Try the introductory offer of three aerial classes and one flexibility class for $39.
2. BENEFITS OF BOUNCE
Bounce Society Fitness
Millions of minitrampolines were bought for home use in the ’80s and wound up covered in cobwebs in the garage. But three years ago trainers, Chelsea Rush and Talia Boggan saw the exhilarating, low-impact, core-blasting workout as ideal for classes and opened the county’s only cardio-tramp studio, Bounce Society Fitness in Costa Mesa. The intro class, Bounce 1, warms you up to the unstable surface with one-foot drills before moving on to the fun stuff: 35 minutes of down bounces and high runs, the former involving jumping jacks, twists, and other two-foot landings, while the latter mimics running, skipping, and other one-foot movements. Rebounding is deceivingly fun and challenging, as the lung-busting aerobics are paired with an unconscious struggle for stability, not height. The owners say that studies show the vertical motion and G-force help open pathways and flush the lymphatic system, benefiting overall health, healing, and recovery. The hour-long, music-filled workout includes 20 minutes of on-floor, body sculpting with resistance bands and weights. Introductory week ($15) includes unlimited classes.
3. JOIN THIS CREW
Rowing machines have been around forever, but rowing classes such as those at Row House in Tustin (opened in May) are new—and quite satisfying. This no-impact, calorie-burning sweatfest is combined with real skill-building, leaving you fitter and smarter than when you started. Rowing, as the instructor might remind you, is all about form, irrespective of body weight, dimensions, and athletic ability. Done correctly, about 60 percent of the effort should come from the legs, not arms. All workouts begin with skill drills for key rowing positions such as the “catch” (hands forward and knees bent at the front of the machine); the “drive” (legs fully extended and back leaned at the 11 o’clock position); and the “finish” (arms to chest). It takes a while to put form ahead of brute strength, but getting in sync with classmates leaves you on an endorphin high. The 45-minute workout alternates three rowing interval sessions with on-the-floor squats, planks, and reverse lunges-to-knee raises.
4. EMBRACE YOUR INNER SPIDERMAN
Fitwall in Newport Beach will have you climbing the walls, literally. It gets you squatting and doing pullups on what looks like a burly, metal 7-foot-tall bookcase. The device, invented by rock climber and martial artist Doug Brendle, not only forces you to use your upper body, working muscles you might not have used since climbing a tree at age 10, but it also engages the core and stabilizes the hips. Because relentless climbing will “burn out your forearms,” says coach Travis Harski, the wall workouts alternate with functional floor exercises such as pushups, squats, and planks, and challenging “animal flow” movements such as bear crawls, side kicks, and the Traveling Ape (squat low, place hands on the floor to the right of your legs, and hop sideways). Doing three rounds of each, plus warmup moves and cool-down stretches, takes 40 minutes, leaving you thoroughly worked from head to toe but exhilarated by your newfound coordination. To keep things interesting, the programming changes every three weeks. You can try the first class for $10, and two weeks of initial unlimited use is $49.
5. PILATES PLUS
The Haute Room
The M35 class at The Haute Room in Tustin leaves no stone unturned, blasting muscles you didn’t realize you had—without a weight or elliptical machine in sight. Instead you stand, sit, and lie down on the sliding platform of a Megaformer, a proprietary reformer invented by French fitness icon Sebastian Legree, and use resistance straps and body weight to push, pull, and balance while moving forward and backward through a dozen exercises. There are pullups, standing biceps curls, situps, and every imaginable front, side, or angled lunge, often performed so deliberately that you begin to shake and quiver and want to scream by the 10th rep. “You work out one body part at a time slowly for several excruciating minutes until you want to chop that limb off,” wrote one Yelp reviewer. It’s the Legree Method, a combination strength-stretch-balance-core workout, that deeply shreds your sinew, straightens your posture, and enhances functional movement. The result: a high-sweat, high-heart rate, head-to-toe blast that leaves you feeling improved as well as tired. The first class is $18.
6. PUNCH IT UP
Multiple o.c. locations
Have you ever seen a boxer without a great body? You’ll understand after 30 minutes at 9Round Fitness, a franchise new to O.C. that takes you through nine three-minute stations of punching, kicking, and calisthenics. With a coach providing tips on form, you warm up with a jump-rope, jumping jacks, medicine-ball squats, and weights before the timing buzzer sounds and the hitting begins. You get to wallop all the classic padded adversaries you’ve seen in the movies: the heavy bag for jabs, crosses, hooks, and front kicks; the “wrecking ball” for uppercuts and duck-unders; the horizontal bag for knee strikes and donkey kicks; and the speed bag for hand-eye coordination. While the combo cardio-strength workout provides superb body shaping and calorie burn, learning how to throw a punch can be the most rewarding and fun part of the workout. Unlike a traditional gym, there is no class workout time; each person makes an appointment and progresses one at a time from station to station, so it’s a personalized workout, even if nine other people are on the floor.
7. PRECISION RUN AND SWIM
Equinox Sports Club
Running and swimming have never been class workouts—until Equinox Sports Club in Irvine figured out how to do it. In Precision Running, you hop on a treadmill and don earbuds that emit upbeat music and the voice of a coach prowling the aisle barking orders. There’s a stair-step series of elevation-speed intervals and cool-downs that culminate in all-out sprints—and it pays off. You might run faster and longer because the voice in your ears warms you up correctly. Swimming at the pool downstairs is a similar story, with coached workouts and skill drills available daily. Try the H2O Endurance class, which might be led by former Colorado State University triathlete Darian Davis, who does kick and stroke drills with pull buoys, fins, hand paddles, and kickboards. For a lifelong but untrained swimmer, a solid hour of tips from a real coach was a revelation.
8. BOOT CAMP & YOGA COMBO
OC Kickboxing & Mixed Martial Arts
Pump it up and stretch it out. Two complementary classes for the price of one are offered Monday through Thursday mornings at OC Kickboxing & Mixed Martial Arts in Irvine. Both are led by no-nonsense kickboxing coach Rachel Silverman, a ranked tournament fighter in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, No Gi Jiu Jitsu, and MMA who has several yoga certifications. The 6 a.m. boot camp—45 nonstop minutes of ever-changing old-school exercises such as squats, planks, lunge kicks, pushups, bicycle situps—blasts the entire body. Then it immediately moves to Silverman’s relentless 45-minute yoga class, leaving you done by 7:30 and primed to tackle the workday.
9. BREATHING AND BREATHLESS
For those who know they need the stretching and flexibility of yoga but see it as time they’d rather devote to heart-thumping HIIT (high-intensity interval training), Lifetime Athletic in Laguna Niguel came up with a novel solution: Combine the two. Its new FIRE class mixes 30-second sprints with vinyasa flow yoga. The class moves from one to the other in an ingenious, seamless manner, as sequences drive from the warrior 2 position into a rapid-fire flurry of front kicks; from downward dog to knee-to-chest mountain climbers; from chair position to squats to high knees to opposite elbows. Breathing control is the key aspect of the workout strategy; as your heart rate flies on the HIIT, you calm it down during the yoga positions with deep, slow nasal breathing. Conducted in an 85-degree room and bathed in slow-to-fast beats that ramp up but maintain a distinct yogic vibe, this stretch-and-strain sweatfest is a revelation that leaves you so worked that you just lie there on your back for three minutes at the end—and don’t want to get up. But when you do, you’ll feel really, really good.
10. DE-STRESS IN SILKS
Miraval Life in Balance Spa
With 23 kinds of classes, there’s no shortage of fitness options available at Miraval Life in Balance Spa at Monarch Beach Resort in Dana Point, including cardio drumming, yoga on a mat in the pool, and aerial yoga, pictured at left. To nurture your mental and spiritual well-being, though, try the 45-minute Floating Meditation class. Slip into a suspended silk that envelops you like a baby in a sling as your body is covered with blankets and an eye pillow blocks the light. The instructor rings chimes and uses a melodious voice to guide your focus through each main chakra. It sounds overly Zen, but even those new to yoga or meditation discover a fresh sense of ease—to the extent that some clients fall asleep.
We asked our Instagram followers for their favorite outdoor workouts in O.C.
@lilcudathatcould @q_the_coach the fact that the man carries tractor tires, ropes, and hammers in his car at all times is enough to scare anyone, but his classes are simple and fun. Now mix that in with being outdoors at different parks. It’s almost a sense of relaxation and accomplishment when you’re all done.
@blissfultravels Every month, Navawell hosts an outdoor yoga session at The Tree House at The Camp in Costa Mesa. It’s such a great experience enjoying the fresh air and woodsy vibes while working out!
@pet_friend I love the steps at Hillcrest Park in Fullerton. Those steps and running at Fullerton loop has helped me lose almost 80 lbs!
@bridgetcolby Happy Hour Fit Club! Kerrie (founder and instructor) is an amazing, positive, motivating instructor! She holds classes at parks in Rossmoor and Seal Beach. Playing ultimate dodge ball at the end of a class for an extra little cardio is always super fun!
@thirdmoonbakery Early mornings with @vexyoga in Irvine!
@kyliedtravis @casaromanticasc has Casa Fits Mondays where you can work out outdoors with beautiful ocean and garden views.
@brass_tack Doing Thousand Steps beach several times or aqua fit at the LBHS pool. Free yoga in the park with Carl at Montage and also lunges up the hill at Crystal Cove trails
@hbtrl4 Hiking in Newport at Top of the World, or riding my bike along the bike path in Huntington Beach.
@sighty1 Taking advantage of our beautiful @crystalcovestatepark and doing interval sprints, running up the various flights of stairs, and walking those scenic trails!