Run. Lift. Stretch. Repeat. Your usual fitness routine can get a little, well, routine. Fortunately a new slew of game-changing gyms, studios, and workout experiences are cropping up across the country. From a company that takes yoga out of the studio and into the woods to a competitive cycling class that taps into your inner athlete to a street-inspired dance school, these exercise experiences are completely reinventing what it means to “go to the gym.” While these studios may not be in your hometown (yet!), chances are these companies’ unique approaches to fitness will spread. Check out our list below and get inspired to try something new at your own gym (TRX is calling your name), plan a fitness-focused vacation, or just admire these crazy-fun, crazy-creative, yet crazy-effective ways to exercise. (Note: The list is in no particular order.)
The only naturally occurring amphitheater in the world, Red Rocks offers a summer fitness series that allows exercisers to admire the breathtaking surroundings while doing workouts that will take their breath away. Sign up for the Red Rocks Fitness Challenge, a 12-week program that offers five workouts a week from April to July, plus meal plans and personal coaching from nutrition and fitness professionals. With music blasting through the amphitheater as you exercise, it’s like your own personal concert, where you and your endorphins are the headliners. If you’d prefer to take in the views while holding a handstand rather than a squat, check out Yoga on the Rocks, which offers four 7 a.m. sessions throughout July and August. With the famous red sandstone monoliths as a backdrop, watching the sunrise from downward dog can be an almost otherworldly experience.
New York City
Remember that feeling of complete and utter joy when the recess bell rang in grade school? Throwback Fitness brings back that kid-like excitement at their New York City studio, where heart-pumping workouts are accompanied by a retro soundtrack from the ‘80s and ‘90s (think “Livin’ on a Prayer” meets “Ice, Ice, Baby”). Participants join forces for games like dodgeball, capture the flag, and college-inspired favorites like flip cup and cornhole. Not that it’s all fun and games: Expect to do push-ups and lunges between throws or a strength circuit between rowing intervals. Founded in 2014 by two former athletes who wanted to recreate the competitive nature of playing on a team, the studio attracts fitness fanatics who are looking to mix up their workouts, while the game-like approach to exercise is perfect for people who dread going to the gym. No matter what your fitness level, by the end of class, you’ll be out of breath, dripping in sweat, and definitely cracking a smile.
Sure, dance cardio classes sound like fun, but memorizing chunks of choreography can be intimidating. And if you didn’t have a past life as a Rockette, you might find yourself doing a grapevine to the left while everyone is high-stepping to the right in a terrifying game of Jazzercise chicken. The solution? Hit the dance floor (at 6 a.m.) for a club-like atmosphere and super-fun workout that will start your day like no other. At Daybreaker parties, which pop up all over the world (follow them on Twitter or Facebook to stay updated), you can freestyle your heart out and get a good workout in all before your morning meeting. It’s the endorphins you’d get from an early-morning treadmill run paired with the euphoria of busting out your best moves (the shopping cart, the sprinkler, and the running man all welcome). BYO glowsticks.
Located in the Fort Point area of the Seaport, this luxury fitness facility, co-founded in 2014 by George Foreman III (who’s the son of that George Foreman—and also an active instructor), offers kickboxing and fighting classes for both beginners and more advanced fighters. But the George Foreman Club goes way outside the ring with its signature fitness classes, like BoxFIIT—an innovative, heart-pumping combo of several disciplines, including boxing, yoga, running, Pilates, and CrossFit—and Bags + Booty, a mix of boxing, dance, and lower-body-focused moves. With about 30 classes offered every day and a fully equipped gym floor, this space has something for everyone, whether you’re a member or just dropping in for a class. But with a juice bar, gorgeous locker rooms, saunas, steam rooms, and a shop, we’re not sure why anyone would ever want to leave.
New York City
If you’ve ever tried a Pilates reformer, you know all about the intense, core-focused burn that the machine’s moving platform provides. Well, one New York City studio just stepped it up notch with a brand-new combination machine called the FLEXformer. Co-designed in 2014 by studio founder Jeanette Simon and the firm who crafted the renowned SoulCycle bikes, this sleek machine combines two of the most effective pieces of Pilates equipment: the reformer and the wunda chair. The result: A full-body-sculpting, fast-paced workout that incorporates both strength training and cardio. You’ll only find the machine at FLEX Studios (for now), where the trainers can now add an additional 30-plus exercises to their routines. After a session on this groundbreaking apparatus, we can attest that you’ll feel the burn the next day in muscles you didn’t even know you had.
New York City
The brainchild of three former college athletes who missed the camaraderie of being part of a team, SWERVE Fitness brought the first team-inspired indoor cycling workout to New Yorkers in 2013. Classes are divided into three groups who compete for the highest overall energy output (or SWERVE score), which is measured by state-of-the-art tracking technology on the bikes. High-energy instructors lead riders through a series of speed intervals, heavy hills, and team challenges for 45 minutes of sweat-inducing cycling, and every time your team “scores,” your team colors flash overhead to keep the momentum up. The coolest part? Your individual stats, including calories burned and team rank, are emailed to you immediately so they’re sitting in your inbox right after class. The spacious 3,500-square-foot studio also features showers, a lounge, and a smoothie bar where you can place your order before class and refuel as you walk out.
Forget yoga on the beach—the newest place to hold tree pose is, well, in the woods. One part Wild, one part Eat, Pray, Love, Hiking Yoga originated in San Francisco in 2009 when founder Eric Kipp melded his passion for exploring new places with his love of yoga. On the 90-minute excursions, instructors lead hikers over three miles of scenic nature trails, taking breaks along the way for flows. The cardio benefits of hiking plus the mental benefits of yoga combine for a fresh-air fitness experience like no other. And leave your mat at home: Kipp says practicing on the earth leaves you feeling even more grounded.
West Hollywood, CA
CrossFit can seem intimidating to anyone lacking a Hulk-like physique. But Brick CrossFit, a West Hollywood-based box (CrossFit-speak for gym), wants to change that perception by thinking way outside the typical box. New to CrossFit? Don’t worry—all first-timers are required to attend “The Academy,” where proper technique and form is taught by experienced instructors. Then you can choose from the usual CrossFit WODs as well as a mind-boggling mix of unique classes including B|X, a bootcamp-style HIIT workout, and the mobility-focused CrossFlow, which uses bands, kettlebells, and lacrosse balls to enhance deep-tissue release. Plus, in a break from typical CrossFit tradition, Brick invites runners and non-runners alike to work on increasing their speed and sharpening their form in coach-led workouts. Bottom line: No matter your fitness background, you’ll be sure to find a class you’re excited about at Brick.
New York City
At Studio Anya, students can float, fly, and swing their way to a completely new perspective (and physique). The playground-like environment offers proprietary classes designed by owner Courtney Bauer that integrate yoga, Pilates, and dance, so you can strengthen your core, build muscle, and calm your mind all in the same place. If you’re in need of a little R&R, sign up for the studio’s signature Thai bodywork, neuromuscular therapy, or meditation sessions. And be sure to try the AntiGravity Yoga classes—they’re so much fun may even forget you’re working out. While the gentle inversions help circulate blood throughout the body, cocooning yourself in a floating hammock for a well-deserved savasana is definitely the best part of the class.
Before each class at Orangetheory Fitness, students put on on a heart rate monitor as well as their running shoes. If you’ve never used the device before, don’t let it scare you! The “theory” behind it is simple: Students see their heart rates flashed up on a screen in order to ensure they’re working hard enough during the 60-minute class, where they run intervals on the treadmill, hit the rowing machine, and strength train with free weights, suspension trainers, and Bosu balls. The goal: Reach the “orange zone” (at least 84 percent of your maximum heart rate) and produce excess post-exercise oxygen consumption, or EPOC, which helps burn up to 400 additional calories after your workout ends. The motivating instructors, upbeat music, and sense of friendly competition encourage experienced and novice students alike (feel free to power walk on the treadmill if you’re not up for running). And with 124 studios in 28 states, there are plenty of spots where you can get your sweat on.
The mission of this Texas-based studio franchise: to educate clients on how to become their absolute healthiest selves. Physical fitness of course plays a big part in it, but what makes Define so unique is the dedication to your overall wellbeing—here, decreasing stress is as important as increasing strength. The 60-minute Define body classes are a results-oriented fusion of Pilates, yoga, ballet, and core-strengthening to target all major muscle groups in the body. And unlike typical barre-inspired studios, Define offers indoor cycling at several locations, as well as a refreshing and soothing mind-body class that melts away stress. With an eco-friendly, calming design inside each studio, clients can’t help but feel more centered and balanced in both body and mind when they walk out.
In a world where gyms promote skinny jeans and six-pack abs as the ultimate reason to buy a membership, Blink Fitness brings a breath of fresh air. It’s all about positivity at this New York- and New Jersey-based gym chain, where members are greeted with a smile from all employees—or “mood lifters,” as they’re known at Blink. The bright, open rooms have plenty of space to move around, and even the color scheme was designed to have a positive effect on mood: Blue helps with concentration, red energizes, and green relaxes. Even the music blaring through the speakers has been chosen to have a specific beat that helps keep you motivated during your workout. Best of all, the gyms are super affordable: Memberships start at just $20.
San Diego, CA
Sun, sand, and surf… this outdoor fitness facility features the holy trinity for ocean aficionados. Owned by professional stand-up paddleboarder Gillian Gibree, Paddle Into Fitness began offering stand-up paddleboard (SUP) yoga classes in 2009 in the San Diego Bay. (Sure beats a stuffy studio!) Recently, Gibree and trainer Jessica Matthews designed the first SUP Fitness program approved by the American Council on Exercise. You’ll do a dynamic warm-up on the beach before heading to the water for a variety of cardio drills and bodyweight training on the board. Bonus: The instability of the board takes any move up a notch in intensity—if you thought triangle pose or single-leg training was a challenge on a gym floor, try doing it on a paddleboard. After a few sessions, you’ll see major gains in coordination, endurance, and overall strength.
New York City
Mile High Run Club is to running what Flywheel is to indoor cycling. Wanting to give New Yorkers an experience akin to training outdoors on the trails of Colorado, running coach and triathlete Debora Warner opened Mile High, the first-ever dedicated studio for indoor running, in 2014. The large, black-light-lit space (we suggest breaking out your neon gear) holds 36 high-tech Woodway 4Front treadmills, plus there’s a separate room for stretching, foam rolling, and gait analysis. Choose from the 45-minute, 60-minute, and 90-minute class options, all of which have short strength sessions at the end. Whether you’re new to running or training for your next marathon, you’ll have your pick of a one-of-a-kind indoor adventure.
San Francisco, CA
No yoga experience or religious intention required: All that’s needed to attend this ethereal yoga session in San Francisco’s iconic Grace Cathedral is a desire to quiet the mind and balance the body. Whether you’re religious, spiritual, or none of the above, practicing yoga within the cathedral’s ornate walls is an experience like none other. When you enter the cathedral, you’re greeted with its sprawling labyrinth and intricate stained glass windows that cast light in gorgeous colors into the surreal space. Don’t prepare for a sweaty power yoga session—Yoga on the Labryinth is more of a gentle class, full of slow stretches and breathing techniques designed to lead students into a more contemplative state using the beauty of the surroundings as inspiration. The class is donation-based, so pay what you wish (the suggested amount is $10 to $20).
New York City
Rowing has come a long way from its Ivy League heyday. In CityRow’s bright, sunlit studio with stunning views of the New York City skyline, students crush rowing intervals on state-of-the-art Water Rower machines while alternating with strength sessions on the mat with free weights, squats, and plenty of planks. Each stroke on the rowing machine works nine main muscle groups, so you’ll get a true total-body workout: “Legs, core, arms” is the studio’s motto. Plus, rowing is a low-impact exercise and the highly trained instructors are adamant about proper form, so you’ll get a kick-ass workout while reducing risk of injury. With class offerings ranging from a “row and flow” that ends with a vinyasa yoga sequence to an extreme 75-minute version, anyone can hop on, start rowing, and start getting stronger.
We’ve seen future of mind-body wellness, and it looks like the Sonima Wellness Center. In this brand-new, cutting-edge space, clients can access a range of yoga-inspired workouts, including vinyasa flow, alignment classes, and guided meditations. Over saying om? The center also offers strength and cardio classes. And if you’re looking for a serious overhaul of your wellbeing, meet with one of the on-staff health coaches. When you’re ready to recharge, find freshly made cold-pressed juices and vegan and raw food offerings at the on-site café. There’s even a gorgeous “living wall” filled with plants to pump in extra oxygen. Filled with natural light, wood beams, and even WiFi, this is the ultimate place to become healthier in mind and body.
At this personal and group training gym, founder David Dellanave is pioneering biofeedback testing to ensure his clients get the most out of every session. It may sound super technical, but biofeedback is simply a way to test your range of motion after various exercises to figure out how your body really wants to move on any given day. The reasoning: If you’re following the signals your body is sending you, you’ll leave every sweat session feeling better than when you arrived. Plus, in a world where trainers pride themselves on leaving clients completely depleted and exhausted, we are loving the Movement’s moderate training philosophy: 1) Start where you are, 2) Do what you can. Not to say they go easy on you—clients train using kettlebells, barbells, and bodyweight exercises to reach their fitness goals, and body measurements are taken monthly to make sure they’re progressing.
Dreaming of being America’s Next Ninja Warrior? Well, we can’t guarantee you first place, but we can suggest you head to Brooklyn Zoo, a 4,500-square-foot parkour training facility in New York City. Park what, you ask? Parkour is basically the fitness equivalent of those gravity-defying movie stunts when the hero leaps between buildings, runs through alleyways, and scales up walls. While it may sound dangerous, the Zoo offers a safe place and professional help to bring out your inner Jason Bourne. Here clients get the chance to try (and become experts in) the fitness art forms of parkour, breakdancing, trampoline, tumbling, tricking, dance, and more. Thanks to multiple levels of unique structures—some up to 20 feet high—to jump and climb on, an 800-square-foot dance floor, and even a massive trampoline, members can crush a heart-pounding, exhilarating, and super-fun workout. And since the zoo’s experienced instructors use methods of progression and attention to detail, technique, and style, members have fun and see results—safely.
New York City
When you’re gasping for breath and dripping in sweat after the first five minutes, you know a killer workout is on the way. Founded by former NFL player Alonzo Wilson, Tone House aims to bring extreme sports conditions to the mainstream fitness market in order to give everyone the equipment, knowledge, and skills to train like an athlete. Case in point: Every class beings with a “team chant” that gets clients motivated, focused, and pumped, followed by a dynamic and challenging warm-up. Then trainers lead the team through a series of exercises—including plyometrics, bodyweight moves, and primal training—that challenge the body and get the heart rate (way, way) up for maximum calorie burn. Wilson’s smart strategy ensures results in every facet of overall fitness: strength, speed, agility, endurance, and flexibility.
Why choose between the treadmill’s hard and unforgiving surface or the elliptical’s unnatural and monotonous movement? Designed in 2014 by two men who loved to run but hated the treadmill, Sproing is a piece of gym equipment that’s like nothing else on the market. The low-impact machine replaces the treadmill’s usual plywood deck with soft cushioning that feels like running on the beach (waves and sand not included, unfortunately). They also took away the treadmill’s moving belt, so users can get strength training and cardio in the same session. Sproing also features four “pods” for endless strength options from push-ups to plyometrics. Clients can burn up to 750 calories in the 45-minute, high-intensity (but low-impact) workout that’s monitored by Polar heart rate technology so there’s no hiding in the back. But in the crisp, modern studio with inspiring instructors and heart-thumping music, giving it your all should come naturally.
True story: We live in an age where people are so hyper-connected that we check our phones 150 times during a typical day. So it kind of makes sense that some people are paying just to get away from it all. Unplug, a guided-meditation studio smack in the middle of frenetic Los Angeles, offers 30- to 45-minute classes where customers can let go, learn to meditate or enhance their practice, and simply breathe. After founder Suze Yalof Schwartz left a high-powered career as a fashion editor, she was curious about meditation but couldn’t find a non-committal (and affordable) class. Her solution: Create a clean, modern, and calming space featuring qualified meditation leaders and pay-as-you-go sessions that appeal to type-A professionals and New-Age-y types alike. All you need to do is sit back and relax.
Consider MADabolic a seriously souped-up version of your local gym’s metabolic conditioning class. Founded by two athletes who naturally transitioned into the fitness industry when their professional careers ended, this boutique training facility first opened in 2012 in Charlotte, NC, and now has nine locations in the southeast and one in Canada. The workout is an interval-driven strength and endurance program that’s carefully structured to compliment any active lifestyle. The daily workouts change constantly, but all are based on a one-of-a-kind system created in-house that focuses on five main styles of movements—primal moves, power moves, strength and stability, boxing, and anaerobic output (intense bursts of cardiovascular activity)—in order to create a smart, scientific, and super-intense workout.
These days, there are enough boutique fitness studios out there to attract any kind of customer: beginners, cyclists, CrossFitters, runners, etc. But differently abled people aren’t usually aren’t at the top of the list as clientele. Adam Kessel, an extreme sports junkie who discovered indoor cycling after he suffered an injury in a motorcycle accident, hopes to change that with Cyclepathic, a Santa Monica studio providing high-intensity indoor cycling and group fitness classes for both able-bodied and adaptive athletes with spinal cord injuries. No matter what your skill level or physical ability, you’ll find something you love in their offering of hardcore classes like Sandbell Sweat Shop, Holy HIIT, or Adaptive Dance, which is taught by an inspirational 22-year-dancer and paraplegic. Plus, with every class purchased, a donation is made to Life Rolls On, a foundation that raises money to improve the quality of life for athletes with spinal cord injuries. Now that’s a post-workout high that would be tough to beat.
Whether you start each day with sun salutations or you’re not sure of the difference between downward dog and cat-cow, you can’t deny that “beat bumping, sweat dripping, candlelit yoga” sounds pretty freaking awesome. Launched in 2013, the Brooklyn studio’s unique vinyasa classes offer students the freedom to flow on their own as a series of sweat-inducing tunes pumps through the heated studio. And this isn’t your usual zen playlist: Y7 gives students a carefully choreographed playlist that ranges from The Weeknd to Stevie Wonder. Classes are always lit by flickering candles, and with only 15 to 30 students in each session, teachers can truly interact with each one. All these factors help the studio live up to its lofty mission to make each class a “60-minute vacation” for your body and mind.
New York City
This isn’t your daughter’s dance studio. Located in New York City’s East Village, Exile Professional Gym brings traditional street dance into a studio space. While other dance schools may offer hip-hop classes, Exile teaches studios a massive variety of dance styles beyond hip-hop and house, including unusual ones like break dancing, vogue, “lite feet” (a dance that originated in East Harlem), and “flexing”( a reggae-style dance that started in Brooklyn). The company’s first 10 studios are overseas in Japan and Taiwan, but with this new location, the company is going back to the roots of the street-dance movement in New York City. Experienced instructors, many of whom have performed with artists like Beyoncé and Lady Gaga or appeared in movies like Step Up 2 and Dreamgirls, teach classes in the two massive studios that can hold up to 30 to 40 students. A class where you can learn how to shake it like Shakira and get a great workout? Sign us up.
With natural daylight, solar panels, and solar thermal heaters providing over 70 percent of the building’s energy, Movement is the first energy-efficient climbing gym of its kind. No matter what level your climbing abilities, from beginner to World Cup-worthy (it’s even hosted the IFSC World Cup in 2011), this full-service facility features custom designed climbing walls take your climbing skills to brave new heights. With a brand-new location in Denver, these state-of-the-art gyms aren’t only about climbing: They also offer over 50 fitness classes per week, including Pilates, cycling, and yoga, plus kids programs and childcare.
Want to let it all hang out? Head to Fuse Pilates in D.C., where you can let loose (and strengthen your body) on the studio’s proprietary ladder-like Pilates apparatus. Custom-designed by co-founder Mariska Breland in 2014, the wooden ladder is attached to the wall for stability and enables students to dangle, push, and pull their way to a stronger body. The multipurpose board features hanging springs with straps for hands and feet—the higher you hook ‘em, the harder the workout. Each 55-minute class focuses on functional movements, resistance and bodyweight exercises, and balance challenges for an effective routine that targets both larger and smaller, stabilizing muscles. After you’re finished, you’ll never look at a ladder the same way.
A note on how these fitness facilities were selected: Each gym was chosen by Greatist editors for meeting certain criteria. We asked fitness experts, family, and friends across the country to recommend gyms that are changing the way people work out by incorporating new equipment, gear, and non-traditional spaces. We also looked for places that are challenging conventional modes of exercising with their unique theories of movement or the combination of different fitness disciplines. In general, we looked for spaces that are innovating the way we think of the term “going to the gym” by making fitness fun, accessible, and creative for a wide range of people.