It’s that time of year when you’re most likely to reckon with your personal workout routine. If the gym is a bore and you need a different kind of boost, excuses are limited as a slew of new spots have opened up in recent months that promise to up your ante of training (and I’ve sampled them all for your benefit!).
Not your average spin class, thousands have converted to SoulCycle’s sect in New York and Los Angeles for its intense 45 minutes of butt-kicking pedal pushing. Newly opened in San Francisco, Larkspur, and Palo Alto, the Bay Area can now see what all the fuss is about. Walking into the brightly lit studio for the first time can be intimidating – seems many have already jumped onto the bandwagon of padded spandex and tap dance-like clip-in bike shoes (clipping in is required and the studio will rent them to you if you don’t have your own). But, the enthusiastic staff is especially helpful with newbies and will assist with bike seat adjustment and advice. Focus on cycling to the beat; once you get that down, attempt the bike push-ups and weightlifting (the badass instructors make this appear easy – not so, I realized, after nearly flying over the handlebars, feet still fastened firm). Be forewarned, the high-energy music is extremely loud (so loud, in fact, you may want earplugs). SF’s 54-bike studio has lockers, changing rooms, showers, and a wide range of class times from 6 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Perfect for: Anyone who wants a hard-core full-body workout, discipline-seekers, or those craving a transformational life change. Single class $30, no discount packages. 2095 Union @ Webster.
Former law school student-turned-business owner Elaine Hayes initially taught Pilates out of her SoMa apartment. Now, she runs a whole operation of Pilates, Booty Barre, and yoga in a clean, feminine studio a stone’s throw from Pinterest’s SoMa offices. Class size is small so individualized attention is at a premium, which is probably why so many of her clients stay in “Mint Condition,” there’s no hiding here! Elaine is a darling, but don’t be swayed, I was howling in agreeable pain the day after a session with her (private classes are available). The only drawback is the lack of a shower and changing rooms (one bathroom suffices). Parking is tough during the day, but for evening classes, it’s a breeze. Perfect for: Targeted toning, an addendum to a cardio workout, prepping your body to impress. Drop-in $15 - $25. 766 Brannan @ 7th.
No joke Pilates at Mint Studios
This progressive studio offers challenging spin, yoga, and core strength classes at pretty much any time of day in the Financial District. One upper hand is their array of 30-minute express workouts -- I could squeeze in a training, shower, then head back to the grind all within the lunch hour. Spin classes vary from straight pedaling to more intensive weightlifting on the bike; yoga leans toward an athletic flow (with music). Founded by SF fitness vet Carl Morley, the studio also has clean showers with complimentary Malin+Goetz products, hair dryers, and other doodads to primp. Even better, they have a cute table set up with free snacks, usually fruit, mini protein bars, nuts, and juice. They are having an open house tomorrow (1/8) with a handful of free classes available. Sign up here. Perfect for: The busy body who needs flexibility with class times and class length. Passes start at $10. Discount class packages and monthly specials available. One Embarcadero Center, Lobby Level, R-1213 (up the escalator to the left).
If you’ve done the The Dailey Method or The Bar Method, Avant Barre will feel familiar. Founded last summer by dancer Nini Gueco, the class differentiates itself with a fresher, more autonomous take on traditional bar methods with added cardio, a heavier dose of abs, more ballet stretching at the bar, and creative choreography. The stylish, young instructors select trending tunes on their playlists, which makes for a spirited class of four to six people. Avant Barre currently does not have its own studio (I'm looking forward to when they do) and pops up each day at the Metronome Dance Collective in Potrero (no shower). Perfect for: First-timers; an addendum to another workout (training for a marathon? Add this once/week to the mix to strengthen muscles and joints). 3-class intro $33, single class $20. Discount packages available. 1830 17th St @ De Haro.