By Josie Rubio
Years after swearing off indoor cycling, I found myself clipped into a bike, pedaling at my personal best. (Meaning at least 20 RPMs behind everyone else. This is everyone else and this is me.) In the past few months, I’ve rowed, flailed through a dance class, bounced around on a trampoline, braved the barre, sweated my way through Bikram yoga — and even did my share of cycling, including a water class. Instead of meeting people for brunch or drinks, I’m inviting them to workout dates. I had an animated discussion about which studios have the best shower products. I’m hooked on ClassPass.
What is ClassPass?
For $79 to $99 per month, depending on your location, ClassPass gives you access to as many fitness classes as you want within its network, which includes yoga, Pilates, dance, barre, martial arts and just about every other specialty fitness studio you can think of. Though this concept launched in 2011 as Classivity, a boost from investors last year allowed for streamlining and expansion, generating new buzz. ClassPass recently expanded from nine U.S. cities to 28 and just launched internationally in London, Toronto and Vancouver.
The catch? You’re limited to three classes per month per studio. In the case of studios with multiple locations — Pure Barre or Flywheel, for example — visits to any of their locations count toward the total limit.
When I was the web editor at a women’s magazine, I’d see releases for several of these types of concepts — all good in theory, but always with something amiss, from memberships that were too pricey or didn’t offer enough studios to websites that were clunky. ClassPass, however, seems different. For one thing, the website itself runs smoothly and is easy to use. Simply create an account, choose your city and book a class with the site, which allows you to sort by time, day, studio, neighborhood and type of exercise. There’s also helpful information about each studio, such as what to wear or bring, if showers are available, social links and details about the class.
Most class slots usually open at noon a week in advance, though there are a few exceptions. If you want to get a spot in one of the more popular classes, be ready to book the moment the window opens. (I haven’t been quick enough for Aqua Studio lately and am on the verge of donning a leftover Halloween mustache to sneak into one of the open men’s class slots.)
Fortunately, there are quite a few studio options to choose from, and the numbers are growing. (For example, the New York City metro area currently has 439 studio members, Washington D.C. has 103, Los Angeles has 361, and Chicago has 158.) Even several gyms have joined, offering spaces in their classes, as well as open gym times when you can go in and use the equipment, often hour slots during off-peak times.
Great for Committment-Phobes
Something else that makes ClassPass an attractive alternative to a gym membership is that there’s no commitment; membership is month-to-month. (In some cities, one-week trials are available.) So if you decide it’s not for you or want to join your favorite studio instead, just cancel ClassPass 15 days before the monthly membership cycle ends. You can re-join for an additional $79 fee. Or avoid the fee by putting your membership on hold for $19 per month, an option that allows you to still take one monthly class. (This came in handy for me when I had a wrist injury and took a ClassPass break.)
In New York City, where there are so many fitness studios, all geographically close together (though not always easy to get to), ClassPass is a good value. I can’t speak for sprawling cities like Los Angeles, but even if you booked only a few classes per week, you’d still get your money’s worth. Another cool feature: If you’re traveling to a city that has ClassPass, you can book classes there. I used this option to take a look at a city I am familiar with — Columbus, Ohio, where I lived for more than 10 years — and I’d still say it was a good option.
The other thing you should know is that you have to cancel 12 hours in advance of a class or incur a $20 penalty. The good news: You really have to go to class. The bad news: You really have to go to class. One particularly rainy morning was the perfect day to stay in bed — you know those days that actually sound cold and terrible? Yet I had to brave the elements to go to a morning Core Fusion class. If you’re likely to be waylaid on your way to a workout, ClassPass keeps you in line. (Unfortunately, if something unexpected happens, you’re out of luck.)
However, the 12-hour time is also an improvement over the former cancellation policy of 24 hours in advance. If you’re worried you’ll forget, your upcoming class schedule is on your account page, plus you receive an email confirmation when you book, as well as a reminder.
ClassPass also has a “Friends” feature that allows you to see what your workout buddies are taking, so you can compare notes or plan to take classes together. You also have the option of keeping your account private.
My own adventures in ClassPass have been mostly positive. I rediscovered some old workouts I enjoyed, like Intensati, and have had the chance to try some places my friends have enthused about for years. I’ve overcome my aversion to indoor cycling (somewhat) and I’ve even found a cycling class with a metal soundtrack, something I’ve always thought might improve my speed. I unknowingly booked “the toughest workout in New York City” and survived (but just barely). Most important, ClassPass has got me looking forward to trying new places — and to working out.
ClassPass is great if you’re an exercise-hater and you’re shopping around for a workout that you might enjoy — or if you’re worried you’ll get bored with one thing. Perhaps you’ll become of one the ClassPass-obsessed like me. Don’t worry — I still meet people for drinks and desserts. I might just spend a few minutes talking about ClassPass.