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The Gym-Class Guinea Pig


Burlesque Workout at the New York Sports Club.  

Fight Club
DavidBartonGym, 215 W. 23rd St., nr. Seventh Ave.; 212-414-2022; memberships from $120 per month
The first rule of Fight Club—this Fight Club, anyway—is not to get intimidated about being the wimpiest-looking person in the class. “Always push and never stop,” said fight coach Robert Ramsey, who asked only for “what the body can do.” A typically relentless progression: 30 jumping jacks, 30 push-ups, 30 leg lifts, and 30 jump squats. We alternated punches, reverse lunges, sit-ups, and roundhouse kicks that elicited, from me and plenty of others, a satisfying look-what-I-can-do grunt.
Minutes: 60
Peak Heart Rate: 162
Calories Burned: 395
The Pain-O-Meter: 8

Core Fusion Cardio
Exhale, 150 Central Park S., nr. Sixth Ave.; 212-249-3000; $35, $160 for five classes
A beautiful room filled with beautiful people gave me just enough motivation to get through this notoriously intense class. (Give it your all, I told myself, and you’ll look like them.) A more extreme version of basic core fusion, which blends the Lotte Berk Method with yoga and Pilates, the class mixes strength training and gluteal work with innumerable sets of “mountain climbers” (a push-up-knee-pump move), punches, and side-twisting push-ups.
Minutes: 60
Peak Heart Rate: 148
Calories Burned: 328
The Pain-O-Meter: 6

Flywheel Sports, 39 W. 21st St., nr. Fifth Ave.; 212-242-9433; $30, $135 for five classes
Flybarre’s goal is to open spinners’ bodies, which spend a lot of time scrunched over bikes, with exercises inspired by yoga, Lotte Berk, and lacrosse. (FlyBarre director Kate Bohner was a Division I college player.) The idea is to exhaust the muscles by both stretching and flexing them. I found myself constantly comparing my form against my class-neighbor, who seemed to do everything more gracefully than I did.
Minutes: 60
Peak Heart Rate: 148
Calories Burned: 227
The Pain-O-Meter: 5

Glee Club
Crunch, 144 W. 38th St., nr. Sixth Ave.; 212-869-7788; $35 for day pass
After each Tuesday-night Glee episode, instructors devise one or two new routines for Gleeks to dance and, yes, sing to. The warbling serves two actual exercise purposes: It helps modulate breathing, and it distracts you from the fact that you’re running out of steam. (Cee Lo’s “Forget You” was unremitting sliding and booty-shaking.) Lea Michele’s plummeting weight suddenly makes sense.
Minutes: 60
Peak Heart Rate: 152
Calories Burned: 337
The Pain-O-Meter: 3

Power Hit
Edge, 403 E. 91st St., nr. First Ave., fourth fl.; 212-722-0076; memberships from $79 per month
Power hit starts with twice-weekly one-on-one sessions with Denis Barry or one of his trainers, who run you through free-weight “super sets.” (One progression: 55 pounds on the incline press; eight burpees, in which you jump and land pushing out into a plank; and fifteen hanging leg raises.) After being put through the paces—my regimen included five super-sets with increasingly heavy weights— I could barely hail a cab. But, oh, the feeling of accomplishment!
Minutes: 60
Peak Heart Rate: 164
Calories Burned: 327
The Pain-O-Meter: 9

Equinox, 344 Amsterdam Ave., at 76th St.; 212-496-2374; memberships from $145 per month
“You control the sword; the sword doesn’t control you,” intoned heavily biceped instructor Omar. After wielding a pound-and-a-half wooden samurai sword for fifteen minutes, I could feel my upper arms and back submit to fatigue, but I was still channeling Uma Thurman in Kill Bill. Two-thirds through the class, my shoulders were ready to give up. By the time it was over, I was panting.
Minutes: 60
Peak Heart Rate: 148
Calories Burned: 302
The Pain-O-Meter: 6

Ballet Beautiful
Various locations and online at; $40, $450 for twelve classes
I was too tomboyish and scrappy as a child to do ballet, so this was my first brush with the stuff. And it was anything but easy. Devised by former New York City Ballet dancer Mary Helen Bowers (she trained Natalie Portman for Black Swan), the class strengthens and limbers the body through ballet-based movements. While it wasn’t a regular cardio-class sweatfest, the graceful sequences, like lunging forward in a turned-out position in five sets of ten, targeted spots I don’t ordinarily reach.
Minutes: 60
Peak Heart Rate: 144
Calories Burned: 223
The Pain-O-Meter: 4

Rope Burn
DavidBartonGym, 4 Astor Pl., nr. Lafayette St.; 212-505-6800; memberships from $120 per month
My heart rate climbed to God-help-me territory after just five minutes of rope-jumping, and that’s where it stayed, save for water breaks. We started by skipping rope (clumsily, for me) for a full minute, gradually inching up to two, and interspersing each set with push-ups, squats, and sit-ups. Though I sometimes dropped the rope in frustration, it was still a sweaty, satisfying workout.
Minutes: 45
Peak Heart Rate: 168
Calories Burned: 332
The Pain-O-Meter: 10

Bar Hoppin’
Crunch, 554 Second Ave., at 31st St.; 212-545-9757; free for members, $35 for day pass
When this trampolining class officially rolls out later this month, don’t expect child’s play. I assumed the mini-trampoline would do most of the work, but controlled “rebounding,” as the instructors call it, forces you to persistently tighten your abs and work your glutes, hamstrings, calves, and ankles. Bottom line: This is real exercise, even if you’re smiling goofily while you’re doing it.
Minutes: 45
Peak Heart Rate: 148
Calories Burned: 268
The Pain-O-Meter: 4

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