For those you of who have taken classes at Mark Fisher Fitness, you can probably agree that your experience went a little something like this…
You were enthusiastically greeted when you walked in the door (maybe there was glitter?) for a kick-ass workout alongside amazing humans that reciprocated some infectious, inspiring energy, and a high five or two led by a top-notch trainer (maybe in a chicken costume or wearing next to nothing #bpm) who dropped some incredible knowledge bombs and cues (#saddog #pornstar), encouraging you to unlock your inner superhero.
Am I right or am I right?
Well, curiosity got the best me and I starting thinking to myself, “Self, what else is going on out there in the fitness landscape of our beloved concrete jungle?”
So last fall, I set out on an adventure.
I grabbed my shoes and tights and all…
I was hungry to move my body in different ways, to learn new modalities and techniques, and to absorb as much information as I could, not just in the class itself, but the whole kit and kaboodle.
I signed up for a five class per month ClassPass membership. With my sneakers and leggings packed, I took my fitness adventures beyond our beloved Clubhouse on W. 39th St.
Since October, I’ve gotten my sweat on at a wide variety of studios. Everything from yoga (hot and not), spinning, HIIT workouts, kettlebell classes, boxing, rowing, megaformer, bootcamps, and the craziest version of Circuit Party you could imagine (yes there was smoke AND a live DJ). And I can’t wait to try more!
I’m happy to report back that there are A LOT of really great facilities out there offering some amazing workouts. Every single one of these experiences has helped me formulate what I think is a great workout experience – from the minute I walked in the door, the workout itself, all the way until the minute I left.
Here are 6 key ingredients you should look for when searching for a kick-ass fitness home:
1. AN INVITING WELCOME
As soon as I was acknowledged and welcomed, I immediately felt less nervous.
MFF has set the bar high for knowing names, and I can’t expect every place I go to to know me by name immediately, especially if it’s my first visit. But once I’ve been to a place a few times, I am always impressed if I am greeted with a “Hey, Chris!”
Shout out to the MFF Team for consistently crushing this! #whereeverybodyknowsyourname
How does it make you feel when someone knows you by name? Seen and heard? Some might argue that one’s name is the sweetest and most significant sound in any language. Think about this the next time you walk in somewhere and they greet you by name.
Another thing that I have come to appreciate is when studios know it’s my first time taking class with them.
The first time I hit up Row House in Chelsea, the handsome gent at the front desk, after asking my name to check me in, said, “It’s your first time! We’re so glad you’re here!” and then proceeded to tell me where everything is (lockers, changing room, towels, etc.), which totally made me feel welcome and like they were waiting for me.
I love feeling like a guest, as we all do in a new environment, so any information about the class, anything specific about their company or space, and the trainer/teacher’s name immediately eases some anxiety. If I don’t get any of that information, I feel like an intruder and why would I want to give my money to place that makes me feel like that?
2. SET UP FOR SUCCESS
Since most of these places aren’t membership-based, like Mark Fisher Fitness, they get a lot of new people every single day. As a trainer I love that, across the board, safety is first… ’cuz duh!
Since a majority of these places are “drop-in,” anytime the trainer lays out how class is going to be structured, I immediately feel more comfortable. Getting this head’s up really allows my expectations to be set from the start and to know what’s in store.
At the Fhitting Room, the entire class is written out on a giant white board, so the minute you step into the space you’re able to see what lies ahead. I find this SUPER useful because I’m able to come up with a game plan for myself and not shoot my wad too early in class.
At Modo Yoga in the West Village, the teacher is generally helping people check-in which is amazing because they are able to put faces with names right from the get go and they are able to tell you what you’ll need for class, which for yoga is generally not much, but it’s nice to know if you need a yoga block or two.
Even though I’m confident in how my body should move properly, some of the techniques I learned in my travels were brand new to me so I was reliant on the trainers for guidance.
For instance, when I tapped into my inner Muhammed Ali and took my first boxing class at Shadowbox, I didn’t really know what to do other than hit the punching bag… but like how?
What’s amazing about Shadowbox is that every class starts with a five-minute intro/demo of the different punches and defensive moves. I’ve been back a few times and every time I find this to be super useful, whether it’s hearing something in a different way or one of the patterns clicking a little bit more.
(Side note: if you need to let out some stress or anger, take a boxing class! #TKO)
The same thing goes for any place where you’re on a machine – bike, megaformer (pilates reformer x10), skier, rower. The rowing classes I’ve taken (and by the way, holy ass workout on the rower), you are reliant on the monitor for distance, strokes per minute, etc. So getting a quick tutorial on all of that is useful and takes away the learning curve.
One of the places I attended, which was a circuit style class, didn’t tell you what to do at each station until you arrived at the station. This wasn’t my favorite because it took a hot second for the trainer to tell me what do. And because the music was cranking (which I love!), it was hard to hear, so there were several stations where 10-15 seconds would go by before I actually got to work.
Every place I’ve visited has a different way of teaching the class. Some do it all at the top of class, some in between sets, some on the fly. It just needs to be straightforward and easy to understand and make sense for the workout. I don’t need to know every pose we’re gonna do in a yoga class, but in a kettlebell class it’s nice to know the next few exercise.
The trainers at MFF do a great job of taking stock at the top of class, asking if it’s anyone’s first time taking that specific class so we know who may need a little extra instruction on any new movement patterns. And there is always teaching time built into the top of class, but it’s helpful to know which exercises to focus on for which Ninjas.
3. TRAINERS WHO CARE
Having been in this position, there’s a responsibility to set the tone of the class, provide crystal clear instruction and cues, be entertaining and motivating, stay present (i.e. not just going through the motions), and bring your brand and personality into the classroom. I don’t just want a pretty face and a hot body telling me to go harder.
Across the board, I’ve been SUPER impressed with the trainers I’ve come across and have learned a lot. I’ve picked up some amazing new cues, new movement patterns, new tunes, and great motivational phrases.
One of things that I love about Mark Fisher Fitness is that we encourage you to work with different coaches. The reasoning behind this is that we all may be saying the same exact thing but using different words to get the point across, and one of these is gonna click and make your brain explode.
I can’t tell you how my technique has gotten infinitely better by hearing things in a different way and how it all can translate into so many different movement patterns.
Has this ever happened to you? Have you heard the same thing several times, but for whatever reason one time it CLICKS when a trainer says it a new way and you have that lightbulb moment?
4. MOVES THAT MAKE YOU FEEL SOMETHING
Now, I’m gonna leave a yoga class feeling all zen and light which is very different from how I feel walking out of, say, a Barry’s Bootcamp class (#fitnessdimentia).
But with both, I want to feel accomplished. I want to feel like I put my body to the test (again, this doesn’t always mean harder, faster, heavier). I want to feel like I was challenged.
One of things I’ve loved most about ClassPass is getting to mix my shit up and try new things. I’ve learned that staying in comfort zone does me no good. Since challenge creates change (tweet that!), I need to be challenging my body in different ways which doesn’t always come dressed as heavier and faster.
At Mark Fisher Fitness, we tackle this by offering four different classes – Ninjas Essentials, Kick Ass Conditioning, Superhero Strength, and Circuit Party. Our classes work on four week cycles, building in intensity as the four weeks progress. At the end of the four weeks, the slate is wiped clean and one of our amazing trainers programs the new cycle, ensuring that no Ninja body gets used to the same movement pattern for too long.
Is there somewhere in your life that could use a little spicing up? Have you been eyeing something new and haven’t worked up the nerve to step outside the box?
How do you want to feel at the end of a workout?
5. A COMMUNITY THAT GETS YOU
Would other places encourage community? Is it OK to applaud after a set? Will someone think I’m nuts for giving them a high five? Can I make noise or cheer and not get looks like I have three heads?
Yes and no.
At The Fhitting Room, typically in the middle part of class you work with a small group of people, like two to four, and travel around the room from station to station. I love this! It’s a great way to meet new people, connect, encourage, and spread some high fives and love.
At Switch Playground (think Circuit Party at an actual circuit party, the one I referenced earlier with smoke and DJ!), you are paired up with someone for the entire class.
I do tend to make some noise when I’m working out, ‘cause sometimes belting out a “Let’s go!” is exactly what I need for myself. The interesting thing is that I’ve found that this can be totally infectious. I even had one woman that I was partnered up with at the Fhitting Room come up to me several weeks later thanking me for being so motivating. What you put out into the room, really does make a difference!
I’ll never forget this one class I took that was f*cking hard and ended with two minutes of this inverted pike push-up situation.
I was dying.
We finished and I screamed, “OMG, WE’RE NOT DEAD!!” It was like time stopped and everything went into slow motion, all heads turned towards me and I got looks as if I were a pregnant man with 16 heads. Luckily the teacher thought it was hilarious, and I was all “wrong crowd.” #eggonface
Something that I think the entire Ninja Army would agree with is that Mark Fisher Fitness is a safe place. You can show up ready to get the fuck after it, or not feeling your best, or pissed at something that happened at work or wherever. And no matter what, the MFF Team and your fellow Ninjas are gonna meet you where you’re at and love the fuck outta you.
Have you ever thought about how to contribute to a class experience? Think about what kind of energy you’re putting out there next time you’re getting your sweat on.
6. A FOND FAREWELL
When it comes to gyms in NYC, there are literally hundreds, and I’m choosing to spend money at yours, so the least someone can do is acknowledge that. Can I get an AMEN?
At most classes I’ve taken, the trainers are super grateful and offer to stick around after (if there isn’t a class immediately following) should anyone have any questions, etc. I always make a point to say thanks to them for an awesome class.
It’s the front desk that doesn’t always nail their “goodbyes” or “thanks.” At one of the first places I tried on ClassPass, it took me saying “bye” three times and three different ways before the girl looked up from her iPhone and just barely acknowledged that I was leaving. Sorry for the inconvenience, sister!
I’m confident in saying that you’re not gonna go unnoticed leaving the MFF Clubhouse. In fact, you might even get serenaded, high fived, or spanked. We love our Ninjas and appreciate them showing up!
WRAP IT UP, CHRIS!
Overall, I’ve been impressed with the studios I’ve visited – solid workouts, knowledgeable trainers, and clean facilities. The information and knowledge I’ve gained feels important and useful as it’s really helped me formulate what a good workout experience needs to be for me.
Have you thought about what your ideal experience looks like for you?
A friendly, warm welcome by the front desk staff. A clean, sexy space that aligns with their brand. Fun, entertaining, knowledgeable trainers that push me hard, while keeping me safe – bonus points for making me laugh. GREAT music. An intense (again doesn’t have to be harder, faster, heavier) workout that challenges me and leaves me feeling accomplished. A genuine “thank you” or “have a good one” as I leave.
Mark Fisher Fitness checks off all of these boxes. Am I biased, sure? But now I can make it my personal mission to hold myself and the MFF Team accountable to all of these standards.
Oh, and there might be glitter.