Living in Los Angeles, I am acutely aware that being fit, loving to exercise, and wearing bright geometric leggings everywhere you go are what make someone not only physically healthy but also cool. A certain type of cool, anyway. A type of cool that has always intimidated me.
Never in my life have I been an athletic person. As a kid, when my parents and brother would go on hikes and ski trips, I would always lag a clumsy 10 minutes behind. I never played sports; I never cheered, jogged, or went to the gym—and girls who did terrified me on a cellular level. I blame my stature: I'm 5'2" and not very coordinated, and as unflattering as this is, I also hate doing things I'm bad at.
Growing up, I also thought that since the rest of my family was into fitness, maybe one day, a love of exercise would just appear out of thin air. I'm 25, and it still hasn't happened. But I want it to. No matter my natural skill set, I want to have a long, healthy life and do what's best for my body. So I embarked on a little fitness experiment. For a few weeks, I swallowed my fitness phobia in order to try five popular cult workouts in Los Angeles. The objective? To find a workout that I could actually get behind in one of the most intimidatingly fit cities in the world. Some of the classes were surprisingly enjoyable—others straight-up destroyed me.
L.A.'s Studio Elevate offers variations on Pilates techniques that aim, under no uncertain circumstances, to kick your ass. Their class offerings include "Reform & Ride," which is half Pilates reformer, half Spin; "Strength & Stretch," which involves an intense strength class followed by deep stretch; and "Reform Strength," which the brand describes as, "No frills, no 'girly' moves, very intense. Great for those who want strength training without the bulk." The last one is what I signed up for.
I had never taken a Pilates class of any kind before, so I didn't know quite what to expect. And when the owner, Leah, warned me I wouldn't be able to walk for a week afterward, I was scared. The workout itself was 50 minutes of all-over strength training on the reformer, which, from my fledgling perspective, looked (and felt) like a medieval torture device. I may or may not have almost flung myself off of it a few times, which was slightly mortifying.
That said, I don't feel like I was a complete failure at this workout—the moves were intense but not so fast or painful that I wasn't able to keep up. And they felt good in my body. I felt like I was working muscles I'd never targeted before, which is always a good sign. Leah corrected my form when I needed it but didn't stalk me the whole class. By the end, my body felt like Jell-O (in a good way). I was super sore for three days, but I could thankfully still walk. And I totally wouldn't have predicted it, but out of all the classes I took, I'd be most likely to try this one again.
Price per single class: $30
LIT Method (which stands for "low-impact training," in addition to being a popular teen slang term), is sort of like SoulCycle for rowing. Flashing lights, energetic music, and an instructor who bears an uncanny resemblance to the Soulstice guy from Broad City guide you through a nonstop cardio-strength class, where you alternate between rowing on a high-tech machine filled with real water and doing strength exercises with resistance bands on a mat next to your machine.
The class is incredibly fast-paced and highly stimulating—my favorite part about it was the rowing machine, which makes you feel as though you're pushing yourself through actual water. However, because the class has you move through each section so quickly, it can feel a little frenetic and very tiring, especially if you're not a fitness fanatic (hello, hi). I felt cripplingly sore for days afterward, so I know it was an effective workout. But speaking purely as a fitness-phobe, this one might be a little intense for me to adopt as my regular routine.
Price per single class: $28
ModelFit's L.A. studio opened its doors late last year, and the celeb-approved workout has gone absolute gangbusters. (Karlie Kloss, Chrissy Teigen, and Candice Swanepoel are all fans.) The workouts, which range from sculpt to cardio dance, aim to target small muscle groups throughout the body to create a long, lean frame. Like a model.
Real talk: The name ModelFit intimidated me from the start. (Individually, the words "model" and "fit" already cause me anxiety, and when smushed together like that, it's somehow more than twice as scary.) But I tried to check my insecurity at the door as I entered the studio for a 9 a.m. cardio dance class.
All I can say is that this class kicked my butt so hard that I had to take a five-minute "water break" in the middle just so I wouldn't puke. The workout involved about 30 minutes straight of jumping up and down, combined with additional leg and arm movements that I was simply too weak and uncoordinated to master. There were resistance bands; there was planking. There was a Top 40 playlist and a perky instructor. It is no wonder to me why people who commit to doing this multiple times a week get long, toned muscles in no time. The cardio dance class handed my booty to me—my calves were so sore afterward that I was bedridden for a week. If you want to get in amazing shape quickly, I'd say go the ModelFit dance-cardio route. But for this fitness hater, the torture level was at a max.
Price per single class: $28
There are oh so many cult yoga studios in Los Angeles, but to me, Wanderlust Hollywood seems the most cult. Show up at any time of day and you'll find attractive Angelenos in drapey fabrics eating Buddha bowls from the Wanderlust café, attending moon workshops, or just hanging. (The place is huge with all sorts of nooks and crannies, like a harem.)
Over a dozen yoga classes happen at the studio every day, ranging from kundalini yoga to traditional flow. Though I've had many experiences with yoga, I opted for a Flow Basics class for beginners. The instructors were two lanky, blond "yoga influencers," who I vaguely recognized from Instagram (only in L.A.), who led the class with big smiles and graceful vinyasas. The move we did in class felt classic and familiar (though there was a little more Warrior III than I'd expected—ouch, my legs!). Everything about the experience was aesthetically beautiful and, to speak in yoga terms, the "vibes" were lovely. But no matter how many times I try to brainwash myself into loving yoga, the Kool-Aid just doesn't digest. If you're already into yoga, then I'd totally recommend Wanderlust's classes. But if you're a freak like me and sort of hate it, maybe hit this place up for a Buddha bowl and split.
Price per single class: $20
10th Planet Jiu Jitsu
There are 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu locations all over the country, but their offshoot program specifically dedicated to women's self-defense is based in L.A. I'd always wanted to try a badass martial art like that, and I finally got the chance to do so at a class hosted by 10th Planet and Los Angeles–based lingerie line Strita. This class provided an amazing workout, which I know because my legs were sore for days afterward, but it didn't feel hard as it was happening. Because these classes teach you practical self-defense moves that serve a purpose beyond exercise, you don't even realize how hard your body is working. Learning how to pin a person twice my size to the ground inspired me in all the ways working out usually doesn't; and by the end of class, I felt like it'd felt more of an empowering female bonding experience than a workout. I don't know if jiujitsu would give you the same physical results as cardio dance or Pilates, but it was perfect for a fitness-phobe like me.
Price per single class: $30