A Truly Smart Workout

I’m excited to tell you all about a really cool gym I had the opportunity to try out. After reading Melissa’s experience at SmartWorkout, I knew I had to see what this place was all about. The main reason?

Just look at this class schedule!

I can identify so many classes I would LOVE  to take on a regular basis. Some of the ones that most appeal to me are trampolines, swing, cheerleading, dance to the hits, broadway blast and, of course, spin! I’d never get bored!

So when they contacted me to offer me a free pilates reformer and personal training session? I was there! I originally tried to schedule my two sessions on the same day to save time, but there was no availability for personal training on the day I chose pilates.  We decided I would attend the pilates class and while I was there, schedule my training session.

First, let me tell you a little about SmartWorkout.

From the website:

Smart Workout is a beautiful facility: comfortable, sunny, and spotless. Our bathrooms, sauna, and steam, are all private; our towels are full body and fluffy. Our environment is welcoming (everybody REALLY knows your name). We offer camaraderie, but never huge crowds.

We pamper you: we give you a “reminder” call every time you schedule a workout; we provide complementary tea service; and hair twisties for the forgetful. We even set up your equipment and put it away for you!

Everything at Smart Workout is designed to make you feel at home.

Smart Workout

All true. Elaine, the owner, explained to me that she created this gym with everything she didn’t like about the bigger gyms in mind. She wasn’t comfortable changing in front of everyone, so SmartWorkout has private bathrooms and changing rooms. Sometimes she forgot a ponytail holder, so they are available for free at SmartWorkout! Membership is capped at 300, so you will never feel cramped like you would at other classes in gyms.

When you walk in, you feel like you are in a living room. There is a little area with a comfy red couch, chairs and magazines. When classes are in session in this area, they move these things off to the side. That center area is where the majority of the classes take place. On one end of the studio is a circuit of hydraulic weight machines. You can use the machines as you normally would, or you can turn on their Curves-style circuit workout, where a voice will instruct you to “change stations now.” If you go around to all the machines 3 times, it takes 27 minutes and provides you with a great full body strength workout! You get some cardio in there too, as you work work work until you switch and then you work work work some more.

They also have a cute little store.

Smart Workout store

SmartWorkout uses hydraulic machines so the machine keeps up with your muscles. When you tire out, you won’t be working on a resistance that it too hard for you — and in turn, won’t get injured. And we all know how annoying my injuries are.

Smart Workout hydraulic

On the other side of the studio is the pilates reformer session, where 4 reformer machines reside. In another corner is the cardio section, which is comprised of two treadmills, one elliptical and one recumbent bike. You might think this sounds like nothing and people must be fighting over the machines. False. I found out that no one has ever had to wait for a machine. This is partly because of the membership cap and partly because there are always such great classes going on, people want to do those!

There is a treadmill class that sounds awesome called Tread N Shead. In this class (of 2 people), they give each participant a Polar Heart Rate Monitor to wear! The class — which includes no running — is taught in a way where each participant works in their optimum heart rate zone the entire time. This allows them to work at their ideal intensity for meeting their goals, whether they are losing weight or getting more in shape or both. The instructor will have each person do their own thing — move their arms, go faster, etc based on where their heart rate is. I love my HRM and can’t imagine being without it, so I think this is very cool!

Down a narrow winding staircase is where spin and yoga are taught. Not at the same time! For spin, there are 3 bikes in a row, with one (the instructor’s) facing them. I was surprised — and a little disappointed — to see the bikes were not SPD compatible, meaning there were no clips for my spin shoes. I come from a hardcore gym where spin shoes were the norm, and after caving in and getting my own pair I know the difference they make in the workout. They really allow you to pull UP with the pedal instead of only pushing down. But that is okay! I am not a snob, I just love all things spin.

Pilates instructors all must go through a certification program at the facility. There is a pilates instructor who was with the gym from the beginning who is supposed to be PHENOMENAL. Her name is Megan and it is her responsibility to train all people who come to work at SmartWorkout so they learn her amazing style. And SmartWorkout offers this certification program to anyone — so if you want to be certified in teaching pilates reformers, you can get trained there! Find out more here.

Some more info on pilates reformer training, from their site:

Training with the aid of the Pilates Reformer equipment, helps you:

Shape long, strong, and sleek muscles – Improve flexibility and balance – Strengthen your back and improve posture – Decrease stress and improve energy level

Personal training is not expensive at all here, I must add! It is $450 for 10 sessions for members, $800 for non members. At my old gym it was well over $100 a session. Do the math.

Yoga instructors, in addition to their 200 hour certification, are also trained in-house to align with SmartWorkout’s goals.

And they also offer pole dancing.

Pole SmartWorkout

It’s already been 3 weeks since I first went there for pilates! How time flies when it’s summer, huh? Grr. I arrived early — very early — and they weren’t even open yet! Oops.  Guess I should have checked their hours before I arrived. All was good since a Starbucks was right across the street and I just bought In Defense of Food that day!

When it was time for class, I went back and was shown the locker area. The keys are already in the locks so you never have to lug around your own heavy lock or worry about forgetting it. A big plus for me!

When I was waiting for class to begin, the founder of the company asked me if I wanted to stay for trampolines after! Of course I said “yes!” Many of the classes here alternate each week. Trampolines and spin were on an alternating schedule, and I am VERY lucky that trampolines was the class that week because I arrived in flip flops and would not have been able to take any class (like spin) requiring shoes. Luckily, I’ve done trampolines (rebounding) countless times at my old, old gym (Crunch) and knew I didn’t need sneaks! And rebounding was my favorite class at Crunch and I miss it so much. I was always upset that my last gym, The Sports Club/LA, had trampolines but offered no rebounding classes. So, needless to say, I was thrilled to be offered the chance to take this class.

Bur first, I had to get through pilates.

Pilates reformers sessions at SmartWorkout are free. No other gym offers this service. Last summer when I was in a very unhappy place with my weight, my body, my GI problems and my eating, I decided to use my stimulus check (remember that? oh the things I could have done with it. Like, SAVE IT) on 6 pilates sessions at my very expensive gym. (I am no longer a member). And I was already paying a LOT for the gym. Hindsight is always 20/20 but I had never done pilates reformer before and thought it might really help me. I also had not heard of Core Fusion or Physique 57 at that time, which are both much cheaper.

So it bears repeating that pilates reformers sessions are FREE with your SmartWorkout membership. Amazing!

There are 4 reformers which means a small, personalized class of at most 4 people. Some classes fill up, some don’t. Mine did, but I still got so much attention. My instructor Sandy was very helpful. The other ladies knew everything to do! They must take these classes all the time. Good for them! Shows that this gym is working out for them. I, on the other hand, knew nothing. Sandy was amazing with helping me position myself and doing the exercises properly. I told her about my shoulder injury (although not until midway through the class. i forgot!) and she was helpful with showing me alternative movements to avoid further injury.

If you have never taken a reformer session before, you probably think these pulley machines look easy. I used to think so. We are all wrong. It is HARD. Hundreds were extra painful on there, and most of the exercises required working the abs in addition to legs or arms. Although when class was done, I didn’t think I was worked too hard.

And then I woke up the next day, sore all over. The good sore, the sore where you know the workout is actually working and transforming your body.


But I digress. Back to the day of my workout! After pilates I was happy to take trampolines and get some sweat in. I had plans to go for a run later in the afternoon with the boy but I missed trampolines so much and figured I could decide later if I wanted to run as well. (I didn’t. I ended up rescheduling that run to Monday morning, and started my tradition of Monday morning runs. Todays was AMAZING by the way — ran pain free a little over 3 miles!)

Trampolines was held in the center of the gym. They have enough space for 4 people to take this class, but on this day it was just me and one other lady who was in pilates with me. I loved it! The lady and the instructor, Sandy again, clearly have taken a bunch of classes together and were just talking about their weekends and workouts in general. It felt very comfortable and I spoke up when I could! But that didn’t mean the workout was easy. It was just as tough as any rebounding class. We held weights during part of it and did moves that burned my arms! We also stopped to do strength training exercises during the class as well. The music is set up in playlists specifically for each class, and the trampolines music was fantastic. When class ended, I was SWEATY.

They asked me if I wanted to stay for the next class, which was a Body Wedge 21 class. As much as I wanted to stay, I was wiped out from the others, so I declined. How generous of them, though!

At this time, I got the grand tour of the facility. Elaine spent SO much time telling me everything about the gym’s conception to how it is run now. Elaine used to be a laywer, by the way, who was frustrated with the big gyms, as I mentioned earlier. This truly is a unique business model, and I hope they decide to expand! Where else can you take all these small, fun classes — that have a schedule that never stops — without feeling packed into a room like sardines!

I scheduled my next training session on a day where spin was given, since I miss spin and the owner said I could take another class for free – how generous! So I went back a few days later. I was all set for spin, with my HRM and sweatband on and ready to go. And . . . I was the only person in the class!

Now, there are only 3 spots in a spin class, with a 4th bike for the instructor. But still! A one-on-one spin class! I never in my life thought I’d be doing one of those. It was really cool because the instructor (Megan) and I talked the entire time. The time went so fast!

A couple of caveats. There are spin playlists, but Megan wasn’t using one this night. She had Pandora set to an 80s station, which was cool, but I am used to instructors who plan their classes — hills, sprints, jumps, RPM — based on the song. And Megan explained to me that they usually do this at SmartWorkout as well. I think it was because she switched with another instructor and she didn’t plan on teaching spin when I was there. And I do have to say, the 80s mix was fun, especially having no idea what song was coming next! And all the songs were great!

I did feel like I might have known a little more — or at least the same — about spin as the instructor. Like I said, these bikes didn’t have SPD clips or RPM computers, and I feel like my spin obsession of yesteryear (yestermonth?) taught me a LOT. We also relied on my HRM for the time. That said, I was VERY sweaty and burned more calories than I  typically do in a spin class. It was awesome!

After class, we were both kinda beat, it was late and so we decided to move my training to another time. Fine by me!

I arrived the next week for my training session and it was with Sandy, my instructor from the first day in pilates and trampolines. Training sessions are divided equally between strength and cardio. Sandy asked me what I wanted to do for the cardio aspect and I left the decision up to her. After all, I wanted to get the experience of someone who is training for the first time and might not know anything about the options. She chose elliptical and I went on it for 15 minutes while we chatted. I was slightly disappointed that something different, like kickboxing (as Melissa had done) wasn’t chosen, but I was fine with elliptical — and I had every opportunity to say I wanted to do something else if I had wanted to.

My goal was to go through this based on the trainer’s recommendations to see how they work.

Elliptical was good, I worked up quite a sweat in just 15 minutes, and then we moved to the floor for strength moves. We did a lot of abs, and it was all very challenging! We moved on to some arm and leg work using a big exercise ball. I even had to get on the ball on my stomach and raise and lower a kettlebell. HARD. You think that ball looks easy but it is so hard! I really had to work my abs hard to hold my body up while doing any arms or legs exercises I was doing at the time.

Overall, a solid workout.

I absolutely loved my experience at SmartWorkout. After my first session there, I was calculating in my head to figure out just how annoying it would be to get from their studio (located conveniently — for everyone but me) near Grand Central station to the boy’s, but alas it is just too difficult. In the summer, not too bad. In the winter, I would never make it. So unless they expand to the Upper West Side (they do hope to expand, but no plans are set as of yet) I will have to try and score some more guest passes!

A great deal
So this gym is a tad pricier than the New York Sports Club, but keep in mind what you are getting for your $145 a month —

Small class size — no more than 4 in a class, sometimes less come so it is like personal training
Class variety – Lots of strength and cardio classes, you can really do it all
Personal attention — you will be doing every exercise correctly, they make sure of it
Individual Bathrooms and Showers – no locker rooms here, lots of privacy
Giant, fluffy towels – no tiny dishtowels to try and cover your whole body
Highly trained instructors, especially in pilates reformer and yoga – ’nuff said
A community environment where people know each other and like each other – what gym has THAT! the cameraderie was there, i saw it myself as these ladies all talked and discussed their lives with each other
An alternating class schedule – if you can only go on Mondays and Wednesdays at 6, you will get 4 classes to take instead of 2, as they alternate each week. no more boredom!
plus, the entire schedule changes quaterly so you can try it all out!

Interested? I say go and check it out for yourself. And if you decide to join you will get 10% off your membership my mentioning Dori’s Shiny Blog! Or save 10% on training sessions, reformer sessions, a pole dancing party or fitness mixer!

I really do wish I could join, but it just isn’t convenient for me.

27 comments on A Truly Smart Workout

  1. Missy
    July 27, 2009 at 4:32 pm (9 years ago)

    Sounds amazing! I have to set up my schedule so I can try it out! I really want to do rebounding since Self Workout in the Park was only 20 minutes!

  2. melissa
    July 27, 2009 at 7:44 pm (9 years ago)

    Dori, you always have the best reviews. You are so thorough and articulate!

    I am glad you loved smart workout. pilates reformer is really fun!

    We have to get together to catch up! xoxo

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