Gearing up for the new year: The 5 best and worst fitness classes in Metro Detroit

Guest post by: Karen Doerr

Hello. My name is Karen and I’m chubby. In an attempt to be less chubby and healthier overall, I like to exercise. My goal is to have about 150 active minutes of dedicated exercise a week. Sometimes I make it, sometimes I do not. I decided that it was time for me to switch up my routine and try to find something new for exercise. My goal was to try as much as I could for as cheap as I could. I have a long history with yoga, so I purposefully avoided that area. I’m not done with my exploration of fitness classes yet in the metro Detroit area, but so far, this is how I would rank them in order from worst to best.

5. The Barre Code

Locations: Ann Arbor, Birmingham, Northville, Rochester Hills, and Royal Oak

Start Up Costs: First class is free

I hadn’t heard much about Barre classes before. I assumed this this would be similar to yoga with a lot of stretching in front of a ballet barre. I was very, VERY wrong. This class reminded me the most of aerobics classes you saw in 80’s sitcoms with a fit woman yelling instructions to a class of women in tight workout clothing.

There was a whiteboard which displayed what equipment we would need for the class. It was interesting because while the instructor was demonstrating some of the motions, she didn’t demonstrate the ones I needed help with. I didn’t need her to demonstrate a push up, but I did need to see how to get into a complicated position that involved one arm in the air and a ball clutched in my knee. The instructor did walk around and offer some pointers for some of the movements, but for the most part, I felt abandoned to try to keep up with the rest of the class. 

It didn’t help that the music was very loud. The instructor’s voice mixed a lot with the lyrics of the music and it was hard to follow. The facility itself was very well kept, but it concerned me at the end that we weren’t offered wipes to clean our equipment. Does that mean the staff cleaned it for us? I didn’t stick around after class to ask too many questions even though the Barre Code was celebrating their anniversary with wine and protein bars. 

credit: Yelp (Club Pilates business owner)

4. Club Pilates

Locations: Ann Arbor, Beverly Hills, Canton, Novi, Rochester Hills, Shelby Township, Troy, and West Bloomfield

Start Up Costs: Free 30 minute introductory class, textures socks needed for additional classes

I found out about this opportunity through a Facebook ad. I attended the 30 minute introductory class and didn’t feel like it was an accurate representation of what Pilates was supposed to be. I came back for a regular class and enjoyed it much more. 

For the regular classes, they require you to have textured socks. These are socks with little grips on the bottom, like what you get from hospitals. Don’t worry if you have no idea what I’m talking about, as they are sold on-site. I’ve heard Pilates compared to yoga before. Both are low impact and can help you stretch. But Pilates seems to involve your core more actively. Pilates is also kind of famous for the table you lay on with straps to go around your arms or legs. They were a bit awkward to maneuver at first. I found the class itself very relaxing. I found out that the instructor was a teacher in her day job, and it really shown through as she was patient and had a good idea of when I needed help. I didn’t feel like there was a good way for me to adjust to make the exercise harder or easier as I may have needed it.

credit: Yelp (Orange Theory Troy business owner)

3. Orange Theory

Locations: Ann Arbor, Birmingham, Canton, Commerce, Dearborn, Detroit, Farmington Hills, Grosse Point, Northville, Orion, Rochester Hills, Royal Oak, Shelby Township, Troy

Start Up Costs: First class is Free, $5 rent for Wearable per class

I was lucky enough to get two free classes because of a deal that was going on when I booked my first class. Orange Theory has an interval set up where you would do different areas for different parts of the class. Both classes I attended had 3 areas: treadmill, rower, and the weights. This keeps you moving between the areas. This also gets a lot of people in each class, as someone can be on a treadmill while you’re on the rower and then you switch. There were a decent amount of men in each class as well.

The coolest thing about this set up was their “wearables,” or little fitness trackers which would tell you your heart rate and how many calories you burned. It was cool to have the numbers staring at me in the face for the class as it pushed me to go harder. You try to get “splat points” by having your heart rate at so many beats per minute.

The bad part about them is that they can get expensive. I didn’t have to pay for my rental in the free classes, but they’re usually $5 per class to rent. According to some internet sources, it was around $70 to buy. The instructor was very friendly, but again, I felt a bit lost in the sea of faces. The music also tended to drown out the instructor and this is a problem when you’re trying to listen for when to up the speed on your treadmill. The front desk customer service was amazing! The lady behind the counter came in to check on me in the middle of my first class and brought me a bottle of water.

2. Title Boxing Club

Locations: Birmingham, Brighton, Farmington Hills, Macomb, Northville, Royal Oak, Troy, Warren, West Bloomfield

Start Up Costs: $10 for hand wraps

I came here with a coworker as part of a friends and family event. They require you to have hand wraps, which can be bought on site for $10, but the glove rental was free. Justus helped me wrap up. As I arrived early, he was also able to take me into the ring and show me the basic moves like jabs and hooks. This was really helpful because in class they call out a sequence of movements and you do the sequence back as many times as you can in the time allotted.

The class is broken up into multiple “rounds” where you work on different sequences. In between rounds, they have “active rests” where do you things like jumping jacks or lunges to keep your heart rate up.

I positioned myself near the instructor so I could see the demonstrations. It was nothing complicated, but it was tricky to remember the eight moves he wanted at any given time. I liked how I could punch as hard at the punching bag as I wanted, but I could also cool down a bit as I needed. Near the end, we were told to just let loose at the bag with everything we had. It was a lot of fun.

The last part of class was more of a traditional core workout with sit ups and the like. Justus told me that a lot of the instructors have a background in martial arts as well as boxing, and that really impressed me. Another things that stuck out to me was that they have special classes available for people who are affected by Parkinson’s Disease. I was able to do a second class for the introductory price of $10, but I will definitely be back for more!

1. Crossfit Frostbite

Location: Farmington Hills

Start up Costs: 5 classes for $30 on Groupon

I’m not really sure what made me look into Crossfit to begin with, but I can definitely tell you what I love about this gym and why I keep coming back. At first, I was really intimidated by the idea of Crossfit, but I found out in my first class that I could push myself as much as I wanted but there was always time to rest if I needed it. Some workouts even have rest time built into the schedule.

This gym was described to me as a great starting point for people just getting into Crossfit, and I couldn’t agree more. The staff are really knowledgeable and willing to help in any way. A standard Crossfit class will start with a group warm up and then move into a predetermined routine of things like burpees, time on the rowing machine, and weights. Sometimes you’re trying to do as many rounds as possible in a given amount of time. At other times, you’re told to do a set amount of rounds for quality, meaning to do the best you can do rather than rush through it to be done. There is always the choice of two routines to do. I usually take the easier of the two.

I really like Crossfit because it makes me try things I never would have thought of on my own. I’ve really impressed myself too by seeing how much I actually can do. I still feel a bit wimpy when I’m struggling with a 45 pound barbell, but the owner Charlie is always there to remind me that my only competition is my last workout, and not the person next to me. I remember I got a lot of high fives after my first class just because I completed it. I feel like I got the support of a warm, welcoming family along with an amazing workout.

Karen Doerr is a Hufflepuff with a passion for coffee and avocado, though not at the same time. She has a habit of watching “The Great British Baking Show” at the gym.

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