My Month Using ClassPass

Experimenting with boxing gyms, yoga studios, and more

Home sick from work one day a few weeks ago, I saw an Instagram ad offering a $1 ClassPass membership for a month, with no monthly commitment. ClassPass is a service that lets you sign up for exercise classes at gyms and studios throughout the cities where they operate. In New York, it cost $75/month for five classes, $135 for 10, and $200 for an unlimited number, though there are restrictions on how many times you can visit the same place. I signed up instantly, put a calendar reminder in to cancel the thing 29 days later, and started casting about for activities.

I am primarily a runner. While running doesn’t cost $12 to $30 every time I do it like yoga or cross-fit, I know that it isn’t free. I have a category in my spending spreadsheet for running, which includes new shoes and race fees and the occasional yoga class, pretty much all exercise that isn’t bike related.

What I got for this dollar was the $75/month plan: five classes, with no more than two at the same studio. So one class a week, plus an extra. I’m sure ClassPass does this deliberately assuming that people will skip that fifth class half the time. If you use all five classes, it’s $15 per class. Not a steep price, but not an incredible bargain, either.

I immediately signed up for two classes at places I had been curious about.

  1. Mark Morris Dance Center in Downtown Brooklyn. I chose Kukuwa® African Dance Workout because the timing worked well and I had really enjoyed the West African dance class I used to take at the Bed Stuy Y 5 years ago. The hour of sweaty dancing to Ghanaian “jams,” as the Ghanaian-American instructor called them, was high intensity and really fun. Any hour-long class at Mark Morris is $15, so the ClassPass value of this was $0.
  2. Church Street Boxing Gym, a place I knew about because it is a few blocks from my office. I signed up for a ladies-only class at what turned out to be a newly opened second location about a mile north. I was happy to walk there and find myself in one of the glorious mixed-use partially post-industrial buildings of TriBeca: the first floor was a restaurant, and the third floor seemed to be some sort of fashion studio having a sample sale. Boxing was on the second floor in a big open space with tin ceilings and big windows. For an hour, I jumped, squatted, pushed-up, planked, and punched, led by a no-nonsense lady in a shirt that said “fighting solves everything.” I came away feeling like any despair I had ever felt about late capitalism could be vanquished by more boxing classes. The boxing gym is primarily membership-based, where a month (with unlimited classes) is $159. Drop-in classes are $30, but that gets you a day pass to the whole place. A 10-class pack is available for about $200, bringing the per-class cost down to $20. ClassPass value: between $5 and $15, depending on how often you want to go.
  3. Mystery yoga. My third class choice was much more spontaneous. I got home from work, decided that I wanted to go to a yoga class, opened the app, and signed up for one that started in 30 minutes at a place in Park Slope, a seven-minute bike ride away. I love yoga, but instructors are totally hit-and-miss, and this lady was the worst of what yoga teachers can be. What school instructs them to open class by babbling about their feelings like they are trying to be wise? It should stop! This teacher began by ruminating on how New York lets you delay adulthood, because you can order take out if you don’t feel like cooking (as if there isn’t take out in other cities?), and saying, “We came here after college and still live with roommates while friends in other cities own houses and have to fix their boilers.” I was so irked by the assumption of a universal experience that I was distracted throughout the class. When I texted a friend to complain, she asked why I didn’t just go to our favourite teacher, at Dou . “I’m trying new things!” I told her. Which I suppose is part of the point of ClassPass, the continuous possibility of novelty. Drop-in classes at this mediocre place are $18. ClassPass value: $3, plus the benefit of re-learning not to seek out something better than perfection.
  4. Church Street Boxing Gym again, this time the location closer to work. It was in a basement, covered with posters of past fights, a lot more crowded, and full of a lot more dudes (but also plenty of women!). I was hoping that it would be as satisfying as the first class I took, but the sweaty macho vibe wasn’t what I was hoping for. I know that I’d be more willing to by the 10-class pack if the more convenient location was what I wanted; I think that this increases theClassPass value for boxing, because it’s a way to take the occasional ladies-only class, but unquantifiably so.
  5. Recommended yoga. Having learned my lesson about unknown yoga, I chose to spend my final class at a yoga studio that three different friends recommended, with the instructor that they love. It was incredible! Great yoga with a no-nonsense instructor with a keen sense of anatomy and posture and zero moments of gibberish false profundities. I am a bit dismayed with myself for waiting so long to go there, so I have to credit ClassPass for encouraging me to go. At Urban Asanas, drop-in classes are $15, $13.50 if you buy a 10-class card, so the ClassPass value is between $0 and negative $3.50.

Now that my month is over I know that I’m not going to be a regular ClassPass person. The cancellation part of the website tried to bargain with me, offering first a $45/month 3-class deal, and then a $19/month fee to keep my membership on hold and take one class each month. Neither of those is any kind of bargain. The yoga and dance classes that I want to take are $15 anyway, and even if they’re a bit more — a 5-class pack at Dou is $16 per class — there’s no risk that I’ll get sick or go out of town and not use something I’ve paid for.

The boxing gym is a different story, but it still seems like it makes more sense to commit to going regularly for a few months and pay $20/class, rather than spending $75 to only go twice a month and have to fill the other three spots.

Money aside, ClassPass seems like a good service: the website and the app work really well, for searching either by activity or location, and the check-in at the studios is seamless. Most importantly, If I hadn’t tried ClassPass at all, I probably never would have worked up the nerve to walk into the boxing gym, and I am so glad that I did.

In the middle of ClassPass month, I ran into the favorite yoga teacher while grocery shopping, and I told him about boxing, ClassPass, and why I hadn’t been to Dou in a while. I asked him if studios got paid for belonging to the ClassPass network, and he said not really, that it worked for them much like Groupon. So using a ClassPass trial deal to try some new studios and then going there directly isn’t just a more rational, and possibly cheaper, way to work out, it’s also a good way to get your exercise dollars into the hands of the people who actually run the places and teach the classes. It’s not like sending back an online mattress. Just remember to cancel in time.

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