Because Fitwalking is the biggest cardio trend in Europe right now, and because Europeans trends are genuinely fascinating, the arrival of the first Fitwalking class in New York City is the perfect class to kick off The Atlantic Wire's workout reviews. Fitwalkers are treadmills that are powered by their users. Which means that there's a lot of effort required to start the machine and to keep it moving. Also, it looked sorta fun and silly:
Alex: I wasn't really expecting a challenge. Look at it.
Elle: I expected this to be stupid.
Alex: When you first see Fitwalking, it doesn't look particularly intense. After all, it has the name "walking" in it. Compare that to other fitness regimes out there with the names that incorporate words like "bootcamp" and "insanity." Those names make me think of war and asylums. "Walking" seems way more peaceful and sane.
Elle: I had to suppress the giggles when we walked in.
Alex: Was that because of the music? The place is brand new. And it was clean. I like clean gyms because I don't like smells. All the machines look like they're from the future, and Superstar prides itself on being a "boutique" gym.
Elle: I like electronic dance music, which they played. And glow bracelets, which they gave us. And the one male instructor's leopard leggings.
Alex: I like listening to Rihanna or an Angry Beyonce deep cuts when I work out. On the bright side, you don't have to worry about them playing Train here. That man's leggings were intense. They made me nervous and I felt like my outfit was insufficient. But he was perfectly nice.
Elle: As is the inexplicable tradition, the gym has the massive windows and open floor plan that allow the Fitwalkers to be observed sweating from both from inside the gym and out, and from all angles.
Alex: Yes. You have to share your Fitwalking with the world.
Alex: Christian was great. He had muscles. Lots of muscles.
Elle: Smiley. Muscles.
Alex: I think he did a good job, right? He was really nice to me. And he made me feel comfortable.
Elle: Maybe he was too nice? I felt no fear that if I failed Fitwalking standards I would be humiliated.
Alex: Yeah. Christian was not there to humiliate you into shape, but he still got me to Fitwalk. And plus, he made it really easy to follow along—which is hard on those machines. Do you think the class would be better with humiliation?
Elle: Well fear is an effective motivator. Like you don't want to be the loser at soccer practice who can't run as well as everyone else. Like if you feel like you can get away with not doing all the reps… why not take a break?
Alex: Oh. Fine. You caught me. I took a break a couple of times. I pretended that I didn't know how to work my Fitwalker. I think Christian was on to me.
Alex: The class we took was aimed at beginners, which applies to everyone in the U.S. (with the exception of the trainers at Superstar). So, thankfully, a good portion of the class is getting your balance, getting familiar with the machine, and making sure you don't hurt yourself.
Elle: Less than half the workout is running, walking, or skipping on the machine — the real hard part is jumping on and off it while the tread is still moving without faceplanting. I liked this.
Alex: I liked this too. I also learned that I was not on the beat. I think the exercise that gave me the most anxiety was called "the hustle." My hustle was not on point.
Elle: What was "the hustle"?
Alex: I am probably the least-qualified person to give "hustle" advice. But basically... you run all the way to the front of your treadmill, stop, let yourself roll back until you're almost off the treadmill then sprint all the way to the front again. It gave me anxiety. I didn't see your hustle, because I was preoccupied with my hustle. How was your hustle?
Elle: I had great hustle. I liked all of the things that involved running and jumping and trying not to crash. There was a part that was supposedly knee lifts, but it was really just skipping. But the weight of landing after the skip made the tread move faster, which felt exciting and dangerous. Those parts were way better than the times we jogged. How do people do this? Running in place while staring at a wall is the most boring thing in the whole world. It's worse than boring, it makes me feel existential despair. But in this class, the despair lasts only about 60 seconds at a time.
Alex: My T-shirt was so soaked that it looked there was a vest painted on. That's a sign that I worked and it was my free pass to an order of french fries.
Elle: If you happen to be the kind of person born with the instinct to try to win every group physical activity, then you will get a better workout. Because the machines are self-propelled, if you try to jog or skip faster than the woman or man next to you, the tread will move faster, so you have to run harder. The more competitive you are, the sweatier you will get.
Alex: I'd go back. I am not a treadmill person—usually I get too bored. And my knees aren't in the greatest shape, so FitWalking actually passes both the two tests I have for an exercise class: I did not get bored and my knees did not hurt.
That said, I'm a also a big fan of going to classes. Left to my own devices, I'd probably slack off or find a way to talk myself into cutting my workout short so I could go get dinner. Classes don't let me do that. I think in order to keep me coming back however, the challenge would need to be upped with free weights or something—which the Fitwalking instructors say are a possibility.
Elle: To me, the most important evaluation is: Could I do all this stuff at home, for free? When it comes to the strength exercises, the answer is yes. The instructors have come up with some elaborate ways to do push-ups and sit-ups while on the machine, but you could do them at home on your floor. It's not that they're bad strength moves — I consider one type of sit-ups we did to be absolutely critical for high-waisted jeans.
That being said, the part where you run and jump on a weird levered treadmill is not something you can get for free. It was fun, and my legs were sore the next day, which I did not expect.
Fitwalker/Fitwalking Class at Superstar Gym:
Length: 60 Minutes
Price: $30 per class
Good for: People with bad knees; People who do not see fear as a motivator; People who like classes; People who are competitive; People who like to sweat
Not recommended for: People who don't like European trends; People who like to work out alone
Superstar Gym; 452 Washington Street, New York, NY 10013; 855.STAR.GYM
Sports Played: Tennis, Volleyball
Exercise Regimen: I have bad knees. I am not good at running, bikers have told me I run in crooked lines. I can bench press my own weight (160 lbs.) which is about the manliest thing I can do. And I like to go to yoga. I belong to a gym, which I try and go to around four times a week—if I'm paying for something, I believe I should make it worth it. I usually like going to classes at my gym, and I wish were better this one class called "30-60-90" which is the wonderful and painful exercise regimen that keeps me in shape.
Sports Played: Gymnastics, Diving, Baseball, Soccer
Exercise Regimen: I did gymnastics for 10 years, and I worked at a Curves for Women one summer. Since then, I have not belonged to a gym. So my exercise experiences are polar opposites: Eastern European coaches yelling "DO YOU WANT TO BE CHAMPION" while a dozen tweens doing wall-sits whimper like puppies, vs. women walking around in circles to Jock Jams. I usually run 3 to 6 miles a day, and do an array of complicated sit-ups I learned in gymnastics, the number of which I cannot reveal without exposing my vanity.