How Workout Classes Trick You Into Thinking You’re Burning More Calories

In a bizarre turn of events, we’re living in a time when Donald Trump is our president $34 workout classes are normal. Boutique fitness is taking over the workout world, and whether you’re a cult follower or just someone who needs a 45-minute sweat before the workday, you’ve probably been drawn in by a class or two. With so many studios in the market, getting you to book a spot in class is getting competitive, and studios love exaggerating the effects of their workout classes to get you through the door. Here are some ways these workout classes might be tricking you into thinking you’re burning more calories than you actually are.

1. The “Fat Burning Zone” Obsession

A lot of fitness studios use new technologies to track your heart rate and count how many calories you burn in each class, and honestly, these numbers aren’t always indicative of a good workout, and just because your heart rate isn’t in a certain zone, doesn’t mean you’re not burning calories.. If you’re working hard in any class, you’ll know when you’re getting a sick workout, and you don’t need to be told that you’re in a specific “fat burning zone” to accomplish that. Trainers have literally come forward and admitted that although you could be burning a few extra calories while your body is in a specific fat-burning zone, it’s a waste of mental energy to worry about it, and it doesn’t make that big of a difference when it comes to burning fat. If you’re particularly into the heart rate monitoring, go for it, but if it’s not your thing, it really doesn’t matter.
The Lies

2. The AC Issue

The air conditioning of a studio depends on specific factors, like the building it’s in and what the weather is outside, but if you feel a little warm as you’re walking into the class, it’s probably on purpose. A lot of spin studios and other bootcamp-style classes make the rooms hotter than normal to make sure you start sweating as soon as the class starts, and you end up drenched by the end of the workout. This doesn’t mean you’re not getting a good workout, but sometimes if you’re dripping in sweat, you’re tricked into thinking you burned more calories than you actually did. (Unless you signed up for a hot yoga class—obviously.)

3. The Class Right Before You

This goes hand in hand with the AC issue, but honestly it deserves some recognition because it’s SO true. Ever notice that you’re already kinda hot and sweaty if you walk into a fitness studio right after the previous class just ended? That’s because the room is literally warmed up. And it also probably smells disgusting, but let’s discuss that another time. While some studios leave 20-30 minutes in between classes for the staff to clean up and air out the room, a lot of busy studios have back-to-back classes without letting the room breathe in between. You end up sweating more and thinking you’re burning more calories, but you’re not getting a better workout just because you’re drenched in sweat. Odds are, you’re just doing the same shit in an already sweaty room. Sorry.

4. The Burnout Effect

In strength training, there is a legit and effective concept called “burnout sets,” where you perform a certain exercise repetitively to exhaust the specific muscle. However, group workout classes have taken this idea and used it to make you think you’re burning more calories than you might actually be burning. If you’ve ever spent like, 10 minutes in a barre class doing pulsing squats or felt the burn in your shoulders from the 2-pound weights in spin class, the fire in your muscles is from these burnout-style moves. However, this burning is not always indicative of how effective the workout actually is. You’re fatiguing the muscle, but that can be done just as effectively with less reps and heavier weight, so you’re just spending more time focusing on the burn. You’re literally exhausting your muscles, but that doesn’t always mean you’re accomplishing more than you would with a regular-timed exercise set.

5. The “Full Body” Trend

This is another fad that workout classes use to draw you in and convince you you’re getting some ultimate, total-body sculpting sweaty workout. The “full body” buzzword sounds like you’d be burning a ton of calories, but sometimes targeted workouts that don’t work out your entire body can burn just as many calories. It’s a marketing strategy, and it’s working on you. Full body workouts are great for you, but don’t think that if you’re just doing an upper-body strength workout that you’re not getting as effective of a workout. In fact, sometimes studios just add in moves that target extra body parts to make sure you’re super sore the day after, which, once again, isn’t always proof that it was a good workout.

6. The Extra 15-Minute Class

After every Upper East Side mom tried the regular 45-minute classes and still had an extra 15 minutes before the 12pm rush hour at Whole Foods, studios decided to make their classes longer, adding in another 15 minutes to get an even better workout. While these longer classes obviously burn more calories because logically you’re working out for a longer amount of time, don’t think that these extra few minutes are necessary. HIIT style classes in particular are meant to push you to your limits in a short amount of time, so if you know you’re sticking around longer, you might end up pacing yourself (aka not trying as hard the whole time) and burning the same amount of calories that you would have in the shorter class where you’d go all-out from the beginning. Class timing isn’t everything, so if you don’t want to do burpees to a Meghan Trainor song for another 15 minutes, don’t feel guilty about it. We certainly don’t.

Images: Martin Barak / Unsplash (1); Giphy (6)

I Went To The Workout Class Meghan Markle Swears By And Barely Lived To Tell The Tale

Last Monday, I did a workout class at Fhitting Room, the workout class Meghan Markle reportedly goes to. I decided to go because Brooke Alpert, the author of The Diet Detox (a book I am currently reading about why traditional diets are making us all fat), is crazy about it. Now before you ask, no, I did not see Meghan Markle there. Obviously. But I did see my life flash before my eyes numerous times. Here’s my honest review of Fhitting Room.

First of all, the color scheme of the studio is black and green, so I kind of worried for a second that I was walking into an Herbalife pitch, but that’s probably just because I spent my weekend bingeing Betting On Zero. To be clear, there was no MLM involved—I just spend too much of my free time googling multi-level marketing companies. Otherwise, I walked into the room where the class was held and saw kettlebells, resistance bands hanging from the ceiling, those bikes with the moving handles that create a bunch of wind, and other stuff that generally signaled “interval boot camp-type class.” I should have guessed it by the name, but I tend to go into these (and most) experiences like a wide-eyed newborn baby. Due to a bad experience at another interval boot camp-type class that will not be named (*cough* Body Space Fitness), I was triggered. I re-evaluated my life and my choices and wondered what I’d willingly signed myself up for, other than probable death.

There were two instructors (mine were a guy and a girl—I feel like the girls’ name was Trixie or Lacey or some name that all female trainers have), so as Say Yes to the Betch already said, there was no room to hide. And these instructors didn’t let you hide, either. It was like from the moment you walked in, they immediately pinpointed your biggest insecurity and playfully called you out on. Like, I hate being put on the spot or drawing attention to myself in any capacity, so the guy instructor immediately came over and gave me a hug. Naturally. One of my friends who attended the class with me has really tight hips that she’s apparently insecure about, so the instructors commented on it also. Other than their ability to pick up on everyone’s weaknesses with the acuity of a group of popular 13-year-olds, the instructors were actually very nice and upbeat, and once the workout got started, they didn’t push anyone to go harder than they could and didn’t embarrass anyone for taking a quick breather. They were also really willing to help the struggling people (me) who couldn’t figure out how to do the moves or suggest modifications to make them easier.

The class started, and I died during the warm-up. I’d like to take this time to say that I go to the gym and least three times a week, and I’m not just Snapchatting on the mat just so I don’t feel like I’m wasting $20 a month, but clearly whatever I’m doing at the gym ain’t shit.

Andy Dwyer

Literally me during the WARM-UP.

Not sure if I’ve communicated this effectively enough so far, but the class itself literally killed me. Yes, literally. I’m currently writing this from beyond the grave. Heaven is exactly like San Junipero. Anyway. We did two circuits at a bunch of various stations, like battle ropes, a ski machine, kettlebell swings, and other shit that seemed like it was designed in a medieval torture chamber. I would say my favorite part was when they periodically dimmed the lights without informing us they were doing that, so I wasn’t sure if I was slowly blacking out. As a fun trivia fact, passing out in public is one of my top three fears (there was one time on Yom Kippur when I fainted in the lobby of my synagogue mere minutes before the fast was due to end). The moves themselves were pretty easy to get the hang of, and judging by my inability to move my limbs for days after, they were extremely effective.

After the intervals, there was one final death push at the end, followed by stretching. The air must have been infused with some kind of drug because immediately after I left the class, I wanted to book another one. I got a really good workout—the endorphins were pumping right after I left, and like I said, I was sore for a good two days. I always measure the effectiveness of a workout by my muscle soreness. Is that a good way to do it? I don’t know.

Everything Hurts And I'm Dying

My main criticism of the class was that the circuits weren’t planned out as well as I thought they could have been. For one, there was a group of stations, and when they were explaining how to do each one it was like, “Okay, so this group is doing push-ups over here. But don’t stand one inch to the right because you’ll get hit in the face with the battle ropes, and don’t stand one inch to the left because you might get hit in the face with a kettlebell.” Call me crazy, but I prefer my workout classes without a serious risk of bodily injury except for the injury I may inflict upon myself by doing the moves incorrectly. The other thing was that the stations were organized in such a way that you didn’t really get a break. You’d do like, three arm stations in a row and by the second one your arms were Jell-O so by the third one, I was just devising how to do the bare minimum while still giving the appearance of participating. I feel like they should have switched it up a bit so I could have done my arms, then legs while my arms recovered a little bit, and so on.

Overall I really enjoyed the class and already want to go again, like the psychopath/glutton for punishment I am. If some rich benefactor reading this wants to gift me the money to attend unlimited Fhitting Room classes, let me know and I will include my Venmo handle in the comments.

I Tried Tone House, The “Hardest Workout In NYC,” And Barely Survived

In a recent article about my experience at a Shock Therapy workout class, I referenced another traumatic fitness experience I willingly put myself through, and some people were curious to hear more. Well, actually only my boss, but whatever. If you clicked on this article, I’m guessing you want to hear about my suffering as well. Tone House had been on my list for a while, and when I finally tried it, I barely made it out alive, so excuse me if this recount of the experience is slightly distressing to talk about. Here’s how it went down.


First of all, Tone House is marketed as an “extreme, athletic-based” group fitness class that is supposed to “unleash your inner athlete.” Business Insider called it “the hardest workout in New York City.” Unfortunately for me, I was picked last in kickball throughout middle school, and that’s about the extent of my athletic past. I also think I played tennis on a date once. You get the point. Nonetheless, although I’m not an athlete,  I work out regularly and consider myself in pretty good shape, so I wasn’t that worried. I live in New York City and I’ve tried everything from Barry’s to CrossFit to boxing to legit barbell training, so I figured an athletic-style fitness class couldn’t be too hard.



So…. I was wrong. As soon as I got to the studio, which basically looks like a dark torture chamber decked out with black grass turf, red lighting, and jacked trainers, I knew I had made a mistake. Within seconds of class starting, shit got real. We started out in a huddle—I shit you not, a *team huddle*—where we made a bunch of aggressive noises, chanted something about “leaving it all on the turf,” and angrily high-fived each other. Then, the warm-up began and the hell ensued.

We literally ran around the room at full speed, galloping over hurdles and doing fast burpees in between cones. I thought about slowing down at one point, but considering there are people inches away from you, it wasn’t an option. Plus, the instructors are clapping in your face and yelling HUSTLE so you kinda have no other choice. Between the scary red lighting and the 50 burpees within the first five minutes of class, the whole warm-up was a blur. 



Then, we got into the start of the real class, which thankfully included *taking turns* in our torture, so I actually had a minute to check my phone catch my breath in between rounds and try to forget about how nauseous I was. The workout included heavy sled pushes, bear crawls, gallops, more bear crawls, box jumps, more gallops, and this horrible sequence where we had to put our feet on gliders and do push-ups around the entire room while knee-tucking our way around the turf. For the record, I finally understand why bear crawls have that name. These regulars look like actual animals aggressively hunting their prey. I was both impressed and literally frightened. 



At the end of the class, (which was only an hour but felt like a whole day), everyone got back in that goddamn huddle and chanted some shit about teamwork and hustling. I felt like I was cast in a dark Nike commercial by accident. By the time everyone high-fived me like we were on a summer camp color war team together, my hands were literally bleeding from the turf and I couldn’t fake a smile if my life depended on it. I must admit, looking back, it was slightly entertaining to see grown men clapping it out in an intimate sweaty circle. But then again, maybe that’s just a sports thing. 



But wait, the story doesn’t end there. The worst part of the whole thing is that as I walked out, promising myself I’d never go back, some hot blonde instructor in the locker room (who also happens to be Amy Schumer’s personal trainer) told me it gets easier the second time. I decided to believe her and I showed up for my second class a couple weeks later. I guess my inner athlete still didn’t feel like showing up that time around because it turns out it wasn’t easier AT ALL. In fact, I actually feel like I’m gonna vom by just remembering those post-class feelings. Do they call those endorphins?


Images: Justyn Warner / Unsplash; Giphy (5)