Standard gyms are gray, in every sense of the color. They are riddled with the most vapid of gym personalities that don’t leave me feeling like I’ll be invited back to the next party. I remain loyal to my 24 Hour Fitness membership for its convenience, but frankly I have grown weary of the same mechanical routine. Picking up and dropping iron, pushing levers on a machine, and jogging like a lab rat are not inspiring modes of motion. If anything, this sort of gym culture leaves me feeling stifled and static when exercise should leave one feeling uplifted and limitless. Instead, I leave the gym irritated by the gym jerks, uninspired, and longing for something better. Since this bitter dissatisfaction is now hindering my fitness goals, a change of pace is only necessary.
Unfortunately, the present culture of fitness is dull and impersonal, which in speculation makes sense of why so many Americans do not exercise. This antiquated insipidity is the antithesis to the soul of San Francisco life—we want the new and exciting, not the bland and boring.
Even though machine and consciousness will soon meld in the Silicon Valley, our conscious citizens are not yet cyborgs. Since we’re not robots, why are we working out like we are? From sidewalks to cell phones, dinner to dating, every aspect of our lives has been updated to be more efficient, modernity-conscious, and exciting than before. Why not approach fitness in San Francisco with the same attitude? It’s high time that we revamp our fitness culture in true San Francisco style: by reviving the mundane and routine through creativity and innovation.
Luckily, if you’re bored of your gym and can’t stand doing another basic routine, you have a plethora of options to update your fitness regime like you do your iPhone. If you want to drop the wishy-washy weights and try something unique and refreshing, here is a specially curated list of fun, interesting, and unusual places to achieve your fitness goals. So grab a partner, refill your eco-friendly reusable water bottle, and get moving!
SHAKE IT OFF: Whether alone in your room, out on the dance floor, or in the studio, the positive effects of dancing work in your favor. Not only is dancing fun, it improves cardio and core strength, increases flexibility, and boosts your mood. Indeed, the endorphins gained from dancing are known to help manage depression and stress while providing an upbeat social atmosphere. Beyoncé does seem pretty happy and fit, after all. As such, we recommend dancing as our first solution to your workout woes by step-touching your way to ODC in the Mission. ODC offers engaging, lively, and grueling dance classes to sweat your stress away. It’s better than Zumba (note: I love Zumba and everyone should do it). This is a great way to rally your friends together and meet new people in a vibrant environment while adhering to the doctor’s orders. The Afro-Brazilian class features live music with a band of drummers that will keep you on your toes as you embody the rhythm. The intensity of the live music is so palpable that it does the work for you, making you forget that you came to exercise. Instead, you’ll feel that you’re here for a sensory, social, and cultural experience. It’s rare to find a workout that’s transcendent and rigorous. ODC has a long and diverse list of classes through the week, including the Vogue and Tone classes where you can show off those Madonna arms. Not to mention, your first class is free! Check out www.odc.dance for their full class schedule.
ODC School and Rhythm & Motion Dance Program
$ | 351 Shotwell Street, San Francisco, CA
Hours: Monday & Wednesday, Friday through Sunday: 8AM – 10PM. Tuesday & Thursday: 7:30AM – 10PM.
LADY AND THE TRAMPOLINE: Know the phrase “run, don’t walk”? Yeah, well this following option is for you if you want to bounce, not run. Since allegations surfaced that ten minutes of trampoline bouncing are equivalent to 33 minutes on the treadmill, one must consider working out at House of Air, if only to do the math. At House of Air, a typical workout of running and lifting pales in comparison to leaping around like Zoboomafoo the lemur. This space offers unique workout classes that steer clear of the mechanical push-and-pull workouts to which we’ve grown accustomed. For $22, House of Air offers a 50 minute workout class certain to get you sweating as you smile. Their Air Conditioning classes are made to get your “cheeks burning as much as your quads from smiling so much” according to one of their regulars. Their Air Conditioning Classes have you jumping, spinning, and bouncing to effectively engage your core muscles while improving stability, cardio, and endurance. So you’re not just jumping for joy—you’re jumping for a healthy heart. If you’re seeking some formal practice on the trampoline before you leap into things, House of Air also offers group and private sessions with trained professionals to help you build your trampoline skills. If you are seeking a team-based activity and miss middle-school P.E. classes, they also do dodgeball—so pick a team and do your best Will Ferrel impression. If you’re more of a solo act and already have some basic trampoline skills, then take advantage of their Open Air program, where you can utilize the space freely, but safely. If House of Air’s Crissy Field location does not work for you, check out other options in the Bay Area: Sky High Sports in Burlingame and Santa Clara. Rockin’ Jump in San Carlos, San Jose, Dublin, Fremont.
House of Air
$$ | 926 Old Mason Street, San Francisco, CA
Hours: Sunday & Monday: 10AM – 8PM. Tuesday – Thursday: 10AM – 9PM. Friday & Saturday: 10AM-10PM.
PULL IT TOGETHER: Tired of pushing yourself on the treadmill? Well then, pull yourself together! At RowClub in Downtown San Francisco, you can get all the health benefits of rowing without getting wet, sunburned, or encountering Kevin Spacey in your basement (more on him in a moment). Do you wish you joined a rowing team in high school to get into a good college? Do you want to relive your glory days on crew? Paddle no further. Just blocks away from Union Square, RowClub is a rowing-oriented studio equipped with 12 ergs, 8 instructors, and a “guaranteed workout every time you visit.” Their classes are oriented around the rowing machine with a diligent and cautious emphasis on proper form. In 45 minutes, they aim to improve posture, musculature, and cardiovascular strength while adamantly teaching good rowing technique amid a sea of misinformation (they refer to Frank Underwood’s bad rowing form on Netflix’s House of Cards—perhaps Kevin Spacey should pay RowClub a visit to save his back?). They also seek to serve the local professional community by defeating disheartening statistics—they mention that only 20% of Americans age 18-65 get regular exercise, in reference to a CDC study. Through a lifestyle-based approach, they seek to inspire members to holistically integrate activity into their busy schedules as a key to longevity. Members also suggest rowing as an alternative to running and spinning, which can be harsh on joints and tendons. Moreover, RowClub’s group mentality is a cheerful step away from using the machine in isolation without the supervision of a trained instructor. These classes feel like a unique novelty because of their use of the rowing machine, but rowing on the ergs in addition to functional exercises make their classes a serious practice without compromising variety. You might sweat so much that it looks like you were on an actual boat but, again, you’ll escape the sun damage. The first class is $15—classes in bulk sell cheaper by the dozen.
$ | 47 Belden Place, San Francisco, CA
Hours: Monday – Friday: 7AM – 8PM. Saturday: 9AM – 12PM. Closed on Sundays.
COME FLY WITH ME: Why lift when you can fly? Aerial fitness classes have caused quite the stir in San Francisco. The rise in popularity of aerial classes is highlighted by the multitude of aerial and acrobatic fitness studios that have popped up around town, with aerial silks, acrobatic yoga, lyra, and other forms of gravity-defying workouts available across neighborhoods. Aerial silks fundamentals and antigravity aerial yoga classes are available at Raven Fitness, where you can try your first class for the not-so-intimidating price of $10. One part of their Aerial silks class is a 20 minute session of cocooning, where you enjoy 20 minutes of relaxation cocooned inside the silk like a hammock, sleeping, relaxing, or meditating. If flying in silks was not enough to appeal to your desire to rejuvenate your fitness regime, then sleeping for 20 minutes should do the trick. Additionally, Aerial Artique offers Lyra classes. Lyra is an aerial practice that uses a suspended hoop, or a cerceaux, instead of silks. In the hoop, you will perform static poses and dynamic movements such as spinning and swinging. This engages the core by practice of stability while also providing cardiovascular and flexibility training. If you fantasize about joining the circus, or if you fancy circus training over circuit training, you can try acrobatic and circus arts at AcroSports. This non-profit center offers courses in parkour, trapeze, tumbling, and contortion in addition to silks, lyra, and trampolining.
$ / 321 7th Street /
Hours: Hours vary. Closed on Wednesday.
$$ | 132 9th Street Suite 302, San Francisco, CA
Hours: Open daily. Hours vary.
$$ | 639 Frederick Street, San Francisco, CA
Hours: Monday – Sunday: 9AM-9PM.
IT’S THE CLIMB: Ever feel like you’re just crawling through your usual workout routine? Pick yourself up and climb to new heights instead. At Planet Granite in the Presidio (they also have a Belmont location for commuters and suburbanites), you can spend the day climbing, sweating, and socializing for under $30—$22 for a day pass, $18 for students and earlybirds who come before 1:00PM (any business that supports education with a student discount deserves kudos) and $6 to rent shoes and a harness. You can do a shorter solo workout if you want to crunch through your sweat session with the boulder climb, which is an unroped, shorter climb with padding on the ground to ensure safety. If you prefer a taller climb with a buddy system, then belay away! With the belayed climb, you will be harnessed for protection, given that this is a much higher climb than bouldering. This is a two-person task, and a buddy system tends to make any fitness activity a little less awful. For those who cannot make it out to the Presidio or Belmont, Mission Cliffs Climbing and Fitness is an eleven minute walk from the 16th Street Mission BART station. Mission Cliffs offers lead climbing and bouldering in addition to fitness classes such as yoga, cycling, and cardio kickboxing. An Intro to Climbing class is $35 for non-members, featuring an hourlong session to guide you through the basics and fundamentals of climbing. They also have a Berkeley location called Ironworks where you can learn about outdoor climbing in the event that you’re training for a trek up the Half Dome or prefer exercising amongst the elements.
$$ | 924 Mason Street, San Francisco, CA
Hours: Monday – Friday: 6AM – 11PM. Saturday: 8AM – 8PM. Sunday: 8AM – 6PM.
Mission Cliffs Climbing & Fitness
$$ | 2295 Harrison Street
Hours: Open daily. Hours vary.
PACK A PUNCH: With the likes of Gigi and Bella Hadid flaunting their boxing skills as the method to maintaining their toned physiques, boxing and martial arts classes are quickly becoming a popular go-to alternative to the conventional gym, providing dynamic and rigorous workouts that think outside the box by working inside the ring. The City is crawling with boxing gyms where you can drop the blistering, callus-inducing weights and strap on some padded gloves. Not only are these classes engaging and innovative solutions to normative workouts, but you’ll scratch your penchant for multitasking with boxing’s educational edge by learning self-defense while burning calories. These classes will make you stronger while gifting you with the confidence of having gained new ways to protect yourself. There are many options for boxing gyms in the city, but we’ve curated a short list for reference. Box-step over to HIT SF, which has two San Francisco locations: The Mission and Nob Hill. You will have no excuse to ditch trying this, because your first class is free! For a more no-frills, all-sweat boxing gym, check out 3rd Street Boxing Gym, where you can drive up your heart rate while feeling like JLo (your first class here is free, too!). A Yelper even mentions that she’s “not sure if Crossfit ever made [her] sweat this much.” If these styles of boxing do not appeal to you, perhaps martial arts are more suitable for you. Fight and Fitness gym, owned by former UFC Fighter Chris Cariaso and former Lumpinee Champion Bunkerd Faphimai, boasts classes in Muay Thai (Thai boxing), Brazilian jiu-jitsu, mixed martial arts, and plenty of boxing and sparring classes. They offer $15 for an introductory class, so the price of a cocktail gets you an hour of quality and educational activity. Their classes are involved and multi-variable, including partner drills, pad and mitt training, bag work, and calisthenics. So channel your inner Rocky Balboa and jab your stress away! If you’re really feeling it, do a lap around Balboa Park afterwards.
$ | 1150 Sutter Street & 2345 Harrison Street, San Francisco, CA
Hours: Monday – Saturday: hours vary. Closed on Sunday.
3rd Street Boxing
$ | 2576 3rd Street, San Francisco, CA
Hours: Monday – Thursday: 6AM – 1PM, 3PM – 9PM. Friday: 6AM – 1PM, 3PM – 8PM. Weekend: 8AM – 1PM.
Fight and Fitness
$ | 123 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco, CA
Hours: Monday – Friday: 7AM – 9PM. Saturday: 9AM – 3PM. Closed on Sunday.
CALIFORNIA ROLL: Church of 8 Wheels is a local favorite roller disco that leaves goers feeling like they’ve rolled back into the 70s (and yes, time travel counts as cardio). Come here to discover your Rolligion. Not only is skating here an affordable activity to quench your disco fever among friends ($10 to enter, $5 for skates. It’s the price of a bagel!), but it’s a fun and exciting way to get a great workout without stepping foot in a gym! In fact, you won’t be stepping foot anywhere—you’ll be rolling feet. Not only is roller skating fun—you get to dress up in 70s attire, turn this into social gathering, and listen to music—it is an excellent cardio workout with reduced impact on the knees, back, joints, and tendons (the list rolls on). This is thus a festive alternative for runners and cyclists who need to give their joints a break from aggressive, high-impact movements that wear down cartilage. So grab your friends, throw on some glitter, and roll into prime health at the Church of 8 Wheels. If wheels aren’t your choice mode of movement, then slide on over to San Francisco’s only year-round ice skating rink at the Yerba Buena Ice Skating and Bowling Center ($12 for adults, $4 for skates).
Church of 8 Wheels
$ | 554 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA
Hours: Friday: 7PM – 11PM. Saturday: 3PM – 5PM, 7PM – 11PM.
Whether you’re rolling or rowing, dancing or flying, climbing or bouncing, make sure to exercise safely with adequate stretching, foam rolling, and proper supervision. In any case, this list is here to revive your healthy lifestyle by spicing up your routine with invigorating and exciting options that will keep you inspired by fitness, not defeated.
With all the unique fitness services San Francisco has to offer, there are plenty of way to engage with the City through interesting and unusual fitness fitness classes where you can have fun, explore the neighborhood, and socialize while respecting your doctor’s orders of daily exercise.
Do you do any fun or unique routines to stay fit? Share below!