The habit has turned into a blog, DC Fit Crasher, which the 26-year-old Cleveland Park resident started in September. Stakelin is attempting to chronicle every single fitness class in Washington, whether it requires flipping tires at a strongman gym or performing plies at a barre studio.
“Some things work for me, some don’t. But there’s no harm in trying,” Stakelin says. “It’s important to shake things up.” And that approach is worth copying — especially if you’re still on the hunt for a New Year’s resolution.
Finding classes doesn’t require much exertion. A flood of new fitness businesses over the past few years means you can’t walk around Washington without passing a cycling studio, a boxing gym or a pole dance program. Lululemon Athletica partnered with 50 D.C. area yoga studios to offer free classes on Election Day, and that wasn’t even close to every studio in the region. Greg Glassman, the founder of CrossFit (a popular conditioning program), told me this summer that Washington has more affiliated “boxes” than practically anywhere else in the world.
To make sense of all the options, Stakelin’s strategy is an ever-evolving spreadsheet, but there’s an easier alternative if you’re not quite so organized: Gorecess.com. The site, co-founded by Georgetown grad Megan Smyth and Bill Arzt and launched in April, bills itself as basically the Open Table of exercise. Type in a location, and it’ll spit out a list of classes nearby, so you can click to make a reservation.
Just like you make brunch plans with friends, you can organize group Pilates outings, which makes fitness more social — and more effective, according to Smyth. “You’re more likely to stick with it with a workout buddy,” says Smyth, who started the site because she’d gotten hooked on boutique fitness classes while living in New York City. (Washington is the site’s second-busiest market after New York.)
Another upside of small, specialized places is that they not only know your name, but they’re also likely to know what they’re doing. That makes 30-year-old Marcia Joseph of Silver Spring comfortable every time she visits Off Road on U Street NW to take a cycling, boxing or TRX class (a form of body-weight training using straps suspended from the ceiling). When she was a member of a larger gym, Joseph says, “it was like going to Macy’s. They have a sampling of Michael Kors, but it’s not a Michael Kors store.”
At places such as Off Road, which opened in October, you’re going for the specific purpose of taking a class rather than the nebulous “going to work out,” so there’s no risk of getting lost. “It’s a lot less intimidating,” says 37-year-old Robb Hudson, who feels like at bigger gyms, he’d need to pay a trainer to tag along with him.