As much as I’ve come to enjoy working on this series, I still feel as though I’m on my guard anytime I take a new fitness class because of my disability. Because it’s not a common condition nor immediately obvious, sometimes I feel like I must prove I am, in fact, disabled to skeptical instructors. And I’m constantly at the ready to advocate for myself to them.
But it was different when I walked into my West Village Class Studios TRAIN45 HIIT session. The instructor asked if I had any surgeries or injuries he needed to know about, as most studio teachers do. I said I had a disability, but I waved away saying the name because, well, no one’s ever heard of it (even doctors, sometimes). But as we talked about my abilities, he said it sounded familiar. So, I told him the name: arthrogryposis. He had heard of it. In fact, he had gone to a fundraiser for it a few years back.
I was shocked. And honestly, I felt seen. There’s power to someone acknowledging and understanding your ability. I knew I wouldn’t have to worry about skepticism from him when I struggled through the class, and it was uplifting. Also, because he actually knew my condition, he knew how to modify the class for me. Before it started, he walked me through the different stations and the modifications I should do for each set.
Then, when class began and he explained each station to everyone, he also offered modifications that the whole class could do. We’d need them. The strength-based class was daunting. The studio was set up into three stations: floor, strength, and cardio. We’d spend six minutes at each station, and we’d go through every station twice.
I began with cardio. Class Studios has two options: rowing machine or bikes. I cannot ride a bike, but luckily for me, we rowed in this session. During our six-minute station, our instructor had us row until we burned 22 calories1, then we did various sets of pushups, like the spiderman. Instead of pushups, I did crunches with my legs in tabletop. During the first round, I got through it with enough time to attempt the crunches. But I was so tired during round two, I only got to 21 calories by the six-minute mark.
After cardio, we moved to the opposite mirror for strength training with dumbbells. I grabbed the lightest set I could see (eight pounds). During the first set, we had to drop the weight to the ground, lift it up to our chests with one arm, then lower it again, then lift it over our heads. (I can’t lift my arms over my head without weights, so the instructor had me just lift it to my chest.) The second set focused on slow and controlled arm curls, rolling our arms up with dumbbells in each hand. I couldn’t curl a single weight one handed, so I just slowly rolled one dumbbell up and down with both hands. We had the option to do this while kneeling, which apparently better engaged our cores.
The floor section, where we worked with kettlebells, felt like a combination between the other two stations. During the first set, we squatted and pulsed while holding kettlebells in both hands, then stepped back into lunge twice—a single rep. We were supposed to use the heaviest weight we could stand, but I ended up using just one kettlebell and the lightest option they had. Then we did side lunges while clutching the kettlebell to our chests. During the third set, we had to hold the kettlebell below us and do hinges. We also had to raise it over our heads and do jumping jacks. The instructor gave us the option to complete the reps doing both exercises or just picking one. I opted to only hinge. While not horribly hard, this station was my last of the class. And in the final minutes, I had to pause and take breathers to make it to the end.
When the instructor finally called time, and I could finally relax my body, my legs began to buckle. But, I was still in that uplifted mood from the beginning. Because my instructor knew about arthrogryposis, I knew he knew I wasn’t slacking off when I modified exercises. And he knew when to push me and when to hold off. I felt safe and more comfortable because of it, and able to get through the class without grumbling to myself. Again, there’s power in your instructor truly understanding your abilities.
The studio had a nice, welcoming vibe but it was smaller than I expected. We were no by means cramped while working out, but had the class been completely full (my session was only about two-thirds full), it might have felt like it. I enjoyed the hip-hop blasting from the speakers. And if I needed any motivation, I could just glance out the window to Mutts across the street and watch the dogs play.
HIIT classes are hard, no matter the studio. Even another instructor taking the class mentioned how difficult this one was. But, because all the reps are broken up into short sessions, it felt more doable. After all, you only have to make it through the next few minutes.
I was impressed with how my instructor handled modifications for this class. Not only was he able to modify the sets to my ability, I appreciated how he gave out modifications to the whole class. Often, I feel as though whole class modifications are after-thoughts for the teachers. In general, though, I’ve found HIIT sessions have been the most modifiable classes I’ve taken. Because so much of these classes, it’s just you and a set of weights, you’re able to adjust the sets more than if you were using a machine.
The Cost of It All
Class Studios is on the more expensive end of local fitness boutiques. A single class is $32. Their new client special is three sessions for $49. Class packs begin at $95 for four classes, and monthly memberships begin at $295. However, the studio does offer $5 livestream classes.
Would I Go Back?
Catherine Wendlandt is the online associate editor for D Magazine’s Living and Home and Garden blogs, where she covers all…