When I signed myself up for the challenge of completing five celebrity-approved workouts and recording my experiences, I did so knowing it would be the kind of story that would write itself.
The workouts, on the other hand, were not so self-sufficient: I actually had to do them.
As someone who only medium-likes working out and mega-loves lying down, the heft of that reality weighed heavily upon my hamstrings by the time my A-list sweat saga came to an end. If you’re wondering why I pitched it to begin with, the answer is twofold: 1) I am prone to exercise ruts and there’s no better cure for a comfort zone than a looming deadline and 2) I maintain a glimmering hope that with the right sequence of tiny movements, I can have trapezius muscles identical to Gwyneth Paltrow’s.
With that gut-wrenching cliffhanger firmly in place, I invite you to scroll down and read about my Z-list experience in each class.
Celebrity fans: Ashley Olsen, Bella Thorne and Zosia Mamet
Sweat level: 5/5
The last time I went to a class billed as “hot yoga,” I walked out halfway through because the room smelled like actual human carnage. I apologize for that rather pungent visual, but it provides important context for why I’ve been hesitant to try y7 even though I have friends who are addicted to it. You know who I trust more than my friends, though? CELEBRITIES!!!
And that’s how I found myself lying on a mat in y7’s Soho’s studio. The room was definitely hot, and I sweat a ton throughout the class, but much to my surprise I didn’t hate it. In fact, I actually really liked it — probably because instead of blowing hot air into the room, y7 uses infrared technology to heat your body from the inside out, which is why you’re able to reap the benefits of perspiration without feeling like you’re sitting under a giant hairdryer. The style of yoga was also different from other yoga classes I’ve attended in the sense that after the instructor leads you through a sequence, you’re given time to do it a few times on your own — or just chill in savasana if you prefer.
Celebrity fans: Zoe Kravitz, Natalie Portman, Alexa Chung…. and pretty much every Victoria’s Secret Angel in existence
Sweat level: 3/5
The actual bodily movements involved in a session Ballet Beautiful are quite easy — think teeny tiny motions no bigger in diameter than the flick of a wrist. Multiplied 100 times over, however, is where they quickly got really, really, really hard. I’ve never felt my inner thigh work so hard to lift my own leg again and again.
At one point, during the arms portion of the session, I protested (with a pained smile) that the weights were awfully heavy. My trainer, Yuki (the nicest smallest strongest person I’ve ever met), laughed and said, “They’re only one pound!” That was the moment I realized I probably will never have the stamina to be a Victoria’s Secret Angel. That’s okay, though. The class was enormously satisfying in an I’m-using-muscles-I-never-knew-I-had kind of way, the studio itself was a tiny chunk of white-walled heaven and, best of all, I got to play with a few tutus.
Body By Simone
Celebrity fans: Taylor Swift, Reese Witherspoon, Chrissy Teigen, Sandra Bullock and Anne Hathaway
Sweat level: 3/5
As a kid, literally all I wanted to do was bounce on a trampoline for 60 uninterrupted minutes. I was very keenly aware of the irony of this erstwhile desire when I somewhat nervously climbed aboard my “tramp,” as they call the mini trampolines in Body By Simone’s Trampoline Cardio class, and started to jump.
Nevertheless, once I got past the feeling that my pelvic floor was about to fall out, I actually started to enjoy myself. The sequence of tramp-based dance moves were tricky, but what I lack in actual skill I make up for in my finely-honed ability to simple jiggle around until sweat starts leaking out of my pores. I liked that this class was hard but not so hard I wanted to leave, or sit down, or rest in a permanent child’s pose. I REALLY liked how the trampoline made it easy to do moves that would normally irritate my pesky joints. My 7-year-old self would be so jealous.
Celebrity fans: Kerry Washington, Olivia Wilde, Jennifer Garner and Madonna
Sweat level: 1/5
I’m having trouble putting into words how delightful it felt to be looked at by pilates instructor Erika Bloom. Yes — just LOOKED at. With a simple head-to-toe glance, she somehow identified every microscopic imbalance in my body, and how each originated. It was like being put under an X-ray, except the X-ray was human eyeballs. Don’t ask me if I believe in Superman because after this encounter I might say yes.
The session itself was as fascinating as it was ASMR-inducing. Once Bloom took note of something that needed adjusting or correcting (i.e. my neck muscles, which could use some strengthening, or my pectoral muscles, which could use some loosening), she produced the exact exercise to remediate it. I’m not exaggerating when I say I could actually feel and see it working in real time. Even though I didn’t sweat at all, my body felt brand new by the end…that is, until I hunched over my phone to look at Instagram on the way home.
Celebrity fans: Gwyneth Paltrow
Sweat level: 5/5
I saved this one for last because after seeing Gwyneth Paltrow’s sculpted form on the inaugural cover of Goop I could only assume her chosen workout routine would be challenging enough to make a layperson like myself want to crawl into the fetal position and ask kind passersby to squirt gatorade into my mouth.
The Tracy Anderson atTAin group workout class was challenging indeed — so challenging, in fact, that everyone comes prepared with not one but TWO full-size towels for sufficient sweat-mopping purposes. According to the Tracy Anderson website, their studios are “kept at a very specific temperature and humidity level to facilitate the best results,” which definitely explains the quantity of moisture my body produced, bolstered no doubt by the fact that the class was essentially a series of challenging aerobic moves performed while also somehow holding a plank the entire time, or so it seemed to me. After the 50 minutes were up, I felt swampy, satisfied and ready for my mud-covered photo shoot.
All said and done, despite obstacles instated only by virtue of my own laziness, it was a lot of fun to move my sack of skin cells in a whole bunch of unfamiliar ways. If I had to choose a favorite, I would say Erica Bloom’s pilates class was probably the most enjoyable and impactful, not because it was a grueling workout but because it actually felt like a form of physical therapy equipped to undo some of the inevitable damage wrought from sitting at a desk all day.
I would definitely go back to all five again — once I give myself enough time to forget what a plank feels like.
Feature image by Harry Langdon via Getty Images. Photos via Harling Ross.