We Tried This: “Pop-Up” Cardio

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Courtesy of 305 Fitness

How do you set yourself apart in the crowded market of fitness clubs? Keep moving — by trying to hold classes in a different location each time.

It’s hard being the new kid in a city already saturated with boutique fitness studios and gyms with pricey memberships. Which is why newcomer to New York and 305 Fitness founder, Sadie Kurzban, decided on the “pop-up” format, with workout “parties” springing up in clubs, lofts and penthouses around the city. If it works for sales of designer goods and trendy restaurants, why not fitness? Her most recent pop-up party was a Valentine’s Day-themed workout complete with cocktails, gift giveaways and free passes for self-assured gentlemen willing to give it a try. As her program became more popular, however, Kurzban now offers both steady weekly classes at a dance studio as well as bi-weekly pop-up workout parties that attract more novelty-seeking clientele.

Kurzban’s sessions are based on cardio fitness, the exercise-of-the-moment that spans from synchronized aerobics to Latin-dance inspired Zumba. Kurzban, a Miami native (305 is the Miami area-code) got her inspiration during a night out with friends at a Miami club. “My best friend and I were at a club and we everyone was dancing and were so sweaty and nasty and it was two in the morning, but they were having so much fun,” she says. “So we took the moves, and the music and the style and formatted the business after that.”

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Shimmying and shaking your hips can indeed be hard work, and gyms and trainers alike are capitalizing on the fun factor. Having only graduated from Brown University in the spring, Kurzban, 23, used her $75,000 winnings from the university’s entrepreneur contest to join the dance revolution.

Since her start in September, Kurzban’s brand is fast-growing. At my first 305 Fitness class back then, eight of us showed up, and her DJ was a no-show. Five months later, there’s a lengthy wait-list and I was making a concentrated effort not to squash the toes of my nimble classmates in the crowded studio. Each class is an hour long, with a wide range of dance moves set to the beats of an on-location DJ.

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The informality and playfulness of a “pop-up” program is what attracts many 305 Fitness devotees I spoke to. The changing venues give each class a novelty that helps to suppress some of the tediousness of exercise. It also helps that while Kurzban’s dance routines are no-nonsense, her overall fitness approach is more about booty shakes than boot camp — the body roll and booty shake are 305 Fitness’s signature moves.

“Everyone has a theory about using the right muscle groups or doing micro-movements for particular muscles, or that you really have to be a runner because that’s going to burn the most calories,” says Kurzban. “It’s really about finding something you love, and something you’re going to stick with. That’s what’s really going to burn the most calories.” For me, that’s a refreshing motivator compared to a recent spin instructor’s tactic of repeatedly yelling out the number of calories in buffalo chicken wings on Super Bowl Sunday (that just made me hungrier for wings).

And if you can get past the initial self-consciousness, a dance-based workout is actually one of the more natural ways to exercise. “You don’t stand on the elliptical for joy, you don’t run on the treadmill for joy—but you do dance for joy,” says Kurzban. 305 Fitness has instructors in New York City  and Providence, Rhode Island, and plans to offer classes in Washington D.C., San Francisco and Boston soon. Class prices range from $18 to $24 per session.

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