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The New York Post


Like most fitness instructors, Gerren Liles pushes his clients to their limits in his weekly high-intensity classes - with one difference:

As students mop their sweat, he'll get their feedback on what worked and what didn't, and adjust the following week's class accordingly.

Ten years ago, it was easy to lump classes into one of a handful of categories: spin, yoga, pilates or retro step aerobics. But the recent influx of workouts means that anything goes in a fitness studio now, whether it be rope slams, bar hangs, one-armed burpees or cathartic screams. While it's exciting, it can also be overwhelming for trainers who need to gauge whether a move is actually helping students meet their fitness goals.

Liles is one of eight trainers at Project by Equinox, a new Soho studio where fitness mavens from top studios around the city create and develop the workout classes they wish existed. Part think tank, part playground, the space offers trainers the chance to try out new moves - and then scrap them if they fail.

When Liles first taught the class, each workout station had its own "active recovery move." But once people rotated to the next station, they forgot to switch the move accordingly, so they'd be, for example, at the tempo station doing squat jumps.

"A lot of people struggled with remembering that, so I thought, I'll take that out," says Liles. Now, all students do the same recovery moves at once.

Project trainer Kirsty Godso will add in an exercise that her socialmedia followers have requested in her photos' comments, or via direct message. "Instagram is kind of a good [sounding] board to understand what people like," she says.

"People are like, 'Are you going to do this in class next week?'" So she'll add the move - often a burpee variation involving jumps and pushups.

Most New Yorkers are up for anything in a workout, says Godso, but can struggle with paying attention to instructions - or just wrapping their heads around them.

A few weeks ago, she and her co-instructor, Lauren Williams, were teaching a high-intensity class in which they paired people up to use resistance bands. It was a great move in theory, but in reality, it was a mess.

"It doesn't matter how many times [we said] the outside foot is the lead, they just didn't get it," says Godso. "So we tried it twice and then were like, 'Let's not do this.'" Project isn't the only studio where teachers workshop their classes.

Trainer Charlee Atkins was teaching 12 to 16 SoulCycle classes per week when she came up with the idea for her new class, Le Stretch, which leads students through 45 minutes of bodyopening moves.

As a senior SoulCycle instructor, she was used to spending hours on her bike. "But the older I got, my body was like, 'What are you doing?'" says the 31-year-old. So she began stretching using a foam roller, and then a lacrosse ball, and eventually turned it into a fitness class that she now teaches at Flatiron studio and boutique Bandier.

Leading the class required her to pivot from stretches that helped workout instructors who exercise for hours a day to moves for the average active but desk-bound New Yorker.

"The class I taught was perfect for me, but once you step out of SoulCycle, there's a wider range of people," she says. That means adding more moves that can open up the shoulders, which can tighten after a day of typing, or hips, which get cranky after sitting at a desk all day.

She's been guided by requests from her students.

"Runners were coming in and were like, 'My calves are killing me!' So you have to think, 'OK, we'll add more calf stretches,'" she says. "If there are seven runners in a class, I'll adjust it. You have to know your audience." Like Godso, she values social media as a way to home in on her students' needs. "I love it when people hit me up on social media," says Atkins. When people message her for fitness advice, she'll incorporate their questions into future classes.

"It's kind of like in school, where they encourage you to ask questions because if you have a question about something, chances are someone else does, too," she says. "If someone's DMing [direct messaging] me and is like, 'Hey, my shoulders hurt, what should I do?' There's got to be other people out there who have the same issue."

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July 25, 2017


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