I got the news about my favorite fitness studio closing on a Thursday evening. On Friday morning, I was at Unite Fitness to try a class! It was a great workout with a good mix of cardio and sculpting (the holy grail of a fitness class if you ask me). This workout is your one-stop-shop for building muscle and keeping up endurance. That alone will ensure I visit Unite again soon. Keep reading for more details!
The Studio: Unite has two locations in Philadelphia and I visited their newer Rittenhouse space. Located on 20th street near the corner of Chestnut, you walk up a flight of stairs to get to the brand new studio. While it’s not huge, the studio has a lobby area with cubbies and a coat rack. To your right is the weight room where the sculpting work and yoga happens. To the left is a room with the treadmills, stationary bikes, and rowing machines. There is also a bathroom and locker room with showers if you like to get ready at the studio. The front desk staff was friendly and warm. When I mentioned it was my first class, they gave me a tour of the facilities and answered all my questions.
The Format: Unite’s signature workout is 30 minutes of interval work on the cardio machines (your choice of treadmill, stationary bike, or rowing machine), followed by 30 minutes of sculpting work, and finishes with 15 minutes of yoga at the end for a 75 minute workout. The sculpting work focuses on a different muscle group each day of the week so that daily attendees will get a full body workout with appropriate recovery time. They also offer some variations on the signature workout, including: 45 minutes of sculpting with 15 minutes of cardio and vice versa, a back and forth that offers 4 alternating 15 minute intervals of cardio and sculpting, and an express options that skips the 15 minutes of yoga to get you in and out in 1 hour.
The Workout: We started with 30 minutes of interval work in the cardio room. I really dislike running, especially on a treadmill (must be the lingering trauma of distance running during crew practice in high school….), so I chose a stationary bike. The intervals were short – usually 15-60 seconds – and the instructor will tell you what resistance and speed to aim for. We started on a flat incline, then simulated increasingly steep hills, then back down the same hills. The quick intervals made the work challenging but manageable. I felt tired but not completely exhausted at the end of the 30 minutes. Then we switched to the weight room for strength training. The sculpting exercises vary by day and by instructors and use props like free weights, resistance bands, and benches. Since I went on a Friday, it was a leg and back day. The 30 minutes was broken down into several minutes long circuits. In each circuit there were two or three exercises that we did for a minute or so each before switching. We did things like goblet squats, lunges, step ups, and rows. The instructor will guide you on which weights or resistance to choose and you are always free to help yourself to different props. The instructor offered modifications and suggestions to make the exercises more or less challenging. It was easy to customize the workout to fit your goals or accommodate injuries. Finally, we finished with 15 minutes of yoga. We closed the shades and turned down the lights for a restorative flow. Our instructor also came around for a little bit of assisted stretching/massage with each client. After 75 minutes, I felt ready to take on the day! Bottom line, I will be back!
The Pros: I loved the mix of cardio and strength training. So many classes offer just one or the other, but Unite’s combination made me feel like I got a challenging and complete workout in one class. The facilities were new and clean and the staff was helpful and friendly. I also loved the yoga at the end! As long as you can spend 75 minutes on a workout class, the addition of the stretching and relaxation was a big plus for me.
The Cons: I felt like a lot of time was wasted during strength training – getting props, transitioning workouts, stopping to watch the instructor demonstrate, etc. Additionally, you are responsible for counting and keeping track of your own exercises during the circuits. I personally prefer classes where the class is performing the exercises in sync, with the instructor guiding and counting for you. To me, its much easier to get in the flow and really push myself with that guidance and synchronization. If you are more of a self-motivated exerciser, this might not bother you.
The Pricing: The good news is that Unite offers a free first class! With a deal like that, what do you have to lose? As for class cards, you can get 10 classes for $200, with discounts for students available. There are also monthly options ranging from $189/month for a 3 month commitment to $169/month for a 12 month commitment. The staff told me that class cards and memberships work at the Rittenhouse location and the Philly East (near 12 and Sansom) location. As of December 2016, Unite was running a sale on class cards and memberships. In addition, the front desk staff told me they are flexible with their cancellation policy if you are sick or have a real reason for why you have to miss class and are usually willing to extend the expiration date if you have unused classes. That willingness to accommodate only made me more impressed with Unite. I will be back!