Above: Climbers forgo ropes at Seattle Bouldering Project.

Wall Powers

Rock Climbing

Bouldering has a lower barrier to entry than roped climbing—no belay buddy required. And yet that might be why Seattle Bouldering Project is more social than any other Seattle climbing gym, with a twentysomething crowd watching one another dangle from short, complex routes on the squat walls. The warehouse space leaves lots of room on the all-pad floor for groups to sprawl, at least early on weekend days and late on weeknights. Less social but still communal: the saunas in each locker room. 900 Poplar Pl S, Beacon Hill, 206-299-2300

Tour de Gym


Since boutique indoor cycling took off in the last decade or so, its image has reflected that of famous early adopters like Jenna Bush and Chelsea Clinton: elite, feminine, powerful. The pedal pushers at Flywheel SLU are predominantly women, but there are enough men to fill their half of the real-time leader-board posted over the teacher’s head. Flywheel’s locker areas are a mad rush, especially during postwork classes, but once class starts there’s no time or breath to converse over the driving beat and teacher’s encouragements to “push it!” up a hill. The sport appeals to those who need accountability—not only can you elect to have your stats listed on the leaderboard, but bikes must be booked in advance, and you’re charged a fee if you bail. 224 Westlake Ave N, Ste 100, 206-402-4819

Punching Up


Not everyone who gloves up in the basement of Seattle Boxing Gym is looking for their Rocky (or is it Creed now?) moment; many in the 30-plus weekly group classes are just looking for a killer conditioning workout. The sport dates back to the original Greek Olympics, or to the first time one human pummeled another for fun, and just learning boxing skills builds the abs, arms, and legs. The gym has the requisite hanging heavy bags, curtain of jump ropes, and distressed concrete walls (but it’s no dour dungeon), the gender split is almost equal, and the regulars—some of whom fight professionally—hang and train together.  1432 Broadway, Capitol Hill, 206-658-3114

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Fight Face
Seattle Boxing Gym manager Derek Kavan (far right) keeps his eye on his fighters.

Image: Oliver Ludlow

Ballet, But Badass 


Few workouts are as female dominant as barre, so much that the website for Pure Barre features a section titled “Can men take class?” The workout is named for its ballet roots, even though the plié support itself is a minor prop; it’s more like sped-up yoga with small weights. Meant to sculpt thighs, bellies, and arms through small movements, Pure Barre’s version is held on carpet, not wood floors—another reason it doesn’t feel much like Swan Lake—and foot coverings are required. Most people at the Capitol Hill studio wear official, branded socks. The busy lobby before class can feel like sorority rush, where a casually chic Lululemon dress code is unspoken but almost uniformly followed. 1222 E Pine St, Capitol Hill, 206-403-1820

Like a Pose 


For a workout so ubiquitous that it inspired an entire category of leisurewear, yoga sure can stir a controversy. Last year a Canadian university canceled classes, calling the practice cultural appropriation. In October, a Yoga for People of Color class at Rainier Beach Yoga drew national attention when a local radio host labeled it racist; the studio is no longer associated with the program. But what Rainier Beach does emphasize is community, in ways far beyond most yoga experiences—the first 15 minutes of class include introductions from every student and a chat on how yoga philosophy works. Tight bonds form through the eight-week series, one focusing on resilience and the other on kindness. Interconnectedness even informs the price tag; practitioners can choose a reduced price or support fellow downward dogs by paying more.  8311 48th Ave S, Rainier Beach, 206-504-3174

Reform School


Pilates machines may look like the torture rack from The Princess Bride, but the reformers, as they’re called, were actually developed by Joseph Pilates for prisoners to do resistance training in a tight space. Intro classes at Vitality Pilates include only eight people, an intimate setting for a workout that can take weeks to show its core-strengthening results. The mood is respectful but casual, a far cry from the booming techno or mind-and-body spa decor of other gyms. Pilates embraces complexity and efficiency with moves that target multiple muscle groups; call it a workout for grown-ups. 7216 Greenwood Ave N, Phinney Ridge, 206-297-6263

Fight Club 

Krav Maga

Who trains in Krav Maga, the martial art originally developed for Israeli Defense Forces; wannabe vigilantes? Not exactly. At Krav Maga Seattle, a sunny studio in South Lake Union, it’s a chatty crew wrapping their hands before class. An equal number of men and women join a preclass social scene that’s a stark contrast to the aggressive punches, kicks, and screams during class. Because partner work is so central to the training—you can’t learn to escape a choke if no one’s choking you—it’s relatively cooperative, though absorbing each other’s punches (through pads) gives a whole new meaning to a workout that kicks your ass. Combative Striking and weapons classes are offered to trainees who pass the introductory level. 1009 Eighth Ave N, South Lake Union, 206-724-0208 

Squad Goals

Obstacle Courses

You know how in every army movie there’s a scene where recruits bond by crawling under barbed wire and scaling slick wooden walls together? A Harvard Business School student created Tough Mudder to give civilians the same experience, minus the drill instructor with the heart of gold. Don’t call it a race; Tough Mudders aren’t timed, and teams can skip any obstacle—like Electroshock Therapy, which involves running through a curtain of exposed electric wires, or the ice bath with a twist called Arctic Enema. The finish-line beer tent facilitates pre- and postrun bonding, even when participants can’t tell each other apart when they finish with identical coats of mud. September 24 & 25, Black Diamond, WA 

Flight Instruction

Aerial Yoga

Here’s what you can’t deny about hanging butt-up in a blue silk hammock in a Flight Room aerial yoga class: It’s funny. Even though the class has a vinyasa-style flow, it’s still swinging on a flexible swing, and the studio embraces the comedy—its catchphrase is a punny “You are so inverted.” Flight Room splits the difference between yoga rituals and elegant aerialist techniques from a Cirque du Soleil vet, engaging the core and building arm strength. Because the hammock supports body weight, adherents can quickly achieve tricky poses like handstands. It helps that class ends with a brief savasana, which is another way of saying a hammock nap. 817 Hiawatha Pl S, Central District

Swing Low
Aerial yogis surround Samantha Danielle, owner of Flight Room.

Image: Oliver Ludlow

Hard Corps 


When is a workout also a social club, diet plan, and entire way of life? When it’s CrossFit, a cross-training method combining weight lifting, kettlebell moves, and calisthenics in timed Workouts of the Day, or WODs. In its early boom in the aughts, it was common for gyms, called boxes, to push Paleo or Zone diets and rank participants on leaderboards; today many boxes are light on proselytizing and downplay competition. The structure, a class of squats and kettlebells punctuated with spurts of downtime, incites immediate bonding with classmates turned training partners. While the industrial aesthetic is common, CrossFit Belltown has an old-timey gentleman’s club feel, complete with whiskey bar and taxidermy heads on the wall. The extreme aspects still draw overachievers, so it’s not uncommon to encounter enthusiasm that’s as extreme as the dead lifts. 3025 First Ave, Belltown, 206-420-6314

Editor's Note: Updated 11:30am November 12, 2018 to reflect that Levitas has since changed its name to Flight Room and moved to the Central District.

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