(Regina is a former beauty editor of Cosmopolitan and editor of YStyle. She is a founding partner of the events production companies CC:Concepts and UNKNWN.)
Let’s just cut to the chase: I hate the gym. I know I’m not alone in feeling that way.
I find it intimidating to walk into a space full of machinery that I have no idea how to operate, despite multiple attempts to cultivate my inner gym rat. We have a home gym that I’ve set foot in literally 10 times in the last three years because my aversion to traditional gyms extends to the one Dad has built downstairs, where no one can see me fail.
The thing is, exercise is a necessity. My body demands it. I’m not getting any younger, my metabolism is not likely to revert to its teenage state (which was already abysmal to begin with), and I want to stay strong for as long as I can. I need the energy. The rush of good feelings I get after a satisfying workout also does wonders for my mental health. The same will hold true for anyone you ask. It’s all a matter of sucking it up and finding the kind of exercise that works for you.
Some people find it easier to exert themselves when (A) there’s a coach or instructor showing them what to do and gently pushing them to their limit, and (B) there are other people suffering along with them. I am definitely some people, which is why I’ve taken a shine to classes at boutique group exercise studios. (That these classes occur indoors is also a huge bonus.) I started with three classes a week, then five, then at my peak, two a day on weekdays. It gets addicting, and it’s so easy to get addicted when there are so many options in the BGC and Makati areas. (Also, given the current water situation in Metro Manila, the studio’s a great place to have a shower.)
Here are just a few of my favorites.
Legazpi Village and BGC
It’s easy to be intimidated by the idea of yoga. I certainly was, when a friend first managed to drag me to a class. I’m not the om shanti kind of girl, and given the choice, I would rather nama-stay in bed. Nothing has changed in that regard, except that I now love yoga so much, I’d do it every day if I could just find the time.
For anyone looking for an hour to 90 minutes of peace of mind, yoga is the ideal exercise. Yoga puts you in a meditative state. Concentrating on your breathing doesn’t give you much room to think of anything else, and in fact, it’s encouraged to leave all other worries at the door. The physical aspect of it — holding and energizing poses, flowing from one pose to the next, and if you’re in a hot class, sweating your entire life out — is infinitely more challenging than it looks. It helps build strength, it’s amazing for your flexibility, it teaches you to be very conscious of your posture, and it allows you to just exist in the moment.
YogaPlus is one of my favorite studios to go to, primarily because they offer hot yoga (my favorite — take a hot class with Joyce, the most vibrant spirit to ever set foot on a yoga mat), and also because of the variety and number of classes they offer. Their Makati studio is nestled in a quiet, leafy corner of Legazpi Village; and their BGC studio is bright and elevated, surrounded by the concrete jungle. The studio provides yoga mats and towels so you don’t have to bring your own, which is always a plus.
Say hello to the new kid on the block. The “57” in Physique57 is derived from the 57 minutes it takes for this workout to absolutely demolish you in the best possible way. It’s a barre-based exercise imported from the USA that utilizes a few props and small, pulsing motions to squeeze maximum effort out of your muscles. (As a failed ballerina, I’ve always loved barre classes.)
If you watch Physique57’s Signature class through a window, you’d think it looked easy. These ladies are barely moving an inch! But you really feel that one inch in muscles you never even knew existed; it’s a full-body workout that uses your own body weight against you to make you really feel the burn. (And then you have to take the stairs down to the lobby after class when your legs feel like jelly, kind of like a final slap in the face.)
FYI, you’ll need closed-toe grip socks for class; the studio has them for sale at reception.
PlanaFORMA, Legazpi Village
A longtime favorite, PlanaFORMA is a 55-minute barre workout that utilizes your body weight as resistance and revels in making you feel excruciating pain. But boy, does it hurt so good! The first time I took a Forma class, I felt it in my entire body for days. We used light weights during the short warm-up, and spent the rest of the class using our bodies against ourselves with pulsing motions that were small, but the next day, when I woke up feeling like I’d been hit by a truck, I realized how surprisingly efficient the workout was.
Forma is a full-body workout, but most of the work is concentrated in the lower half of the body — especially the legs, one of the biggest muscle groups — and I can honestly say that my legs never looked stronger, leaner, or better than they did when I was taking back-to-back classes every morning before work.
PlanaFORMA offers a fairly wide range of classes so you can address your fitness goals. The Forma Core class is where all new students begin, but for more cardio, there’s Forma Core+; for a more intense burn, there’s Forma Strength; for more fun with resistance bands, there’s Forma Flex; and they also offer Forma Flow/Forma Asana for yoga enthusiasts, and Zumba. (Our favorite is Forma Signature, which we lovingly refer to as Death by Julie — she’s the head teacher.)
Saddle Row, Rockwell and BGC
Saddle Row is named thus because it offers indoor cycling and rowing classes — full-body workouts in 45 to 60 minutes. With new studios in both Rockwell and Central Square, it’s probably the loveliest studio in Metro Manila, if you like polished concrete and great lighting like I do. The Rockwell studio also has a Float Pod, a sensory-deprivation/isolation tank, if that’s something you’re interested in trying. (I’ve heard it can get trippy.)
They offer three kinds of cycling workouts: The Underground, which is a straightforward “cardio-heavy dance party on wheels”; The Resistance, which is similar to The Underground except with resistance bands for a little extra work; and The Exchange, which is all cycling and beloved by competitive athletes because your stats are projected onto a screen as class progresses. (If you can, book one of Viella’s themed Resistance rides. Her taste in music is fantastic, and she puts together the best playlists — essential for getting you going when it’s time for a sprint!)
Saddle Row also offers three rowing classes: Finesse, the basic rowing workout; Crew, the signature class, which is a more team-oriented rowing program; and Circuit, which involves some exercises off the machine for both cardio and strength training. (Lester smashes out a great house music playlist for his Finesse classes.)
Electric Studio, Salcedo Village and BGC
Electric Studio is the first indoor cycling boutique in the Philippines, and it’s a full-body workout that integrates choreographed motions, weights, and great tunes to drive you further towards your fitness goals.
They offer a range of spin classes, from their basic 45-minute Pure Electric, to the 60-minute Power Hour and the hour-long Electric Strength, but personally I’ve always booked Electric classes based on the themes for the class. I think my favorite spin class of all time is still Electric Halloween with Abel in 2017 — every track was Halloween-themed, and even the interior of the studio was decorated for the holiday. It was a special touch that stuck with me. (But Jujiin’s classes are my favorite. He’s a DJ, and he loves pop music, and he has enough energy for 10 people.)
Spin classes are perhaps the easiest to get into if you’re a reluctant newbie to group exercise. The studios are dimly lit and everybody is so focused on their own bike that nobody really notices anyone else, so you never feel self-conscious for long. Plus, you can always opt to do the whole class seated if you don’t feel ready to stand just yet, no worries.
For those of you with excess energy that needs releasing, Flyweight is probably the studio for you. It’s the first of its kind in Manila, a group fitness boxing studio. You don’t need any boxing experience to get the most out of this workout; the really friendly instructors will explain the basics and everything a beginner needs to know before the class begins. Between rounds on the heavy bag, you’ll stay heated up by doing bodyweight exercises.
Classes are 45 minutes to an hour long. Flow is the signature class for those new to Flyweight; rounds on the heavy bag and plyometrics with a backdrop of whatever the instructor feels like blasting on the speakers that day — rock or hiphop gets most people going. Shred is a half hour on the bag, and another half hour of weights, resistance exercises, and a lot of gains. Fight is all about boxing, focusing on techniques, striking training, movements, and footwork.
Every time I’m angry about something (or at someone), I really look forward to a Flyweight class. There’s nothing quite like letting it all out on a heavy bag, especially when you finally hit the freestyle round at the end of class. (“You’re so strong today!” “Thanks! In my head, I’m punching Congress.”)
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Regina is on Instagram @vivatregina.