8 LA Workouts To Defy Typical Gym Culture

By Vanessa McGrady

This post is a sponsored collaboration between LAist and Evo Hemp Bar, an organic fruit and nut bar. Evo Hemp Bar is now available at club stores in Southern California.

Fat Kid Dance Party (Photo by Shoog McDaniel)

When your workout routine becomes ... routine, it's time to switch it up.

And if you're not having fun during your workout, you're less likely to keep it up. "A lot of times, mainstream fitness culture takes itself way too seriously, and we try to incorporate a lot of irreverence into our classes and programming that makes it fun, that makes it engaging, and where people feel like they're forgetting that they're working out because they're having such a good time," says Sam Rypinski, owner and founder of Everybody gym in the Cypress Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. The gym is founded on principles of inclusivity: all genders, sizes, and sexual orientations are welcomed; the staff speaks Spanish; there's a sliding scale and gender-neutral changing areas; as well as accessibility accommodations).

When you're stuck in an exercise rut, not only are you under-using certain muscle groups, but you're pretty much guaranteed to plateau on your performance.

Now, we know that there are probably as many gyms and Pilates and yoga studios in Southern California as there are taco trucks, so it's not that hard to find a place to exercise. The challenge is figuring out which one to go to - and how to even begin working out if it's not something that's already baked into your day.

Rypinski says to first identify your needs. Are you looking to change your body? Become healthier? Get stronger or more flexible? Decide what you want from the space, and ask to see if they offer it. "I think one of the biggest problems with gym culture is that gyms tend to define people's needs for them, and that's not how it should be. People should decide for themselves what they want and need and then get those needs met."

Changing up routines also bring new skills. "New workouts help keep you engaged and motivated to come back," says Oblivienne Westwood, captain of the Derby Doll All-Star team, The Ri-ettes. "Many of our long time skaters speak to constantly learning a new skill on skates as a reason to keep going. Roller skating works a whole new set of muscles in a way you won't get from your typical group fitness class. It is also exhilarating to see yourself improve from session to session. Roller Derby is an highly innovative sport, so there is always a new skill or strategy to work on."

Here's a list of new and unusual workout options in Los Angeles that are not only effective, but a fun way to get your sweat on:

The welcome desk at Everybody Gym. ((Photo from the Everybody Los Angeles website))

Everybody Los Angeles

There's a place for all of us here, and nobody will make you feel bad if you only want (or are able) to do five minutes on the treadmill. Built from the ground up to foster a culture of inclusivity, Everybody welcomes all genders, abilities, sizes, ethnicities and abilities. In addition to a full gym floor, there's an ever-flowing roster of movement classes and wellness services for body, mind and soul—even a twerk/yoga class by Shaina Lynn that incorporates NOLA Bounce and sacred feminine dances to "attack the floor."
1845 N San Fernando Rd., Los Angeles www.everybodylosangeles.com

An average class at Pony Sweat Aerobics. (Photo by Scott Stuckey)

Pony Sweat Aerobics

Imagine a dance party at home, with your favorite music and your best friends. This is the feeling Pony Sweat founder Emilia Richeson is going for: "It's a goth punk twist of classic aerobics with a visual nod to 'Pee-wee's Playhouse' and 'Desperately Seeking Susan.' It's dance aerobics for fitness misfits of a new generation," she says on the website.
Los Angeles ponysweataerobics.com


Though ab workouts are all the rage, lower-body workouts are fierce calorie burners. Enter Bünda (Portugese slag for "butt") which focuses on sculpting a better behind plus intense cardio. There are exercise classes as well as equipment to target specific muscle groups (and, ok, even some for upper-body workouts). Cheeky? Maybe, but worth it.
8231 W Third St., Suite C, Los Angeles trainbunda.com

Practice at Derby Dolls. (Photo by Marshall Garland)

Roller Derby

You don't have to be an expert skater to work out derby-style; Derby Dolls has gear available and inspiration on tap. Referee and the "Derby for Vida" program are open to all; other training is women-only. "It is quite inspiring to see firsthand where you can go after your first time rolling around. Many of our new skaters leave that first class thinking, 'I can't believe I did that! What more can I do?' That feeling translates into non-rolling life after a while too," says Westwood.
Derby Dolls, 2661 East 46th St., Vernon www.derbydolls.com

An NIA class participant. (Photo courtesy of Jeff Stuart for The Nia Technique™)


Though NIA (Neuromuscular Integrative Action) has been around since the 1980s, the exercise form that combines martial arts and dance is more relevant today than ever. Expert NIA teacher and first-degree black belt Paula Chambers says that in a modern, tech-driven world, "people are increasingly starved for certain things NIA provides, beyond physical fitness: emotional expression, healing from trauma, opportunities to be vulnerable in a safe space, a chance to explore somatic reality as distinct from virtual reality, and the mutual support and fellowship that can only take place in a real live human community."
Studio City, Eagle Rock, Encino www.valleynia.com

The Spin Room at Sync. (Photo courtesy of Sync)


Love yoga? Love cycling? Love the warmth of the sun? This may be your very own personal paradise. The hybrid exercise method suggests it provides a more effective workout in less time. The studio touts the infrared system as beneficial to the body by increasing circulation and removing toxins.
217 W. California Ave., Glendale syncla.com

Aerial Fitness

Whether your goal is to join Cirque du Soleil or just to feel like you're flying, aerial fitness incorporates the beauty of strength and flexibility into one fearless package, high above the floor. Methods include ropes, hammocks, bungees, hoops and trapezes. Aerial Classrom, based in Sylmar, offers classes for anyone over the age of 8. Their Instagram shows off performances from children in their Summer Camp program to adults using hula hoops and weighted vests in their training.
The Aerial Classroom, 15840 Monte St. #102, Sylmar theaerialclassroom.com

Just another fun class at Fat Kid Dance Party! (Photo by Shoog McDaniel)

Fat Kid Dance Party

People of size are welcomed with open arms and their own spot to shake it up. This "reclamation" of the dance floor workout includes dance aerobics, line dancing, plus a smattering of sing-alongs. The one-named founder, Bevin, says the benefits spill out beyond the class. "My clients report dancing for the first time ever in public at my class and then after weeks/months of attending, dancing at weddings. People have improved their self confidence in all areas of their life—work, home, style, clothing etcetera ... It's much more than a dance aerobics class."
Los Angeles fatkiddanceparty.com

Above all, if a gym or fitness teacher makes you feel shame or like you're inadequate in some way, lace up those sneakers, and run out of there. There are so many other options.