The Class: Social Mechanics’ group class is conducted in waves Monday through Friday, with their first class starting at 5:30 a.m., and the last class starting at 6:30 p.m. Saturday’s class times are limited to 9 or 10 a.m., and the gym recently added yoga to Monday and Tuesday’s calendars at 10 a.m., 1 p.m., and 7:30 p.m.
The Appeal: The owners of HG Sply Co. dreamt of a space where their health-centric patrons could gather and exercise together. This social experiment came to life in February right next door to HG, offering classes designed around the theory that people push themselves more when they are a part of a group. I happened to cruise past one evening just in time to see a smiling, sweaty group dispersing for the night and couldn’t wait to talk some coworkers into giving it a try.
The Instructor: Christian Soberanes, a young baseball player/trainer, patiently taught us each move and consistently corrected or congratulated us as we completed every circuit.
The Space: The gym is a long rectangular room with brick walls and a soft black floor. Basic equipment lines the right side of the space, and a garage door opens up to the busy neighborhood, putting the entire class on display. Every hipster strolling to one of the popular Lower Greenville dives nearby is about to see you doing squats. Stress appropriately.
Who’s There: The class was almost a 50/50 split of men and women under 35 and in decent to great shape. I’m prone to avoiding eye contact and small talk with strangers at all costs, so the smiling, friendly group made me nauseous at times. I was relieved to have two slightly cynical friends come along so that we could laugh in our discomfort together.
How It Went: As we waited for class to start, I quietly declared something along the lines of “The only thing I don’t want to do is run” — just before we were asked to gather by the front door for a group jog. Crap. My heart sank as we set off in an arbitrary direction for an unknown amount of time. I can’t describe the joy I felt when we took a right turn just past the back parking lot and wound around the block to the front of the gym.
After the warm-up jog, the three of us were separated into our own “newbie” group where we discussed proper form and began circuits of squats, crunches, push-ups, lunges, and a strange move that involved lifting a long piece of PVC pipe horizontally over your head and back behind you, then up and to the front again.
Finally, we joined the rest of the class for a circuit where we ran 100 yards (keep in mind we’re sweating and wheezing past people trying to eat and drink in peace), then did sets of seven burpees as many times as we could over the course of five minutes. We were rewarded with our choice of popsicle from Steel City Pops as we cooled down and stretched our already aching muscles.
The Aftermath: I’m not sure if it was the push-ups or the shoulder rolling pipe move, but I could barely lift my arms for days.
Loved: I like a no-frills workout. Minimal equipment, easy-to-follow instruction, and constant attention make this a place I could quickly become a regular. And popsicles. Can’t go wrong with the popsicles.
Hated: Initially, the setting was awkward. But once we learned to stomach the embarrassment of exercising in front of strangers having dinner, I believe all of the attention actually made us work harder than we would have in a private class.
Cost: Nice and simple. After your first free class, a $150 monthly payment gets you an unlimited membership. They just ask for a 30-day notice if you plan to cancel.
Difficulty Level: It would be hard to jump into this group as a novice. The routine is tough, and the regulars are fit. Once we got through the stationary moves like crunches and squats, my heart rate hit a high note and stayed there until we hit the mats to stretch.
Bottom Line: The simple, effective routines provide a full-body workout in less than an hour for a competitive price, but the pace and setting isn’t for everyone. We’ve been lovingly referring to it as “Hipster CrossFit.”