At the end of 2017, we looked ahead to some of the most exciting local studio openings of the year. Two (Los Angeles-based Rise Nation and Dallas-based District Climb) included the VersaClimber, that funky, vertical fitness machine that trended in the 1980s because of its safe, zero-impact cardio and strength workout. But the images from both studios didn’t look funky at all — they looked crazy intense. Seriously, watch this video of Rise Nation founder and celebrity trainer Jason Walsh going all out on a machine.
Walsh’s studio, which has been credited for helping the VersaClimber make a comeback, will open its third and largest studio in Dallas this February. (The second is in Cleveland, which likely has at least a little to do with LeBron James’ affection for the original West Hollywood Rise Nation.) “This is going to be one of the nicest studios in Dallas. This is going to set the standard for what we do for our expansion from here on out — this is it,” Walsh says of the upcoming Knox District studio, “You couldn’t ask for a better area. I’m so impressed.”
And while Rise Nation certainly seems poised to enter (if it hasn’t already) the elite, trend-setting, new-city-expanding fitness realm occupied by the SoulCycles and Barry’s Bootcamps of the world, local studio District Climb opens today with a similar concept in West Village just a few weeks ahead of its LA-based competitor. (It’s clear Walsh’s trend has already begun to spread.) And though I can’t yet compare it to Rise Nation, I did take a preview class that proved it to be both a solid and addicting class.
Here’s what you need to know before you book an indoor climbing class.
If You Like Indoor Spinning, You’ll Like Indoor Climbing
One of the most daunting things about taking a VersaClimber class is not really knowing how a VersaClimber works. I watched countless Instagram Boomerangs and read articles about what a class entails and still wasn’t at all sure what was going to happen when the music got louder and the lights went dim.
“The VersaClimber is very intuitive and it shouldn’t take you more than a couple songs to get the hang of it,” says District Climb founder Tamra Freedman. It’s sort of like climbing a never-ending ladder to the beat of a Demi Lovato remix. Depending on the music, you’ll make small movements quickly, or longer “reaches” when the beat slows down.
The most similar workout is a spin class. Particularly one with a more club-like atmosphere (i.e. SoulCycle, The Ride House, or Cycler).
Take the Beginner’s Class First
Both District Climb and Rise Nation offer three class levels, including an intro class to help you get a feel for the VersaClimber. You absolutely want to take this class. Sometimes, it’s fine to skip an intro class. You’ll survive an intermediate yoga class without first taking a beginner’s lesson. But jumping into an intermediate VersaClimber class without experience seems akin to skiing down a blue square hill when you’ve never even been on a bunny slope. I’ve done that and I’m still traumatized.
Also, the intro class is still a solid workout. Which brings us to…
There’s so much going on aesthetics-wise, and the machine is so low-impact (more on that in a sec), that there were times I was wondering if I was really working anything. The cardio was on point though — we were all sweating almost instantly and I was definitely out of breath between songs.
But I wasn’t sure I had really worked any muscles, until about an hour after the class when my arms were uncontrollably shaking as I typed a text. Also, the next day I was sore all over. The good kind of sore though, not the kind where you worry that you’ve hurt yourself.
It’s for Everybody
Many studios market themselves to a certain demographic, but climbing really is a doable option for everybody. A VersaClimber offers a zero-impact workout, meaning there’s no pressure on your knees and joints. “I had a guy who came up to me and told me he hadn’t been able to work out until Rise Nation because it’s the only thing that doesn’t hurt his knees,” says Walsh. “He said he lost twenty-five pounds in two months.”
It’s Only 30 Minutes, Thank Goodness
A VersaClimber workout is tough stuff. “It’s one of the hardest workouts out there,” says Walsh. When Lady Gaga wanted to get in top shape for last year’s Super Bowl halftime show, she went all in on the VersaClimber. Mandy Moore takes a Rise Nation class whenever she can. LeBron James calls his machine “his girlfriend.”
But it’s also genuinely fun, so those grueling thirty minutes fly by. Just be prepared for a little shakiness post-class as you work your way up to LeBron-level climbing.