The next generation of women-focused workouts in NYC

MetroRock hosts Women Crush Wednesday as a way to bring more female climbers to the Bushwick space.
MetroRock hosts Women Crush Wednesday as a way to bring more female climbers to the Bushwick space. Photo Credit: Nurse-Family Partnership

When you hear “women’s gym” you might immediately think of the watered-down, 30-minute workouts — heavy on the neon spandex, light on the weights — popularized by franchises like Lucille Roberts and Curves.

While the ideals of female camaraderie and empowerment were there, a new generation of fitness leaders have revamped the concept of women-focused workouts, from fierce HIIT circuits to hard-hitting boxing gyms and rock-climbing sessions.

Building on the momentum of the Year of the Woman, here are three places to crush your workout — without any mansplaining.

Rock climbing

In the past, rock climbing gyms were highly masculine atmospheres that could be daunting for women, especially those new to the sport. The year-old MetroRock Brooklyn in Bushwick is resisting that reputation with Women Crush Wednesday, or WCW, during which women get half-off day passes and rental gear. 

Initiative founders Esther Dionisio, assistant manager of marketing, and Mackenzie Taylor, assistant manager of programming, both felt intimidated by the male edge of the scene at times.

“With WCW, there’s no competition, no mansplaining and no one wants to see you fail,” Dionisio says. “Wednesday has become the busiest night and it’s amazing to see that half, if not more, of the gym is filled with women!”

Climbing involves a lot of upper body strength, so the challenges can be different for men and women.

“We all have weaknesses and strengths,” Dionisio says. “What’s great about climbing is that it’s your journey and you go at your own pace.”

Info: WCW $15 and half-off rentals; 321 Starr St., Bushwick, 929-500-7625, metrorock.com/brooklyn

Strength training

Uplift Studios' motto is "strong women uplift each other."
Uplift Studios’ motto is "strong women uplift each other." Photo Credit: Uplift Studios

At Uplift Studios, the mantra is “strong women uplift each other” and the acronym is “US.” Studio co-founder and president Leanne Shear sees all-female workouts as strength in numbers.

“Bringing women together truly yields power for us on both the micro and macro levels,” she says. “Our core belief is that when we’re physically strong, we also become stronger emotionally, mentally and socially.”

Her boutique studio, which opened in the Flatiron in 2012, targets women in all stages of life, including pre- and postnatal, women over 50 and women whose religious beliefs restrict exercising with men.

Creating a space where women feel positive and safe extends beyond the studio’s regular schedule of 45-minute sculpt, strength, power and endurance classes, with #MeToo workshops, Female Society events and retreats.

Info: $34/class ($20 for first class); 24 W. 23rd St., Fl. 2, 212-242-3103, upliftstudios.com


The woman-owned and -operated Women’s World of Boxing opened its boxing gym a year ago in East Harlem. As a sport, boxing works your core, upper body, and lower body, but also provides an outlet for stress and coping mechanisms for life’s unpredictable punches.

“It’s a great total mind-body-spirit workout because it forces you to be present in thought and strengthen your inner warrior spirit,” trainer Tanaya Cardenales says. “I have met women who have struggled with personal issues, from depression to alcoholism, and it helps them find the power to go another round.”

She also finds women supporting each other beyond the ring.

“It’s great to see networking happening,” she says. “There are women from all different socio-economic backgrounds and races who find a commonality, but still have their own uniqueness.”

The gym has been especially popular among teens; since the summer, Cardenales has seen participation in its girls’ club quadruple.

Info: Packages start at $250/month; 2147 Second Ave., 646-927-4555, womensworldofboxing.com

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