Keeping Fit in Harlem
From spacious gyms equipped with saunas, juice bars, and the latest machines to intimate studios specializing in disciplines as varied as capoeira and pole fitness, Harlem has plenty of exercise options to choose from.
518 West 145th Street (between Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway)
Performed in a heated studio, Bikram yoga consists of a series of 26 postures and two breathing exercises designed to boost circulation, stretch muscles, and improve alignment. Because all sessions following the same routine, you need not worry about finding a class that fits your skill level—all classes are designed for students of all levels—but rather a class that fits your schedule. Bikram Yoga Harlem, in the Hamilton Heights neighborhood, offers 90-minute classes throughout the day, from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on weekends.
2916 Frederick Douglass Boulevard, Third Floor (between West 154th and West 155th Streets)
The Angola style of capoeira is the oldest form of the African-Brazilian martial art, in which music played on traditional instruments is as critical to the art form as kicks, feints, and elbow strikes. The founder and main instructor of this academy, João Grande, holds a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts, a recognition of achievement in traditional arts. All two-hour classes, held weeknights beginning at 6:30 and on Sundays beginning at 10 a.m., are open to beginners and advanced students alike. A roda, in which participants gather in a circle to sing and clap along with the music as a means of setting the pace for the one-on-one competition of players from the circle, is held every Sunday from 2 to 7 p.m.
2350 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard (between West 137th and West 138th Streets)
As its name indicates, this is a cycling studio, but one where you have several styles of classes to choose from. In addition to the 45-minute introductory classes, you can cycle to reggae, calypso, and reggaeton music in the Reggae Rundown classes, combine HIIT and strength-training movements with cycling in the Harlem Sculpt sessions, and follow up 45 minutes of cycling with 15 minutes of core training on mats in the hour-long Harlem One Stop classes, among other options. As a nice touch, after working up a sweat, you can help yourself to complimentary bottled water or fruit.
44 West 125th Street (between Fifth Avenue and Malcolm X Boulevard)
Yoga is not “one size fits all” at this studio. Options include Vinyasa yoga, in which the emphasis is on the flow between the poses, and Hatha yoga, where the focus is more on the postures themselves. There are open-level, beginner, and advanced classes, as well as classes catering to prenatal women and to full-figured teens and adults, as well as restorative yoga and Trauma-Informed Yoga classes. In addition to baby-and-me (and toddler-and-me) sessions, the studio holds classes for kids ages 5 through 12. And in addition to yoga, the studio offers belly dancing, Pilates, and Yoga-Barre-Tone, which includes weights and barre work as well as yoga mat work.
2364 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard (between West 138th and West 139th Streets)
Pole fitness has moved beyond the fad stage, thanks to what practitioners describe as a full-body workout that not only strengthens, sculpts, and provides cardio benefits but is also fun and confidence-boosting. La Femme Suite offers beginner and advanced pole-fitness classes, as well as Pole Aerobics and Hell on Heels, in which participants perform a dance workout in heels, all the better to channel your inner Beyoncé.
4605 Third Avenue (at East 106th) – visit
1400 Fifth Avenue (at East 115th Street) – visit
300 West 125th Street (between Frederick Douglass Boulevard and Morningside Avenue) – visit
303 West 145th Street (at Frederick Douglass Boulevard) – visit
New York Sports Clubs has four locations in Harlem, from East Harlem to Sugar Hill. The 125th and 145th Street studios include saunas; the Third Avenue locale also features a sauna, along with juice bar, sports leagues for kids, and babysitting services. Most important, all four gyms offer a wealth of machines and weights, personal training, and plenty of classes. Zumba, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), cardio kickboxing, cycling, reggae dancing, Pilates, yoga, Total Body Conditioning, Rebounding (on a mini trampoline)… There is no excuse for getting into an exercise rut here.
2147 Second Avenue (at 110th Street)
Whether you want to box competitively, learn it for self-defense, or simply want to get into shape, this gym has classes and trainers for you. Along with introductory, basic, and advanced boxing training, Women’s World of Boxing offers classes in kickboxing and Budokon yoga, which incorporates yoga postures with martial arts and calisthenics.