My First Time: Circuit Works


My workout buddies and I venture to Brentwood for an evening Circuit Works class. Knowing very little about the class, other than that the first session is comped, we wonder if this will be like Curves, the gym that most moms have tried at some point or another.

During the safety orientation, it becomes clear that this place is nothing like Curves.  The treadmills stay moving in between circuits, and the weight machines are the real deal.  Workouts are just as scary on this side of the 405, it seems.

We are branded with yellow bracelets, indicating we are first timers.  It turns out that everyone wears a bracelet based on their experience level (four different levels), and it helps the trainers cater modifications toward each individual, and corresponds to suggested settings on the treadmills.  I don’t mind branding with a purpose.

Walking into the room is like walking into a gym in the future: very stylish, and just a little technologically intimidating.  The instructors are dressed in black, and are built like perfect, lean, muscly trainer robots.  Our instructors for the night, Raphael and Scott, look like male models for a catalogue I am not cool enough to receive, but their charm lowers the intimidation factor.

A row of flat screens in the middle of the room have trainers (the same ones teaching the class) demonstrating the proper form for the floor exercises.  They really are just so pretty (the trainers, obvi).  The flat screens in the middle correspond to flat screens at numbered workout stations around the room.

Tonight’s workout is circuit burn, and alternates in 90 second intervals between the 10 numbered stations and treadmills and stationary bikes.  Our stations included hammer curls, perfect pushups, calf raises, hamstring curls, leg press, fly curls, lunges, squats, woodchoppers and alternating arm machine cable rows.

Here we go!  My first station is squats, which I haven’t done with a weighted bar since high school cross country.  It was hard then, and it’s much harder now. Facing a mirror, I see that the physical struggle is manifesting itself on my face, which is like watching scenes from The Ring.  I look over at one of the workout buddies who joined me for this class - she is doing reverse lunges, and has a similar horror movie face. After 45 seconds, everyone at a weight station cuts down to a lower weight and keep the burn going.  There’s my normal face again.

Treadmills are next, and the suggested first timer workout - 3 MPH at a 3 incline - is much too easy.  I wait for another couple rotations to increase the speed to a challenging level; I would recommend increasing this sooner for first timers in otherwise good shape to maximize the results of the workout.

After the second - equally challenging - weight station, we rotate to the stationary spinning bikes for 90 seconds of guided spinning.  This is great, in theory, but unfortunately the bikes were incredibly jolty at low resistance levels, so sprints were out of the question.

The circuits continue as so, with “commercial breaks” for the advanced students that are 90 second plyometric bursts.  The newbies stay on the treadmills or bikes while these are happening.

The instructors keep the class high energy throughout.  Raphael on the mic (pictured below in all of his glory) feels more like a really good party MC than anything; this man has found his calling.  Both trainers leading the class keep a steady eye on form and make corrections throughout, and even force us to do 90 seconds high knees as punishment for not hustling enough between stations.  This is not a passive workout.

The class ends on abs, and it also goes about 15 minutes over. It’s worth it to note that the hour is not a hard limit when you schedule this class.

There is no question that this class is a fun and fantastic full-body workout, but I have two main issues:

Weights: The heavy weights were often a bit too heavy to get an effective workout, and while were were allowed to scale them down, 90 seconds goes by very fast when some of that time is spent finding a correct weight.  This issue is more for beginners, but keep track of what weights work for you to make the second class more effective.

Hard sell: I understand this was a free class, but the hard sell after left me with a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. During the final crunches of class, “anyone who wants to keep burning fat” was offered the opportunity to buy a protein shake. Orders were taken as we did crunches.  Innovative idea for fresh smoothies right after class, but the “are you sure??” sell went on a little longer than was comfortable.

Then, they tried to sell us classes on the way out the door.  Having not purchased a fat burning shake, I was pretty starving by our late dismissal and just wanted to get home. Just hand out the info, make yourself available, and don’t play “let’s make a deal” when I’m still sweating profusely.

Two days later, it’s still going on.  Day one, I received not one, but two e-mails. The first was from the general manager (e-mail address:  20 people in the class - and only 5 first timers to e-mail. The e-mail was just two lines.  Don’t go automated.

What I’m less than pleased about is that the second e-mail was from a third party website. Perkville e-mailed me, letting me know that Circuit Works LA sent me reward points.  Remains to be seen if I now have another regular groupon-esque spam mail - if I do, Circuit Works is off the list. Today (two days later) I received an e-mail offering a free class if I take a survey.  I can’t complain about that, but the overall feeling of getting added to a mailing list I didn’t (wittingly) sign up for is a bit annoying.

The deets:

Circuit Works Brentwood (second location in Venice)

11677 San Vicente Blvd

Los Angeles - 90049


The takeaway: Charming instructors, fun class, read the fine print about how your e-mail address will be used, free towel service available, valet parking in adjacent garage $1/hour with validation.