Unlike some group fitness classes where you can daydream while you work out, the classes at the new Sandbox Fitness in the Beverly Grove neighborhood of L.A. require your full attention.
That's because in most cases you exercise while balancing on a wobbling, elevated surfboard in an indoor sandbox. Why? Studies have shown that sand workouts burn about 30% more calories because of the added resistance.
"You really have to be in the moment and focus," says owner Katie Seigel.
It's easy to spot the studio on Beverly Boulevard by the looky-loos who gape at the groups inside doing burpees on surfboards mounted on air-filled pillows.
The new facility — David and Minna Herskowitz opened the original Sandbox Fitness in Sherman Oaks in 2014 — offers more than 30 classes a week spanning yoga to TRX.
The studio is chic with a cheerful bright blue focal wall, full length mirrors, glittering chandelier and smooth cement floors. The portable surfboards are placed in an enormous sandbox that takes up most of the room. If you arrive a few minutes before class, jump on the board to get a feel for it. During class, instructors lead you through the routine on a surfboard at the front of class. They move quickly and make it look deceptively easy, but they are also great at offering modifications if it's too overwhelming. "I tell people during their first class to focus on figuring out the board," Seigel says.
The idea is to balance on the surfboard while doing lunges, squats and other reps while engaging your core muscles. The sand feels good and is supportive and forgiving. And for germ-phobes concerned about bacteria, Seigel says she waters and rakes the silica-free sand twice a day to keep it clean. (Sand socks are also an option.)
Achieving balance while moving means you may have to slow down at first. No matter, even at a slower pace, the workout is intense. There is a friendly communal vibe in trying to master the surfboard. And once again, you will be so focused on what you're doing, you won't notice that your neighbor is planking without falling into the sand like you are.
We recently tried three classes:
The class mimics the physical demands of surfing and includes balance, strength and cardio training done atop the surfboard. We start with warm-up jumping jacks, but they feel harder than usual because of the sand. There are planks, push-ups, deep-seated squats on the board, triceps dips, burpees and mountain climber runs. The board is especially wobbly when you are lying on your back: Simple crunches were more difficult as I tried to balance myself on the teetering surfboard. I left the class with my muscles quivering and drenched in sweat.
This is a total body workout done in the sand with and against suspension straps. It was billed as a great option for pregnant women and those with injuries. Let's just say I went in overly confident. Big mistake. Of the three classes I took, this was the hardest. About halfway through, many of us, including a few who were training for the L.A. Marathon, had no upper body strength left. I liked the support of the sand when planking with my feet suspended in the straps but found working against my own body weight — doing chest presses, squatting and pulling myself up from a seated position with the TRX straps — to be a lot harder than I initially thought. If TRX is your thing, you might want to try the Tidal Turbulence class, which is TRX on a surfboard.
This nontraditional Pilates class involves jumping on the surfboard and working with SandBells (weighted sandbags). I could feel the burn in my obliques as we did torso twists standing on the board, and my glutes and hamstrings got a major workout as we did donkey kicks and leg lifts with stirrup bands while kneeling on a surfboard. As you get comfortable on the board, the workout becomes easier and you can move much faster.
Ultimately, the unconventional aspects of the routines and the variety of the classes are the real draws for anyone feeling bored with a regular workout routine.
Sandbox Fitness, 8317 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles; www.sandbox-fitness.com
Cost: First class, $10. Single class is $26. Monthly membership, $159. Current special: three classes for $30.