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Can Whipping Around Giant Maracas Make Me Buff?

Rachel Bertsche gives Equinox’s “True Athlete” class a go.

Illustration by Pablo Lobato
Illustration: Pablo Lobato

While I love a good workout, I’m generally skeptical of kooky fitness classes. (I’m looking at you, AquaMermaid.) In my experience, the more out there the class, the less intense the burn. And I have enough to do: I don’t want to waste my time exercising unless I’m really torching calories.

So I had high hopes for True Athlete, the newest class at Equinox, which claims to incorporate “cutting-edge equipment used by the pros.” It doesn’t sound all that kooky. In fact, the brochure tells me it’s “how champions are made.” I want to be a champion! Serena! Simone! Mia! When I show up, I am ready to kick my own ass.

Before class, the instructor, Amanda, tells us each to grab an RMT Club. I guess this is the cutting-edge equipment used by pros, but as far as I can tell, my four-pound club is a nearly two-foot-long maraca. It even makes the same noise. I consider taking it home and starting a band with my son, who won a similar, albeit smaller, shaker at Chuck E. Cheese’s last weekend.

Swinging the club around, Amanda explains, uses your shoulder’s full range of motion, which means a better distribution of strength and power across your body. Fewer injuries, more coordination. Handling an oversize weighted maraca is very awkward, though. With its uneven balance of weight, it’s hard to control — but I guess that’s the point. We spend most of the 50 minutes swinging our clubs in various ways — sometimes like a samurai sword, other times like a baseball bat. One motion is downright phallic.

Amanda splits the class down the middle and has the two sides face each other. “Make eye contact with someone across the room when you swing!” she says. I lock eyes with a guy, channel my inner Jennie Finch, and put power into my swing. For a brief moment, I understand why “athlete” is in the name of this class. But it’s very brief. We also spend a little time jumping and squatting and doing footballesque footwork on fancy Bosu balance balls. For the last 10 minutes, I watch the clock. I’m not sweating all that much, my muscles aren’t tired, and part of me wonders if I should follow up class with a turn on the StairMaster.

I do not feel like Serena, Simone, or Mia. In fact, the next day I’m less sore than after my normal workout. I feel much more like an athlete when I’m sprinting on a treadmill or lifting old-fashioned symmetrical weights. Some things are classics for a reason.

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