What does it take to make it big as a boutique fitness instructor? Well, after hundreds of classes, we have a pretty good idea.
For starters, they’re masters of charisma and creating connection, bringing students together to feel like they’re part of a bigger community (both in the gym and on social media).
And they all manage to strike that delicate, elusive balance between being tough and loving, aspirational and inspirational—all those qualities that make you really want to crush those last few burpees, even though your body’s telling you it just. can’t. even.
Without a doubt, the 14 instructors that follow have that it-factor—and more. You may not know their names yet, but there’s no question that they’re destined for big things.
Book a class with them now—before they hit wait-list-only status.
Keep reading to meet 14 of the best up-and-coming boutique fitness instructors on both coasts.
Olivia Amato, instructor at Shadowbox and SoulCycle, New York City
The workout: At Shadowbox, classic jab-hook-cross combinations and bag in a super-modern boutique setting with tons of get-you-ripped strength-training drills; bike dancing on the beat at SoulCycle with bursts of sprints and mega inspiration.
Why you need to take her class: There’s barely a trace of the woman who, not long ago, was working in sales and trading in the investment bank world. In the past year, Amato has quickly come into the spotlight as rising star. She owns the tough-yet-encouraging combo platter of motivation, getting you to “push past your perceived limits” to “be the badass you really are,” she says. Then there’s the heaping tablespoon of infectious energy, and accountability. “I really believe in leading by example and consider myself a stickler for form. Do it the right way or not at all!”
Song of choice: “LRAD” by Knife Party. “Nothing even needs to be said when the beat drops—it’s so sick and really pushes you to work harder.”
Signature move: Endurance rounds with a burpee pyramid at Shadowbox—yup, they’re as intense as they sound—and long runs out of the saddle at SoulCycle.
Where to find her: Shadowbox and SoulCycle in New York City.
Tiffany Chao, Founder of MVMT Theory, Los Angeles
The workout: Hip-hop dance, minus the intimidation factor—you’ll leave feeling like a Beyoncé backup dancer, even if you’ve got two left feet.
Why you need to take her class: Since MVMT Theory launched earlier this year it’s been drawing massive crowds; that’s largely due to the super-passionate Chao, who’s dedicated to making dance more accessible to everyone (not just pros). You won’t just learn some fly hip-hop moves—you’ll probably make new friends, too, given the class’ all-inclusive party vibe.
Song of choice: Everything from alt-R&B (River Tiber) to beats you’d hear at the club (Rae Sremmurd, YG)
Signature move: Pliés—surprise!—always kick off Chao’s classes, ensuring you’ll get more than just a cardio burn.
Where to find her: Chao mainly teaches at special events and pop-ups these days (she’s busy building the MVMT Theory empire), so keep an eye on the schedule for intel on where she’ll be next. In the meantime, she’s enlisted lots of other rockstar dancers to lead weekly MVMT Theory classes at Blackbird Dance Company in West Hollywood and Platform in Culver City.
Beth Cooke, Yoga Instructor at Y7 Studios, New York City
The workout: Empowering, hip-hop beat-driven hot yoga, which Cooke begins and ends with an inspirational reading. (You might not know if that’s sweat or tears dripping down your face.)
Why you need to take her class: Cooke’s presence is like a ray of light in a dark, candlelit yoga studio that’s roughly 85 degrees yet feels sweltering when you’re constantly flowing between downward dog, plank, and standing splits (or whatever combo she’s feeling that day). She’s personable (like, she’ll point out how you’ve improved even if it’s your second time taking her class), cheerful, and swears your improvised sequences—which she’ll have you do sporadically throughout—are great even if you feel like you’re stumbling around in the dark with no rhythm.
Song of choice: Throwback Lil’ Kim, which Cooke says lets her (and you) channel the unapologetic, badass female within.
Signature move: All sorts of variations on the half moon, which Cooke loves because of how expansive it is. No stranger to the cramped-space lifestyle of city dwelling, she believes this one-legged position is a way to rebel and take up all the space you want with your limbs spread in all different directions—as they’re feeling the burn, of course.
Steph Dietz, Cyc instructor and manager of Cycologist Development, New York City
The workout: Super motivating cycling sessions that don’t miss a beat in terms of pushing you to perform—and have a blast.
Why you need to take her class: Dietz was one Cyc’s original instructors at its first studio in Madison, WI, before joining the team in New York City, and you can feel her experience with the unique cycling method right away. (It’s also the reason she’s also in charge of “Cycologist Development” for the brand nationwide.) Her smooth, smart cueing is masterful, and she manages to pay plenty of attention to form (she’s got a degree in kinesiology, too) while also offering up plenty of motivation. (Which you’ll find in spades on her Insta, too.) Dietz’s classes come with buzzing, room-filling energy, and she exudes Midwestern warmth and positivity that helps buffer how hard she makes you work.
Song of choice: Any Chainsmokers song or remix.
Signature move: Whipping out an inspirational quote while the sweat is flowing. She also somehow gets riders excited about isolations (where you hold your upper body still to work your core), a difficult move that people tend to hate, but for some reason cheer for when she’s teaching.
Claire Fountain, founder of Trill Yoga, New York City
The workout: This is yoga that doesn’t follow the rules. Created for anybody and any body, it’s rooted in the music you flow to and the style you choose to rock.
Why you need to take her class: Fountain’s signature Trill Yoga embodies a free-moving spiritual and artistic approach that gives the yogi full control over how she feels and flows. But don’t be mistaken—Fountain works from a foundation of correct form, so you’ll feel the burn while you feel the beat.
Song of choice: Controlla, Drake (Swave Session remix)
Signature move: Lunge variations with twists. She loves them—classes don’t.
Where to find her: While Fountain currently only teaches private sessions and pop-ups around New York City, she’s starting a bi-monthly class at Overthrow NYC next month. You can also find her on Instagram, crushing yoga stereotypes one cool backdrop-filled pose at a time, or in Nike’s latest sports bra ads.
Jaycee Gossett, instructor of The Class by Taryn Toomey, New York City
The workout: A muscle-burning, mat-based class, with a side of primal scream therapy.
Why you need to take her class: As with Toomey’s original incarnation of The Class—which is designed to rid you of energetic “sludge” with its unique combo of HIIT moves and yoga-inspired sequences (as well as a generous dose of stomping and shouting)—you’ll leave the (packed, waitlisted) class drenched in sweat, muscles quivering, and somehow, spiritually lighter. But Gossett gets you there in her own way. Trained in everything from belly dancing to flamenco to tango, she radiates an ecstatic, electric, dance goddess energy that is unflaggingly positive (no body-shaming here)—and contagious. Pro tip: Take her Sunday morning class, and she’ll take you to church.
Song of choice: “My Lord” by Michael Franti is her fave right now, but her playlist includes everything from Sia to Arcade Fire.
Signature move: With Gossett, what she’s saying is as impactful as the moves she’s leading you through. She’s no drill sergeant, but she can coax you through the most teeth-gritting sequences (like burpees where you scream your guts out as you jump in the air). At a recent class, she urged us to “celebrate the body you’ve been gifted with, celebrate the freedom in your body, and celebrate right now for all of those who can’t“—and suddenly, somehow, tears were flowing (what? how?) and the reps got a lot easier.
Kara Griffin, Creator of Feel This Burn, Los Angeles
The workout: A creatively choreographed, full-body workout that combines resistance training, cardio intervals, and a whole lot of core work—plus not one, but two rounds of savasana.
Why you need to take her class: Griffin is well-versed in tons of different disciplines—she’s a former dancer, a holistic health coach, and a certified personal trainer. (Not to mention a former Well+Good contributor!) All of those things went into crafting Feel This Burn, wherein high-intensity conditioning moves transition gracefully from one into the next, like a super sweaty dance. “The goal is for you to feel immersed in the flow so much that you wonder how you got from point A to point B,” the trainer explains.
Song of choice: “Wild Things” by Alessia Cara, which Griffin digs for its inspiring lyrics.
Signature move: This gal’s all about the abs—you’ll both start and end the class with lengthy core series, which she says results in “plenty of shade being thrown my way.”
Where to find her: By private appointment and on a pop-up basis—this summer, Feel This Burn was a fixture at Platform and the Mondrian Hotel. Keep tabs on Griffin’s Instagram for the scoop on her upcoming fall schedule.
Ryan McCann, instructor at Mile High Run Club and founder of Cool Fit Club, New York City
The workout: At Mile High Run Club, McCann’s treadmill workouts are set to the pace of mellow music, resulting in a meditative run. And then there’s the literal meditation that McCann leads before group workouts, which he leads via his recently launched Cool Fit Club.
Why you need to take his class: It’s all about community—whether you’re swimming laps at McCarren Park Pool (which he organizes in the summer) or hitting mile five on the treadmill. McCann’s magnetic personality draws people together, meaning that you’re more likely to keep showing up week after week. If that doesn’t motivate you, his soundtracking skills will: Instead of the hear-it-everywhere Drake and Beyoncé tracks, expect to hit your stride while jamming out to remixes of classic ’80s tunes like “Tainted Love” or songs you might expect to hear at a Brooklyn house party.
Song of choice: “A Fifth of Beethoven (Flight Facilities Edit)” by Addicted To Company.
Signature move: Running up and down the treadmill rows—McCann can’t contain his excitement when the class is crushing it. Good luck getting out of class without a high-five from him.
Where to find him: McCann isn’t giving up his classes at Mile High Run Club any time soon, but you can also catch him running around all over New York City every Thursday night with Cool Fit Club, which meets at the Lululemon Lab before hitting the streets.
Katia Pryce, instructor at DanceBody, New York City
The workout: Class kicks off with 20 minutes of pure dance cardio. Then, Pryce incorporates a strength band into the moves to target the triceps, and finishes class on the floor with 20 minutes of core work. You’ll be Jell-O by the end.
Why you need to take her class: It’s like a sweaty dance party with the best songs you forgot about, like Timbaland’s “Give It To Me” or old-school Justin Timberlake. The hourlong workout goes by fast. Another reason to sign up? She makes a point of targeting smaller, often-neglected muscles that other exercises, like spinning or running, don’t get near.
Song of choice: Even though her class playlist is full of throwbacks, her absolute favorite workout tune at the moment is a current hit: Drake’s “Controlla”.
Signature move: The hip roll (think of it as hula-hooping, sans actual hula hoop), which Pryce instructs the class to do a lot. “It really works the lower abs,” she says.
Where to find her: She teaches several times a week, beginner classes and advanced, at DanceBody’s New York studio.
Eliza Shirazi, founder of Kick It by Eliza and the Fempire, Boston
The workout: Music-driven, high-intensity, interval kickboxing—with a heavy dose of female empowerment thrown into the mix. Each class consists of 13-rounds—and each round is set to a different song. The first is a warm-up, the second is squats, and the remaining 11 change every class.
Why you need to take her class: Shirazi is all about growing her HIIT-meets-kickboxing Fempire—the female-inspired community that has grown through this class—by including rounds that feature partner work, turning strangers into friends, one sweat-filled-exercise at a time.
Song of choice: “Somewhere to Run” by Krewella (Lost Kings Remix).
Signature move: The partner work in the second half of each class. This is where the magic happens, since you’re held accountable for your partner. (The squats in round two are up there, too.)
Where to find her: Shirazi and her team of 25 instructors are currently bouncing around Boston at various locations and pop-ups, including at her mentor George Foreman III’s—yes, that George Foreman—boxing gym, Everybody Fights in Southie. She’s also a sponsored New Balance athlete and soon-to-be fashion designer with the launch of her Kick It x New Balance line this fall.
The ladies of Speedplay, Los Angeles
The workout: A mash-up of running, rowing, and resistance training, all broken up into short, yet super intense, circuits to boost that coveted afterburn affect.
Why you need to take their class: While most boot camp-style studios are pretty male-dominated, Speedplay flips the script—the majority of its instructors are women. (Shout out to Beka Badila, Rachel Butler-Green, Shannon Decker, Meagan Fulps, Anna Rose Heyman, Jennifer Leuning, Hetal Patel, and Jenny Savage!) The girl-power vibe here is strong, and it will most definitely inspire you to push through that last sprint on the Woodway motorless treadmill. (Oof!)
Song of choice: Remixes rule here—right now, the trainers are all loving the R3hab mix of Rihanna’s “Needed Me”.
Signature move: Just try to escape a Speedplay class without doing some renegade rows—single-arm dumbbell rows while holding plank pose. Brutal, but way effective (at least judging by the trainers’ own toned guns).
Where to find them: At Speedplay’s two locations in Downtown LA and Beverly Hills.
The workout: Creative, rhythmic flows that will have you moving around to all corners of your mat (remembering the sequences is just as much a mental workout as it is a physical one).
Why you need to take her class: You may already follow Taras on Instagram—she is part of the 200K-followers club, after all. (One look at her tastefully sexy yoga snaps and you’ll understand why.) But this is one social media star who has a lot of substance to back up her impeccable feed. Her class is educational and alignment-driven—don’t expect any superfluous spiritual platitudes—and she’s got an inventive way with sequencing that will quickly jolt you out of any yoga rut you may be experiencing.
Song of choice: “Do Yoga” by Rae Sremmurd.
Signature move: Standing split—she loves the way it both stretches and strengthens the legs (and her students love to hate it).
Where to find her: Y7 and Equinox in West Hollywood.
Alex Toussaint, instructor at Peloton, New York City (and in living rooms across the country)
The workout: Power cycling, set to the soundtrack of your favorite hip-hop party tracks, at the world’s most famous virtual spin class.
Why you need to take his class: Toussaint’s spin class is more intense than what you might be used to—expect to be drenched in sweat 10 minutes in. Most of it is spent in the saddle (as opposed to third position), and he goes heavy on the resistance the entire time (minus the five minutes spent focusing on arm weights). But you’ll be too busy jamming out to notice your glutes on fire. Toussaint’s playlist of hip-hop (everything from TLC’s “Creep” to the latest Drake track) give the studio full-on party vibes.
Song of choice: “New Level” by A$AP Ferg.
Signature move: Toussaint is all about the music, rapping along to Biggie while doing a shoulder shrug timed to the music—and keeping his form on point. When things get really heated, he claps along to the beat, driving home the pedaling tempo you should be hitting.
Where to find him: If you can’t make one of Toussaint’s packed Manhattan classes, you can watch him while you ride from home if you’re one of the 40,000 people with a Peloton bike.
Jason Tran, instructor at Swerve and The Fhitting Room, New York City
The workout: Push-you-to-your limits cycling and HIIT sessions, with killer playlists.
Why you need to take his class: Tran has built an incredibly loyal community of #TranFans over the past few years, and his star power is really starting to show. His packed classes are a testament to his teaching talent and constant, fabulous energy. Equal parts sass and sweetness, Tran knows a huge proportion of his regulars by name and uses that to offer tons of encouragement (while also kicking their asses, naturally). You can tell he’s always working hard, too, which makes you want to follow suit. Big brands are taking note: he’s now an ambassador for both Fitbit and Fabletics.
Song of choice: “Grown Woman” by Beyoncé.
Signature move: “Jason Jacks,” alternating arms lateral and forward overhead. Also, making you turn your bike resistance up so high it feels like you’re pedaling through mud—while he grins at you.
Where to find him: At Swerve’s Flatiron and Midtown studios and at The Fhitting Room’s Flatiron and Penthouse (on the Upper East Side) studios. He also now hosts massive boot camp classes in city parks with Dyan Tsuimis, and leads workouts at Fitbit local events.
Temperatures may be dropping, but your workout routine is heating up! Check out our Fall Fitness Preview, your guide to having your healthiest fall yet. And make sure to mark your calendars: Well+Good’s annual Fitness Biathlon in NYC is back this October 22.
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