Despite free and unlimited access to fitness classes ranging from yoga to spinning to BodyPump at the Weinstein Center for Recreation and Wellness, many UR students venture off campus and dig into their own not-so-deep pockets for classes at private studios.

The Princeton Review ranked the University of Richmond #10 in the U.S. on its list of “Best College Athletic Facilities.” 

Yet, lured by the variety of class options, advanced equipment and high-quality instructors elsewhere, many students happily shell out hundreds of dollars to keep their bodies, if not their wallets, in top shape. 

Sophomore Haley Levesque has regularly attended fitness classes for years -- her favorite studios being Orangetheory Fitness and BOHO Cycle. 

The appeal is that the studios are close to campus and offer student discounts and discounted class-pack options, Levesque said. With the student discount, Levesque pays $135 for a 10-class package at BOHO Cycle. 

Sophomore Brooke Royer also opts for off-campus classes at BOHO Cycle and Hot Yoga Barre, which offers a student discount and a three-month membership for $435. Both Levesque and Royer said they were willing to spend the extra money because they thought the private studios offered better instructors and more interesting classes. 

“I really didn’t like the yoga class I tried here," Royer said. "I didn’t like the instructor, so I didn’t feel relaxed. I’ve tried Body Pump, but it gets repetitive. The off-campus classes are more diverse and fun."

The private fitness clubs also offer amenities not available on campus, such as heated rooms for hot yoga or hot barre classes. Hot Yoga Barre, for example, offers an unlimited monthly membership that allows members to participate in a wide range of classes that includes Hot Power Yoga, Hot Barre Blast and more. 

Marti Tomlin, director of university recreation at UR, explained that although the off-campus fitness studios augment the fitness choices available to UR students, the demand for group fitness classes at the Weinstein Center for Recreation and Wellness has remained strong during the past few years. 

“We had 1,808 group exercise classes and 26,224 people who participated in a group fitness activity last year,” Tomlin said in an email. 

The Weinstein Center hires a mix of students and community residents as fitness instructors. All pre-certified prospective instructors are required to attend and then co-teach at least one class before they can lead a class, Tomlin said. Non-certified applicants receive additional training. 

“I typically see what formats they want to teach and their comfort level with that format," Tomlin said. "Depending on the format, I’ll give them a mini training and then start co-teaching while they are working towards certification."

Senior Maddie Kelley recently became a certified instructor at CycleBar, a premium spinning franchise with a studio in Henrico. 

Kelley described her instructor training as a rigorous month-long boot camp process. Her training began with a taped two-song audition that was sent to CycleBar’s corporate office for review. During the next month, she trained three days a week for three to six hours before finally completing a test video in which she taught an empty class. 

“Then, if corporate approves, you become a ‘Cycle Star,’” Kelley said. 

Before becoming a spin instructor, Kelley took a spin class at the Weinstein Center for Recreation and Wellness, but she prefers CycleBar because it offers more flexibility and higher-quality equipment, she said. 

“Cycling classes are available all day, so I could go whenever I want, and CycleBar bikes track calorie burn, distance and average RPM, and then send you the stats in an email after class,” Kelley said. 

Contact lifestyle writer Sarah Price at sarah.price@richmond.edu.