I tried the near-impossible workout class Hilary Duff is obsessed with

Most celebs have a special gym routine, or go-to workout class. Gwyneth Paltrow has the Tracy Anderson Method. Kate Hudson has YAS. Paul Rudd is clearly just drinking all the drinks from The Fountain of Youth. The point is that famous humans, for the most part, join very exclusive gyms or do very exclusive workouts to look the way they look, and often times those routines are hard. Like, really really hard.

Hilary Duff, Younger actress and queen of Instagram (and the chambers of my heart), is one of those effortlessly amazing-looking celebrities whose secret is a tucked-away workout class in West Hollywood. It’s called Rise Nation, and Duff isn’t the ONLY one who swears by it. Jennifer Aniston recently told Well + Good that her choice of cardio is also Rise Nation. “It’s such a great workout!” Aniston said.

Is it? I decided to try it out, even though my usual form of exercise is losing my car in the parking garage every day, and then walking around for fifteen minutes trying to find it. NO MATTER. I dusted off my leggings and my sports bra and drove to West Hollywood.

What’s Rise Nation all about?

Rise Nation is the brainchild of “training and movement expert” Jason Walsh. He created the Versaclimber class which uses the Climber. It has you stand upright and forces your body to do ALL the work. By using your upper and lower muscle groups to climb (as you lift your legs, you essentially pull your body forward with your arms, as though you are truly climbing a mountain). The Climber is designed to give you a more “balanced” workout, so no muscle group is left out. It’s a very thoughtful routine.


The class is ONLY 30 minutes long, but you burn 660 calories in that half hour. Which. Is. Crazy.

The classes range from “101,” to “The Climb,” to “Climb & Flow,” to “Groundwork,” to “Extreme Climb,” each level increasing in difficulty and feet climbed. Trainers implement different movements and speeds that simulate running, sprinting, and even yoga. Ultimately, the routine is crafted to make your body feel as strong and empowered as possible.

The class:

I signed up for three classes over a span of three weeks. The class I was recommended was with Adam Goldstein, an enthusiastic and super friendly body guru who taught a vigorous but not SUPER OMG VIGOROUS class (“The Climb”). “Hilary takes the pro class,” Rise Nation’s publicist told me, which is probably “Extreme Climb.” I technically *could* have tried a harder workout, but I didn’t want to play with fire.

When I walked in the first day, I was given a number which would be the machine I used. Luckily, it was in the back so no one could witness me flailing. About 30 machines were in a single room, each a couple feet apart. As one of the trainers showed me how to use my Climber, and how to situation my body (lean forward, stick your butt out) a dubstep remix of “I Kissed a Girl” played in the background. “Did it start yet?” I asked naïvely (half the people in the room had already begun climbing).

“Oh no, you’ll know when the class starts. The room gets dark and the ceiling lights up,” the publicist, who was awesome enough to do the workout with me my first time, told me.

She was right — the ceiling, which looks like a neon-lit geodome fit for Coachella, began to glow as Adam closed the shades and announced he was starting. The class consisted of about four, seven-minute sessions of continuous climbing to high-tempo pop and electronica. As I stepped down, I moved my hand up, and as I stepped up, I thrust my hand down. I was literally simulating climbing a rock wall, but very, very fast.

As I climbed, I worked out my biceps, my upper arms, my thighs, my ass, and probably like fifteen others parts of my body I’m not even familiar with. After each song/seven-minute sprint, Adam would tell us to shake out our hands, which was VERY IMPORTANT, because they start hurting after awhile.

Rise Nation is a high-energy class. I had to stop every four minutes to chug water and shake out my arms and hands and just breathe. Sadly, I was the only one who took so many breaks — everyone in the class was a climbing MASTER. While climbing, Adam walked around the room, encouraging us that we were strong and that we could do it, and that we were all doing great. Which honestly made me want to try harder and take less breathing breaks because I wanted to be strong! And I wanted to do it! And be great!

After about 27 minutes, the last three were spent stretching our legs and arms. Adam informed us we were all superstars.

How it made me feel:

The class itself was brutal. It burned. It hurt. I was clutching the handle bars so tightly, my hands cramped hours later. It was the Stairmaster ON CRACK. “You’ll feel it in your butt; my butt has gotten SO much bigger,” the publicist told me. And she was totally right, you definitely feel it in your butt. In fact, you feel it everywhere. Every muscle in my body stung after my first session, as though someone had taken my weak body and WRUNG IT OUT.

My second and third time were less painful and more prolific, probably because I knew what to expect and by that point, my hands got used to the gripping (hence, less cramping). Each workout, the number of feet I climbed increased. It was like that montage in almost every single action movie, where the girl or guy who was wronged seeks training from an old-school martial arts expert in order to avenge their lost child or lover. And each scene, the character grows strong and stronger until finally they’re ~ready~ to take on their nemesis. That was essentially me.

Even though I didn’t see Hilary Duff (or Jennifer Anison, or anyone famous), I did ask the publicist what Hilary Duff usually does after her workout at Rise Nation. “She’ll most likely go to the juice shop next door,” and that is precisely where I went because I just climbed over 1,800 feet and I DESERVED IT.

Is it expensive?  

It’s more expensive than your average gym membership, but not financially devastating, either. Each class costs $26, unless you’re a new client (you can purchase a package of three classes for $30).

After you’ve tried the class three times, you can either buy individual classes, or get packages. A five class package is $120, a ten class package is $220, and a 20 class package is $400. Or you could get a month for $199.

Deals are also available on ClassPass.

Rise Nation provided classes without charge for the writer of this post.