Equinox Firestarter | HIIT to the extreme

Josh Vela teaches a half hour HIIT class called Firestarter, which definitely lives up to its name – my quads consistently burn after this class! But it also starts a fire in the mind, making the student mentally and physically prepared for the day and the week ahead.

For those of us who work in corporate jobs, I think that we can all agree that Mondays suck, especially during the summer. The weekend never feels long enough, and there’s something particularly sad about the commuting slog on a perfect 80-degree sunny day.

But – Equinox East 92nd Street has found a way to Mondays at least a little less of a bummer. Josh Vela teaches a half hour HIIT class called Firestarter, which definitely lives up to its name – my quads consistently burn after this class! But it also starts a fire in the mind, making the student mentally and physically prepared for the day and the week ahead.

Grades (1-10, 1 being the worst and 10 being the best)

Studio quality (Equinox East 92nd St.): 10. I also took it at Equinox SoHo and it was great.
Size of class: 7, as the class can be a bit crowded, especially considering how much jumping we do
Quality of workout: 8
Quality of instructor: 10
Difficulty level: 6

The class

Firestarter is HIIT in the truest sense. The only equipment involved is a step – although I would also recommend bringing a towel both to cover the step when you need to put your hands on it (there are occasional push-ups) and for when you get too sweaty to continue (which will happen in the first ten minutes unless you are The Hulk). After a 5-10 minute workout, the class consists of three pyramids structured like this:

Each pyramid has two exercises – A and B. You do A for 15 seconds and work your way up, doing B for 30, A for 45, B for 45, and then working your way back down. You get 15 seconds of rest in between each exercise and about two minutes of active rest between each pyramid, which consists of getting on and off the step at a bare minimum. In my class, the pyramids were:

First Pyramid

A: Burpee and lateral hop over the step

B: A squat jump forward, run back, and then a tuck jump

Second Pyramid

A: Hot potato, dancing your feet on and off the step one foot at a time as fast as possible

B: From seated position on the step to a star jump as fast as possible

Third Pyramid

A: Starting seated on the bench and rolling over into a push-up, alternating both sides

B: Four high knees, a squat, and a heel click

Pros

  • This workout goes by It’s an efficient way to get your cardio in, especially if you don’t have a lot of time in the morning, and get on with your day.
  • You get a really good sweat, and the accompanying endorphin rush is unbeatable.
  • The workout can be easily modified, whether you’re pregnant, have an issue with your knees, or even just forgot your sneakers (which I’ve fully done).

Cons

  • There’s a standard playlist for the class, which can get a little stale if you’re a regular.
  • The step can be really uncomfortable against your hands. As mentioned before, I advise bringing a towel, or, as I saw Kelly Calazzo write in her review, weight lifting gloves.
  • Many studios will schedule a core conditioning class immediately after Firestarter to comprise a well-rounded hour-long workout – but Equinox East 92nd doesn’t. I’ve done Firestarter both ways, and I prefer to have the core conditioning after as a cool-down when time slows.

The instructor: Josh Vela

A dosage of Josh Vela at 7 am is like a double red-eye cold brew – which all you coffee drinkers know is very caffeinated. His energy is absolutely infectious. Before each move, he has students dance or do fast feet, a small thing that I think makes a huge difference in the energy of the class. He also maintains a good balance of demonstrating the moves while also observing everyone’s form and providing help and modifications as needed.

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