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Workouts Jam To South Beach Rhythm At 305 Fitness In NYC

Sadie Kurzban likes to warm up her fitness dance class with a pep talk.

“We’re in it together,” she tells 30 women gathered in a 1,500-square-foot studio. “There’s nothing to worry about. You’re in good hands.”

A burst of neon lights flashes throughout the room. High-energy “boom-boom” music blasts from several speakers. A live DJ plays electronic dance music (E.D.M.) tracks that accompany a series of jumps, waving arms, and sidesteps.

The 5:30 p.m. Monday cardio legs class at 305 Fitness has begun.

Kurzban, 27, is the founder of 305 Fitness, a brand of boutique gyms inspired by Miami’s culture and music. Since 2014, she has opened two 6,000-square-foot studios in New York City (one in Midtown and another in the West Village) and offers classes in Washington D.C. and Boston.

After growing up in a Jewish-Cuban family in Key Biscayne, Kurzban, valedictorian at Ransom Everglades School in Coconut Grove, class of 2008, wanted to bring a “Miami ethos” to Northeasterners.

Credit Alex Gonzalez / WLRN
As clients wait for their next 305 Fitness class, they can take a selfie in the "#Selfie Cabana," located downstairs at the Midtown studio.

“I find something so special about the Miami culture that’s really playful, joyous, carefree, willing to be a little bit silly and make of fun of itself,” she says at her Midtown office. 

The New York City workout studio emanates “silly” and “carefree.” Hot pink neon lights read “Girls Girls Girls” and “What’s the password?” Downstairs, a selfie station with a backdrop of yellow and orange flowers complement studios named after Miami hotspots like “Collins Ave.” and “Brickell.”

“We focused on the emblematic parts of Miami,” she says. “So that’s South Beach and Art Deco.”

Kurzban,daughter of Miami immigration lawyers Ira Kurzban and Magda Montiel Davis,  got the idea for 305 Fitness in college. A longtime Zumba instructor, she launched the distinct exercise classes during her first year at her alma mater, Brown University.

She says she grew a following.

“There’d be 200 to 300 kids in the room,” Kurzban recalls. “People were lining up around the block.”

In 2012, Kurzban visited Miami for spring break. During a night out on South Beach, a friend suggested she take that ambiance and make it into a workout class.

“I’m going to become a fitness instructor? That’s so crazy!” Kurzban says about the conversation she had that night.

That idea eventually became the independent start-up BodyRox, the prototype for 305 Fitness.

In her senior year, Kurzban entered and won $25,000 in an on-campus business plan competition. The funds helped her move to New York, and begin building the 305 brand.

"It's to come and feel good about yourself" - Talia Vilaplana

Initially she taught classes wherever she could rent studio spaces. Once her client base increased, Kurzban was ready to open her first studio in the West Village.

In addition to the money from Brown, Kurzban says that she financed the project in its early months through friends, family and clients.

“We’re self-funded, meaning that the profits from our current studios help fund the next studio,” she says.

The second studio in Midtown, near the Empire State Building, opened in early 2016.

For 24-year-old Talia Vilaplana, who grew up in dance classes, Fitness 305 felt like home. Although, her first workout wasn't easy. 

"I literally thought I was going to throw up during it. It was my first time dancing in a long time," Vilaplana says. “I knew right away that I wanted to come back all the time afterward."

Clients like Vilaplana return to 305 for the culture, which is often as important as the workouts. She says 305 Fitness encourages a competition-free zone and a focus on individual success.

“It’s to come and feel good about yourself,” Vilaplana says. “When you go to other classes, you hear, ‘Oh burn off that cake you ate last night.’ It’s none of that here.”

Credit Shadi Garman / Shadi Garman Photography
Shadi Garman Photography
305 Fitness instructors dance during a September choreography meeting

At the 5:30 p.m. cardio class, clients lunge forward; jump to the pulse of DJ Will Torres’s techno playlist; and stepped back and forth according to Kurzban’s instructions. The soundtracks are inspired by Miami’s Latin, dance and pop influences.

Kurzban says some choreography is prescribed, but instructors have the freedom to go where the music takes them. The same applies to clients. They go at their own pace in a “monkey-see, monkey-do” fashion, as Kurzban described it.

“Put your hands by the face like you’re a fighter in the ring,” she tells her Monday class. “We only have one choice in this room, and that’s to be positive. It’s to make the most of the time that we have left.”

Lana Lee, 27, says she used to hate working out until her first 305 class in 2015.

“I remember walking out feeling really great. Like I had really worked out,” Lee recalls. “You’re walking out sweating, but you walk out with this really insane high.”

"Culturally, there's something really special about seeing Northeasterners who are buttoned up and so focused on their careers let loose for an hour in this crazy, trippy experience" - Sadie Kurzban

Since then, Lee has been inspired to try other workouts, including spinning and boxing, but for her, they don’t compare to her experience at 305. She has since joined the company as a work-study associate, an internship where she works on marketing and other behind-the-scenes duties. Plus, she can take classes free of charge.

“You’re surrounded by people who are quite uplifting,” she says. “It changed my perspective on self-image. You just walk in there and it doesn’t matter … what anyone else is doing. You’re just getting lost in the music, in the company of all these other people who working off their own thing.”

Kurzban says she promotes an inclusive culture, starting with her 34 instructors. She aims to have all body types, races and genders represented.

“It’s one of the things I’m most proud of,” she says. “What we’re looking for is dance talent, big personality … but they don’t need to be the fittest person in the room because we want them to be able to identify with our clients.”

Kurzban plans to open more studios in New York in 2017, and D.C. has a brick-and-mortar site on the way. She says she’d like to bring 305 to the 305, but she’s focusing on expanding in the Northeast.

“From a business standpoint, it makes the most sense for me to cluster it up here,” she says. “And culturally, there’s something really special about seeing Northeasterners who are buttoned up and so focused on their careers let loose for an hour in this crazy, trippy experience.”

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