A little over a year ago, Megan Roup was invited to teach a workout class at Project by Equinox, the gym chain's fitness incubator in SoHo. At the time, Project was in its infancy, and people barely knew that it existed, let alone was a hub for elite trainers. Roup's class was simple, but fun: a dance cardio workout that incorporated strength-training moves done with sliding discs. Only two people showed up to the class, but she didn't mind.
"I believed strongly enough in what I could deliver in the class, I just knew I needed to spread the word," Roup recalls. She figured if she could just make sure those two people were "having the best fucking time of their life," then they would come back — and they did, with friends. "I didn't want it to just be a class, I wanted it to be bigger," she says. These days, Roup teaches sold-out classes weekly at Project, streams dance classes on a digital platform called Óbe, has 35K followers on Instagram, and sells branded home workout equipment. And starting this month, The Sculpt Society will be rolled out at Equinox locations in New York City.
Roup is the first trainer from Project to have her workout scaled for the wider Equinox audience. There are plans to do the same thing with other Project trainers, but Vimla Black Gupta, Equinox's chief marketing officer says "what's happened with The Sculpt Society has been truly remarkable."
So, what makes The Sculpt Society so special? For starters, it is fun, in a Jane Fonda, Richard Simmons-knockoff kind of way. Before working in fitness, Roup was a professional dancer for the Brooklyn Nets, and she knew she wanted to use simple dance moves — like the grapevine, box step, and jumps — for the cardio portion of her class. "It was a selfish move, because it was everything I always wanted in a class," she says. The vibe and ethos of her class was just as important: "I wanted to just deliver a really solid, kickass workout that had really strong groups of positive women, because that was really missing in a lot of boutique fitness spaces," she says. "I don't want to be yelled at. Who wants that?"
The 50-minute class begins with follow-along dance cardio that's easy enough for non-dancers to pick up. After the warmup, you hold light weights and do a series of rhythmic arm exercises, kind of like in a SoulCycle class. Then comes the sliders: Placing your feet on The Sculpt Society sliders, you do lunges in all different directions, plus planks. From there, you get on all fours and perform several repetitions of glute exercises with ankle weights on (picture what Busy Phillipps does in her workout Instagram stories everyday), similar to what you'd do during a barre class. Finally, you end with another dance break.
I am a boutique fitness skeptic and former ballet dancer, but I was pleasantly surprised by the workout. I stan a dance cardio moment, and although using sliders is not exactly groundbreaking, it was a nice mix to the usual squats and lunges that you're made to do during a strength-training class. I like that there wasn't an emphasis on the number of repetitions we were doing, and instead we moved with the music. The leg and butt portion was rough, and I noticed lots of people in the class just kind of stopped in the middle of the exercises. But then again, the moves were way more interesting than squats, so time flew. After the class Roup warned me that I'd be "sore in new places." She was right. Overall, I liked the workout and the vibe, even though it wasn't that revolutionary. And I can totally see why people are so drawn to Roup: She's effervescent, and bounces around the studio like a bar mitzvah hype dancer.
Most women have gone through a struggle at some point in their life, so to see women come in and own the movement and own themselves is the most rewarding thing.
I asked Roup if it ever feels weird to be the face of a workout, or have people who come to her class just to see her? First of all, she loves regulars, and says there's an intimacy in sweating with people regularly. "I get to see them sometimes more than I see my family; a lot of them are my friends now," she says. As for the celebrity aspect, Roup is humble. "I take that as a compliment, because I've worked my butt off to get it there," she says. Most days, Roup teaches four classes, and works as a fit model. "I'm laser-focused. Discipline, man," she says.
Now that The Sculpt Society is going mainstream, at Equinox at least, Roup's days might get a little easier. She recently got to hand-pick who will be teaching Sculpt Society classes, and says she's proud of the group they chose. Although she won't be able to teach every single class anymore, she tears up when talking about where things are headed. "I don’t mean it in a cheesy way, but seeing women come in and feel really good about themselves in their bodies is the best," she says. "Most women have gone through a struggle at some point in their life, so to see women come in and own the movement and own themselves is the most rewarding thing."