Rise Nation: ‘I joined Hollywood’s fitness cult

Rise Nation: ‘I joined Hollywood’s fitness cult

Here’s one writer’s journey of climbing an imaginary ladder set to a Will Sparks playlist. To call it ‘intense’ would be the understatement of the century.

I found out about Hollywood’s new fitness obsession the same way any millennial learns anything of importance. At brunch.

I tried Rise Nation and couldn’t even get through half the workout,” my friend said. “I’m actually struggling to walk today.”

In all honesty, I had no idea what she was talking about. In a world full of F45s and CrossFits and 9Rounds, I didn’t think my brain had leftover space for another exorbitantly-priced fad, let alone one with a cult-tastic name like ‘Rise Nation’.

The next day, I saw an influencer post a selfie at RISE NATION on Instagram. I came across an article detailing Bradley Cooper’s RISE NATION “awards season” preparation. The local barista told me she’d had a good morning because a RISE NATION studio recently opened up down the road.

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Two things became abundantly clear. One: my iPhone is listening to all of my conversations and selling my data to Mark Zuckerberg. And two: I really bloody wanted to try Rise Nation.

The latter somehow felt more important.

Aaaaand here we are.

The workout

It’s not just Bradley Cooper who loves this stuff; A-listers LOVE Rise Nation. From Matt Damon to Jennifer Aniston, Hilary Duff, and Emma Stone, celebs are pouring into LA-based studios, desperate to get hot and sweaty in a dark room with a bunch of strangers (no judgement).

Yep, if you’re rich and famous, “exercise” now means climbing an imaginary ladder while disco lights flash from the ceiling. As you climb, music blasts so loudly that your eardrums vibrate, providing a lovely distraction from the melting sensation in your muscles. There’s also a chirpy fitness instructor (read: cult leader) who dances around the room, shouting things like “pump it!”, “here we go!” and “yes girl!” as you slowly slip into the sweet embrace of death.

It’s basically 30 minutes of torture set to a Will Sparks playlist. Fun!

I won’t lie, I was nervous to give this Rise Nation stuff a shot. Mostly because every time I told someone I was a newbie to the class their eyes widened with concern.

“Oh… um…” they trailed off once hearing my plans to give this climbing-on-a-stationary-pole-in-pitch-black darkness thing a go. “Just get through the first few songs, OK?”

I was quickly nestled among the other newbies – including my increasingly displeased sister Evelyn, who was collateral damage in this experiment – and provided (futile) instructions on how to climb without looking like a praying mantis.

And then? The automatic blinds rolled down. The lights were switched off. Evelyn shot me a crippling look. It was time to climb.

It took me about two minutes and 15 seconds of Rise Nation to deeply regret the croissant and coffee I scoffed before class. One second we were doing long, deep climbing strides, the next we were sprinting up our little imaginary mountains. Then we were somehow doing both, all at once, chanting out less-than-enthusiastic ‘yeses’ whenever the cult leader demanded.


I feigned an asthma attack just so I could catch my breath into my Ventolin inhaler without judgement. It was a better cover-up than what the girl on the machine behind me had; 20 minutes in she was lying on the ground motionless, emitting little groans over the music to let us know she was still alive.

But the fellow cult members were right; once the first few songs had passed, the ordeal did become ever so slightly easier. The line between gym and nightclub was so blurred I wouldn’t have been surprised if they handed out tequila shots when we finished, but all we got was some multi-purpose cleaner to wipe away the litres of sweat that had been dumped on the equipment.

Despite being sure that the flashing lights would induce some kind of epileptic seizure, I had survived in true A-lister fashion. Just.

Sure, Evelyn broke out in a full-body sweat rash. Sure, my car windows literally fogged up with steam on the car ride home. Sure, I felt like my croissant and coffee were going to make a triumphant return for the next three hours.

But we made it. And would I be dumb enough to do it all again?

Horrifyingly, yes.

Michelle Andrews is a freelance writer and co-host of pop-culture podcast ‘Shameless’. Follow her on Instagram.

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