On a gray, rainy, intensely foggy late spring morning in New York City—the kind of morning that puts the goth in Gotham—I wondered just who gets up to slosh around in the snow muck and navigate grimy, puddled subway tunnels to make their way to lower Manhattan for a fitness class. On this bleak and blustery morning, apparently the answer was me. After years (yes, it’s now plural) of a global pandemic, hadn’t everyone by now migrated their fitness pursuits to a small screen in their bedroom-cum-office? Would anyone actually be in the studio when I arrived, or would it be me, the teacher, and a Zoom gallery on a laptop, lurking soundlessly (and dryly) from the comforts of their homes?
I clutched tight to my umbrella and my coffee cart java, and did that unspoken routine of rainy morning commuters: hoist, parry, tilt, dodge… culminating in the inevitable parasol collision, sending a cascade of cold drops on coffee lid tops. Six stops and one coffee spill later, I found my way just south of Canal street to the door of The Ness, a third-floor studio whose signature offering is a trampoline-based workout, and whose website promises ‘an intimate oasis where fitness meets your ness’. At that moment, my only ness was wetness.
The co-founder, Aly Giampolo (whose fresh face suggests an age incongruous with a New York business entrepreneur, but perhaps it’s evidence for the resulting glow of the practice) greets me and welcomes me into a warm and chic space—the website didn’t lie, it is an urban oasis, with exposed brick walls and large windows that look out to lower Manhattan cubicles and home offices alike. I’m uncharacteristically early, so I confess to Aly that I’m a bit nervous, having never brought my ness of any kind to a bouncing foundation. She is charming and reassuring, and tells me that the secret here is just having fun. “It’s okay if you don’t get it the first time or the second time or the fifth time, just keep moving and enjoy yourself. You can’t not smile when do you this,” she says, and I wonder if smiling as I fall off the trampoline will save me from a twisted ankle. Ultimately, my nerves are calmed by the next arrival in the room, Yerania, a vivacious and warm Ness enthusiast who tells me I’m going to be great. Not do great, I’m going to be great. She says it with that confident, maternal, inner knowing that makes me believe her.
Yerania tells me she’s a massage therapist, so she knows firsthand about the benefits of lymphatic drainage. “This is the perfect combination of sweat, muscle toning and cardio all in one 55 minute class. I especially love bouncing for its lymphatic drainage benefits, since for women it’s important to constantly keep our glands and hormones in balance due to so many changes we experience in a month’s cycle,” she says. And then her eyes get wider and she declares, “It’s addictive, too. Once you experience the workout, you don’t want to live without it!” I’d soon learn she’s not the only devotee of the Ness.
Class time approaches and the studio suddenly fills to capacity (currently 8 trampolines, but in pre-pandemic times that number was 12). It dawns on me that my initial question about just who braves the wintry mix of late spring in the City to trudge to class has been answered, and they’re all around me: perky and alert, they’re all female, they demonstrate a camaraderie, they’re all rather toned, they skew younger than I, and let’s be honest, they have better workout clothes than I do. As Aly greets the Zoom room and prepares to teach, I find myself a trampoline by the back window and sush my inner critic who says I’ll never keep up with the crop-topped millennials, and instead repeat what Yerania said to me. I turn to look at her, across the room at her trampoline and she gives me a wink and a thumbs up.
Fitness that’s fun? Hello, weightless euphoria
As class starts, my first sensation is an undeniable rush of endorphins screaming, “WHOA this is FUN!”, drowning out my inner critic. We’re only just warming up, but I have an unfamiliar sensation: never, when I’ve begun a workout, have I thought to myself “I don’t want this to end!” Sure, sure, we’re only a couple minutes in, and nothing complicated has been asked of me. But the recognition of that child-like thrill of joy isn’t lost on me. This taste of play feels like a sweet reward after two years of being socially-distanced and cooped up. Those around me are more accustomed to this weightless euphoria, and don’t seem to be giggling (yes, giggling) at themselves the way I am, but I do see that they feel at home on their tramps in a way that I respect: a satisfaction at having staked out this small piece of bouncy real estate—and time on their calendars—to move, unfettered, as they wish, combining a workout with a sense of freedom.
I won’t lie—the moves took some getting used to. I didn’t exactly awaken my inner gymnast and prove my grace and grit on the tramp in this first class. But I did get way beyond my comfort zone, which is undeniably more important. The 55 minutes sped by, and I felt that with a few more bounce sessions under my belt, I would be able to put down the mental load of concentrating so much and ultimately find more of a flow state with this practice once the movement became more second nature. Yerania was right: I was already craving another session.
Community begets community
Once class had concluded, I noticed a small handful of ladies still hanging around, not getting suited up to brave the soggy weather. They told me they’d booked a private with Aly, to stack on top of the class they’d just done. I inquired further, and a bright-eyed woman named Dorian told me, “I’m usually in the studio about 5 times a week, but I’ll do it at home too since I have the trampolines.” Plural? I had originally thought that perhaps the cost of the tramps would make growing the online business difficult. But here, this woman had more than one? “I started adding to my collection so friends could join. People are always curious when you show them you work out on a mini trampoline!” It was becoming clear to me that The Ness had not only created an avid community right here in New York City, but I was rather wowed to think that the love for this modality was so ardent that people would create their own small jumping pods with their friends and tune in on Zoom when they couldn’t be in the studio.
“The Ness community has become an extension of my COVID bubble,” Dorian continued. “It provided us with a little sense of normalcy when everything else was crazy. That’s why I love introducing friends to bounce and sculpt at the Ness: the fact that I have friends to share it with keeps me motivated.“
I had a newfound respect for not just the vision of the founders, but the commitment of the community, finding this outlet for joy and stress during the pandemic, and staying steadfast as a community during that time. I later asked Aly whether cultivating community was part of the DNA of the brand, and she said that it was. They launched in 2019, utilizing an invite-only method, which she said was a twofold strategy: to encourage a sense of comfort and competency within the first student groups, as well as spur invitations from friends and create a network of word of mouth that would create a fabric of real relationships upon which the brand would grow. “We wanted to feel like the people who were here were aligned and felt comfortable, and in turn, by keeping classes small, we were able to get to know people more, to truly know about their work and families and why they might be having a great day—or not. We really wanted to cultivate those relationships.”
From isolation through to IRL
The Ness turned three in March of 2022, which is a great feat in the context of the COVID pandemic. Closings of long-beloved institutions became commonplace during this time: from seminal yoga studio, Jivamukti, to the shuttering of four NY Health and Racquet Clubs (open since the 70s), yoga and fitness studios suffered greatly during this period of shutdown. The Ness thread the needle by pivoting the moment lockdown was mandated to a singular focus on their online platform, and encouraging people to get tramps to bounce from home. I asked whether they had worries that the arrival of a global pandemic would sink their new endeavor, and Aly paused, then replied, “Honestly, no, we didn’t. We were so new, less than a year, and we just didn’t really have that choice. The Ness is the result of our investment of our life savings, so we said, ‘We have to keep going, so we will keep going.’ The day they told us to shut down, we came into the studio, and filmed 100 videos that week. We never allowed the thought of stopping to come up. There was fear, for sure, but we just kept going.”
And for their community, it’s a good thing they did. Dorian’s friend, Adie, shared with me that what she first enjoyed about the practice—just fun on the trampoline—was actually going much deeper than that. “Right at the start of Covid, quarantine was imposed almost overnight and at that point, who had their own trampoline at home? [I invested in one because] I have hEDS and my joints started to swell with the lack of movement. It turned out that the natural lymphatic drainage that occurs when bouncing was, unbeknownst to me, helping me physically with my condition. Here I was, just thinking it made me ‘feel better’ working out, but I was wrong. It was this type of specific movement that helped me with my inflammation,” she shared.
I asked Adie if she could pinpoint exactly what it was about The Ness that made the community so committed. “Aly and Colette are very unique people and they have done an incredible job of growing their brand and sharing what makes their workouts so special with others. Unlike a lot of other studios or bounce instructors, at The Ness they make sure no two classes are the same sequence. From an instructor standpoint, that’s not easy at all, it’s a lot of work and they offer classes daily. However, for those of us who are participating and taking class, it’s a wonderful challenge. Knowing you’ll be challenged again and again in class also brings people back, and makes it addictive for many.”
After enduring the recent chapter of life that foisted more isolation and home confinement upon us all, it seems as though both the practice and the community of The Ness now have an opportune moment to welcome more folks who are ready to bounce out beyond their comfort zones.
Karina Mackenzie is writer, producer, and wearer of many hats at Wanderlust. As Sr. Director of programming of Wanderlust events, she curates experiences for Wanderlust events as well as the Wanderlust TV platform. and also contributes to editorial content as a writer, content creator, and event experience design.
She served for 5+ years on the board of non-profit, Yoga Foster (now Wellemental), whose mission is to make mindfulness elementary in public schools across America, and volunteered on the Green Wellness committee in Brooklyn public schools.
She now lives in the woods of New England with her two kids and husband, learning (awkwardly) how to lean into country life.