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Hitting the Gym Is the Hottest New Weekend Activity

The New Happy Hour

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You've been planning SoulCycle get-togethers with your friends for years, right? Well, boutique studios and gyms have noticed, and they're taking the workout date idea even further by offering classes to match your usual drinks-with-pals timing. One example, Peloton—a fitness company that also has streaming and on-demand indoor cycling classes (from $13 per month through the Peloton iOS app)—has a 5 p.m. class on Saturdays called Pregame Turn Up. "In the past few months, I've noticed more large groups of friends starting their night out with this class," Peloton instructor Alex Toussaint says. And the trend is taking over more than just indoor cycling: Crunch gym in San Francisco offers a 6 p.m. yoga class on Fridays called Happy Hour Hatha, and club-like dance classes at 305 Fitness in New York City, Boston, and Washington, DC, are consistently sold out on Friday and Saturday nights. "An energetic Friday-night workout helps you separate work from your personal time," says Matty Maggiacomo, master instructor at Barry's Bootcamp in New York City. He teaches a packed class, complete with a DJ, called NoHo Nights at 6:40 p.m. on Fridays. "Exercise is a launching pad that helps you start the weekend in a better mood," he says. Of course, you'll want to max out the benefits of a happy hour workout—we've got some tips.

Follow the Fun

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This is not a workout you just need to check off your to-do list, so think beyond banging out the treadmill miles (save the treadmill workout for Monday). "The whole point of a Friday or Saturday night workout is to have a good time," Maggiacomo says. "Think about what you'd want to do that night if you weren't working out." Dancing? Sign up for a salsa or hip-hop class with your girlfriends. Grabbing a quiet glass of wine with a couple of friends? Try a candlelit yoga class. Surf ClassPass, the monthly fitness studio-hopping service, for just the right fit ($25 and up per month, classpass.com) or find pay-to-play classes near you on the MindBody app (free; iTunes and Google Play).

Celebrate with Sweat

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Even an extra-special Friday can be more epic with a fitness twist: Lots of studios— including national chains SoulCycle, Flywheel, and 305 Fitness—offer private events for bachelorette parties, birthdays, and other occasions. And for good reason. "Exercising is always going to boost your endorphins," Maggiacomo says. "Mix that with the excitement of a special occasion, and you have the perfect recipe for a great night out." Not all studios post this info online, so call to see what your favorite one can do.

Make it an After-Work Thing

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Many studios now offer corporate happy hour classes. For example, Tone House, a HIIT studio in New York City, has special hour-long sessions for office groups (meaning you can make up for some of the ways the office is harming your health). "We make these workouts really tough so people can turn to their coworkers—their teammates—for support and motivation," founder Alonzo Wilson says. "Colleagues cheer on one another and celebrate their accomplishments after class—and that kind of bonding is hard to achieve at a bar." If your local studio doesn't offer corporate-exclusive classes, create that vibe by reserving a chunk of boot-camp spots—sure beats defaulting to the same old burger joint.

Now Hit the Bar (and We Don't Mean Barre)

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Half the fun of a sweaty happy hour is the afterburn—as in after burning those calories, grabbing a well-earned drink with your exercise buds (or DIY some drinks at home). Keep in mind, though: "You'll get drunk faster if you're dehydrated," says Martin Wallner, Ph.D., a researcher studying alcohol at UCLA. "So make sure you have water before ordering a cocktail."

Photo: Shutterstock

Fabletics Valentina One Piece

This chic one-piece is the definition of sporty swim—and is made with recycled materials, of course. ($80; fabletics.com

Photo: Fabletics

The Furry Scurry: Denver, CO

After this 2-mile walk/run to benefit the Dumb Friends League, a local animal welfare organization, you and your dog can try out an agility course, wander the "Flea-less Market," or enter the Doggy Doppelganger contest.

Photo: Dumb Friends League

U.S. Canine Biathlon: Anniston, AL

If obstacle races are more your thing, this 3.5 mile course lets your dog do each challenge right beside you. Just don't be surprised if your dog is way better than you at crawling under fences and hopping across tires.

Photo: AMK9

Furry 5K: Seattle, WA

If your pet likes to party (and you like race expos), you guys will love the Pet-A-Palooza that follows this traditional 3.1-mile course. Vendor booths, entertainment from dogs showing off their agility skills, and even a cover model search for CityDog Magazine (bring your dry shampoodle). Proceeds go to the Seattle Animal Shelter.

Photo: Hawthorne Hills Veterinary Hospital