This hugely popular workout trend uses an ever-changing combination of cardio and weight lifting to develop personal fitness and strength. Each session (called a Workout of the Day, or WOD) is conducted with an element of friendly competition to help motivate exercisers through the pain barrier. There’s no need to be intimidated, though—everyone gets their butt kicked, and everyone notices when you beat your best, giving you a pat on the back (if they can still lift their arms, that is). CrossFit gyms work hard to develop a community and hold plenty of socials (that’s partly why they have a reputation as being cultlike—that and the baby sacrifices). No CrossFit gym will let the uninitiated just join a WOD; all have mandatory foundation classes to ensure that you can execute set moves (especially the weight lifting) correctly to avoid injury. Many CrossFit gyms also take a holistic approach, providing nutrition classes and guides to healthy eating.
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The first adopter in NYC has grown to two locations and offers the most classes in the city, with more than 240 Workout of the Day sessions every week. The WODs are split into beginner, intermediate and advanced groups, meaning those fresh from the mandatory two- or three-week Elements course of six sessions ($299, includes 18-day membership after completion) can gradually build up their fitness and confidence. Free introductory classes are offered five times a week (reservations suggested). 212-684-2018, crossfitnyc.com. Monthly membership $166.50–$219; single class $25; firemen, military, police, students $20.
Plenty of twenty- and thirtysomethings from the neighborhood and the East Village frequent this Williamsburg spot—think twice before you utter your next slur on hipsters. The gym is growing rapidly, so unless you want to pony up for private On Ramp beginners lessons ($500), sign up at least three weeks in advance for the oversubscribed Community versions (six classes $250). In addition to the eight-times-a-day WODs Monday through Friday and three a day on weekends, Virtuosity also offers Olympic weight-lifting and power-lifting memberships ($150–$300). Head coach Keith Wittenstein is a CrossFit level-three trainer (most are level one) and a member of the sport’s certification staff. He takes the 12:30 and 5:30pm WODs Tuesday through Thursday, teaches the Olympic weight-lifting program and is available for private sessions ($150/hr). 917-720-6551, crossfitvirtuosity.com. Monthly membership $150–$250, class packages available.
experience. Introductory classes require reservations, and all new members without CrossFit experience must complete four weeks of beginner classes before joining the mixed-ability WODs, offered between two and eight times a day. The gym also hosts clean-eating challenges to encourage improved diets as well as friendly competitions for regular ol’ members (as well as elite CrossFitters). The latter includes the annual Hail to the Queen, a female-only event that has contestants performing multiple workouts during the competition. 646-801-4237, crossfitqueensny.com. Monthly membership $150–$215, minimum commitment three months.
CrossFit South Brooklyn
This five-year old, approximately 350-member gym has a solid core set of 50 WODs per week, split between mixed-ability sessions and more hardcore routines for those who like to enter inta-gym competitions; a free introductory class (Sun 1:15pm; reservations required, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org); and the six-lesson Foundations program ($250). But there’s much more: Snag a spot in the popular eight-week strength cycle (two or three sessions/wk $400–$600, due in two installments) to pump lots and lots of iron, or recuperate at an Active Recovery Class (Tue 6pm, Sat 11am; free, nonmembers $15), an hour of stretching and mobility work to loosen tight muscles. The gym also runs two CSA programs with upstate farms (one arable, one livestock) and offers one-on-one nutrition planning with trainer and former chef Chris Fox (first one hour session $90, follow-up 30-minutes sessions $55). Really, though, we just want to join their socials, which include movie nights at the gym (free White Russians were served during The Big Lebowski) and charity benefits—like the December home-brewed beer tasting that raised money for Sandy relief. crossfitsouthbrooklyn.com. Monthly membership $175–$230, single class $25.
Reebok CrossFit Fifth Ave
This spiffy new kid on the block opened in mid-August as part of the bi-level concept store FitHub and is the only sports-brand-affiliated CrossFit box in the five boroughs. The trendy, lime-green-accented space is, at 10,000 feet, larger than most CrossFit centers in the city and decked out with the usual pull-up rigs, weights, rings, and kettle and medicine balls, but it adds sleds, battling ropes, and strongman and farmers logs to the mix of things you will come to despise. Unlike most NYC gyms, free taster classes are part of the three-session 101 intro course all new CrossFitters must complete, while experienced practitioners can join a Workout of the Day instead. Drop by 15 minutes before a class (Mon 8am, 8:30pm; Sat 10am) to get started. 802-858-4283, reebokcrossfit5thave.com. Monthly membership $200–$300, registration fee $250, class packages available.
The pain: CrossFit may have a fearsome reputation, but thankfully the unitiated get to take baby steps (literally—we walked while squatting). That’s not to say the beginner class I took was easy: I was feeling the burn, then heard “and that’s the end of the warm-up.” We practiced the constituent elements of the ring dip, maintaining balance on the rings for five seconds (hard) then doing two sets of ten floor dips (also hard). And then came the mini workout: eight minutes of alternating between burpees (from standing: squat, kick your legs back, push-up, legs in, jump in the air, repeat, lose the will to live) and rowing. After ten burpees, the strength in my shoulders decided it didn’t have to take this and left—to compensate, I improvised an ugly-looking rolling maneuver to get up. I did that 32 more times. Still, the camaraderie was cool: Reaching for the water I had left on top of the lockers was agony, but I lifted my arm to high-five my partner.
The gain: “Whatever kind of muscle [you] want to see an improvement in, CrossFit will get you those results faster than any other training style, because it combines both cardiovascular and weight-training elements. It’s fast, fun and effective. [The competitive element] does help to motivate people. You see your buddies [and go], ‘Hey, I’m going to get a better score than you.’ To get that one last point you’ll push yourself to levels you never thought possible. None of these workouts are fun while you’re doing them. They all suck. And everyone is experiencing the same level of suck. You see each other succeed, fail, grow and, inevitably, you become a family. You find CrossFit all you ever talk about anymore. Most of my closest friends are CrossFitters and that's because CrossFit is where I spend most of my time. It is kind of like a cult [Laughs].”—Jessica Pamanian, trainer at CrossFit Queens