Fitness face-off: Midway

Editor-in-chief Brian Farnham, 35, still wants to dunk a basketball. Meanwhile, Seek editor Elise Loehnen, 27, is still trying to work herself into the splits. It's been a month and a half. Who is winning?

Fitness face-off: Elise After

Photo: Jeff Gurwin

Elise’s process:

If you’ve been reading our blog, you’ve probably noted that I’ve approached this challenge much as Joey Chestnut approached his 66 hot dogs this past Fourth of July: with voracity, vigor and an eye on embarrassing my boss. I’ve managed to see Brooke Siler of Re:AB Pilates (or one of her numerous, extremely talented apprentices) about four times per week. At each session we’ve attacked the splits from every conceivable angle: There have been flips, high kicks, stretches on swings. While some of it’s been fun (when Brooke says something will be “fun,” it’s always painful, like the time she made me do tricep dips with a spring-loaded bar while raising and lowering my legs in a pike position), it’s all been effective.

RECOMMENDED: Fitness guide to NYC

Fitness face-off: Elise Before

Photo: Jeff Gurwin

Elise’s progress:

According to Brooke, Joseph Pilates claimed that in ten sessions you can feel the difference, in 20 you can see it, and in 30 your body changes. I think that’s a conservative estimate. I’m not fully splitting yet, but after just the first ten sessions, I managed to add 14 inches to my front-toe to back-arch measurement, palm the floor when bending over at the waist and sit up dramatically straighter (it’s hard to lift out of your lower back). Now 25 sessions in, I’m fighting for every half inch, but I’ve maxed out a few of the machines (because I am, um, tall) and my whole body is much stronger and tighter.

Re:AB Pilates (33 Bleecker St at Mott St, 212-420-9111; plus one other location. Go to

Fitness face-off: Brian the future
The Future?

Photo: Jeff Gurwin

Brian’s process:

I was reminded of the sheer lunacy of my goal at one of my recent training sessions at Bluestreak, the Chelsea Piers advanced-training program I’ve enlisted to help me. We were doing the skills segment on the court, and I was paired with a friendly kid named Aaron, who plays on the Yale team. Although a little shorter than I am, Aaron has the natural athleticism that gives him a powerful springiness I’ve never had. In other words, halfway through my quest, one thing hasn’t changed: my genetic destiny.

Fitness face-off: Brian After

Photo: Jeff Gurwin

Brian’s progress:

Thanks mostly to the regimen on the Bluestreak treadmill, I’ve lost about five pounds in the last three weeks alone and gained strength and speed. The program predicts that by the end of 20 two-hour sessions, participants will see a two- to four-inch improvement in vertical leap. If I’m on the upper end of that estimate, that would give me 23 inches, or one more inch than I had in high school—awfully close to my goal.

I’d say on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being where I started and 10 being a rim-rocking jam, I’m probably at a respectable 5. Whether my God-given physiology will allow me to get beyond 7 or 8 remains to be seen.

Bluestreak at Chelsea Piers (Pier 60, 212-336-6123;

For the gritty details and to track our progress, visit