Circuit training. Interval training. Crossfit. Mixing it up. Whatever you want to call it, folks, it’s not new.
There are a lot of gyms these days trying to distinguish between workouts that are pretty similar (if not exactly the same as far as your average after-work exerciser goes): Someone leads you through a series of varied exercises, mixing muscle groups and weights/cardio/etc. Maybe one place favors kettle weights, or exercise bands, or TRX, or heavy bags, or jump ropes, or sledgehammers, or trampolines, or giant inflatable bouncy balls—or any combination therein.
There’s a lot to be said for finding an environment that makes you feel comfortable and challenged while inspiring you to keep coming back. (There’s a reason we’ve been driving all the way to south Sarasota once a week for the last three years.) But personal chemistry is not the same as an exercise revolution. So when I got a call a couple of weeks ago about a new gym with workouts that are totally different, I was skeptical. Then I got the address. Wow. It’s four blocks from our house. Hell, I figured, let’s give it a shot.
So last Wednesday after work, we walked on over to Fit Crew.
FitCrew founders Neils Renzenbrink and Andrew Terman
Now, my biggest issue with gyms tends to be my own social anxieties. If it’s a sport, I feel like I’ve got a chance of overcoming my social shortcomings with athleticism.* But in a gym, I just feel all bitter and judgy. If I’m not tempted to short-arm some exercises or skip some reps to keep up with the group, then I’m sanctimoniously annoyed with anyone who is.
(*So long as that sport is not basketball, baseball, swimming, fencing, judo, golf, lacrosse, polo [water or horse], stock car racing or cricket.)
So I was all set to battle my usual issues, but it was not to be…
The day’s Fit Crew workout listed four exercises with designated reps, all in a designated order—pull-ups, jogging, row machine and squat-thrusts. The more experienced members had designated weights, too (that is, unassisted pull-ups and 65 or 95 lbs for squat thrusts), but there were options for all levels.
And then, everything just…went.
After a warm-up “lap”—up and down the street (about a quarter mile, I’m assuming)—everyone was assigned a starting exercise. Mercifully, at my level, a “chin-up” was really “TRX horizontal pull-ups” (plenty challenging for Soccer VonWeakarms over here) so I worked through my 25 reps and went on to the next exercise, another “lap” in the street. Then? 500 meters on the row machine. After that, squat-thrusts (for which my shoddy knees appreciated the careful instructions and PVC “weight”). After that? Back around to “chin-ups” again, and then two “laps,” and then so on and so forth.
After the workout, it’s all shine and bananas.
And here’s where I realized how this was different: Though the group environment keeps you competitive, the emphasis is on doing the exercises, doing them right, and doing all the reps required—even if you have to go slowly or take a break. The result is that, even though everyone starts at the same time, people work through at different paces until it’s just a little exercise ant farm, everyone at different points in the cycle.
Hard to be self-conscious when you’re never neck-and-neck with anyone. You want to do your best (and the trainers are there to push you if you slack), but you don’t need to beat the person next to you, ‘cause…they’re already behind you. Or ahead of you. And then they’ll finish and someone else will take their place.
I suppose it’s not a profound revolution in the history of exercise, but it worked for me. And that’s what counts.