That's what turned us on to the Fhitting Room, where strength training is as important as cardio — and there's no mention (refreshingly) of weight loss. They spell "fit" with an "h" here, because the class stresses High Intensity Training, which emphasizes exertion until your muscles give out.
Alex: I was scared. I've done High Intensity Training and High Intensity Interval Training before and, basically, whenever you see the letters HIT or HIIT to describe an exercise regimen, that's basically exercise speak for: you will want to barf. Also, I got nervous reading what other people have said about it. "[P]retty blondes with patrician noses can be seen doing squats with heavy kettle-bell weights," as The New York Post described it. Sounds like an Amazonian training ground.
Elle: As always, I felt a mixture of performance anxiety and shame for my complicity in my own public humiliation. In The Pervert's Guide to Cinema, Slavoj Zizek describes the "unfortunate experience" during sex in which "all of a sudden one feels stupid" — "As if, 'My God, what am I doing here, doing these stupid, repetitive movements?'" This is how I often feel about group exercise.
Elle: So, the floor-to-ceiling wall of windows puts you on display for all passers-by to see, as in most gyms. But this one also had a long wall of floor to ceiling mirrors, which forces you to contemplate your own image the whole time.
Alex: It's called "form." We had to change together in one bathroom. That was sort of a bummer. There are no locker rooms at the Fhitting Room, and there are only two restrooms. So come prepared. Elle and I came after work, were scared of being late, so we ran into the huge unoccupied restroom and changed as fast as we could without looking at each other while secretly wishing there was a locker room.
Elle: They started off imposing an explicit social price for failing to live up to standards: the first person to get up from a squat position had to do 20 pushups. No one was punished, because they had us move on before someone collapsed. But that set the tone. They were pretty cheery, though.
Alex: I'm going to boast here. I am proud that neither you nor I even looked like we were going to release from our squat position.
Elle: I hate squats. They make me feel hulking and oafish.
Alex: But we did them. Daury called me handsome. Then told me I was doing my sit-ups wrong. I worked hard to make sure to do them right.
Elle: He liked you. She had muscles like Kim Zmeskal.
Alex: Kim Zmeskal is my favorite gymnast. Anyways, Daure had muscles, too. Julia was great and also not afraid to be the bad cop. It is still beyond me that someone who has such a nice smile can be a bad cop.
Alex: The class we took was a Signature FHIX class, where were were maybe two out of four beginners. The rest of the class—some 6 to 8 people—were veterans. It started with a brief "warm-up," which included jumping jacks and squats.
Elle: The springfloor made jumping jacks fun.
Alex: It was also good for my knees. I have terrible knees. Oh, and there was a team competition where one man did not appreciate our newbiness.
Elle: We were paired with an intense dude. He seemed like one of those guys who wears the full Lance Armstrong kit to bike that little 3-mile loop in Prospect Park.
Alex: It was a three-exercise circuit (planks/squats/rowing) that was determined by how fast one person rows on a rowing machine. Once someone finishes rowing, everyone else stops what they're doing and switch up the routine. He put an extreme amount of pressure on me to make sure I was killing that rowing machine.
Elle: Well, I didn't realize we were supposed to stop rowing after we'd "burned" 12 calories, according to the rowing machine. (Those calorie counters are liars.) Lance got very frustrated, but then was pleased when they said our group had burned the most calories. You know, if you want a real hardman workout you probably shouldn't exercise with a bunch of women in draped moisture-wicking halter tops.
Alex: To be fair, there were three men in the class. But still, Lance should thank us. Imagine the amount of calories we could burn if we knew how to count them correctly.
Elle: The lesson here is that it's important to listen to instructions and not be distracted by pop songs.
Elle: I endorse these pushups. Mostly for the ab part, though, because "strong is the new skinny" is obviously a lie, and the truth is that a flat stomach is the new flat stomach.
Alex: At the end we finished off with a non-stop high intensity circuit with jumping jacks, bicycle kicks, squat jumps and hamstring pulls. I was sweaty.
Elle: It was fun. It passes two crucial tests: One, I was sore the next day. And two, only parts of the workout could have been done in your own home for free. And most people, obviously, couldn't afford to install a spring floor at home, or the hanging straps that made ab and butt exercises harder. Plus, the playlist was carefully calibrated to give the emotional satisfaction that you were working out super hard at the right moments.
The Fhitting Room
Length: 50 Minutes
Price: $35 per class (offers vary)
Good for: People with bad knees; People who like a bad cop; People who like to sweat; People who need a challenge
Not recommended for: People who would rather talk than workout; People who need locker rooms
Overall: We'd both go back.
The Fhitting Room; 1166 Lexington Avenue at 80th street, New York, NY; 212.772.1166; email@example.com
Sports Played: Tennis, Volleyball
Exercise Regimen: I have bad knees. I am not good at running — bikers have told me I run in crooked lines. I can bench press my own weight (160 lbs.), which is about the manliest thing I can do. And I like to go to yoga. I belong to a gym, which I try to go to around four times a week—if I'm paying for something, I believe I should make it worth it.
Sports Played: Gymnastics, Diving, Baseball, Soccer
Exercise Regimen: I did gymnastics for 10 years, and I worked at a Curves for Women one summer. Since then, I have not belonged to a gym. So my exercise experiences are polar opposites: Eastern European coaches yelling "DO YOU WANT TO BE CHAMPION" while a dozen tweens doing wall-sits whimper like puppies, vs. women walking around in circles to Jock Jams. I usually run 3 to 6 miles a day, and do an array of complicated sit-ups I learned in gymnastics, the number of which I cannot reveal without exposing my vanity.