Crunch is a man’s man’s man’s gym. At its location on Lafayette Street, just south of Astor Place, the gym gets the job done without trying to look pretty. The walls are broad swaths of dusty rose and violet, teal and silver, like an grown-up plastic play set. This promising start for an 80s-inspired decor soon falls apart, though, in a jumble of clear plastic chairs, cartoony art deco rugs and empty cardboard boxes littered in corners. The rough-and-tough melting pot of clientele match the decor: the men have huge muscles, the women have no breasts, and the only dress code is sweat.
A mashup of cardio machines dominates the front half of the main floor. Choosing a machine is like playing ChatRoulette: sort of fun but annoying too, and ultimately nonsensical. Would you rather listen to the radio or check your email while you cycle? Which is better, the treadmill with a personal TV or the tricked-out elliptical with a large flat screen overhead? What about the bike with the Sims-esque video game that lets you choose which type of route to follow? (No, you can’t ride off the highway or crash into the redwoods. I tried.) The high-tech mixing and matching makes it difficult to get a good workout without experimenting with the technology first.
Beyond the cardio, the weights are laid out on the open plan, a giant warehouse with rows and rows of black, hulking machines. The benches and machines aren’t organized in a particularly logical pattern, which makes it easy to spot the new gym members, scanning the room timidly for their next exercise. (All I want is a leg press, man!) Long racks of free weights line opposite walls, with mirrors that declare, “You look gooood. REAL GOOD.” Similar quips are ubiquitous around the gym, all written with a cocky-but-funny tone, like a high school jock with a dry wit. Upstairs, a smattering of cardio and weight machines and a stretching area with stability balls jockey for place with an imposing boxing ring. Downstairs, a glass-walled studio hosts all of Crunch’s classes, with a dungeon of a spin room in the back. The class listings are inventive (my eye was caught by one that involves a balance beam), but the lack of studio space means that many classes are only held once a week, often at odd hours.
Crunch seems to realize that its bright main floor, where you can’t help but stare at others around you, combined with the lack of logic in the layout of the equipment, can lead to a lot of angst for newbies. Thus, the gym very cleverly offers two free personal training sessions with its free two-week trial period. Trainers are even more ubiquitous here than at David Barton Gym, if that’s possible: when they’re not on the floor with a client, they’re chilling at their desks, right next to the check-in counter. You can’t miss these guys.
My first session with a trainer was challenging, engaging and motivating; I walked away feeling like a million bucks. The second session, unfortunately, wasn’t even a session. After awkwardly pitching a Crunch membership to me multiple times, my trainer admitted that he wasn’t allowed to keep me on the floor for more than half an hour if I didn’t purchase something; management’s orders. Not only did I feel lousy for getting half a workout, but I was left questioning the pep and praise of my trainer at our first session. Was it all just a sales pitch? If I can’t trust my trainer with my body, why would I trust him with my money? I would have been happy with one solid session and a discussion of membership options afterward, but that’s not what Crunch promised.
The frustrating disorganization of Crunch’s facility and the patronizing dishonesty of its advertising make me question whether Crunch should be trusted with my health, much less anyone else’s.