Meb Byrne

Archive for the ‘gym’ Category

Crunch

In gym, healthy, nyc on February 19, 2010 at 11:15 pm

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.

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David Barton Goes Viral!

In gym, healthy, nyc on February 3, 2010 at 11:47 am

My article “David Barton Gym” was picked up by Yoga Bin!

Check it out here.

Many thanks to Anthony Zillmer for making this review possible!

David Barton Gym

In gym, healthy, nyc on February 2, 2010 at 3:01 pm

The Barnes and Noble on Astor Place is no more. Today, if you push through its heavy wooden double doors, you’ll know immediately that you’re not in Kansas. The new front lounge could be from a neo-Gothic, swanky hotel or an exclusive nightclub, with large candelabras stuffed with dozens of long black tapers. A gift shop to your right hawks chopped-up couture fashion on consignment from London, hard plastic Gummi Bear backpacks, chunky Chanel jewelry, coffee table books and silver absinthe fountains. A bass-bumping electronica soundtrack matches the jewel-toned lighting. You half expect to turn around and see a model or TV celebrity with drink in hand.

Congratulations! You’ve found the David Barton Gym, the gym that thinks it’s a club, where dedicated, rich people come to work as hard as they play. The clientele is fit and fabulous, sporting tight yoga pants and muscle tanks to show off those rippling biceps. On one visit, I saw a tall, lanky man in tight jeans picking up his giant fur coat from the cloakroom. You don’t want to mess around with poor fashion choices here; other David Barton locations are iconic gay hot spots, and I know boys who’ve met their boyfriends at the new location. Moral? No baggy T-shirts.

The decor is dark and would please any club bunny. Slate grey walls are transformed by David Barton’s trippy post-80s lighting design: omnipresent orange spotlights, splashes of magenta and chartreuse across columns and glinting machines, a glowing aubergine ceiling. Mirrors abound, concealing long stretches of wall, interspersed among weight machines, stretching long and thin on stairwell landings, and lurking in a tarnished and oh so bohemian way in the bowels of the 40,000 square foot facility.

Funky display pieces act as road signs in case you get lost. Face to face with a lifesize Chinese dragon costume lurking in the shadows? You’re in the Hall of Cardio on the ground floor. Lounging on a purple crushed velvet Victorian fainting couch? That’s downstairs by the glass-walled Pilates studio. Wandering past a curtain of oversized Chinese throwing stars toward a three-story-tall skull with a dumbbell in its teeth? Well… you could be anywhere; that’s over the main stairwell, carved in relief into the clay-coated wall. The pièce de résistance, a floor-to-ceiling disco ball that can house a DJ and turntable, nestles behind the bright upstairs studio, like a miniature Death Star on coke. (The ball was apocryphally salvaged from a club favored by David Barton and kept in storage for ten years, waiting for just such a purpose as this one.)

Like its clients, the David Barton Gym both looks good and feels good. A fleet of state-of-the-art stationary bikes, ellipticals, steppers and treadmills gleams on the second floor, facing floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Astor Place. Behind the cardio armada lie long racks of free weights, with adjoining high-ceilinged rooms dedicated to weight machines and benches. A large stretching area with stability balls and yoga mats is tucked away in back. Three yoga studios are floored with burnt wood imported from Milan and lined with rows of fat, flickering luminaries. David Barton offers a full schedule of yoga and Pilates classes, taught by tough  yet loving instructors; you want to hate them for kicking your ass so hard, but you just can’t. If you’re more of a one-on-0ne guy or gal, ripped personal trainers abound.

The women’s changing rooms (I can’t speak for the men’s) are carpeted and spacious, with cherry-colored walls, fuchsia fluorescent lights, and five or six alcoves of dark wooden lockers and gleaming silver accents. Rows of roomy showers stand next to an inviting Russian bath, opaque with vapor. Large magnifying mirrors are great for checking out how hot your naked self is, and for enjoying all the freebies David Barton provides its clients: body wash, shampoo, conditioner, disposable razors, Q-tips, cotton balls, body lotion, mouthwash, blow dryers, and hair products by Bumble and bumble. Other occasional perks include after-hours cocktail parties and free Perrier in the lobby, so you can sip in style all day long.

The biggest drawback to David Barton is the high membership fees, even if you take advantage of their student rates ($89/month after initiation fee) or one of their aggressive sign-up campaigns ($0 initiation fee for the month of January.) If you can afford it, though, I can’t think of a gym where I’d rather be.