On a recent afternoon, about a half-dozen people stood in a small King Street studio, drenched from head to toe in sweat.
To the casual observer, it looked like the group was at the tail end of an hour-long workout. In reality, they'd been at it for 15 minutes, and their workout session was already complete.
That's a typical scene at the village's latest gym, Port Chester CrossFit. According to traditional thinking, most exercise magazines and the anecdotes of hard-body celebrities, achieving dramatic results requires a combination of weights, cardio and hours in the gym.
CrossFit turns that formula on its head: devotees work out in a spartan gym consisting of a mostly open space, with weights and accessories like medicine balls stored in corners and in rows along the walls. Workouts consist of compact, intense regimens that utilize the entire body, combining cardiovascular exercise with strength training instead of segregating the two in the style of traditional exercise programs.
Breaks are measured in seconds, not minutes, and exercises are performed as a group. Classes are conducted by co-owners Kaleena Ladeairous, a personal trainer and director the Rye YMCA's Fitness Center; and Maria Vulcano, an athletic director and coach at a New York City high school.
"People like the fact that in 15 minutes, they're done," Ladeairous said. "And they're getting more out of it than they would in two hours" at a regular gym.
Emery Kriegsman is among the regulars at Port Chester CrossFit. Kriegsman decided to give it a try on the advice of his work supervisor, who said it could be the solution to Kriegsman's complaints that his workouts were becoming stale, leading to fitness plateaus.
The difference, he said, is the completeness of the exercises and the comraderie among members of the gym. The man or woman a few feet away isn't waiting for someone to vacate a machine or weight bench -- they're sweating alongside the rest of the class, rocketing through the same workout.
"You're doing it all at the same time," Kriegsman said. "You're doing a weightlifting exercise, but you're doing it so fast and with so many reps in a certain amount of time, that you're doing it all."
With such a focus on intensity, the workout might seem intimidating.
But the program is scalable, and CrossFit welcomes people regardless of their fitness level, Ladeairous said.
"We don't change the work-out per person, we just change the intensity level," she said. "Meaning, if you can't do a real pull-up, you use a band to assist you. If you can't do a strict push-up, chest to the ground, you do push-ups on your knees. So everyone does the same work-out. Your grandmother's going to do a squat, and so will your ex-military man."
With names like "Weekend Warrior" and "Wax On, Wax Off," the routines have a humorous element, and a dry-erase scoreboard at the back of the gym encourages friendly rivalries while keeping tabs on progress.
As he wiped sweat from his face after an afternoon workout, member John Telesca said a big motivacting favor is "you're working out with people who are struggling right alongside you."
The group atmosphere and mixed work-outs help avoid ruts and plateaus, he said, and keep people coming back.
"No matter how bad of a day I have, I come here," he said, "I leave an hour later and I feel well-balanced."
Visit Port Chester CrossFit for more information, including schedules, fees, and a gym blog that includes each day's workout routine. To sign up or schedule a free trial week, call 914-954-6905 or 914-494-8328.
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