A.J. Jacobs is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Drop Dead Healthy, The Know-It-All, The Year of Living Biblically, and The Guinea Pig Diaries.
Below he writes about five fun and unconventional modes of exercise one can do in New York City (all of which he did while doing research for his latest book, Drop Dead Healthy).
IntenSati at Equinox Gym
Equinox Columbus Circle
Time Warner Center (60th and Broadway)
New York NY 10019
Patricia Moreno also teaches at other Equinox locations, see her schedule here
Think of this as a mix of aerobics, yoga, and a Tony Robbins seminar at a Pentecostal church service. Led by the charismatic Patricia Moreno, intenSati involves 50 minutes of kicking, thrusting, pumping and jumping – all overlaid with shouted affirmations. “I am never giving up!” all sixty exercises would shout. “I want it, I want it, I really really want it!” The intenSati devotees have the passion of Liverpool soccer fans, screaming loud enough to raise the veins in their necks.
My take: Skeptical at first, I eventually succumbed to the relentless positive energy. I just couldn’t fight it anymore. My wife, on the other hand, was not a fan. She said I better avoid Hare Krishna meetings, because I’d probably fall for that as well.
Pole Dancing at Crunch Gym
404 Lafayette Street
New York, NY 10003
For classes at other Crunch locations, check the class finder here
Seeing as I was the only male in a class of fifty women, I expended a lot of energy trying not to act or feel creepy. This goal was made much more difficult by several factors. The instructor repeatedly yelled phrases such as “really spread your legs.” And the outfits didn’t help. Trying to avoid cleavage here was like trying to avoid old white men on the Senate floor.
All students were each assigned a pole to be shared with three other dancers. We did the fireman turn, the jump and slide and the back hook. Well, my classmates did. My high-heel-shoe wearing fellow dancers were amazing. (One I later learned is a ringer – president of the US Pole Dancing Federation).
I did my best, but my performance resembled a fourth grade asthma sufferer trying to climb the rope in gym class.
My take: As a germaphobe, I’m not a fan of the pole sharing concept. Though at least one of my polemates wiped down the pole post-writhing. Thank you for that. I am, however, impressed by how much upper body power it takes to hoist yourself up.
Crossfit at Crossfit Metropolis
156 East 100th St.
New York, NY 10029
Here’s the first thing you should know about Crossfit: The mascot is called “Pukey.” As in, the sign of a successful workout is your lunch splattered on the floor. This is hardcore stuff. The Crossfit gym on the upper east side is a spare and industrial, located right over an auto body shop. “The idea behind Crossfit is, if your workout doesn’t suck, then it’s a failed workout,” says the gym’s owner Eric Love, a former Wall Street guy.
The workout was basic and manly – squats with a barbell, throwing a medicine ball against the wall, that kind of thing. Each session, your crossfit trainer will change the workout to keep your muscles guessing.
My take: Lots of pain, lots of gain. You’ll sleep well at night.
The Caveman Workout in Central Park
Followers of the Paleo movement believe our bodies were adapted to live on the savannah thousands of years ago. To be healthy, we should do as the Cavemen did. And did Cavemen have annual memberships to Equinox gym? They did not. They got their exercise outdoors – carrying boulders and sprinting away from tigers.
So on a Saturday, I joined five other New York hominids in the wilderness of Central Park for a primordial workout. We were led by a chiseled Frenchmen named Erwan Le Corre, who is founder of MovNat, short for Mouvement Naturel. We stripped off our shirts and shoes, and spent the afternoon crawling along logs like monkeys, hoisting tree trunks, and running barefoot in the leaves.
At the end, we sprinted across the bike lane, imagining a sharp-fanged predator behind us. A group of sprinting guys is, apparently, cause for alarm in New York. One elderly woman told us she thought we must have robbed someone.
My take: Good antediluvian fun. Though not without downsides. I got a glass splinter from the barefoot running.
Strollercizing in Central Park
Various locations in Central Park
For schedule and more and information, click here
The first clue that this workout is aimed at a gender other than my own: A questionnaire asking whether I gave birth vaginally or by Caesarean. But the instructor Elizabeth Trinidade says men are welcome too. I joined two other women for an hour of pushing our kids in a stroller around the bike path. We’d jog, then stop to do moves like “The tantrum,” in which you stomp your feet up and down really fast. My son seemed confused. As did many onlookers.
My take: I wished it were more challenging. Then again, I hadn’t just given birth.
A.J. Jacobs is the author of Drop Dead Healthy and other books.