I Tried The Hardest Workout In NYC… Here’s What I Learned by Gabrielle Kassel
Writing about fitness and health for companies based out of the city of go-go-go has its perks. Think: occasional free workout classes, sweat-gear, and a chance to talk to the latest and greatest trainers, athletes, and obstacle course racers. While it’d be untrue to say it’s my favorite part of my job, because TBH the writing itself is my favorite part of my job, I do love sliding into a pair of not-yet-launched-leggings, saddling up for a new-to-me HIIT-class, and finding my power one burpee, pushup, and wall-ball at a time.
So when I got an email-invite for the launch of Second Skin (Dick Sporting Goods new fitness brand) which was set to take place at one of New York’s hottest fitness studios, I responded with an enthusiastic “yes” before doing much research. (Like I said, free leggings).
But then I did some googling… I figured, I’m not googling some physical ailment or weird rash, what’s the harm? Ha! Turns out that what the email bragged is the hottest fitness studio in the city, is also well-known as the hardest workout studio in the city. Created by former college football star and current Wilhelmina fitness model Alonzo Wilson, Tone House functions with the believe that everyone has within them, the capacity to be and train like the athletes they admire. Basically, the goal of the sports-based studio is to unleash everyone’s inner athlete.
I know my way around a track, I’ve spent 2+ hours on a turf field for rugby practice every day for 3 years, I do CrossFit workouts (or WODs) 3-4 times a week, and I actively use my gym membership. Some might even refer to me as “in shape”, “athletic”, or even occasionally, “ripped”. But my preliminary research still had me (and my ego) a little nervous. Was I about to step into a studio that would put into questions my identity as an athlete? Would I be able to walk the next day? How well have my last few months of CrossFit and weightlifting prepared me for training like a pro?
While I had a number of questions, all rooted in fear, I took comfort in the fact that the class was only an hour (as opposed to the 2) and that the event would likely be packed with a bunch of TH-newbies. I assumed that the workout would mirror their TH 101, an introductory class for turf-babies. And boy oh boy am I glad I was right.
The morning of I set my alarm early enough to chow down an A Game breakfast (or at least, my version of one): a glass of iced coffee, a bottle of water, and a slice of whole grain toast with a smear of almond butter. I showered and painted my eyelashes with mascara (there would likely be cameras, after all) and headed out the door listening to Lil Wayne on repeat, because what could be more motivating than “Lollipop” blasting through my headphones at 7:45am? I practiced breathing exercises to calm my nerves on subway ride, and as I grabbed the handle of the studio door, I plastered a smile to my face and prepared to get my ass handed to me one burpee at a time.
After we all tried on our new Second Skin gear and surveyed the studio, Alonzo took center stage (or center turf) to announce to the group, “Welcome to the hardest workout in New York City”. He then laughed before proceeding to tell us not to worry because this class would look like an intro-workout or “Tone House Light”. (Wahoo! My prediction was right!).
The workout began with a warm-up that had me reminiscing hard about my rugby days. We ran, hopped, skipped, hopped and skipped, burpee-ed, and sprinted our way through and around triangular foam wedges, as if we were in a large-scale ladder drill. I was breathing heavy and had already soaked my light grey shirt to a completely different color by the end of the 15 minute drill, but I felt warmed-up (as was the intention) and ready to tackle the “real” workout.
With the warm up complete we moved onto a series of bear crawls; and while I was glowing during the sprints, the bear crawls proved just how tight my hamstrings are and how limited my mobility is. But the familiar feeling of turf against my fingertips and underneath my feet made the slight ego-blow worth it. Being on the “field” felt like coming home. The only thing missing was a rugby ball.
The next segment involved a series of velocity battle ropes, a sled, and a whole bunch of sandbags. When the Coaches (of which there were two) weren’t counting down the seconds very slowly or correcting form, they shouted encouraging phrases and cultivated a team-energy reminiscent of Friday Night Lights. Seriously, I felt like the real deal sweating my ass off and trying to make eye contact with the coaches as if to say “Put me in, Coach!”.
Truth be told, I sweat and huffed my way through the 60 minutes and at times struggled (shoutout to the bear crawls), but I loved that the sweat-session necessitated digging deep. I had to mentally be okay with being slow when I moved laterally, or clumsy when I did animal-inspired moves. The energy in the room and between the athletes made it is; the room was pulsing with team-spirit and nonstop high-fives. No great athlete survives, prospers, or succeeds without some kind of team, and Tone House knows that and cultivates the team-feel quickly.
At the end of the workout we brought it in for a cheer, peeled off our newly soaked gear, and meandered to the front of the studio for some power-focused post-workout snacks, courtesy of Celebrity Chef Michael Chernow, The Meatball Shop, Seamore’s, owner. As we stuffed our faces with egg burrito and cherry-flavored smoothies, I couldn’t help but think how damn good it felt to chow down with my new, one-day-only team after trying New York’s’ hardest workout.
Trying new workouts isn’t easy – it requires putting your ego to the side, giving into the experience of new sorts of movement, and challenging your mind and body. But saying “YES” to new workouts (and new experiences) is always worth the initial feeling of fear or case of nerves. Maybe you’ll find your new go-to HIIT class. Maybe you’ll make friends with the woman who’s mat is next to yours in pilates. Maybe you’ll just get a great sweat on and feel rejuvenated for the day. Or maybe you’ll be like me: get a great sweat on, hang out with a chill group of people, and leave well-exercised, well-fed, and smiling.