journey to buff: city row + the fhitting room

There’s nothing like doing pikes + planks with TRX bands bound to your ankles to remind you how violently unfit you are. Before I recount my hundred plus squats in all their glory, let’s rewind the clock and settle into a rowing reverie. My best friend from college is buff, so much so that I recall hurling a drink past her head in a drunken, angry stupor and then growing momentarily frightened because this girl could seriously beat the shit out of me. She wouldn’t, clearly, because her temperance and heart were greater than my burgeoning drinking problem, and perhaps she knew it wouldn’t be a fair fight, her and her years of crew behind her. I admired my friend for waking up at the crack of dawn and rowing with the boys. She was strong, never prone to complaints or whimpers, and when I attended my first City Row class perhaps it was with this memory that pulled me through the class. During that class, I delivered a tacit toast to a twenty-year friendship. {OMG, IT’S BEEN THAT LONG, LIZ, IF YOU’RE READING THIS!}

While waiting for my first class to begin, I knew the energy of the space was perfect as I spent time chatting up the Studio Director and yogi, Annie Mulgrew. Annie’s the kind of woman who really listens rather than waiting for her turn to speak, and we spoke about Anusara yoga, fitness classes around the city and the limitations of our respective practices. Unbeknownst to Annie, her presence gave me a considerable comfort, because if a yogi was at the helm of a space, I knew special attention would be paid to varying body types and fitness levels, and the workout would be imbued with mindfulness.

I’ve taken Signature Row and Row + Core (taught my Annie!), and I am a City Row believer. The studio is clean, serene and filled with the water rowers you see here. The workout alternates between 3 sets of alternating rowing drills and mat work. In the Signature class, the mat work focuses on legs (think squats and lunges), core (planks and reverse crunches, chops and leg raises) and arms (anything you can imagine when armed with an 8lb dumbbell). Rowing is a fantastic way to focus on endurance, speed, and strength, and the instructors circle and check form fairly frequently. Evening classes cap at 17, while my Core class (my three sets of mat work were all cruel core exercises) came in at 5. Both times I left the space invigorated and strong, even though my friend Amber and I collapsed into guffaws during class, rolling our eyes, and lamenting yet another set of planks.

What to Know: The space is equipped with towels, mats, dumbbells, and blankets. Bring sneakers, workout gloves (trust me on this), and come dressed as the space doesn’t have a changing room, although there are bathrooms down the hall.


Oh, The Fhitting Room. The buzz on you is formidable, your reputation is well-earned. Save my sojourns uptown to the Frick, Whitney, MOMA and MET, there is little reason for me to trek to the UES, so know that my journey to you was one of a grand salute.

And then you did what my dear friend Liz would never do: YOU KICKED MY ASS ALL OVER THE JOINT.

The Fhitting Room focuses on HIIT {High Interval Intensity Training}, which is a fancy way of saying you’re going to die slowly. High bursts of cardio juxtaposed with strength and endurance training with little rest {anaerobic and aerobic} activity promises to torch calories, burn through plateaus and leave you limping. I remember seeing an image online of a gym’s entrance + exit. You walk in, crawl out, as depicted by footprints and handprints. This visual adequately defined my Fhitting Room experience.

Class size is small, and unlike every other studio in New York, you have two trainers on the floor, one leads the drills and motivates, and the other is diligent in checking form. And these guys are meticulous. A very buff and kind Julia Avery was tireless in correcting my kettlebell swings, while Daury Dross kept coming over and checking on me, perhaps hoping that I still had a pulse. The class started with some high-intense cardio (jacks, jump squats — and the soft floor is extremely kind to folks like me who have bad knees, high knees), then we moved on to TRX band work, kettle swings, more squats than a woman could count, more shoulder raises than a woman could fathom, and exploding lunges off a box that had me thinking that CLEARLY I AM NOT AS FIT AS I THOUGHT I WAS.

But that’s okay, people. This is a walk, not a sprint.

Before class started I met a fellow ClassPass member, and we bonded throughout class, knowing that our goal was simply to survive. We did, and although my legs are slightly stiff, I feel stronger, and that’s quite frankly all that matters. The Fhitting Room? Recommended!

What to Know: The studio provides you with a towel + water, gratis, although there’s a filling station if you come with your own bottle. There are no changing rooms and two bathrooms, so come ready to work and brave the crowds as you leave. Also, there are no weights that are less than 7.5lbs — an FYI for you barre ladies.


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