We are a nation of athletes. Okay, maybe not a nation, but certainly a peninsula. Here on the South Fork in summer, legions of fitness junkies descend, bringing their hard bodies and intense facial expressions. There are dozens of exercise opportunities in summer and each season brings a new crop. I contacted Nicola Clayton, a Spartan racer and personal trainer, to guide me through some of the latest additions to the Hamptons fitness scene this summer. What she told me about the fitness classes we attended is that they all “essentially incorporate the same high-intensity and low-impact interval training, but use different mechanics like barbells, bodyweight, and fast paced drills.”
Here’s a look at a few of the most popular, and what they have to offer.
Location: East Hampton
One Word: Militaristic
The handsome Shawn Studder is my coach, but I don’t have the time or energy to be distracted. I’m told by others that he was in the Air Force for 21 years where he jumped more than 7,000 times from an airplane. He explains in simple terms for a novice that CrossFit is about employing movements that “translate into life,” unlike bicep curls, which have no correlation to things we might do everyday. We start with “mobility” in which I hold a long bar and whirl it around. It reminds me of my days as a baton twirler. We graduate to the “wall ball,” where I somehow squat while throwing a ball at a high target on a wall then catch it, not necessarily in that order. Up and down, up and down, many, many times. “Watch your form,” he tells me, while encouraging me not to “cheat.” Fat chance.
It’s on to push-ups, which I do boy style with the help of a rubber strap that wraps around my chest to hold me up. It hurts. (Boys don’t have this problem). Even without the discomfort, I can’t do many reps. Girls don’t have upper arm strength, I tell myself, trying not to look at the woman lifting a 45-pound Rogue Beater Bar. On to the rowing machine, which is a breeze—literally, the wind from its fan blowing my hair. I feel like a model on a photo shoot. I notice that this is the only workout place I’ve been to with men. This is fun. But not for long. We’re on to something called a kettle ball, which looks like something you’d wear on a chain gang. You lift it up and down a lot.
I’m relieved when it’s over. I thank Shawn and am about to leave when he tells me that was the warm-up. I now have to do the same circuit again, ten times each—not once, but three times. I wimp out after two. I could have done more, but I’m afraid of how I’ll feel the next day. “You’re going to be sore anyway,” Shawn reminds me. “The point is to move large loads long distances and to be able to continue with the rest of your day.” Amen.
Client: Lily Graf, Sommelier at Nick and Toni’s
“It’s incredibly challenging but I feel amazing after. The coaches are passionate about making you an overall better human.”
Nicola: “Similar to Navy Seal workouts it helps with baseline endurance and is fun. It emulates many of the movements I’d do with my personal coach who preps me for Spartan obstacle races and long distance marathons, and keeps me bikini ready. The participant can keep the workout simple or scale it to where they’re really seeing gains in muscle tone and endurance.”
Location: East Hampton
One Word: Graceful
The class is filled with long lean bodies, women mostly in their 30s. They are following the lead of teacher Evan Breed, who has legs like a gazelle, which she flings around effortlessly, even with weights attached. Like all of Anderson’s teachers, she is a dancer. And it shows. I feel like Dumbo trying to follow her Bambi as she leaps and bounds and twirls around the studio to loud pop music in a complicated dance routine. Most of the students have the choreography down pat, which shouldn’t be a surprise. Anderson is known for her acolytes, many who spend two hours a day, six days a week in class in the city.
I can see the allure. There is something very sexy about all these pulsing shoulders, undulating hips and glistening bodies, gobs of sweat a result of the heated room. Ms. Breed, who has been teaching the method for six years, explains that Ms. Anderson was a dancer and cheerleader who developed the workout to target the small muscle groups “like a ballerina at the barre.” Did she also collaborate on the Kama Sutra? There are positions for the mat work that, shall we say, are excellent preparation.
Client: Rebecca Hessel Cohen, who has a fashion line called LoveShackFancy, has been attending for four years, and throughout two pregnancies.
“I take it four to five times a week; it’s energizing.”
Nicola: “The workout is a lot of fun with great music. You need a lot of time to do it effectively including an investment in learning the complicated choreography that changes every 10 days. The workout specifically targets the smaller muscle groups and accessory muscles and helps create a long lean body. If you can sustain the work I say go for it.”
Location: East Hampton
One Word: Fun
Wow! We’re flying. At least hopping. Or should I say, “rebounding?” It’s elating, and boy is it hard. We’ve only been going for 10 minutes and I’m winded. Everyone else is jumping away like cute bunnies. Fortunately we switch to strap work, kneeling on our trampolines, alternating bouncing with planks, pushups, squats, twists, kicks. Why is no one (except me) falling off our little drum-like apparatuses?
Trampolean originator Louis Coraggio blends cardio endurance with high intensity training and muscular toning “to bring out the athlete in people.” The up and down bounces also “detox the lymphatic system.” Trampolean will return to the Hamptons next summer.
Client: Katie Davis, a psychologist in New York, was taking her first class.
“I loved it, I’m a runner and I found it equally challenging but way more fun, a great thing to do with friends. It’s a harder workout than SoulCycle.”
Nicola: “Love that the workout is so much fun, low impact and specifically targets the core that we all need to strengthen. In fact we don’t even realize how hard our core is working. I loved Louis’ multiple exercises.”
Location: East Hampton
One Word: Strenuous
This looks so much easier than it is: a group of limber women flawlessly sliding back and forth on a machine called a Megaformer that founder Amanda Freeman discovered in California in 2011. Don’t be fooled. Imagine standing on a moving platform holding onto reins (I mean straps) and sliding back and forth, your movement made difficult by resistant springs. Did I mention that you also bend your legs into lunges all the while keeping your balance? Well, at least everyone else in my SLT class, all veterans of the powerful workout, stayed upright. I needed to hold onto a tall pole to keep from keeling over.
The workout at SLT, which stands for strengthen, lengthen and tone, incorporates many challenging exercises with colorful names including mermaid, a kind of side push up, and donkey kick, just what it sounds like. “You use your body weight to control the machine and lengthen while strengthening,” said instructor Emily Calhoun, who started as a client before becoming a teacher. “I’ve done 500 classes and I still get ridiculously sore.”
Client: Justine Conway, in finance in New York. “This is my 12th time. It works every single muscle, you come out sweating like you’ve been for a run. I’m pretty fit but in my first class I nearly died; you’re not prepared for how hard it is.”
Nicola: “Brilliant workout. I would highly recommend for weekend warriors as the machine automatically saves you from injuring your lower back. If you work out 3-4 times a week your body will get stronger, leaner and will improve in four weeks. The exercises can be scaled to fit your individual level, the instructors are excellent and you will become more in touch with your body. It’s a real winner in my books.”