At 5-foot-6, with a lean, athletic build developed from years of working out regularly—picture Bruce Lee, not Arnold Schwarzenegger—Outlier Capital managing partner Joshua Newman thought he was fighting fit. He’d even competed in mixed martial arts.
That illusion shattered after just one CrossFit workout. The morning following his first session of the punishing physical regimen, where he was put through 400 meters of walking lunges, he was wrecked—so much so that he missed his subway stop because he was too sore to get out of his seat before the doors shut. “I had to wait for the woman next to me to get up, so I could slide over and hoist myself up by the side rails,” he says.
He was also hooked. In the months that followed, he recruited friends to do CrossFit with him in Central Park—workouts involving anything from medicine ball slams or kettlebell swings, to pull-ups on swing sets or box jumps onto benches. In 2008, three partners founded CrossFit NYC in the Flatiron District. Newman says it’s now the largest CrossFit location in the U.S., with 1,200 members.
Created by California-based trainer Greg Glassman in the ’80s, CrossFit went national in 2001, and has steadily become the workout of choice for high-stakes traders. “It makes sense that people who are a little bit Type A and overly driven tend to be excited about throwing down hard and pushing themselves in a workout,” Newman contends.
Recently, CrossFit in San Francisco even started a 3:30 p.m. class, for the traders and other finance professionals who want to hit the gym as soon as the markets close on the East Coast.
The goal is not to promote specialized fitness—like how a spinning class will make you a better biker—but to enhance your overall athleticism: cardiovascular endurance, strength, flexibility, power, speed, agility and balance. The result is a body that’s trim but not thin, muscular but not top-heavy.
Today CrossFit is available in more than 4,000 gyms, compared with only 13 in July 2005, according to Dave Castro, CrossFit’s director of training. It centers around a staff-led workout of the day, which ranges from 100 pull-ups, pushups, sit-ups and squats performed as fast as possible to more technically challenging routines involving jumping up onto 30-inch boxes and scaling walls.
“There’s no doubt it gets results very quickly,” says T.J. Murphy, author of Inside The Box, a book about his experience with CrossFit. “When I started, friends of mine who I didn’t see on a daily basis could barely recognize me because I’d made such dramatic improvements fitness-wise.”
CrossFit NYC charges people $200 a month or $20 to drop in for a single class, and “one thing that sets us apart from the standard gym is that we’re entirely month to month,” Newman says. “If you’re not in better shape now than you were a month ago, we don’t think you should have to come anymore.”
CrossFitters boast that they need only a few hours of gym time per week—and nothing more—as long as they keep pushing themselves to work hard during class. “People who have a sense of what it means to work hard are the ones who seem to thrive best,” Newman says. “At the end of a workout, everyone should by lying on the ground together.” But not everyone may be able to get up quickly.