CrossFit training is not for the faint of heart. But, at the Brooklyn Barbell Club, all are welcome to walk in and try the intense workout, whether they’re lifelong athletes or couch potatoes.
Residing inside North 8th Street’s Brooklyn Barbell Club, Crossfit Virtuosity is an independently owned 5,000 square foot crossfit facility. The internationally known and utilized exercise method employed by CrossFit embraces full body movement, incorporating aerobics, Olympic techniques, gymnastics, and weightlifting. “We have barbells, dumbbells, pull up bars, and gymnastic rings,” said owner Keith Wittenstein. “There are no machines here. We’re an old school gymnasium type place as opposed to a new fangled sort of gym. It makes it more natural. The body is designed to move in certain ways, and not designed to sit on a machine where you move one joint at a time. It’s designed to move all joints in concert.”
Classes are available for all levels, introductory to advanced. Beginners’ classes take place on Wednesday and Saturday afternoons, so prospective students unfamiliar with crossfit can experience it at no cost. No class is the same, according to Wittenstein. “The program is constantly changing so every day is a different workout. It’s a workout of the day.”
Crossfit Coach Elizabeth Wipff, whose background is in teaching yoga, said that in her class, On Ramp, a majority of time is spent looking at and teaching students proper form, and incorporating the practiced movements into a quick workout at the end of each hour-long session. “It’s a controlled environment with a limited number of movements that allows members to figure out what CrossFit is. There are eight members, an assistant coach, and I, so there’s a lot of individual attention.”
In what may seem like an abrupt transition to an outsider, Wipff started her own CrossFit training immediately following a 10-day silent meditation retreat. “They’re closely related in terms of the mental aspects of it,” she said. “There are moments when you just have to know how to keep going. You’re fighting with yourself, saying ‘I want to quit this. This is too much.’ And it becomes kind of a meditation…It’s as much of a mental training ground as it is a physical training ground.”
But the classes aren’t just about blood, sweat, and tears. The coaches aim to build a community, which means members are frequently found grabbing drinks or food together after class. Social events are also held at the gym to keep the relationships strong, whether they’re between a mother of two and mixed martial arts fighters, or a 72-year-old man and a local policeman.
The next step for CrossFit, Wittenstein said, is to add more specialized classes and intensives. On October 27th, the coaches are branching out and participating in a Reebok and Paragon Sports sponsored crossfit workout in Union Square.
Wittenstein believes that the continued success of CrossFit Virtuosity can be attributed to the gym’s coaches. “We’re hard on [our members] so they’re really good at it and they’re trying to be the best.”
To Wipff, there’s nothing better than seeing a student succeed. “Having someone get their first pull up is amazing,” she said. “To watch people achieve something physically they thought they could never do, well, there’s nothing better than that.”
The Brooklyn Barbell Club
221 North 8th Street