Get into the Game: The New York Gym as the Urban Oasis


By Kristy Barry

All photos by Kristy Barry.

One November, just after my 28th birthday, my seven softball teams had wound down for the year, and I was single… I decided I needed to join a gym. I still wanted to be surrounded by athletic studs, to feel good, to preemptively work off my mom’s Christmas coconut-cherry cookies too impossible to resist, and ultimately, to not turn into a dough ball myself.

Swimming on my high school swim team, I worked myself into good shape in the winter months and although I didn’t miss the 5 am training sessions, I liked the peaceful contemplation of swimming during that time. When people are eager to layer up clothing, I could strip down to a thin suit and work up a sweat.

Being part of a team, an athletic community, is also enticing to me so I looked for a gym with open volleyball nights so I didn’t have to form a team myself and haggle with people about showing up, playing time, and member fees. I wanted to make a lifestyle transition as well, to go out less at night, to spend less money, and to shake up my social circle. This winter would be productive, I assured myself, and joining a gym would get me one step closer to getting Stacy Keibler’s legs.

Reebok Sports Club NY in Manhattan.

A friend of mine gave me a few guest passes to Reebok Sports Club NY and once I explored the club, I was mesmerized by what an urban oasis the place seemed to be.

There’s open volleyball three days a week, a six lane pool, a rock wall, a plethora of aerobics classes, and six floors of exercise equipment. So many different activities and classes keeps me motivated and helps make sure my workout routine doesn’t get stale.

Even when I miss the landing for box jumps and scrape my shin or fall off the treadmill and bust up my legs, I can resort to abs classes and arms workouts. I can treat myself to sauna sessions or jacuzzi time. I kickbox when I’m angry, run on the treadmill when I watch college basketball games, and do yoga when I want to punish myself.

The bright and airy yoga studios–with floor to ceiling windows–overlook Lincoln Center, a dazzling sight at night, which can’t be said the same for my downward dog.

Spin classes are wonderful when my knee is bothering me, when I want to exercise in the dark, and when I need to keep myself disciplined. Just 45 minutes of pedaling through tough resistance and I can leave, I tell myself. Classes burn hundreds of calories so I often walk out of the studio looking like I jumped in the pool instead.

From there, I can cool off on the chaise lounge chairs on the roof deck, with one of the club’s chilled eucalyptus-scented towels on my face… I found an adult playground in this chaotic city.

Art in the stairwell at Reebok.

In that past year and a half, I’ve lost twenty pounds and feel infinitely stronger and happier with this healthy outlet. I scaled back going out for drinks, I eat less, and when I have free days, I can go get into something new at the gym. Like Zumba, though once was enough, to make me feel like an uncoordinated doofus.

Before I joined the gym, I’d frequently run the Central Park loop and bike around the city. But when the weather calls for rain or choking heat, I could still do both activities but I’d tire more easily and run the risk of getting nailed by a tree branch or a swerving bus.

Some argue that the cost is too much, but at about $7 a day, the price is actually a motivator. Not only could I spend that on a juice, but if I skip the gym for over two days, I feel like the gym is robbing me. And I’ll wake up earlier the next morning to take an aerobics class or pass on a dinner-movie night to play volleyball with my newfound friends.

When my mom comes to town, she always brings gym clothes. She loves coming to the gym to run around the outdoor track on the second floor. She does kettlebell workouts alongside me, counts off box-jumps and requests smoothies afterward from the cafe. Because the gym is not a dreadful place. Reebok is inspiring and powerful.

Some days it’s “member appreciation day” where someone brings around orange slices while I’m running on the treadmill. Other days, professional basketball players are prepping for their next game with the New York Knicks and I’m running while I’m watching the studly Tyler Hansbrough of the Indianapolis Pacers practice free throws.

Other celebrities work out there–like Chris Rock, Regis Philbin, Darryl Hammond, Taye Diggs, or comedian Jim Norton. This week, I walked in as Amare Stoudemire ducked out of the elevator.

I feel spoiled, not in a frivolous shopping spree kind of way–but in a happy, hard fought way; to have built new muscles and friendships. To burn fat and shake off high and low jitters of living in this whacky city.

For more, check out Kristy in conversation on the BTR Sports podcast, every Sunday on BreakThru Radio.