Fitness Gets Nostalgic


By Martel Reid-Warden

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The thought of reliving the gym games experienced during our school days could come with sheer gratitude or disgruntled dismay. The exhilaration and competitive spirit displayed when a class involved a game of dodgeball was often unrivaled. The sleepless nights associated with worrying about running two miles the following day was the bane of many a PE student.

Whatever the case, a grown adult’s competitive nature and willingness to work in a team is often influenced by their youthful participation in the simple, yet highly popular gym class games such as capture the flag or kickball.

Fitness enthusiasts who find themselves in NYC now have the opportunity to relive the ups and downs of the activities experienced during their formative years at a unique venue: the Throwback Fitness Gym. Situated in a Midtown studio on 5th Avenue, its workout classes are designed to model those of a grade-school gym.

Co-founders Brian Gallagher and Ryan Wilke recognized that workouts can come much more enjoyable if participants combine the channeling of energy from competing in gym class games with a will to improve personal fitness. These men structured the sessions to combine activities that involve working in a team while staying true to the old school/throwback theme by incorporating exercises you would find in a children’s PE class.

This time of year, adults often reflect upon the overindulgence they experienced during the holiday period, leading many to search for a quick fix to remove the pounds recently gained. New Year’s resolutions that involve getting into shape often become the catalyst for individuals to explore new workout options. Rather than repetitively running to nowhere on a boring treadmill, Throwback Fitness sessions are geared to put the fun back into physical activity that was reminiscent of the elementary school days.

There is however, nothing elementary about the workouts themselves. Despite the sessions’ relatively short running time of 45 minutes, the level of intensity reached throughout that period will certainly put your body through its paces.

After a quick warm up, the PE portion of the session commences. This is perhaps the most challenging part, in which the less enjoyable PE exercises of years past are brought back to life with a twist. Participants are paired up in teams and put through their paces in a series of physically demanding exercises. As one partner uses the rowing machine, the other performs a series cross-fit bodyweight exercises such as push-ups, squats, and lunges.

The idea of competing against the rest of the group for first place is heavily reinforced by the gym instructors present. To encourage participants to get through the session and to maintain the throwback theme, a music playlist composed of our favorite old school jams blazes through the speakers. Posters featuring characters from popular ‘90s movies and television programs also decorate the room.

The choice of a rowing machine as the primary fitness apparatus used throughout the session may raise eyebrows for gymgoers that have previously walked past this massively underrated machine. By working the upper and lower body, rowing machines burn 10-15 percent more calories than the traditional calorie burning exercises. Throw in the fact that rowing also builds muscle, you can easily call it an efficient mechanism.

Not quite measuring up to the elementary school throwback theme so far? Here’s where things get more interesting.

The “recess” portion of the session will get dodgeball-nostalgic athletes licking their lips. Session participants are organized into teams and pit against each other in a series of gym-class inspired games. The Throwback Fitness version of dodgeball maintains the core elements that made its predecessor so popular (competitiveness, fun) while incorporating tweaks that make it more beneficial to fitness enthusiasts. For example, in order to gain the opportunity to throw one of the coveted Ninja Turtle balls at the opposing team, one must complete 10 sets of burpees and 10 star jumps.

The session concludes with a customary cool-down involving light stretching. The absence of showers on the premises may lead guests to enter with the mentality that sweating simply isn’t an option. Truth be told, the physical demands of the sessions prevent participants from withstanding the workout without perspiring.

Upon exiting the studio, participants can revel in their exertion of endorphins and reminiscence about reliving their childhood gym classes as their adults selves as they stroll through the dazzling, busy city scape of the luminescent Midtown Manhattan.