Trainer Alex Nicholas’ start in endurance racing should give you an idea of what the goal is for the members of his gym, Epic Hybrid Training.
“I was actually looking up the movie ‘300’ online, and when I Googled it I saw that there was this thing called Spartan races,” he says.
The races — essentially a miles-long obstacle course with running, climbing and a lot of mud involved — was love at first obstacle for Nicholas. It inspired him to mold the program at Epic to include more high-intensity interval and circuit-based training, “ideal for these Spartan races.”
“The best thing that Spartan has is something that’s going to test somebody at some point,” he says. “You’ve really gotta be an all-around good athlete and pay attention to all parts of your physical fitness to do well.”
And if you think you can do an endurance race because you’ve run a marathon, think again: “This is a whole new adventure,” he says. “Marathoners, they already have the mindset – it’s really doing the cross-training and a lot of runners don’t do any types of weights at all. We don’t go crazy heavy in weights, but we do use a lot of kettlebells, which take agility, stability and coordination.”
But the workout, which consists of seven entirely different classes that rotate every four weeks, isn’t just for the would-be warriors. “About 30 percent [of members] do the races,” Nicholas says. “A lot of people are just happy to get a workout in, excited to be part of a different style of workout. We don’t put pressure on people to do the races.”
Inside the Workout: Spartan SGX
Walking into Epic should be intimidating — there is nothing but a long expanse of mats and neat rows of equipment along the walls just promising a variety of ways to make you grunt and sweat.
But you’re also greeted by Nicholas, who’s tall and built to be on “American Ninja Warrior.” (He’s made two appearances). He’s also quick to smile and not a drill instructor – there is no yelling, only the rhythmic encouragement of time checks and motivational nudges to keep your sweat from drying.
The class consists of 45-second circuits of obstacle stations around the gym, from tossing and catching a 20-pound leather ball (combined with squats) to jumping from the floor onto a chest-high stack of mats, uneven monkey bars (harder than you think) and various other ways to leverage your own body weight against you so that you’ll reconsider second helpings forever. If an obstacle proves too difficult, burpees pass the time.
Alex describes HIIT as “revving the engine of a car, redlining it, then bringing it back down,” and that’s precisely what the hour feels like. There’s no part of you that gets a break, but the camaraderie between you and your partner (classes are capped at 16 and you’re usually paired up) isn’t like sweating side-by-side in any other class — it’s knowing they’ve truly seen your best and worst, and were right there showing you the same. That has created a community that extends beyond the walls of the gym — members regularly sign up and travel together to races even well outside of town, like a recent Spartan race at Fenway Park in Boston.
Bottom line: It might be the hardest workout in the city – and even if you didn’t start out wanting to race, you may reconsider if you make it to the end.
Epic Hybrid Training has two locations: 38 W. 38th St. and 230 E. 53rd St. For more information, call 646-450-2405 or visit epichybridtraining.com.