Fitness: Body by Boston

You've got resolutions. But you’ve also got more excuses than Dunkin’ has donuts, and it’s colder than an iced coffee out there. Your motivation level? Not exactly sky-high.

Illustration by Resident Allen

Illustration by Resident Allen

Want to hoist weights like Arnold in Pumping Iron? Easy, champ. You’ll get those muscles toned. But take it slow. By and large, gym folk agree that pushing too hard at the outset creates a negative fitness association (working out = major ouch = to hell with workout) and can worsen underlying injuries. Instead, get an assessment from a qualified trainer to help identify potential problem areas, then start a workout program that balances your stronger and weaker points.

The Power Center

What no-frills gyms lack in equipment and amenities, they make up for with intensity.
By Casey Lyons

The term CrossFit describes a proprietary workout system that uses body-weight exercises (think pull-ups and pushups) along with cruder instruments like kettlebells, medicine balls, and barbells for strength training. And it just may be the perfect workout for this city of achievers.

The proof is in the results. As Neal Thompson, founder of CrossFit Boston, says, “It’s type A.” Simply put: Strivers here are hard-wired to want the kind of demonstrable progress that these no-frills workouts provide.

On the surface, that’s what I was looking for when I decided to try it out. What I really wanted was to march my entire hunched-over-a-computer existence into hostile territory, and CrossFit is as hostile as it gets.

How so, you ask? Well, researching CrossFit invariably leads you to warnings about rhabdomyolysis, a type of exercise-induced kidney failure. Most fitness pros agree the exercise regimen itself is safe—that the problems have stemmed from isolated incidents with bad trainers—but make no mistake: CrossFit is kill-you serious.

On my first night, I went through an hourlong workout led by Thompson. I walked up walls into a handstand position and chucked medicine balls into the sky until my arms were so tired that my pushups looked like plank poses. It was three days before I could raise my arms above my head.

Then I went again. Not because it felt good, but because it hurt, and I knew it was working. A lot of people have stories like this. Weakness may escape the body through the dry heave, but it’s your own intensity that keeps you coming back.

Casual to Hard-Core Gyms


Where: 50 Congress St., Boston,
Type: Circuit-style gym; modern, shiny, and wired.
Average gym-goer: Downtown professionals looking to use their lunch break to maintain health.
Members: 350
Percent that actually go: 70
percent male/female: 57% male / 43% female
Most popular class: Boot camp.
Bonus: Endless towels; free high-end toiletries; laundry service. “This is the Financial District,” says trainer Herman Ocasio. “This gym exists because of convenience.”


Where: Locations in the Back Bay, Cambridge, Chestnut Hill, Coolidge Corner, and Salem,
Type: Health club.
Average gym-goer: Ladies only, twenties to sixties.
Members: 3,000 (at the Back Bay location)
Percent that actually go: 75
percent male/female: 100% female
Most popular class: Bar sculpt.
Bonus: A eucalyptus steam room; on-site childcare.

Commonwealth Sports Club

Where: 1079 Commonwealth Ave., Boston,
Type: Come one, come all.
Average gym-goer: Half of the members are between 22 and 40, but there are some 90-year-olds.
Members: 2,000
Percent that actually go: 68
percent male/female: 40% male / 60% female
Most popular class: Spinning
Bonus: Indoor saltwater pool; roof-deck pool with lounge area; free parking.

Total Performance Sports

Where: 68 Vine St., Everett,
Type: Three levels filled with highly specialized equipment and Olympic weightlifting platforms.
Average gym-goer: Anyone who wants to get really strong.
Members: 1,000
Percent that actually go: 100 (per owner)
percent male/female:57% male / 43% female
Most popular class: Gutts and Butts
Bonus: The Shed, an outbuilding filled with strongman gear.