It's been well-documented that models have to train like professional athletes to stay in shape for their chosen profession. So when a bunch of them are spotted at a specific gym, you know it's probably worth checking out.
Gotham Gym, a boxing gym located in the West Village in New York, is one such place that has recently become a model magnet. Cara Delevingne, Sigrid Agren Josephine Skriver, Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid and Sara Sampaio have all worked out there with owner/trainer Rob Piela — and many of them have documented their experiences through Instagram videos. In order to prep for my TV viewing of the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, I headed to the gym in the middle of a raging nor'easter yesterday to try a workout.
I knew I was in the right place when I saw Sigrid Agren working out with Piela, beating the hell out of a heavy bag. Randy Humola, Gotham's manager, explained why he thinks Gotham has become so popular with this very specific subset of the population. The answer? Piela himself.
"I’ve never seen him do the same workout twice with someone. It’s his ability to pivot," Humola told me. "He trains ten people a day with ten different workouts, and that trickles down to the staff. It makes them keep it fresh and interesting." So in case you're looking to knock off Piela's workout and start your own boxing gym, it's going to be tricky, because the workouts are so individualized.
However, that's not to say there aren't some common threads in a typical boxing workout. While boxing seems to run counter to the "girly" image of modeling, it's actually a perfect workout: The sport features body weight training (think push-ups and jump squats) rather than large weights, and tons of cardio intervals, which equals leanness. Humola said that a typical round in a fight is three minutes of all-out fighting with a one minute rest between rounds, so that 3-to-1 ratio is how they try to train. Three minutes doesn't sound like a lot, but I dare you to try to maintain three minutes of burpees or a plank. Not to mention that punching relieves a lot of stress, and stress hormones are known to make you pack on the pounds. Humola said trainers at Gotham also concentrate on "proprioceptive" training, meaning doing things slightly off-balance, like on a wobble board.
After Piela was done training Agren (who gave him a big, sweaty hug after the session), he stopped to chat with me. I wanted to know how quickly you could see results with boxing. "You’ll see results within the first week for sure," he said. "You'll be in better shape within a week, but getting smaller depends on how you eat. And consistency is key." As for the biggest request from models, and, indeed, all of the women he trains? "Everything is all about the hips and the legs. Women store fat in the lower part of their body, and that’s usually what most women ask for when they come," he said.
While individual training is the gym's main focus, Gotham does also offer group session (rates begin at $130 for a monthly membership which includes these classes). I strapped on some hand wraps and gloves and got into the ring with instructor/professional boxer Sechew Powell and about 12 other people to do the class. The class started with conditioning exercises in one-minute intervals. We did jumping jacks, burpees, jump squats, push-ups, planks, soccer kicks — and I can't remember what else because my brain was short on oxygen by that point. After that, we got paired with a partner for sparring. My exceptionally attractive partner may or may not have been a model — she was pretty, and very tall, putting me at cleavage-height the whole time. (Effective distractor for your partner, for sure.)
Anyway, for the rest of the class we took turns holding pads and beating on each other using various boxing combinations. Powell walked around correcting our form and yelling general encouragement. I particularly appreciated how he called me "champ" while telling me to twist more when I punch. I felt like a champ just getting there in that crappy weather and then working out in soaking wet sneakers.
At the end, I was sweaty, endorphin-filled, and content. Today I cannot lift my arms above shoulder height due to soreness, so I think it was a success. I can only imagine that working out there five days a week, as some of the models do, results in results.
Humola said of Agren and the other models who train at Gotham, "That’s the best part. You see a girl like that, who’s mild mannered by day, a model by day. Then she turns into an animal!"