Much like in the fashion world, fitness trends quickly come and go. From aqua cycling to Pilates to boxing, industry folks often flock to the same buzzy studios, due in large part to word of mouth (or rather, social media), as well as the desire to get in on whatever regimen super-fit editors, bloggers and supermodels swear by to see results.
Just in time for summer, a new gym called the Dogpound quietly opened its doors in West Soho in March, and it already counts several Victoria's Secret Angels — Romee Strijd, Sara Sampaio, Josephine Skriver, Jasmine Tookes and Elsa Hosk — and insiders like Hannah Bronfman, Constance Jablonski, Hailey Baldwin and Sofia Sanchez de Betak as loyal clients. But despite its taste-making followers, there's nothing overtly "trendy" about the Dogpound: Its focus is highly personalized training — either one-on-one or in small groups — that is worthy of professional athletes (which, let's be real, models kind of are).
The Fabien Baron-designed space, located on Renwick Street near New York Fashion Week hub Spring Studios, seems slightly intimidating upon arrival on account of the matte black garage doors that line the perimeter and the 200-pound tire conspicuously planted by the front door (clients can push it down the block for strength training). Founded by three personal trainers — Kirk "The Captain" Myers, Brey "The Beast" Peña and Dawin "Tiny" Peña — the Dogpound came to be after their workout group kept getting kicked out of rented spaces around the city, either for making too much noise or drawing crowds that were too large. They each had a strong following, and eventually, their clients pushed them to do their own thing. When the space officially opens to the public on April 28, there will be seven active trainers on the roster.
As for how the gym became a model magnet, the owners humbly chalk it up to good luck, since a mutual client introduced them to Tookes a while back. When the Dogpound soft opened last month, she came in for a session, and before long, she was bringing her fellow Angels with her. "Whoever thinks models are fragile and all of that... they have another thing coming," Brey Peña says of the competitive model crew. "Josephine, Jasmine, Romee — they come in here and crush the weights. Sara likes to do a little more with balance and dancing techniques, but all of the girls that come in here, they're fierce." Myers has also noticed an uptick over the years in regards to women wanting more intense, strength-focused workouts, saying, "girls want to train like the boys do now, and they go even harder."
Before taking on a new client, Myers or Peña will put him or her through a fitness assessment, touching on past injuries, fitness likes/dislikes and both short- and long-term goals. "We have a talk [with potential clients] at the beginning to see if their energy matches ours," Brey Peña explains. "We're all about delivering results, but if we know you're not in it to win it, we don't want you to waste your time." Aside from personal training and small-group sessions, the Dogpound will also offer invite-only group classes and boxing classes designed by "legit champions."
The team tailors each client's workout to his or her own objectives — whether it's losing weight, toning up or building strength — but trainers generally use movements that target the entire body at once (think burpees, planks, squats and so forth) to help you get more bang for your buck. Myers says one of the more popular areas among the models is balance since it activates your core, and he does a lot of things with a slideboard and Bosu ball to tap into those muscle groups. In addition, the Dogpound's high-intensity "Machine Gun" method is meant to combine all different disciplines, making each session dynamic and unique. (The trainers also rotate clients so that no one gets too comfortable.) Peña says that this type of training can deliver results in three 60-minute sessions a week, but if you're looking to achieve the same fitness level as, say, Elsa Hosk, he'd suggest four to five. Plus, the team will help coach clients on nutrition as well.
Full disclosure: I went into my trial training session a little bit cocky (I generally do three to five hours of cardio per week), but I was drenched and out of breath before the warm up was over. If you've ever doubted that the Victoria's Secret Angels are legit athletes, 60 minutes at the Dogpound will prove you wrong. But don't let the intensity dissuade you: The sense of community the founders were looking for when they opened the space is immediately apparent — each trainer and most clients have silly nicknames, for instance — and it's definitely a judgement-free zone. And as someone who nearly passed out as an Angel was kicking ass a few feet away, I say that sincerely. I plan on going back in the weeks leading up to summer, and hopefully by the time the next Victoria's Secret Fashion Show rolls around, I'll have a whole slew of new, super-tall gym buddies to cheer me on.