A little friendly competition is good. That’s why, when four SHAPE editors and former athletes (AJ Hanley, Danielle McNally, Mallory Creveling, and myself) were given the opportunity to try Chelsea Piers’ Athlete’s Camp—a twice-weekly month-long class that covers a host of sports and training techniques—we jumped at the chance.
The creator of the program, Grayson Fertig, was an athlete himself: NCAA National Champion in ice hockey and three-time NCAA Champion in lacrosse in high school. He later joined the U.S. Bobsled team. Fertig used his experience in all these sports to teach us various techniques that would help us become more comfortable and improve our performance on any field or court.
We began every class by bouldering (aka climbing a rock wall sans ropes and harnesses), which was new to all of us because, well, you can’t find too many substantial rock walls in New York City. At first, no one was a great climber, but with Grayson’s direction, we experimented with the many ways you can maneuver your body on the wall. It was no longer about who could get to the top first, but rather who could stay on the longest, shifting horizontally, and putting more weight on the legs when the arms became tired and vice versa. Trust me, we were falling off right and left when we started. But, by the fourth week, we were on the advanced wall, bouldering up and across the cave. This is where the competition started, each girl trying to boulder just a little farther than the one before her.
Bouldering was only one of the sports Grayson threw at us: We spent some time in the sports complex’s surf room, getting the feel for riding waves by practicing on boards balanced on bosu trainers. First we just tried to stay up. Then, we moved on to lying down, using the attached arm bands to simulate paddling. Finally, we learned how to pop up without doing too much or too little (kind of like that scene in Forgetting Sarah Marshall). We tried our hand at the speed bag (a hanging punching bag that you strike quickly and repeatedly as a way to train in boxing). It looks easy, but after a few missed swings we learned that starting slow and focusing on the timing is key. Grayson also had us dabble in basketball, running, and soccer. We even spent a few days on the jungle gym, using the Rip:60 suspension trainer to stretch and build strength.
After four weeks of one of the most interesting group fitness classes I’ve ever done, I feel like I have skills in sports that I’ve never really played before. If sports are your thing—and you miss the preseason workouts and the team aspect of training—then I bet you’d be game for this unique class.
Photo: From left to right, Grayson Fertig, Chelsea Piers sports trainer, Danielle McNally, SHAPE associate fitness editor, and Amy Schlinger, SHAPE editorial assistant, hanging out on the jungle gym during Athlete’s Camp.