When Richie Glanzer joined the CrossFit gym in Copiague six months ago, he struggled to complete the workouts. On his third day, he had to alternate 100 squats with 100 burpees -- a move where you squat, kick your feet out behind you, stand up and jump. Midway through, he was so exhausted that he went outside and laid on the sidewalk in the rain.
"A lot of people would have quit, but I didn't," says Glanzer, 41, of Babylon. "It was a seminal moment." Since then, Glanzer has gotten hooked on the rush of pushing his own limits. He does CrossFit workouts five times a week and has shed 22 pounds.
Such is the story for many other devotees of this high-intensity fitness regimen, which has recently spawned a serious local following -- there are 29 CrossFit locations on Long Island alone.
CrossFit gyms aren't designed for those who want to wander in whenever and take a solo run on the treadmill. Members meet at specific times for short workouts (usually less than 20 minutes) in small groups. Led by a staff trainer/coach, they climb ropes, flip tires, jump on and off boxes and perform Olympic-style lifts with barbells.
Sound extreme? That's the idea.
"It's like a cult," Glanzer says. "But a good cult."
AT THE GYMS
At the Huntington CrossFit on a recent evening, Sonnia Rega of Ronkonkoma was alternating 20-second sets of weight lifting exercises with a 35-pound barbell as hard rock music blared in the background. When she was done, she posted the number of lifts she'd completed on a large dry erase board. "Before this, exercise was a necessary evil," says Rega, 50. "Now I feel strong. My body has totally changed."
Her coach, Melissa Ingerman, 32, of Huntington, acknowledges that CrossFit can intimidate folks who don't know the difference between a pistol (a one-legged squat) and a plank (an abdominal exercise). "Some people walk in here and they have it in their heads that they can't do it. But you start slowly. Maybe you modify your workout. So instead of doing a push-up on the floor, you do it against a box. And you keep improving," she says.
The social camaraderie among members is evident: CrossFitters clap and shout encouragement to one another during workouts. And that sense of community extends outside the gym. There are sky diving and paintball outings, T-shirt design contests and weight-loss challenges.
Over the summer, Jen Cleary, 40, of East Northport hosted a backyard barbecue for her CrossFit friends. And she went to a ladies-only workout night at the East Northport CrossFit. Afterward, the group went out for drinks and appetizers.
Anthony Bellacicco admits he's obsessive about CrossFit, too. He wakes up at 4:30 a.m. during the week and immediately goes online to check the gym's "workout of the day." Then he heads to CrossFit Massapequa, which opened six weeks ago.
"I love how the workouts make me feel," says Bellacicco, a 41-year-old advertising executive. "I keep thinking I'm going to get in the same shape I was in at 18. A lot of people think that's crazy. But I think I can get pretty close."
COST Membership fees vary by location. At some gyms, single classes cost $20-$25. Unlimited monthly memberships run $150-$225.