Your first place is home. Your second place is work. And, your third place is another location where you feel comfortable, find a sense of community and go with regularity. Some people choose the gym, some the barber shop and others the local coffee shop.
As a group fitness addict and group fitness instructor, my third place has always been the gym.
During my time in San Francisco, I’ve tried many different chains of gyms to see what is out there in the world of potential third places.
This week I used a five-day guest pass to experience Crunch, just around the corner from my apartment in the Financial District. Mostly found in larger cities, Crunch began in New York City’s East Village in 1989 and bills itself as a gym with “no judgments.” There are several locations throughout the City.
I preface this with saying, I teach Les Mills BODYPUMP and occasionally Les Mills CXWORX, at three different gyms around downtown San Francisco, so generally I visit those gyms for my third place fix and am not truly in need of a new third place. However, as any curious gym lover should, I explore additional gyms whenever I can.
As with many other city gyms, Crunch looks small and underwhelming from its exterior, but once you walk in, you discover a multi-level gym with plenty of space to use. There is a long, mirrored wall for free weights, TRX suspension equipment (which seems to be a growing fad these days for resistance training), cardio equipment, as well as a yoga room, a group fitness studio, a cycle studio, locker rooms and some sitting areas.
There are a few noteworthy things about Crunch that come across immediately: Visual stimulation. Color. The gym walls are all painted bright colors, and there are large flat-screens lining up the walls in the main weight-room. While this may seem unimportant, setting is a big deal. The group fitness room and cycle studio at Crunch have bright orangish-red walls and colored track lighting. All of these environmental factors help people get excited, lose themselves and feel a fun vibe during a workout.
The class schedule at Crunch offers an early morning class a few days a week, lunchtime classes, evening classes, as well as a couple classes on Saturday, which is rare for a gym in this neighborhood. All of the classes I teach are during the work-week, because downtown caters more to a business crowd. (In fact, one of the number one things I miss about Orlando is my Saturday morning class routine at my official third place, the Lifestyles Family Fitness in Winter Park Village. It’s been hard to find a nearby Saturday class where we live and build that type of community, so most of the time I have to workout alone.)
I went to a different class on the schedule each of the five days using my guest pass to get a good taste of the programs. I tried two different types of cycle classes (I’ve never been to a cycle class with so much upper-body incorporation as Crunch’s Ride to the Rhythm class did), a TRX boot camp class (which incorporates resistance suspension training hanging from the ceiling), a ZUMBA class (me + ZUMBA = it wasn’t pretty, my friends) and a cardio sculpting class (which was challenging, but lacked some instructional efforts and left me angered me to the nth degree). While I wanted to try the intriguing Anti-gravity Yoga class on the schedule, (which incorporates ribbons to help you stretch during poses), I wasn’t able to make it to that one.
Overall, the classes were okay. I didn’t feel the group fitness instructors covered many of the “must-dos” of creating a good class environment that I expect to see (those must-dos will be detailed in a future post), so I was fairly let down. However, most of the classes were full and members seemed to break a sweat, so I suppose I was being overly critical.
Would I join Crunch gym? Probably not. It’s certainly on the more reasonable side for membership in the City with a base rate of about $60 a month offering you access to only one location with a $130 registration fee.
Would I suggest that others join Crunch gym? Maybe so. If you are more interested in working out alone then the facilities here are above adequate. Sign-in is easy and complimentary towel service is offered. There is also an app available, which you can use to reserve your space in a group fitness class ahead of time. Yet, I think the same environment that makes Crunch different from other gyms also makes it much more welcoming to a younger crowd — it’s not super inclusive. The extremely loud music during group fitness classes and the bright and changing club lighting could seem a little intimidating to someone used to a more traditional and white-walled, bland gym setting. For someone just starting a workout routine, you might get a bit overwhelmed at all the goings on at Crunch. The setting is better for people who know what they are doing.
The highlight of my Crunch experience was a saying that was painted on the mirror in the group fitness room which read:
“Objects in mirror are as fantastic as they appear.”
Why yes, yes they are.
It’s a good thing I didn’t go to Crunch looking for a new third place.
There were certainly some judgments taking place the past five days at the “no judgment” gym, but they were mostly coming from me.
Could you make Crunch gym your third place?