Breaking It Down: CrossFit Academy at Brick

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It’s been a few weeks since I first stepped foot into Brick NYC for a free intro to CrossFit class and I am still shocked that I stumbled on such an amazing community.  After YEARS of hearing about CrossFit – and about all of the good and bad associated with it, I had been avoiding CrossFit like the plague. In my head, I’d written it off as a thing about going big or going home and not about technique.  Brick, from the get-go, proved me wrong. I am a form fiend…if an instructor isn’t really focused on HOW we are doing a move, I am completely not ok with it and never return. My first class with Dell, one of the Brick coaches, made me realize that not all “Boxes” are the same or can be written off as dangerous places. That first hour, with all of the obsessive form corrections, told me everything I needed to know… basically, that I’d discovered where I could find out all about CrossFit and still be safe.

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Two days later, I’d enrolled in Brick’s version of Foundations –the Academy. The way that it works at Brick is that you have to take 8 classes, each about one of the core moves of CrossFit, that you can take in any order. Although there are 5 coaches at Brick, all of my Academy classes were with Dell and Erica. I couldn’t have asked for more supportive people to train with. Both are ridiculously supportive, attentive coaches who are obsessed with teaching each move correctly. Each class takes you through a super slow breakdown of each movement.  The last one I took was the Hang Clean. This Olympic move was explained every step of the way.
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All of the Academy classes start by each participant introducing themselves and answering a random question (Favorite brunch? What superhero would you be? Favorite dessert?) before launching into a warm up. Every Academy warm up was challenging and always got me fired up for class.  More than a few times I heard people grumbling about the fact that the “warm-up” felt like a workout but I loved that. It is awesome to feel like you got something in before slowing down to learn the move of the evening.
Brick CrossFit NYC 2 copy For the Hang Clean, first we practice with a PVC pipe, and Erica (who is an awesome bundle of energy and joy) would break down each part of the movement. We worked on it for a while in the class. It is a weirdly hard movement to get down and so we practice a LOT with the PVC going through each part of the movement before we moved onto the bar. As we did each part, she would watch us and correct us as we went. I never once felt like I wasn’t being watched. If there was a moment in any section where we were not smooth, Erica was immediately on us, correcting and watching us then get it right. Form at Brick is paramount.
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After going though the moves, every class ends with a “Workout Of The Day” where the move you learned is incorporated into a 5-10 minute workout where you do “As Many Rounds As Posssible” – ie: an evil AMAP. It is funny how freaking hard these short workouts are…they never failed to leave me gasping! That night’s AMRAP was Hang Cleans, Weighted Lunges and Push ups. It was hard – so hard that I didn’t even remember to count how many rounds I actually did. As Erica gathered the group around at the end and because it was my last night before I was cleared for CrossFit instead of “Brick”, she had everyone yell “Maggie” on three… which made my night!
Brick CrossFit NYC 9 copyAcademy classes can be taken in sequence or hodge-podged together over weeks, like I did. I wouldn’t recommend doing it my way, since I ended up feeling like the little kid who got left behind as I watched others graduate and move on to the regular CrossFit.  My first night of “real” CrossFit, randomly the Hang Clean, was the big move of the night and even though I came in DEAD last everyone was super encouraging and really there is only one place to go from there…
Photos by Eric Stafford from Stafford Sports Media

Challenging What You Think is Possible: Brick New York and the Awesome Workout

Brick - Handstand Pushup Prep copyA few weeks ago, I went to an introductory class at the new CrossFit studio: Brick New York.  I was immediately smitten with this awesome CrossFit spot. Brick, which started in LA, just recently opened in Chelsea. I’d heard great things about them but since I have been hesitant to start CrossFit at all, I was surprised at how much I loved it immediately. Brick New York, is a gorgeous space, but more importantly it is filled with super friendly, concerned, form-obsessed coaches.

I started Brick’s Academy the very next week. Their version of CrossFit foundations, it basically focuses on learning one or two of the core moves for eight sessions, with each ending in a short 10 minute or less “Workout Of The Day” that involves the moves that had been practiced in that day’s session. I’ve loved every single academy session I’ve been to but still have 4 more to go before I can take the regular CrossFit classes….
Brick - Erica Setting the Clock copyTo supplement the Academy classes, I’ve been going to Brick’s B|X class – a bootcamp based class. The idea of the class is to get used to the moves & speed of CrossFit without the weight. I fucking love this class. Every time it is something new.
I’ve been going on Saturday mornings but this week’s B|X class was filled with lots of Bricksters and as a result, the class seemed extra hard. Erica Giovinazzo, who had taught at one of my Academy classes and co-taught my first B|X class, was leading the charge and she was on fire from the moment the class began. As with every Brick class I have been to, it started with a group introduction and random question of the day. The first time, I thought this was so weird but after a few classes, I’ve grown to love knowing everyone’s names and some random fact about them. It makes you a team from the get-go.
Brick -Warm Up copyAfter the intro, we went into the warm up. It included a lot of squats, bench jumps and pushups before moving on to an evil “duck walk” drill. The move is basically a deep squat that moves, this drill involved a twist -that it was actually a game of tag.  I was tagged early on but quickly passed it off to someone else and then waddled away as fast as I could. It hurt but was just ridiculously funny.
After the warm up, Erica went over the workout of the day for B|X:
100 Double Unders
50 Handstand Pushups  / Handstand Hold
50 Toes to Bar / Bar Hang
50 Pistol Squat / Wall Sits
50 Pushups / Plank Hold
100 SitupsWhen Erica first ran though the workout, my immediate thought was that I was completely screwed – handstands, the dead hang with touching your toes to the bar and the Pistol Squat?? Literally, I almost left. But for each crazy, perfect move Erica demonstrated, she gave us several different options for those of us that couldn’t do the full versions. They still seemed really hard but doable…

We paired off and my partner Andy was a rockstar. He powered through the Double Unders and then we went to work going though the next items in the list. The way this worked is that one partner did the move and the other did the “hold” move. First up, the handstand pushups – which were easily the thing in the demo that seemed impossible but the L-Wall Handstand variation was right up my alley. I was super proud of the 30 I did! My partner did the Full Handstand Version, which was insanely impressive.

Brick - FBS Toe to the Bar Prep copyNext up, was the “Toes to the Bar” – from a dead hang, the idea was that you tapped the bar with your feet. I couldn’t even remotely do that. I basically did a dead hang while my partner V-ed up and then when it was my turn, I did a knees up version that Erica cheered for, so  – at least she knew I was trying! Then came the evil Pistol Squats, which my partner ran over and grabbed a heavy band for – an awesome modification that made them so much better!  Still crazy hard but doable. We powered through those then moved on to the Pushups/ Plank hold and then the situps. We finished with a time of 19:19. Brutal but awesome.
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As I breathed a sigh of relief, Erica announced we had a “4 minute cash out” that we could choose to do. EVERYONE stayed. I still don’t know exactly what that means other than we suddenly had an extra 4-minute workout tacked on. This one ….15 second plank, 15 second side plank on both sides, 15 second superman – over and over again. Hard but after what we had been doing, it almost seemed easy.
Brick - Side Plank Group copyErica high fived me at the end and although I was wiped out, I was grinning like a fool…. just like I am every single time I leave Brick. As I slowly work my way though Academy, it is awesome to get the chance to get to do B|X which is basically CrossFit workouts without the weights. Of course the fact that it so throughly kicks my ass makes me slightly worried about when I do get to the regular classes with all of the people who don’t balk at all at Handstand Pushups – but I’ll worry about that when I finally DO make it to a regular CrossFit class! 
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Photos by Eric Stafford for Stafford Sports Media for FBS.