In the busiest area of Greenlake, there is a little hidden gem. You would never know it. Getting there is similar to trying to find your way into a secret underground club. It's located in a building that hosts a Martial Arts Academy. You climb down a flight of stairs at the back of the building and let yourself into a small waiting area for the Academy. Only the chosen ones know that if you walk across the practice area and the mats, down a short hallway, there is a small space in the back set up with kettlebells, TRXs, Ropes, medicine balls and weights. It seems simple, almost basic, when you first enter the room. It has a bit of a rough basement feel and You'll ask yourself why you thought it was a good idea to visit a gym in the basement behind a martial arts academy filled with men. But then class will start and you'll realize, you may have just discovered the best secret in town.
The Instructor, Rafael, comes across as somewhat quiet and reserved but then he smiles and you see a playful, boyish side to him that stays present throughout the entire workout. Rafael started the class with a "warmup". There's a reason I put quotes around that word. My friend Kate, who came with me, will tell you, that this was hands down the hardest part of the class for us. It was a warm up unlike any other and for 'Coordination Corner' as Kate called us, it was the most challenging warm up I have ever experienced.
Rafael placed a ladder on the ground and had us 'warm up' through various exercises. I know what you're thinking. "A ladder? I do skips, one legged jumps, hops, etc through them at my gym. It's not that hard." NO, it was HARD. Everything from lateral moves to jumps to one legged hops were harder because it wasn't just going through the opening in the ladders, he had us moving in different directions, into and out of the openings. It was the concept of making us go through a motion but having to think about moving in different directions but making those adjustment quickly. For someone as uncoordinated as me, the only objective was not to stay on my feet and NOT trip and fall. I don't think I've ever worked so hard during a warm up.
Fortunately that only lasted about 8 minuets (although it felt like 8 hours). Then he set us up for the workout. What always impresses me is how well some instructors are able to utilize space. Although it was a small room, he set up 5 different stations for the 12 of us that were there. There were 2 different TRX stations, a core station, a medicine ball station and a kettlebell station. He had us go through the stations twice, the first round was 40 seconds on, 20 seconds off as you moved to the next station and then the second round was 40/10.
What I loved about this workout was the moves themselves were not new. They were moves you would be familiar with - medicine ball slams, kettlebell swings, core work with bands, but Rafael always added a twist that made it so challenging. For example, he had us to laterally moving planks on the ground with bands around our forearms. However, rather than opening and closing your arms and legs at the same time, he had us open our arms while closing our legs and vice versa. Such a small tweak but so much more challenging mentally and balance-wise. I loved it. I love workouts like that where the moves are familiar but you realize that a small addition can really challenge you in a different way and test your limits.
The second round was similar with the added benefit of a ropes station. If you know me, you KNOW I love the ropes!!! The added challenge with this station was there was one rope that was tied around the pole. So although there were two ends to hold, you had to work in coordination with your partner to make sure you didn't go flying or they didn't go flying. Kate and I had a little too much fun with this one!
Although none of the stations were a true cardio workout, this didn't bother me because I had done an OrangeTheory class that morning but also because it was such a satisfying core and strength workout. There were also opportunities to increase your cardio push if you wanted to (e.g. Ropes, mountain climbers on the TRX station).
I loved this gym and Rafael. It has a true Fight Club feel to it in not only the underground location but in how hard you work. They also do outdoor Boot Camps at Greenlake so I'll be checking that out too!
MCW Health and Fitness is on Class Pass to make it a bit easier to visit. Don't forget to bring your own towel and water bottle (there wasn't a water station that was easily accessible in the facility itself).