"We aren't actually an illegal gym,
...but we are a community of passionate fitness experts who believe in our method, because, it is the truth," Kyle Fields, co-owner and founder of Flatiron's Strength Club, THE FORT, explained as he effortlessly and passionately corrected a squat.
On 21st street, past a blow-dry bar, a meditation studio and spandex clad aficionados chatting with lattes in hand, there resides a non-descript door emblazoned with white bold letters: THE FORT. A set of stairs leads to a basement where the faint sound of rap music mixed with laughter gets louder. Closer to the basement, around the corner a sign reads, "The Hardest Part is Getting Here. Congrats. You Made It." In you go, to a compact oasis of women and men working out together in this underground club.
"Dan [co-founder and owner of The Fort] and I are passionate about how we approach training, and saw a gap in the fitness industry that we wanted to fill," said Kyle - and that gap is the rhetoric that a majority of boutique fitness and fad gyms have positioned themselves as the "way to work out." Kyle's energy is contagious - you see him pushing his clients that are more like family than any transactional consumer. And that is only one of the reasons that The Fort has gained a presence in the fitness industry with peak clientele and organic growth. It's the club's integrity that makes it a pioneer in reinvigorating the fitness industry's true purpose.
The idea that if you go to a 45-60 minute class and leave dripping sweat, you had an excellent workout and will achieve any desired physical goals is misleading. "Don't get me wrong - those classes have a purpose. If you need a shot of adrenaline, an emotional release, or a cardio session, it's a great way to get people in the door - but for long-term change - be it mental or physical, it is not one of the results," says Kyle, "and isn't that what proper training and physical activity is about?" There are many varieties of work-out classes in New York City - boxing classes set to red lights, music blasting and two-punches thrown, a spin class where you bob up and down as a leader chants uplifting mantras, or even a circuit blast where you may push yourself hard, but along with 20 other individuals moving to the same formulaic program.
The Fort's philosophy is more in tune with reality: change happens through precision + consistency and over time. Their name derives from the word fortitude. They have created what seems to be the first membership based strength club with a focus on integrity towards client's technique and its community. Members pay on a monthly basis with three different tiers of pricing. The model is designed for members to attend on a consistent basis and their bodies to become pleasantly addicted to the workout. With 4-expert trainers and classes every 30-60 minutes from 5am until 8:30pm, The Fort encourages its members to "come every day, and if you can't fit it in - no big - but it's not on us!" says Jake Fields, one of the trainers and Kyle's brother.
The Fort's program is predicated on a proper training habits and scientific results - not marketing ploys, spa-like amenities or even the same routine every day. "It's about community, technique and pushing limits all at the same time," Jess, another trainer explains. The tagline "Illegal Gym" isn't meant to be harsh, but rather, a gentle jab at the fitness industry. If The Fort does things right, then perhaps they are illegal in their defiant approach, as opposed to the majority of the fitness community- but that's how you create change and make an impact.
The community and trainers are pioneers, changing the rhetoric of hackneyed fitness industry's marketing tactics - making the conventional, the unconventional. With plans to expand to another location, the Fort has grand intentions to share their ideals and get you, as they say, "Jacked AF."