A fitness space where you feel welcomed and wanted, challenged and supported. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Huguenot Strength & Conditioning in New Paltz is a unique, self-made gym that offers just such an environment. Set up inside the nearly 1,500-square-foot fellowship hall at the Lutheran Church on South Manheim Boulevard, the fitness center is a joint venture started by a collective of like-minded individuals like Kayla Itsines and Seth Heinam, for example, who all used to work out at CrossFit 299 in Highland before that business closed its doors. Wishing to continue their training in each other’s company but without a place to go, the idea for a self-run gym was born.
“The general idea is to build community through fitness and wellness,” says Tim Taylor, one of five board members who run Huguenot Strength & Conditioning. Three of the board members — Taylor, Joelle VonBiscoffshausen and Mena Crystal — are also coaches at the gym alongside April Taylor, Cody Weaver and Kristen Munoz. “We’re a community of friends and families who support and motivate each other.”
Initially the group thought they might form as a cooperative. As it turns out, they’re acting as a nonprofit instead, with all proceeds from membership fees going toward buying more equipment and paying the rent for their space. Huguenot Strength & Conditioning opened at the church in July and will be there at least through spring. And while they occasionally have to give the space up for a day so the church can conduct an event, it’s turned out to be a mutually beneficial relationship, Taylor says, with the fitness group helping cover the overhead of the church by renting the space and the group getting a spacious center for their gym with plenty of parking, right in the heart of the village. The group of fitness enthusiasts who use the space has grown from 15 or so members when they opened to upwards of 40 in just these past five months.
While not affiliated with the trademarked CrossFit franchise, they train using the same type of movements. Based on core strength and conditioning, classes are designed to optimize a person’s physical competence across ten areas of fitness: endurance, stamina, strength, power, speed, flexibility, coordination, agility, balance and accuracy. Most important to know is that the coach in every class can scale the movements up or down to match a person’s abilities.
The same routines can be applied whether the person working out is an athlete or a senior citizen simply looking to improve their fitness in general. The key is to adjust the load and intensity, Taylor says. “It’s variable functional movements, and what that means is limited machine work. It’s mostly body weight, barbell and other weighted implements. The important thing is to get moving.”
All the coaches at Huguenot Strength & Conditioning donate their time. “We do that because we want to see people get healthier. We all believe in regular intense exercise to support healthy lifestyles. The people who are here all want to be involved because they’ve seen changes in their own fitness and wellness.”
Mena Crystal is the newest coach at the gym. “It’s a nice community of people who come here,” she says. “It’s a very mixed demographic, from teenagers in high school to people in their 60s. The idea is to get people moving better so they can have a happier life. We just want to make fitness and wellness more accessible.”
Adult membership costs $100 per month for unlimited classes. Students pay $85. Taylor says they also plan to offer some classes on a sliding scale in the future so that ability to pay doesn’t keep anybody from not being able to work out there.
The first class is free. The only requirement is getting in touch with the group at least a day before plans to take the class so the coach can be notified they’ll have a new person whose fitness abilities or limitations will need to be assessed.
Training sessions focus on proper execution of all movements. To maximize results they suggest that training is done 2-3 days in a row, followed by one day of rest. This ensures proper progression and recovery.
Once someone decides to join, they are asked to take a foundation course of four sessions to learn the proper ways to squat and use their body when training. The cost for the foundation classes is $150, with membership for the remainder of the month included with that initial fee. After that, a person pays $100 a month for unlimited classes held five days a week (Monday through Friday) at 6 a.m., 10 a.m., 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. A Saturday class is held at 10 a.m.
Because the classes are so small, it’s much like having a personal trainer, says Crystal. “All of the coaches give a lot of personal attention. We’re focused on your movement and we’re constantly adjusting or correcting to keep everybody safe and working at their own ability. We have members with limitations or injuries, and we’re all able to modify their workouts to be something they are able to do. They don’t have to worry that they can’t keep up; we will change it for them, so they can still move and get something out of it.”
Future goals include growing the membership base and offering more class times and more specific training options. But for now, they say, they’ll keep it simple and get every member results, with the primary objective being strength, increased cardiovascular capacity and improved overall health and wellbeing.
More information is available at HuguenotStrengthandConditioning.com. Updates are posted on Facebook at “Huguenot Strength.”