Do you miss high school sports? The friendships, the esprit de corps, the brutal speed-and-strength drills? Trainer Alonzo Wilson of Tone House New York has the workout for you.
Wilson is the brains (and brawn) behind a group fitness program that looks a lot like sports practice—think sled pushing, bear crawls, resistance ropes and a slightly terrifying leapfrog-style move Wilson calls the Gallop. The program has a reputation for being the sweatiest, most grueling workout in New York, but the idea is to improve strength, endurance, speed, reflexes and focus, the way team athletes do. “When people take the class, they’re like, ‘Man, this reminds me so much of lacrosse practice,’ ” Wilson says.
Wilson fell in love with athletics while playing football, basketball and track in high school and Division II football at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. He earned varsity letters in all three high school sports and helped his college team win two championships, but it wasn’t the competition that captivated him; it was the everyday practice. He established Tone House in downtown Manhattan in 2014 but moved to his new 31st-Street training center in April. We caught up with him between classes:
UrbanCoast.nyc: What’s the difference between a Tone House class and other super-tough fitness classes?
Alonzo Wilson: Tone House is a sports performance workout, not a military workout. One difference is in the teachers. We call ourselves coaches, and our job is not to be militant, but to be very nice to you. We don’t humiliate. If someone is tired and taking a break, I’m not going to be like, “What are you doing? Get in here!” The workout itself is what’s mean to you—we don’t have to be.
UrbanCoast: Take us through a typical session.
Wilson: We start out with a huddle and a chat. I find out who’s new and introduce myself and the assistant coach. We move on to a warm-up, which includes sprints, jumping over obstacles—every range of motion. Then we break into our conditioning exercises. Depending on the day we’ll focus on lower body, upper body or core. All of this is the kind of conditioning that athletes do in the off-season.
UrbanCoast: You also want to foster teamwork?
Wilson: When you talk to a former athlete, the thing they miss the most is that camaraderie, so I’ve tried to create a place where we’re all on a team. When you work out together, the amount of respect you have for the other people in the room is amazing.
Most of the general population has never had this experience. There were about 5,500 students in my high school. Maybe about 500 played on a varsity-level team. The other 5,000 never got that opportunity.
UrbanCoast: Do your students wish there were an actual sport at the end of all of this training?
Wilson: There is—the sport of life. It’s you being able to run around with your child, have more energy at work, go to China and climb the Great Wall, all of things you would have not done if you weren’t conditioned. If there’s ever another blackout, God forbid, you’ll be able to climb the stairs of your building. If you ever have to pull someone out of the path of an oncoming car, you’ll be able to.
UrbanCoast: Why did you choose Murray Hill as your location?
Wilson: I think this area is going to explode as a fitness destination, like Union Square. You have a very young crowd that tends to come this way, and besides us, there’s a Crossfit, a Flywheel, and Barry’s BootCamp here. It’s becoming a fitness community.
UrbanCoast: Is there anything you won’t tolerate in class from a student?
Wilson: It doesn’t really happen, but what we don’t allow trash talk. That’s an aspect of sports we try to eliminate. But our students are so fatigued that there’s no way they’re going to trash talk. They can barely talk.
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