Erik's gym looks like some sort of satellite training facility for the KGB, or at least how I'd picture one: sparse and utilitarian. Kettlebells, dumbbells and weight plates line the walls of the two-car space. A few TRX straps—nylon bands marketed for fitness training—hang from the ceiling next to a pull-up bar. The only splurges are a cable pulley machine ("It's good for older and injured athletes," Erik says, almost apologizing for having a fancy piece of equipment) and industrial gray carpeting.
He starts me off doing exercises on the TRX so I can control how much pressure I put on my shoulder and on my knees. I do push-ups and rows and squats and lunges, with Erik correcting my form as I go.
Within about a week and a half, my pains start to fade, so Erik steps up the workouts. He shows me how to pick up a 50-pound sandbag without hurting my back by hugging the weight close to my body. Then he sends me straight out in public, sandbag slung over my shoulder, to hike up and down the Avenue C staircase, a long, steep string of steps that leads down to the beach.
Shirtless people congregate there to show off their muscles as they run up and down the concrete. I'm not shirtless, but for the number of stares I get, I might as well be—except on Friday afternoons. That's when a group of at least 20 Herbalife supplement—sponsored athletes bust out an Avenue C WOD. They like my style. To them, I am "hardcore" rather than bonkers and deserve "mad respect" for hauling that sand up the stairs over and over again. When I tell an inquisitive Avenue C-er why I'm doing it, he says he wants to run an obstacle race too.