All fired up to sweat

Got a soft spot for firemen? Want a flat stomach? Now New Yorkers can indulge both fantasies at once. Lucky them, says VICTORIA YOUNG

New York is the city where everyone (and their mother) works out, and there is a plethora of novelty, punter-wooing, exercise regimes all over the city. But a downtown workout run by a certain 33-year-old Eric Torres is the session on just about everyone's lips.

It sounds suspiciously like a plotline for Sex And The City, but, in this case, the fuss is because Torres, a fully qualified personal trainer, also happens to be a working Manhattan firefighter. Torres has big blue eyes, a boxer's nose and a body like a pitbull terrier. Not only does he fight fires for a living, he also looks like he tosses down a handful of steroids with his cereal every morning. Suddenly New York women can indulge two dreams at once: their fireman fantasies and the idea that one day soon they will have firm thighs.

The Firefighter's Workout - Eric's trademarked idea - has been running for a year at Crunch Gym in downtown Manhattan. Based on the rigorous training undertaken by fledgling firemen and women in the States, he also oversees the training of firefighters who will teach the class in San Francisco.

Does one have to be terribly fit, I enquire, to take his classes? $22 out of pocket, and a confessed couch potato, I need to know. He says not, but advises me to pace myself. Why is the class so popular? "Depending on your metabolism, it burns between 500-1,000 calories, works every single muscle group, combining toning with vigorous aerobic activity," says Eric, deadpan. "Without doubt it is the most strenuous workout that the gym offers. And it's different."

I don't appreciate the resonance of these words until the next day, when I wake up unable to move, feeling like every muscle in my body has been battered with an iron bar. But for the moment, blase, I decide I can handle it.

Torres' class is a mixed bag, ranging from a stout, bearded man to a petite dancer. "I tell you, this class is a butt-kicker - I have new respect for firefighters," whoops 35-year old Klavdia Roc. "But everyone in the building would die if I had to save them," adds Mari Aldin, a 62-year- old.

Eric talks us into character: "OK, rookies, let's go. There is a fire at the top of a tall building..." We must put it out. Accompanied by a red flashing light, crackling walky-talkies and low, pulsing funk, the idea, of course, is that we get so carried away fancying ourselves as heroic firefighters that we don't notice we are doing a very full-on workout.

There are props: a step (to simulate stair-climbing) and 20lb bar (we pretend to batter down an iron door). Raising two hand-held weights alternately, we climb an imaginary ladder. There is a skipping rope and a hosepipe.

By the time we have "warmed up", I am sweating and puce. It feels like an emergency but perhaps not the kind Torres has in mind.

Eric shouts that a "backdraft" means we must descend to floor level. It is not dignified, squatting in a press-up pose, bottom in the air, scissoring one's legs and jumping. Next I have to haul the fire hose, which is filthy, onto my right shoulder. It is folded with large chunks of rubber tyre and weighs a ton. The pace revs up to top speed for 80 flights (elevator out of order apparently).

It's time to skip like a boxer, pretending we are running downstairs. I am mesmerised by Eric's skipping steps, thrusting and matador-like. He makes it look so easy but I trip, too exhausted to lift my legs properly.

Just as they threaten to give way altogether, he announces that it is time for a non-stop medley implementing all our new skills. With the end in sight, I get a second wind. We line up, jogging on the spot as we wait to drag a dummy - weighing all of 185lb - across the studio before dashing back, hosepipe on shoulder, for press-ups, more lunges (with hosepipe), and endless sit-ups thrown in for good measure.

And then, suddenly, it is over. The fire is out, and we are warming down. Gasping, I push my way to the water fountain and drink like a camel. I attempt to talk to a 6ft musclebound man nearby, but I have come over all giddy, giggling as my words trip over each other in some strange mumbo- jumbo. He says that simply by taking this class every week since May he has lost 40lb. Despite my fatigue I contemplate returning next week.

Must be the Torres factor...


WEIGH DOWN WORKSHOP: participants lose weight by replacing their devotion to food and sloth with devotion to God.

ABS, THIGHS AND GOSSIP: body-conditioning belted out by a pint-sized drag queen in full regalia.

AEROBICS WITH ATTITUDE: same as above, but aerobics.

RECESS (see right): adults relive their childhood innocence doing hopscotch, hula-hoop and relay-racing.

MOON MEDITATION: mixes yoga and meditation with aromatherapy incense and live music from Indian percussionists.

BALLET BOOT CAMP: impossibly complicated choreography and postures are struck, not really taught, by members of the New York City Ballet Company.

BOOT CAMP: a no-frills workout for masochists and purists alike, barked out by former marines.

FIVE RHYTHMS: freeflowing dance class that attempts to improvise the "five stages of life" from childhood to adulthood.

REBOUNDING: aerobics taught on


B-BOYING: a complex fusion of hip-hop and breakdance known, in the trade as, "locking and popping".

REAR ATTITUDE, UPPER CUT OR ROCK BOTTOM: seasoned workout veterans zoom in on problem areas.

Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Image from a flyer at the CPAC event where Nigel Farage will be speaking
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

    £14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

    Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

    Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

    Ashdown Group: Senior Web Developer - C# / ASP.NET - London - £55K

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Web Deve...

    Day In a Page

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower