After shaking his head dejectedly at our last foray into trend piece fitness (“That sounds like a workout for an old lady, or someone who had been seriously injured”) Gawker’s resident demon-beast of muscle and tears and intensity trapped inside a mild-mannered Floridian body, Hamilton Nolan, made a pitch: Leah Beckmann and I would come to his boxing gym one night after work for a “real” workout, and at the end of the session, he would crown a winner and award them one (1) Buy-One-Get-One-Free Chipotle coupon he had been saving for months for some reason. (He also noted that no prize was necessary because “boxing is its own reward.”)
Since we had yet to work out in an environment that might accurately be called “a gym,” we took him up on it.
A one-day pass to Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn costs $20. Hourly sessions with trainers vary by price; most are around $30. Hamilton normally charges $1,000,000 per session, but he let us work out with him for just the price of entry.
Hillary Swank learned to box there, but we did not see her.
Leah: I was surprised Hamilton invited us at all
Caity: I think it was one of those jokes that morphed into a commitment when we said yes.
"You should come."
"Oh, we'll come."
"You SHOULD come."
"Oh, we WILL come."
Leah: A very complicated game of chicken.
The whole time felt like Uncle Hambone taking his girls to the gym. Everyone came to say hi to him: "Oh hey there Hamilton, I see you've got the girls today." Best divorced dad.
Caity: Yeah! Or visiting your older cousin at college and you think you're being really cool and normal. And then you realize you are a little baby and normally your cousin doesn't even go to Applebee's for lunch.
Caity: One of the trainers came up to us at the end of the workout and said he'd enjoyed observing it and thought we were making progress. Like we were learning to ride bikes. But I couldn't even be mad because I fell off my metaphorical bike 1000 times.
Leah: But with a very wink-wink kind of attitude.
"You girls sure can hit like the boys!" WINK at Uncle Hammy.
That was the hardest workout I have ever done (had? been? known?).
Caity: That was the hardest 2.5 hours my body has ever endured. It felt like an episode of MTV's MADE. And I was the whiny high school junior you hate: "Why won't that kid just run up the hill?"
Leah: Just two portly friends doing anything to become cheerleaders. We didn't make the team, FYI.
Caity: So accurate. And we think our coach is going to be a beautiful, bubbly Dallas Cowboys cheerleader and then Hamilton shows up and is like, "50 SQUATS NOW!!!"
Did you think you would enjoy boxing?
Leah: I really thought I would dig bouncing around and smacking things, so yeah, I did. But I also secretly thought I would be really good. That Hamilton would be like, "Wow. Leah. Who knew? After all this time working with you...just wow."
But you know what, sometimes dreams DON'T come true. Did you think you would be?
Caity: I also secretly thought I would be good, but I anticipated measured criticism. Like, "You punch so light, but you move so fast!" Turns out I neither punch nor move particularly well. But I think I enjoyed it? I enjoyed learning how to do it, if not the activities themselves, in the moment.
Leah: You were really good at the dodge move.
Caity: Thank you. At the end of the workout, when asked to crown a Million Dollar Baby, Hamilton said my dodging had a lot of "pizazz" which sounds like a compliment, kind of. But I think it's not something you want your dodging to have. Like "Your MCATs had a lot of heart." A compliment unrelated to the goal of the exercise.
Leah: "You have hair for sure!"
Caity: He praised your endurance because you ran up the monster hill outside the gym the required three times, whereas I only half-did it twice, and only with his continued prodding. A special compliment for everyone.
Leah: Did you ever get sick of how many times I said "Million Dollar Caity" because I can easily say it like 50 more times if you want.
Caity: I LOVED IT. There was an episode of Always Sunny called "Hundred Dollar Baby." I felt more like that.
We should probably stop talking about television now.
The gym was huge and hot and smelled like it was made out of sweat. And there were some guys wrestling who kept throwing one another onto the mats with thunderous booms that startled me every single time.
Leah: Me too, I really didn't care for the noise. But you know what else it smelled like? A shitty craft services lunch on a photoshoot. Because there was an actual PHOTOSHOOT happening.
Caity: Yes, Hamilton was livid that there was a photoshoot happening for a couple boxers. Whereas it didn't strike me as at all odd. Of course there's a photoshoot happening. It's a gym! (Obviously we never go to real gyms.)
Leah: Yeah, nothing odd about this at all. Just a sexy girl in heels and wearing one of those wrestler gym sashes.
I did feel like a cool girl though. All the other model people and photoshoot ladies, and us just there to ya know, BOX. Whatever, no biggie.
Caity: Yes! Just a couple of boxes.
Leah: Bring it on! I will open a lot of boxes tonight!
Caity: I'm here to be a box, step aside, ladies!
So the first thing we did was wrap our hands with a long, sweaty cord of fabric. By the time we were done, one of my hands looked a lot bigger than my other, but Hamilton seemed to think it was fine.
Leah: I was really impressed how good and patient he was. Very good at explaining.
Caity: Yeah, explaining the intricate handwrapping was like teaching a collie to perform dressage.
Leah: My favorite part was how he would help us put our gloves on! And also fix the fabric thing when it came off.
Caity: Yes! I really felt like a Million Dollar Baby then.
Leah: Million Dollar Toddlers, at least.
Caity: I wanted him to squirt the water into our mouths, but I never asked.
Leah: You asked me though.
Caity: He dumped it on his head at one point which was cool.
Leah: Yeah he looked so cool...His little high tops. Water dumpin'. Really nailin' it as the cool cuz.
Caity: So we warmed up with some shadow boxing. One of the first things he said to us was, "Don't punch yourself in the face," because I told him it seemed like I was going to. He didn't tell me how to avoid that. He just told me not to do it.
Caity: But he did provide the water that would later save our lives.
Leah: That's true. But...The warning about not punching ourselves in the face was necessary. I felt like I would have. "Oh wait so don't do that?"
Caity: One thing we quickly learned (and I immediately grew to love) was that the gym operates on a system of rounds, like real boxing.
Leah: ME TOO. I loved that. Three minute rounds, with a bell ding at 30 seconds left. After another bell ding to signify the end of the round, the gym takes a collective deep breath for one minute.
Caity: Hamilton observed that the rounds "feel even longer when you're getting punched in the face. " But I felt like the gym was a parent preventing him from pushing us too hard.
"Hamilton, let them stop. Let them rest."
Leah: I think that was my fault. I told him before that this wasn't a sissy workout and he couldn't go easy on us, and now even my hair is sore.
After the shadowboxing we moved on to the punching bags, which ruled for apx. 7 seconds. And then I've never sweat so much in my life. It also made me realize that if anyone ever attacked me I would be a Gone Baby GONER. (Is that movie about boxing?) The bag could beat me up...can't even beat a stupid bag.
Caity: It made me realize I would have to rely on my wits in any kind of emergency situation. Like the Home Alone kid.
It did help when Hamilton told us to envision it as a person. "Punch the face, punch the belly."
Leah: Did you imagine someone??
Caity: Totally. I felt motivated to punch harder when it was a person, not a bag. I would kill a person. I'd never hurt a bag.
Leah: "I would kill a person." BYE CAITY
Caity: I would kill YOU after just a couple more lessons.
Leah: Can't wait to have this read in court when I disappear.
I couldn't imagine anyone! I kept trying and would start to focus on someone and it just turned into like a ransom note of a person. Not anyone real.
Caity: Wait, you would try to imagine someone you knew? And then it would become someone else?
Leah: Was that...was that not the assignment? I would try to imagine someone but couldn't really. It was just a blur of a bunch of the first faces I could think of.
"My mom...no that's wrong...dog outside...wrong...me?"
Caity: I pictured someone coming up to me in an alley (IDK why I'm in an alley, I never go in them specifically to avoid such encounters).
Leah: Oh that’s good. What was your favorite part of the whole thing?
Caity: Hmmm. Punching the bags was fun at first. My favorite part was...every time we stopped an activity. The next one seemed to hold such promise.
"Good, now we can hit the bag."
"Good, now we can get in the ring."
"Good, now we can do squats."
Leah: I did like when we went in the ring, that was fun. We just skipped around in a little circle and I asked him about which girls could beat him up. Squats was the worst part.
Caity: I was OK with the first round of squats. Not OK with the push-ups. NOT OK with the second round of squats. DEF NOT OK with the second round of push-ups. I bailed on those and did my own thing. (Stretching.)
Leah: I liked the way you bailed. "Nah."
Caity: Hahaha well you don't want to ask like, "Do we haaaave toooo?" because he'll just say yes. You need a firm, "No, I won't be doing that."
I did most of it. I even participated in the run up the hill even though God and Tommy Craggs thought it was a bad idea.
Leah: I know you hated the run but I was so happy to be outside. Everyone in the gym just farting and sweating into the air.
Leah: Hamilton and that goddamn HILL.
Caity: The only thing that kept my vomit down was pride.
Leah: Well we did take 2 enormous subs to the dome for lunch.
Caity: I couldn't believe he wanted us to do it three times. I laughed when he said it. I thought it was a joke. But there are no jokes in the gym.
Leah: FIVE. He wanted us to run it 5 times but then brought it down to 3. He coaxed us into it by promising a dog park at the top...it was just one black dog in it sitting. And it was night.
I felt pretty good at that point though. I definitely felt "worked out."
Caity: I was happy because I knew the ordeal must surely be nearing its end. It was definitely worth the $20.
Leah: I think he had more in store but we were already talking about which trains we were taking home, sooo. And yeah, it was for sure worth it. I would pay Hamilton $20 to be my trainer any day. I would pay him $20 for lots of things...to babysit future kids, locate mediocre dog parks, help me move, give nice yet fair compliments.
Caity: Agreed. It was also past 9:30 at that point. We hadn't eaten dinner. I didn't even want food. Did you eat afterwards? First time in my life I didn't want food.
Leah: Yes, I was starving but so tired. I made an egg and broke it and ate bread and cheese standing up. Did you?
Caity: I didn't eat anything until some mints at work the next morning. And then a burger and fries for lunch.
I felt bad that Hamilton didn't get a workout, though. The only thing he exercised was his patience.
Leah: And...we didn't actually pay him. We paid the photoshoot set where we worked out.
Caity: Yes, I would pay Hamilton zero dollars to be my trainer any day.
I didn't even want to shower afterwards because it seemed like too much effort. But I had to, twice, to get rid of the sweat smell. Especially on my hands.
Leah: That smell, oh that smell.
Caity: Okay, I just asked whether you or I would win in a fight in order to crown the Million Dollar Baby. Here's what he said:
Hamilton: Depends on whether Leah could use her speed to get inside or whether you would use your reach and movement to keep her away. I think you were both doing good and tied for effort going into the hill. But I'd have to give Leah the edge on the hill, since you are forcing me to make a call.
Caity: Translation: You are fast and I...have long arms.
Hamilton: I'll give Leah the Chipotle, but you're also a winner because all those calories could really slow her down one day. Really, there's no winner if everybody tries hard.
Caity: So you're the winner and I'm the "winner" and we're both losers. Who wants Chipotle?