Crash Course: 202strong is a new CrossFit gym located in the Farragut West neighborhood of Washington, DC. The functional training space wants to set itself apart from the other boxes in town by offering a more approachable and inclusive kind of CrossFit – with a little luxury thrown in the mix. The self-proclaimed “most glam CrossFit gym in DC,” this spacious studio combines the no-frills hard work of CrossFit with the amenities of a leading boutique studio. Think in-house smoothie bar and large, clean, fully-stocked locker rooms. Each class is 45 minutes long and capped at 12 people.
[line] [left]where: 1722 Eye Street, NW | Farragut West
perks: showers, blow dryers and beauty products, towel service, lockers
sweat score: 5 out of 10
[/left][right] wear: any gym clothes, shoes you like for lifting
cost: first class free | drop-in $32 [/right][line]
A biting wind blew on the cold D.C. morning when I walked into 202strong near the Farragut West metro station. I asked my husband to come along on this fit crash since we’d heard that while 202strong is technically a CrossFit gym, owners Maddie Watkins and Rob Koebke wanted to create something a little different. I’ve actually never been to a real CrossFit gym—lots of functional fitness garage gyms and boutiques, to be sure, but never a “box.” Since Henry used to be pretty involved in the CrossFit scene, I thought he’d prove helpful in assessing the differences between this gym and others. I also asked him to drive me, and then made him park far away in the cold. Oops . . .
I found the gym in the basement level of a nondescript office building on Eye Street, right in the heart of downtown D.C. The space, painted grey and blue, felt open and airy despite the basement location. Walking in, you encounter the front desk, and then behind it four somewhat distinct areas with fitness equipment. About ten ergs sit together in the front of the space. Behind it, an open floor allows plenty of room for stretching, cardio drills, and using free weights. Off to the left you’ll find barbells and other large weights. And in the back, a plethora of kettle bells, hand weights, balls, rollers, and other accoutrements occupy a big structure against the wall.
According to Henry, unlike some (all?) other CrossFit gyms, 202Strong offers full-service locker rooms with big showers and plenty of counter space. I got ready for work right after my training session and found I didn’t need the shower goops or blow dryer I brought: the studio had them for me! It also has towels, hair ties, and a few other items that someone in a rush might forget to grab in the morning and feel relieved to encounter at the gym.
In addition to the lovely locker rooms, the gym also has a bar area that Maddie tells me will eventually have smoothies, juices, and healthy meals. For now, though it doesn’t offer these things yet, it still looks like a nice place to catch up with a friend following a workout. I think those who come here before work or during their lunch hour would appreciate being able to get their fitness on and grab breakfast or lunch all in one place.
Ok enough chat – let’s get down to business and talk about the 202strong workout.
We started by rowing for 500 meters on the ergs to warm up. Maddie then walked us through the full workout we’d be doing that morning, but told us she’d demonstrate before each section so we wouldn’t have to remember everything at once. Essentially, we’d do a stretching/plank section, followed by a strength section, followed by a MetCon section. Henry tells me that this pattern tracks pretty closely with the CrossFit workout he did in neighboring Chinatown, but perhaps a little less jam-packed.
For our stretch/plank segment, we did a few movements that focused on core strength and the proper alignment of our tailbones. This ended up being extremely useful as we moved into the strength or “functional lift,” as Henry labeled it, section of the class. Here, we did shoulder presses with a weight determined based on increasing by five pounds from whatever we did last time (or for first timers, whatever felt challenging but not impossible).
I don’t do much standing and lifting heavy things, so I enjoyed seeing what my body could push, how that felt, and what benefits it might give me that bodyweight and small weights classes can’t (I’m looking at you barre and yoga sculpt). I also learned that while some people are humble (me) adding weights the size of cappuccino saucers, others (Henry) are show-offs who cannot be satisfied without tire-sized weights. I will think twice before asking someone to take a picture of us working out together again.
After we did about three sets of five shoulder presses, we moved on to the MetCon portion of the morning. Maddie instructed us to do 15 box jumps, 5 toe touches hanging from the pull up bar, then hold a plank whatever was left of two minutes, five times through. In total, 10 minutes of hard work.
Like all the other equipment in the gym, the boxes were very nice and offered a different height depending on which way you turned them. And while anything involving lifting myself on a bar is normally pretty awful (I have very long arms . . . and a mental block), the toe touches were fun and made me feel like a monkey. Focusing on how fun it was to be a monkey distracted me from the pain, and I thank Maddie for the inspired choice.
I definitely felt a bit winded by the end of the MetCon section, but I must say I never actually started sweating. The fact that it was early in the morning, the very cold weather, and my poor circulation certainly played a part in this – I only really sweat during intense cardio or in a heated room.
Regardless of the lack of sweat, though, I’d still say this workout focused a lot more on form than on intensity. I never really felt serious cardio work despite the erg and the box jumps, and the shoulder press section was short enough that I didn’t feel like I really exhausted my muscles, either.
However, I think a central part of 202strong’s philosophy is to be an approachable gym that teaches people how to train correctly and consistently rather than frantically. Frantic workouts have become rather du jour lately, and I really think you’re missing something when you’re flying from burpees to squats to biceps without stopping to check whether you’re working what you really want to be working. Sure it might increase the cardio quotient, but sometimes I think adding a run or a spin after makes more sense than compromising form while strength training. Moving too fast or doing too many high-volume repetitions can also lead to injury, which is something many people in the CrossFit community have experienced.
Thus, overall I think both Henry and I would say that 202strong offered an extremely pleasant, approachable atmosphere and a great morning workout that got us ready to attack our day. Henry, the only man in our class, mentioned that men usually outnumbered women in the CrossFit gyms he went to, and that this might be a good place for women looking to get involved with the workout without being bombarded by testosterone. I’m sure anyone who went regularly would know how to push herself to her own personal limit with each workout in order to become better all the time. And for newbies, there is absolutely nothing to fear despite the CrossFit name. 202strong appears designed to help people improve their fitness levels, no matter exactly what level that starts with.
Thank you to Maddie who set up this class and answered so many questions for me. I hope to see you again soon!