By Cary Randolph Fuller
First, a mea culpa to trainer and owner of S10 fitness center Stephen Cheuk: I am sorry that I was an hour late to our first session. Thank you for understanding and rescheduling with nary an eye roll or guilt trip.
Now that that’s been taken care of, let me introduce to Stephen himself, a veteran of Equinox and Gotham Gym, who opened his own space just a couple months ago because, as we all know, big crowded fitness centers can suck. Located just below Canal Street at 87 Walker, S10 manages to feel both cozy and spacious with high ceilings, low key music and a small arbor of classic weight stands and machines tucked in the back. (Non sequitur: I tend to envision exercise machines as gnarled iron trees.) Stephen greets me at the front desk just as a small group is disbanding from its workout, and soon the room is empty but for us. But rather than jump into our session with boot camp style orders or positive affirmations, Stephen’s tone brings me to a Zen place. This man—who is responsible for keeping half the fashion industry in shape, including staff at Alexander Wang and Nike and the indefatigable man-about-town Steven Rojas—cannot be ruffled.
Stephen kicks things off with a body fat assessment, determining that I am a bad sleeper (true) by the composition of my calf muscle/fat and a good digester of carbohydrates (thank God) according to my upper back fat, though my lower abdominal structure tells him I’m eating the wrong carbs (also true). Then I weigh in. This depresses me, but there’s no time to wallow because Stephen’s ready to work.
We spend the hour performing several circuits of workouts that everyone has probably done or seen someone do in a gym, but because Stephen pays so much attention to my form, even average push-ups become works of art. I make a note mid-squat to recreate our workout the next day until I remember that I can’t take him home with me, and without him, my poor natural form will render the effort worthless. This is why his career exists, and why he is good at what he does.
Our routine reminds me of Crossfit (not that I’ve ever tried Crossfit). I push a weighted contraption across the floor and pull it back using heavy braided rope; I hold myself in pull-up position for ten seconds. I swing my own weight around and keep my chest up, my abs and glutes tight, and by the end of the session cannot complete five measly sit-ups. Sweat is everywhere, I smell, I feel strangely competitive. Stephen urges me on with compliments and reminders that the hour is almost up, and despite all the aforementioned discomfort, I want to stay here all night and pump iron! Success!
Home again: I study S10’s pricing format: small group classes, private sessions, semi-private classes with friends, and the promise of a never-crowded facility. I wax nostalgic for Equinox’s eucalyptus-soaked towels for a hot second…and then book my next date with Stephen Cheuk. The gym can wait, possibly forever.
Learn more about Stephen Cheuk and S10 Fitness at http://s10training.com/.
Cary Randolph Fuller is a writer and finisher of seven marathons and one 50-mile ultramarathon. She lives in New York City—and in her Nike LunarElite Sky Hi sneakers.