Magazine article The New Yorker

Take A Seat

Magazine article The New Yorker

Take A Seat

Article excerpt

TAKE A SEAT

--Sarah Larson

Fitness fads have been escalating in machismo: CrossFit, boot camps, kettlebells. Now, just in time for the Olympics--that sobering display of athletic masochism--comes a new trend, developed by a mother-and-daughter team who have experienced extreme athleticism and have returned to save people from it. Their program is called ChaiseFitness, and it takes place largely on a padded chair.

On a recent Saturday morning, Rachel Piskin taught at the ChaiseFitness studio downtown, while her mother, Lauren Piskin, prepared for the nine-thirty class at their new studio, in the basement of the 92nd Street Y. Lauren is fifty-three, petite, muscular, and cheerful, and she wore a pink tank top and a gold skull pendant with red eyes. "A client made me this," she said. "She's into skulls." She hugged people as they came in. The students included Billy, a broad-shouldered shoe buyer at Saks; his friend Sam, a first-timer who works in sales for David Yurman; and a dark-haired woman who said, "I'm going to take a Hebrew-school class while I'm here!" The Y was bustling. In the hallway, kids in leotards ran around before a dance lesson.

"My husband builds every studio--he wanted to be an architect," Piskin said. "He's a dentist. Which, by the way, he loves." The studio had two rows of cushioned metal Pilates-style chairs, with a pair of bungee cords with wrist loops hanging above each. The contraptions evoked a happier version of the end of "Star 80," or the middle of "9 to 5."

The Piskin chair, sometimes called the Reinvention Chair, enables its users to do a more aerobic and balletic form of Pilates. The bungee cords provide stability and take strain off shoulders and necks. The chair was Lauren's inspiration; the bungees were Rachel's. "I was a competitive figure skater till I was eighteen," Lauren said. "At eighteen, I stopped skating. I said, 'I want to be normal, and I want to quit.' " Then she coached figure skaters, including the Olympic gold medalist Sarah Hughes.

In the studio, the students stood behind chairs and put their hands through the bungee cords' wrist loops. Music started playing at spinning-studio volume. Tara, the instructor, wearing a headset mike, commanded the students to stand next to their chairs and flap their arms, and then led them through squats and lunges. …

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