Row, Row, Row Your Best


There’s nothing less sexy than the word "erg," but the indoor rowing machine has long been the secret for a total body workout. (So is, of course, actual rowing, but we can’t all live on the Charles River.) Now Equinox, that gym filled with people who look like they go to the gym, has recruited national rowing champion Josh Crosby to create a new class called Shockwave that usees the rowing machine, amongst other apparati, to unleash the Winklevoss twins within. Classes are broken into four stations—arms, legs, core, and rowing—and the class members are divided into teams. Competition! Sweat! Good looking people! It’s just like college, but minus the studying. 

Industry Insiders: Brad Wilson, King James

Back in September, the James New York opened in Soho. It’s hard to make a serious racket in New York’s over-saturated hospitality market, but with their rooftop bar Jimmy attracting a young, professional crowd, and the recently-opened David Burke Kitchen fast become a hub for foodies, the James is staking its claim as one of the city’s premiere hotels.

Brad Wilson is the man largely responsible for the James’ emergence, having spearheaded their first major opening in Chicago. As VP of Operations for W Hotels Worldwide, Wilson was a member of the founding team of what’s now one of the world’s largest and most popular hotel chains. He jumped ship in 2005 to join The James Hotel Group as its CEO, and is now the COO of parent company Denihan Hospitality Group. Here’s Wilson on his start in the hotel business, why he left W, and the future of the James.

What was the first job you had in hotels? I was an elevator operator in Chicago at the Drake Hotel.

Was working in the hotel industry aspirational? It was, actually. That was the year before I went to college. My mother owned a catering firm and bakery, so I kind of grew up in the kitchen, working catering jobs, leaving school and chopping carrots, then eventually serving. So I always wanted to progress, originally thinking I would go into the restaurant business. The whole events process kind of defined my life, and so my mom taught me to throw really good parties, and that’s kind of been the direction of my life since then. When I was young, I was first thinking about going into restaurants.

Where did you develop the business acumen that you obviously need in your position? I went to Cornell hotel school, so I have a Bachelors in hotel management, but I have a MBA from my mother. After I left Cornell, I actually did work at the Plaza in NYC, and was the manager of the Oak Room. After being there for a while, my mother had started a commissary bakery, baking desserts for a lot of the big restaurants in Chicago, so she asked me if I would come back and take the wholesale bakery she was working on and develop a retail line of bakeries for that. So after a couple years at the Plaza, I left and went to Chicago to open this new business, which was a chain of retail bakeries. We did everything from really great brownies to cookies, and the world’s most amazing cinnamon rolls and coffee cake. It was my job to go out and find a location, hire an architect to design and build it, staff it, open it, develop the delivery systems, the accounting systems, and all this stuff to just build the business. So I jokingly say I got my MBA from my mom, because she gave me this truly entrepreneurial opportunity. It’s a very small microbe of what I do today. Today we find locations, we build hotels, we design them, create them, and open them. A lot of what I do is not that far off from what I did before, but just on a much larger scale.

What mark did you leave on the W that we can still see today? I’m the guy that actually coined the phrase, “Whatever, whenever.” So I guess that’s a big one, because they overuse that today. Back then, I was proud of it.

During what stage of W’s evolution did you get on board? I was one of the first people hired for W. I think there was one woman, Diane Briskin, that did the marketing, that was hired before me. I came in right after her to develop the operations side of the branch for our first opening, which was the W New York on Lexington. I was there before it was called W, when it was called Urban Eclectic Group. image The lobby at the James.

Were you involved in the birth of the James or did you come in when it already existed? I guess I was pre-birth. I came in shortly after the first James opened in Scottsdale. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the James Scottsdale, but it was kind of this fun-in-the-sun little resort, not so much the James you think of today. The guys that had partnered to do that hotel — which was Danny Errico, the founder of Equinox gym, and Steve Hansen, the owner of Be Our Guest restaurant — opened that hotel, and then turned to me. I had worked with Steve when he had done some restaurants for us at W, so we were all friends, and they really wanted to get into the hotel business and create a company, so I came in to build a hotel company out of this initial hotel project.

The staff at your New York location is stunningly nice. We believe that nice starts at the top, and in turn we try and really build a nice culture. We use a term around our office, “Classic hospitality,” which at a boutique hotel seems kind of odd to say. We really try and come back to the ideas of a guest-centric focus. It’s nice to be well-designed and all that, but in the end it’s nice to be well-designed for the guest. We really try and focus on that and we really feel that if you’re in the hospitality business and you start with nice, hire nice, be nice, nice will come out to the customer. Every comment I get is like, “Your people are so nice!” We get it all the time from Chicago, and everyone was saying it’s because you’re in Chicago and it’s the Midwest, and that you won’t be able to do it in New York, but we do.

Were you worried about opening another hotel in an already crowded New York Market? How will you distinguish yourself? We’re going to define ourselves by quality. A lot of hotels go through whatever their trick is of the moment, whether it’s the shark in the lobby or whatever. But if you build it on quality design, not just trendy design, but quality design — our top designers are really rooted in classic modernism, and you’ll find we’re going all the way back into mid-century hand-craft that you’ve seen in Frank Lloyd Wright — not on things that are flashy and unique, a true sense of elegance that’s a little more sophisticated will emerge. It’s more subtle than a lot of our boutique competitors. Hanging out in our lobby is not quite so showy.

The lobby in New York is incredibly welcoming and homey. It’s kind of interesting, because when I was at W, we did a lot of the “wows,” and we had this flaming bar and all that kind of stuff. One of the things I saw a lot of earlier in my career, as far as boutique hotels go, is that people don’t actually want to come to their hotel and have people in their face with martinis and that kind of stuff. Sometimes you just want to be a little intimate and have a quite moment. We have those opportunities, where you can retreat.

Can you talk about the future of the James? One of the reasons I left W was because I thought it was becoming too big to be kept into a consistent model. So big is not necessarily our goal. I do think we can be in several cities, and we certainly want to be in LA and Miami, and then after that, San Fran or Seattle, Boston, Washington…

Do you view W as competition? Not really. I can see us competing with Morgans to a certain extent. We do independent luxury and it’s a slightly different niche than the W — the customer is a little bit different, and they might even reject the idea of W being too much of a chain.

Holiday Gift Guide: Equinox Spa Swedish Massage

It’s the most stressful time of the year! Those who are weary of wassailing could benefit from an Equinox Spa gift certificate. Try a classic like the Swedish Massage. It’s a technique that uses therapeutic soft tissue manipulation to ease muscular tension and stress while providing deep relaxation and a sense of renewal. 50 Minutes, $110.00,

No Pain, No Gain: Tabata 2010 at Equinox

Fact: Working out in short, intense bursts of exercise followed by a short recovery period produces the same health benefits as a week spent in the gym. Fact: Despite this knowledge, I was still spending half my evening on the treadmill. It was high time I joined the Do Less Get More set at Equinox’s interval-based training class, Tabata 2010.

Recent scientific studies suggest that high intensity interval training, known as HIT among researchers, increases endurance more effectively than a regular training schedule, burning more fat and increasing metabolism. HIT involves running, cycling, or training at maximum effort over brief intervals. In the absence of complicated harnesses and tricky dance moves, Equinox’s Tabata 2010 seems easy enough—you work with simple reps, like lunging or jumping rope, alternating a mere twenty seconds of intense exercise with ten seconds of glorious rest. Then you cycle through the process eight times for a total of four minutes of intervals before moving onto another basic exercise. But while simple in premise, it’s profoundly agonizing—in the best ways possible.

Inside the cheerful and spacious Equinox studio, trainer Amanda Young has you warm up with light cardio as she gives you a crash course on proper exercise form. Before you know it, Young will have you lunging, curling, and squatting with every piece of equipment in the gym. In mere minutes, you are certain you’ll die if you do one more rep. There’s a moment when you’re sure you just discovered a muscle somewhere inside you that does not exist in the human anatomy, but just as you near breaking point, there comes an exhilarating break. It’s like a cruel form of Chinese water torture—until you wake up in the morning with a completely new body.

The addictive Tabata 2010 meets at Equinox at 19th Street every Tuesday at 5:45.

Equinox’s Workout Regimen For Snow Bunnies

The holidays are in full swing. Shopping has been your only physical activity for days. That and running down a few waiters to top off your glass of bubbly. Under nubby sweaters, and a safe distance from bikini season, you’re saving exercise for a booze-fueled ski trip. But, really, you should be doing something between now and summer to kick your bod into gear so you’re not an uncoordinated noodle when you strap yourself into Burton snowboard bindings at the top of a mountain. Here are some conditioning classes at Equinox perfect for skiers, boarders and otherwise stay-at-homers who could use a little help keeping their balance on the icy city sidewalks.

Equinox Iron Body: Kettlebells. They sound so dainty and pastoral. Mother rang the kettlebells to let the children know it was time for dinner. How about Mother lifted a 52 pound kettlebell during an ass kicking Equinox class after dinner. The Iron Body series at Equinox is not for the faint of heart or body. Equinox trainer Michelle Adams says it’s the “total body workout,” promising snow bunnies the well trained muscles they’ll need to utilize during snowboarding and skiing. “Core, glutes, hamstrings and quads are worked throughout movements.” Using this ball-like weight during the class mimics the training of eastern European Olympians and soldiers- where the exercises were first developed. “It’s a great workout for skiiers and snowboarders and it builds endurance and lower body strength” says Adams. Classes ●Iron Body Core: Swing, Chop, and Crunch your way to a lean and powerful midsection using the new Kettlebells for group fitness. This 30 minute class focuses mainly on the abdominals and back giving you a full rounded workout.Tuesdays from 6:45 AM to 7:15 AM at 54th St. @ 2nd Ave. With instructor Sara Haley. Wednesdays from 7:15 AM-7:30 AM at 44th St. @ Lexington Ave. With instructor Michael Barrett ●Iron Body Cardio: Cardio drills to keep your heart rate up! Use the Kettlebells for weight as you experience simple drills that keep your heart pumping, and body burning! This shore and sweet class packs it in and will keep you sweating. Tuesdays from 5:45 PM-6:30 PM, at 19th St. @ Broadway with instructor Amanda Young. Fridays from 12:00 PM-12:30 PM at 54th St. @ 2nd Ave. with instructor Corey Hill. Sundays from 12:45PM-1:30PM at the SoHo location with instructor Angel Alicea. Mondays from 7:30 PM-8:15 PM at the 33rd St. @ Park Ave. location with instructor Corey Hill.

Sound good to you? Equinox Fitness Clubs, named “America’s Healthiest Gym” by Health Magazine, offers everything you need to maximize your health and overall wellness. Experience “America’s Healthiest Gym” for yourself –click here to activate your 7-day Trial Membership today.

New York City’s Beautiful People @ Equinox

New York City plays host to some of the most beautiful faces in the world. Diversity rules, and so do models, beauty professionals, makeup artists, former models, actors and dancers, people that emphasize peak performance in work, health and fitness, and grooming. Everyone has their own opinion on what beauty is, and they have their own recipe to achieve it. No matter where you look, there is something for everyone. We play face hunter and pose the Q’s to the Equinox members. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, after all.

Name: From: What brings you here? Favorite (Thing about the place you are at): Favorite Workout: Diet Recommendations: How Does Equinox Compare to other gyms: Must have beauty obsession: Biggest beauty indulgence: What is beauty? What makes the people of NYC so beautiful?

The Fantastic DC Inauguration Dinners You Won’t Be Attending

Remember your very own small-town prom, and how you impressed your frilly date by scooping a table at the singular nice restaurant around? Then you put your glasses back on and realized you were surrounded by fellow high schoolers — it was your first lesson in supply versus demand. Welcome to Washington DC next month, when America’s coolness crashes the capital, and the capital tries desperately to bring it in return. At this point, forget about inaugural balls, exclusive gold-specked VIP tickets, and the password-protected after-after parties. Where’s dinner? K Street’s been counting restaurants on fingers and claims it can handle all that glitterati — just like New Orleans found everyone a seat in the Superdome. Where you dine on the night of the Second Coming defines how many degrees of separation lie between you and the Obamas. Inauguration also settles any longstanding office squabbles about Washington’s top restaurants. It’s quite simple this time: Who’s booked and who ain’t?

Like the president’s first term, CityZen is four years old; unlike the president, the Mandarin Oriental’s showcase restaurant still looks astonishingly fresh and wrinkle-free. Young and full of vigor and hope, chef Eric Ziebold was christened this year’s James Beard award winner, which is only one explanation for CityZen’s inaugural blackout. The lucky few with reservations will devour miniature Parker House rolls kissed with sea salt and be wowed by a Bible-length wine list. Still want in? You could apply as a waiter, but then, can you turn tables without touching the napkins?

Moving on, both Equinox and Corduroy have been bought out for the night of January 20. Both offer gleeful New American cuisine that’s oh so seasonal and all sourced from a commutable distance. Both are intimate, personable, and cozy as sweet potatoes. Equinox is a parked motorcade’s distance from the White House; Corduroy’s the gentrified pride of an historic African-American neighborhood.

It’s almost too obvious to mention, but José Andres’ elusive, six-seat private table at Minibar is off limits just like every other day of the year — you’ll have to go elsewhere for a breath of watermelon air. Meanwhile, Michel Richard’s $350-per-head Citronelle is “fully booked” but taking names on some imaginary waitlist, “just in case.” Chef Richard lovingly refers to his lower-priced restaurant as the “democratization of Citronelle”, so Central might have presented a worthy consolation … had it not been bought out for the entire day. Alas, on this one night, cheaper does not equal available: U Street’s legendary Ben’s Chili Bowl is the diner in which you are most likely to get trampled. Be warned.

Now that your plebian status is confirmed, fear not — Washington DC is overflowing with second-tier, semi-fine dining spots just waiting to sell you their prix fixe inauguration menu ending in a special chocolatey dessert. The new Adour at the St. Regis is still wide open, and despite Obama’s royal nod; Wolfgang Puck’s The Source is “only taking reservations after January 1st”, which is a Washingtonian euphemism for “slightly overrated.” Establishmentarian favorite The Prime Rib is generously accepting table reservations before 5:30 and after 9:30, and the Four Seasons’ too-new-to-know Bourbon Steak doesn’t have time to fill up. See you in DC, then. All you Hollywood types might want to bring a packed lunch — the rest of us will be hanging out in the bars that will be open for everyone, all night long.