Manchester is having its moment in the fitness scene. Trendy London studios – such as Barry’s Bootcamp, BLOK and HotPod Yoga – have set up northern outposts in the city, but there’s also a local gym leaving the capital in its chalk dust.
CrossFit legend Sam Briggs opened the first Train in 2012, when the sport was a niche US import. Now, CrossFit is prowler-pushing into the mainstream and Train is leading the charge.
As MH arrives at Train’s newest box in Heald Green, the lunch class is in full swing. The finisher is a 24-minute AMRAP: 40 kettlebell walking lunges, 30 toes to bar and a 1,000m row. While one towering athlete runs through it with relative ease, two older members move methodically through scaled bodyweight lunges and frog sit-ups.
“That’s Jean and Alan,” says the head coach, Shelley Martin. “I partnered Robert with a mum-of-two firefighter who I knew could keep up.” Robert, the tall athlete, just so happens to be Robert Huth, a Premier League winner.
Train prides itself on catering for all levels. The coaches often get together to discuss how classes can be made more accessible, yet there are also members who have eyes beyond Manchester. “We have a girl, Emma, who wants to go all the way,” Martin says. “She’s hoping to go to Greece for the Athens Throwdown.” Emulating Briggs, Britain’s first CrossFit Games champion, is a genuine aim here.
Coaches have also seen a rise in older men coming in for better movement. “It’s something we drill into people, and it’s working,” says Martin. “It’s now as cool to work on your mobility as the heavy lifts.
“Those who come through the door, from every level of fitness, are simply those who want a little bit more. We can give it to them.”
What You Can Expect to Find at Train
Despite the ferocity of the training, this is far from spit and sawdust. It’s even heated, so co-owner and CrossFit legend Sam Briggs makes it her base in the winter months.
The kit here can keep up with any ambition. The kettlebells go up to 48kg, the dumbbells to 45kg. There are 16 rowing machines, countless barbells and rig racks, plus 20 Hammer Strength machines upstairs for those who want to get a little more specific.
Round Pegs in Round Holes
The aim is for every person to fit in. “A lot of boxes get very competitive, so the only people there are competitors. That’s something those gyms strive for,” says Martin. “Not here. We want – and have – the whole range.”
Build a Strong Base
Before you start walking around upside down, you need to build from the bottom. “Our foundation teaches you how the hip hinge, knee bend and press form the basis of almost every move,” says Martin. “From there, you have the knowledge to build up.”
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