I worship at the house of Petranek Fitness

Memorial Day Challenge pull-ups

I went to my introductory session with Andy Petranek one morning while taking a "sick day" at work. I had been searching for a gym that taught Crossfit, a special brand of fitness recommended to me by a friend. I e-mailed Andy to ask about the class schedule, and next thing I knew I was in my workout clothes and standing in the alley between 14th and 15th Streets in Santa Monica wondering what the hell I'd gotten myself into. It didn't take long to find out.

Andy told me about the philosophy of Crossfit, the program he runs, and the type of workouts he does. It all sounded fine and good, so he suggested I try a "baseline workout." Of course I wholeheartedly agreed; anything called "baseline" couldn't be too bad and there was no pressure to do well since it's, well, my baseline. Stupid stupid me.

After seven minutes and thirty-two seconds I found myself becoming intimate with the toilet at Petranek fitness as I vomited up the contents of my light breakfast after not completing the workout. Apparently my baseline was somewhere in the range of shit, as I found myself puking into the porcelain basin designated for just that. Andy cheerfully brought me a bottle of water and said I wasn't the first to toss my cookies after a workout and sat me down in a chair in his office.

As I was driving home, legs trembling and spitting residual stomach acid out the window, I began to experience buyer's remorse. Am I insane? Did I seriously just sign a one year commitment to go back to that emesis-inducing hell? Was I so ashamed of my poor fitness that my ego led me to sign up to salvage my pride? Did that Andy person take advantage of my vulnerable state and con me into going to his program - and if so would there be a lawyer who would assist in my testimony that at the time I did not have the capacity to sign legal documents? What was I thinking?

how many sit-ups can YOU do?

What I was thinking at the time I'm not sure, but I have now rated my somewhat impulsive and perhaps shame-driven decision to join Petranek Fitness amongst the top 2 best decisions I have made all year (the other was agreeing to write for LAist, of course). I also consider Petranek Fitness to be one of the greatest workout programs in Los Angeles (if not everywhere, but this is LAist not EverywhereIST so I'll stick to that).

I will not try to describe Crossfit to you. The website does a much better job of that and can go into much more detail than I ever could. What I can write about firsthand, however, is this wondrous Santa Monica location we call Petranek Fitness (I highly recommend you read the website as well, it's full of photos and stories and other fun stuff).

This is not your typical LA style fitness. There are no elliptical machines. There are no TVs. There are no mirrors. Egos are checked at the door and are lucky to be reclaimed upon exiting.
You are greeted at the front gate by one of two happy canines, either Daisy or Lucy, who happily hand out pre-workout kisses, licking you with a bit of a sly grin knowing that within the next 60 minutes you will be literally flat on the ground and panting right alongside them. Then comes a "warm-up" which by the standards of Shape magazine is actually an entire workout and certainly leaves you "warm," or in my case, drenched in sweat. The warm-up is followed by stretching, which allows you to take inventory of all of the sore spots and muscles you didn't know existed until you met Andy Petranek. Then comes the workout, which is always a surprise (though some clues can be found in the Workout Of the Day portion of the website) so I will reveal no more.

For the past 7 years (up until March 31, 2007 - the day marking the beginning of Malingering A.C. - After Crossfit), the only exercise I got was walking to the bus stop or trudging through the parking lot of Dodger Stadium. Weight-bearing exercise meant I was carrying my heavy camera. Cardio involved chasing down a pair of breast implants at the Grove. My diet consisted of macaroni and cheese and Dodger Dogs. At the end of the day I felt I'd accomplished something if I got a few photos of my jumping cats or saw the Dodgers win. The only people I competed with were those who wanted the same parking spot as myself, and even then if they beat me out I would mutter a few curse words and move on.

Fast forward to the present day: three months after my first workout at Petranek Fitness. I have made a complete lifestyle change. The world seems different. I'm not particularly sure how to describe it, but this is what I've noticed:

1) I eat apples and nuts and string cheese at Dodger games because I feel if I eat a Dodger Dog it might weigh me down at my next workout and God forbid I slow down. I didn't think I was competitive until one Sunday morning when I heard one of my fellow Petranek Fitness members breathing loudly down the back of my neck, about to pass me in an 800m run. You can be sure as hell I would not let him beat me even if I had to vomit on his shoes to slow him down.

2) When I go to the Grove, instead of sitting around eating a $4 Dryer's ice cream cone and hypocritically pondering why Americans keep getting fatter, I head straight into Nike for Women to see if they have any new merchandise which may enhance my performance. All of the sudden, "Dri-Fit" means something to me.

3) If I wear a sleeveless top to work, without fail at least 4 people will say, "oh my God, look at your ARMS!" And then I flex and say "fuck yeah!"

4) No matter how long a day or how tired I may be, I always look forward to making it to the gym after work. I look forward to seeing my fellow Petranek Fitness members. I even broke every rule in my book and (gasp!) joined myspace just to add Petranek Fitness as a friend.

5) I do push-ups in my office to kill time. No joke.

Crossfit workouts were designed by an absolute genius. They take as little as 10 minutes to complete, they kick your ass, and they force you to do what you think is impossible, so that when you finish, you half expect someone to come throw a gold medal around your neck and sing the national anthem with you. Petranek Fitness takes this to another level, as they have created a supportive, safe, welcoming community to support you as your ass is being kicked by the workout. Honestly, I think Petranek Fitness has the most concentrated group of non-asshole people in the greater Los Angeles area. I have no statistics to back that assertion, but I do consider myself to be rather perceptive when it comes to observing people and I would never willingly surround myself with 8 sweaty smelly egotistical dickwads doing push-ups. It's just a thing I have. This is why I hate gyms and will not set foot in them.

squats, squats and then a few more squats

I challenge all of you to give Andy Petranek a buzz. Check out the website @ www.petranekfitness.com and e-mail him at andy@petranekfitness.com and tell him that the snarky little bitch Malingering told you to give it a try. Set up a free evaluation with him. See where it goes. It could completely change your life. Or you could end up puking in a bucket. Or as in my case, both.