For workout fiends in New York, the hottest invitation around is to Nike’s Project Classified. Since October 2006, Project Classified classes have popped up every few months, always held in secret, unorthodox locations. Loyal exercisers (whose names are given to Nike by the city’s top instructors) receive their mysterious invitations a mere two or three days before the event, usually with little more info than a date, time and address (the type of class often remains unknown). I snagged an invite to the most recent event—at 583 Ballroom—and decided to go see what the fuss was about.
My first red-flag moment came when I entered the ballroom and was handed my “sword.” Great, this was a Forza class, a sword-wielding workout that’s gained a cult following around the country. While my sword wasn’t a real one—heavy and made of steel—it wasn’t made of Styrofoam, either. It was wood, more than three feet long and with a sharp, pointy, very sword-like end. Being entrusted with this thing made me break out in a sweat even before the workout began. The ballroom was large, but so was our group. All 150 of us, packed in, shoulder to shoulder, sword to…the neck of the woman two feet in front of me. I was much more concerned about what I might do to her than what the woman behind me might do to me.
When instructor Ilaria Montagnani, creator of Forza, walked onto the stage, the reaction was that of devoted worshippers hailing a guru. The roar was deafening, but it got me juiced. And so the chopping, swiping and lunging began. An hour later, sweaty and immensely invigorated, I felt like a student Samurai (of course, the next day, I could hardly move my arms, much less type). “This is my second one,” said Robin Givhan, whose neck was in front of me and who’d been tapped for P.C. by her own instructor, not because she’s a Pulitzer Prize-winning fashion journalist at the Washington Post. “My first was Power Strike [kick boxing; no swords]. “I can’t believe that with all these women in this one room, no one got hit!”
As I walked out of the hall with my parting gifts of my own wooden forza sword and some very chic ergonomic hand weights, two thoughts crossed my mind: Check into Ilaria’s class schedule as Equinox, and, what kind of insurance did they need for 150 sword-crazy women?