Shadowboxing with Jake Gyllenhaal


While at dinner for a friend’s birthday, Chelsea Leyland, the DJ, started shadowboxing at the table, demonstrating some of the moves she'd picked up from an exercise class that was shaping her tiny British limbs into MOAs (Michelle Obama Arms). After dinner, I asked the birthday girl where Leyland got her moves. “Aerobox,” she said, “it’s where all of the models go.”

A quick Google search proved my friend right. There was Lily Kwong getting her Rocky on in the New York Times and Adriana Lima dishing on how she used the class to lose her baby weight in time for the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show. Apparently every vet and newcomer on the catwalk whittled inches off of their perfectly-formed waists with the help of former middleweight champ Michael Olajide, Jr. at NYC's Aerospace gym. The airy glass-box studio was founded by Olajide and ballet dancer Leila Fazel under the philosophy that boxers have incredibly lean, perfectly toned bodies and usually get that way without the help of machines. How had I not heard of this place? OK—shocker—I’m not a model, but, regardless, I couldn’t shake the feeling: Was everyone hanging out boxing without me?

On one especially ambitious Saturday morning (for me, not for Saturday), I slapped on some spandex and jogged over to the West Village studio. As promised, there they were: a room full of models, both male and female, waiting to get, in Michael’s words, “sleekified.” AND...had I downed too many tequila-sodas last night or was that Jake FUCKING Gyllenhaal? (I realize the headline gave this savory detail away, but, readers, imagine my surprise). Quick digression, and to answer the questions I know I'd have if I were you: he is extremely large, he wears a headband to work out (it totally plays), and he does not work out shirtless. Oh, and his eyes are the size of quarters. That is all.

At 9:58 AM, Michael comes in, and he looks—and I mean this as a sincere compliment—like an extra from Waterworld, by which I mean this is the man you want on your side in the event of an apocalypse. He is RIPPED. His shirt is RIPPED. And he’s wearing a metal eye patch that he had specially cast into an Egyptian Eye of Horus (For the non-Egyptology majors out there: that’s apparently the sign of protection, good health, and royal power). I was his humble student. Here's how it goes:

The class gets off to a fantastic start. Some light jumping around to warm up, then we pick up the jump ropes, which Michael calls the “rain makers” for their sweat-inducing power, and… I kind of can’t believe that I still know how to jump rope. I’m keeping up with everyone, and it’s kind of fun! Just as I start to wonder if it’s too late to pursue what's clearly my true career calling—professional jump roper—Michael yells, “Double time!” I almost laugh, because, obviously, there is no way anyone could go faster than the class' current speed. BUT THEY CAN. And they do. Everyone is crisscrossing their ropes like they’re auditioning for The Fighter. And Michael asks us to change speed or do something new every ninety seconds because, he later tells me, mental exhaustion comes before physical exhaustion.

Then comes the actual shadowboxing. We build up an eight-count combination that, again, feels amazing until the death knell of "Double time." How anyone can accomplish a double-punch in a half-beat is beyond my comprehension. But, as far as I can tell, boxers, models, and Jake Gyllenhaal have the ability to defy the space-time continuum.

Aerobox is tough. Jake takes a knee, so, I take a knee. We’re all sweating. There are side lunges, "star jumps," more jumping rope, and much, much more shadowboxing. I thought I was in pretty decent shape—I run, I do Tracy Anderson, I’ve occasionally been known to prancercise—but this is the hardest what-felt-like-two-hours-but-is-really-just-one-hour of my life! Some people stay for another hour-long class after this one, a class that involves actually hitting punching bags. But I’m against violence of any kind, even towards inanimate objects, so I opt out.

Yes, the class exhausted me, but I was nearly bouncing off of the walls with energy for the rest of the day. I was also sore enough to be mistaken for a geriatric for the next three days...and yet I still went back the following Thursday night. It should be noted that there's a higher concentration of regular (meaning: non-model) people at the weeknight classes. After just two classes, I’m getting better and faster, and though no one has mistaken me for a model yet, I will also be supplementing my course work with Aerobox's at-home DVD program to get into fighting shape. Jake, I’m coming for you.

Here's a glimpse of what I looked like in class:

—Mackenzie Wagoner

Photos by Danlly Domingo.

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  • Natii

    this is a fabulous story! I miss NY x

  • coki

    Is Jake in any of the pics? LOL You go girl! Takes real guts to pump that out in front of models and such!

    • Sarah Sá Couto

      He took the pictures.

  • Dana

    That looks so fantastic! Some people wish they had all the money in the world to buy shoes, I wish I had all the money in the world to try fun celebrity-esque workouts. The elliptical in my free university gym isn't cutting it anymore.

    • Darcy Day

      Dana that is exactly how I feel about my university gym!! I know what you mean, girl :-)

  • Lauren

    this is so awesome. boxing is a great workout for girls; it makes you look and and feel like a total rockstar. great write-up! thanks for sharing :)

  • Kristina

    What an amazing class! I need to get in on some shadow boxing action. Especially if it comes with Jake Gyllenhaal!


  • Aya

    This sounds fun, but I can't help but think that actually boxing would be just as great of a work out with the added bonus of eventually learning a skill.

  • Darcy Day

    I have been known to try all the new and fun fitness classes that come along too! I really liked your review of the class. It sounds really hard! I recently went to my sister's fitness class working with TRX bands and MAN it was hard! I know what you mean about looking at the clock & it has been only five minutes haha :-) I want to try this workout! Sounds intense. Wonderful post!

  • Jennifer

    ITG is on top of things lately, and this writing/writer is simply lovely.

  • Isabel

    BUT where are the photos with Jake in them?

  • katie

    My favorite part of this has to be the hardcore eyepatch description.

  • Helen

    I was SO excited to see Aerospace in ITG! I've been going here on and off for many years and I LOVE this work out! I always feel like I've accomplished something extraordinary when I finish a class and live to talk about it. It is crazy. Everyone there is super nice and friendly from the front of house staff to the trainers and especially the owners Michael and Leila. I feel like they are always there and always find the time to talk to you which gives it a kind of Mom & Pop shop / club feel. That's why I felt the need to write this, I saw a very negative and I'll dare say nasty comment and I thought,"Wow, that does NOT sound anything like ANY of the people of Aerospace!" I have never seen ANYONE there be unkind or unprofessional to any members. A part of me was a little sad to see my cool secret club revealed, but the people of Aerospace AND the workout are so cool I decided it's best NOT to be selfish.

  • Emma Hager

    This place looks like a blast -- I've always wanted to be a regular member of a class like this. However, I always fall back on running because it's free, can be done practically anywhere/everywhere, and clears the mind like no other. Congrats on meeting those notable people!

  • softy

    the post wins "most italics ever on ITG".

  • Claire

    I've taken classes here. The workouts are really intimidating (and they are INTENSE), but the environment is not. Michael is super nice to everyone who walks through the door, and the classes are so hard that they slay everyone, even the regulars.

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