Time to Get in Shape!

Photo: Pak Fung Wong

For this week’s “soft launch” of Time Labs, an ultramodern five-story gym at 51 Nassau Street, co-founder Renjit Varghese, 32, grew a goatee,hyperhydrated (“keeps me lucid,” he says), and, of course, pumped iron – the better to embody the benefits of “slow” strength training.

Time Labs, billed as the first start-up to open near ground zero since September 11, is also the first gym in lower Manhattan devoted entirely to SuperSlow, or “high-intensity,” training – the excruciating workout that’s been touted as the hot new thing for, oh, over a year.

But please, don’t call it a gym. “It’s really not,” Varghese proclaims. “Wewant Time Labs to be a human-performance laboratory” (complete with trainerswearing white lab coats imported from France). Consider the slow version ofthe leg press: Using eight to twelve seconds to slide into a squat position,you then take another five or six to extend your legs, and you keep at thisuntil your legs crater. Because you reach muscle failure, you tend to getdramatic results (like bigger muscles).

Paradoxically, slow is fast: The entire workout runs 30 minutes, and twice aweek is enough. The catch? The savage pain that courses through your limbs.With Time Labs, Varghese faced a grueling challenge of his own: how closelyto follow the gospel of Ken Hutchins, the eccentric inventor of SuperSlow. Out of step with the day-spa trend, Hutchins believes in a clinical workoutenvironment – no plants, music, or mirrors, and a thermostat set at 62degrees. “There are plenty of places for tomfoolery,” he says. “I wantpeople who are serious about improving their bodies.”

“Don’t worry,” Varghese says, “we’ll have music” (and rolling mirrors). Butwill there be enough masochists to keep Time Labs in business? “I think thelocation’s genius,” says Anat Lechner, an NYU business professor who’s beenadvising Varghese. “If there’s anyone for whom a 30-minute workout willappeal, it’s an investment banker. And talk about rebuilding downtown.They’ll be doing it one person at a time.”

Time to Get in Shape!