You probably haven’t heard of Pure Flow Fitness, but most of New York’s elite athletes have.
The center is known for its technological treatments and workouts that might sound slightly wacky to average fitness enthusiasts—we’re talking pulsation beds, vibration plates, and oxygen chambers—but they’re relied on by elite marathon runners and professional ball players for injury prevention and performance boosts. (Plus they’re legal and cost what a good massage will run you.)
While these sessions may sound futuristic, most of these therapies have been around for a while but have not yet made it into mainstream circles, says founder Andrew Barile, a tech-obsessed entrepreneur (and fitness-performance visionary) with a doctorate in physical therapy.
We peeked inside the cutting-edge treatment rooms at Pure Flow’s Upper East Side and Meatpacking locations to find out what these treatments are and how athletes are using them. —Lisa Elaine Held
Photo: Pure Flow’s Pulsation treatment
Power Plates are an easy (but expensive) way to give workout sessions a major boost. They’re basically platforms that vibrate at well-controlled frequencies, triggering rapid reflexes in your muscles. You do familiar exercises on the Plate—like squats or tricep dips—but every movement is intensified because your muscles are contracting at a much faster rate than you could ever create on your own.
“The vibrations work on your fast-twitch muscle fibers,” says Barile, “so it’s a fantastic way to develop quick reflexes.” Which makes it a go-to workout for basketball players who need to sprint and jump and baseball players who are hitting, catching, and throwing at quick speeds. (Barile has worked with the Yankees.) Pure Flow offers small group classes at any fitness level, and the workout has caught on in some circles of New York women (Vogue editors and PR ladies).
Bonus: Power Plates were originally developed by the aerospace industry to build up bone density for astronauts, so they can be a powerful osteoporosis prevention tool for women.
Pulsation is a cardio boost without moving a muscle. Developed in the medical industry to treat heart disease, it increases circulation to a degree you wouldn’t be able to do naturally, pumping more blood in and out of the heart, which in turn pumps more oxygen into the muscles. “There’s very strong clinical evidence that this is true cardiovascular training,” Barile says.
You’ll literally be strapped onto a bed for this one, with all kinds of wires (heart rate monitors) and (blood-pressure-style) cuffs attached to your body. Only these cuffs wrap around your thighs and calves, and they tighten and release in sync with your heart beat to accelerate your blood flow. (It causes involuntary pelvic thrusts, which we just chose to think of as a bonus glute-toning opportunity.)
It’s most popular among marathoners and triathletes gearing up for races, who will often schedule daily 45-minute sessions for about 14 days leading up to an event. “Most people are finding that their times are improving dramatically,” Barile says.
This treatment—where you lie down and let your body absorb pressurized oxygen—is often paired with pulsation for a one-two punch. Where pulsation increases oxygen in the body, this therapy helps the oxygen bind to your red blood cells, which allows it to be transported throughout the body more effectively. “Binding to those cells is how oxygen gets around the body,” Barile explains. “The greater your capacity to bind oxygen to the cells, the better you’ll feel.”
According to Barile, it helps the professional cyclist who needs an extra boost to speed up during the last stretch of a race, and it can also help speed the body’s recovery from injury or stress. “Your body will be able to grab the oxygen quickly when you need it,” he says.
Terence Gerchberg, an elite runner and Brooklyn Bridge Boot Camp trainer is a huge fan. “Pure Oxygen is like a lot of breaths of fresh air,” he says. “I was tired when I went in, and I was pumped and full of energy when I was done.”