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Rest Day

K-Dawg and Funk Master Fox, squattin' low

"Mad Abs, Yo!" How Pilates Complements CrossFit, and Getting to Know Kristin H.

By Kate Reece

Kristin H. (a.k.a. Cage) hopped on the CFSBK train in the middle of 2010 and in her words, she now “cannot imagine her daily life without it.” We can’t imagine CFSBK without our favorite theatre major either, especially now that she teaches a Pilates class every Tuesday night in the upstairs annex at 7:30pm. Kristin is a classically trained Pilates instructor and has been teaching for more than eight years, after beginning her practice in 1999. She received her certification in April of 2006 from Core Pilates NYC, where she still works as a senior trainer. She is also a longtime member of the small team at Rinaldi Pilates, a top-notch boutique studio in Manhattan. 

Through her class at CFSBK, she’s enabled many of us to become far more intimate with our pelvic floors and abdominal muscles. The Hundred, Open Leg Rocker, and Single Leg Circles are only a few examples of the pain she’s thrown our way—pain that has sculpted us into better, more svelte ninjas. But when it’s all said and done and our washboard abs help us stay tight as we descend deep into our squats or pick up heavy things, some of us might step back and muse: who is this Goddess of the Core? And maybe: I can do some of these Pill-at-eez exercises, but… what the heck is Pilates? And if I already do CrossFit, why should I care? 

Wonder no more. We’re coming to your rescue once again via a splendid interview with the Goddess herself, in which you’ll learn about her mute phase at CFSBK, where the phrase “Mad abs, yo!” came from, and how taking her class might help you kick some more CrossFit ass. For all of this and more, you're welcome.

CFSBK: Hi KH! Tell us about yourself. Where are you from, what's your favorite color, how'd you find CrossFit and CFSBK, etc. etc.?

KH: Well, I am a lifelong New Yorker (holla!): I was born and raised in Oyster Bay, Long Island, I went to college upstate at Syracuse University, and right after college I moved to NYC. I spent a year on the Upper East Side before moving to south Brooklyn, where I've now been for almost a decade. My favorite colors are deep purple (I spent a few years with a purple streak in my hair) and Syracuse Orange (yes, that's an official color). And finally, I had heard some intriguing mythical tales of Crossfit from a few friends who had tried it, but what really happened is that I used to walk by the gym on my way to Brooklyn Boulders with an ex-boyfriend, who was a pretty avid climber. I always saw these big scary people flipping tires and stuff, and my workout routine was pretty stale at that point and I was looking for something new, so I decided to give it a try. That was in June 2010, and I never looked back!

CFSBK: We're so glad you didn't! I heard a cool story once (okay, you told me) about how you spent your whole first year at CFSBK talking to no one. That's hard to imagine now. What helped you make the leap into opening your mouth and sharing your hilarious-ness with our community?

KH: Yeah, even though I am pretty social I am not always comfortable in new situations, especially when I don't know what I am doing or if I feel intimidated. For my first year at CFSBK, I was on a punch card membership, and I wasn't coming super consistently. When we used to do the "name game" at the start of class, no one ever knew my name because I was pretty quiet (imagine that). I think I started becoming friendly with people when I decided to up my Crossfit game and switch to a 5x week membership. At that time I was going through some personal changes, and changes with my work schedule, and I started regularly coming to the 7am class. That's when I first started making friends, talking to people, saying things like "See you in class tomorrow!" And from there it just snowballed. The Paleo challenge happened*, I went to some rest day dinners, joined the softball team, started doing Sunday night trivia…the more I got involved with the community the more I felt like, "Yes. These are my people."

*Editor's note: The Paleo challenge didn't just "happen"; she won it in 2012.

CFSBK: How did you start practicing Pilates? What even is Pilates? (Besides one of those words that if you say it over and over, it starts to look absurd.)

KH: I started practicing mat Pilates with a dance professor of mine back in 1999, and always really enjoyed it. I then got into Pilates as a career when I was trying to find a way out of the restaurant business. At the time (2005), I was bartending to pay the bills while pursuing a career in the theatre. Pilates, in a few sentences, is a system of exercises focused on strengthening the "core," which generally refers to the abdominal, back, and hip muscles. It can be done with just a mat or on machines, and it was invented and developed by Joseph Pilates, who was born in 1883 in Germany, immigrated to NYC in the 1920s, and died in 1967. He opened his first studio in midtown Manhattan, and invented and built all of the Pilates equipment, which basically look like S&M torture machines and have names like "The Reformer" and "The Chair." Joe's teachings have been passed on through the generations by some of his original students, which I think is so freaking rad and old school and legit. He was pretty much the bomb diggity. Google him.

CFSBK: We're on it. So how does practicing Pilates complement training at CFSBK? Besides looking hot in a bikini, why do I need a strong core?

KH: Well obviously, Kate, one's first priority should always be looking hot in a bikini/speedo. But I think Pilates is such an awesome complement to training at CFSBK because it not only feels great, but it can be directly applied to your lifting technique. One of the things that the Pilates method does really, really well, in addition to strengthening your core, is teach you HOW to brace your core against the movement of your limbs, which is not always as simple as it seems. This helps to keep you safe from injury and also helps you become stronger, because you'll learn how to move from your hips and shoulders and not let the work go into your back, for example. You will be focusing on engaging muscles that you might be more unfamiliar with. The goal is to learn how to move your limbs from a strong, stable, and supple core.

CFSBK: What can I expect if I come to one of your classes? Will I get a six-pack that night?

KH: Well, historically I've had some students who have been disappointed that they didn't leave class with an immediate six-pack. I don't want to call anyone out on this, but his name starts with an "L" and rhymes with "Bookah." However, if you come to class you can expect to spend a lot of time lying down (awesome!), and mostly focusing on stabilizing the pelvis and ribcage against the movement of the limbs. It's a LOT of abdominal work. Also, especially in my class here at CFSBK, I try to get people to "soften" their movements, and get in touch with deeper muscles that they may find harder to connect to. As CrossFitters, we spend so much time muscling through stuff with dynamic athleticism, that I think it's helpful to encourage your muscles to work in a different way—maybe with more ease, and a different approach to precision. You can expect to feel taller, stretched out, and you'll hopefully walk out of class with a newfound connection to your center. Sooooo Zen.

CFSBK: Tell us about this "Mad abs, yo," business. Where did that phrase come from? 

KH: That was all Chris Fox's doing. He just said it to me once and I freaking loved it. It became a thing. He also refers to me as "K-Dawg," which I am so down with. I sometimes call him "Funk Master Fox," and so should everyone. He also thinks I'm trouble but that's totally not true.

CFSBK: Right. No trouble at all. So if I'm already sold on Tuesday nights at 7:30pm, how can I get more of you? Where else do you teach?

KH: I am always available for one-on-one sessions or small group sessions, either here at the gym or at one of my studios in the city. If you visit my website (www.khpilates.com), there are links to the two studios that I work at, and you can visit their websites to see when I am teaching group classes. I mostly teach private sessions, but I do have a lunchtime mat class from 1-1:45 at Core Pilates NYC in Union Square on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. It's more of an intermediate-level class, so if you have some Pilates experience and time for a lunch break you should come on down! Mad abs, yo!

CFSBK: Okay, last question: where did the nickname Cage come from?

KH: At the last Tough Titsday meet, when I went up to lift, everyone was calling out "C'mon, KH!" Lauren Howe, who was one of our spotters, turned to someone and said, "Why is everyone calling her Cage?" When I heard that story, I immediately pictured myself squatting 350# while wearing a Hannibal Lector mask, screaming, and making super angry eyes. Decided to make it stick. David is responsible for my original nickname of KH, got K-Dawg from Fox, Cage from Lauren Howe, Wonder Twin from Stella, K-Hizzle from Laura… and that's not including all of the nicknames I've been given earlier in life (Juice, Hessyballs, K-Spano…). Sooo... yeah. I have a thing for nicknames. But I'll make you a deal: come to my class and you can call me whatever you want (I may instantly regret that)!

  • Happy birthday, Nigel S.
  • CFSBK's softball team, the Calaveras, have another game tonight at the Red Hook softball field. The game starts at 6:15! Head over there to enjoy the sunset and cheer them on!

Hilary Knight Gets Puck Naked ESPN Magazine 
What To Do Once You’ve Finished All the Beer The Loop 
Sweating Out Their Differences: OK Rep. Markwayne Mullin Whips Fellow House Members Into Shape New York Times

Reader Comments (20)

Saturday's Programming


Fitness: Mid Hang Snatch + Knee Hang Snatch
Work up to something heavy on the complex.

1) 3 Position Snatch (High Hang + Knee + Deck)
Work up to a heavy single on the 3 position snatch.

2) Snatch Pull (not a high pull) at 110% x 3 x 3
Use 110% of your 1RM snatch.


Back Squat

Fitness: 3 x 5 Linear Progression
Add 5-10 pounds to last week's weight.

Performance: 82.5% x 4 x 4, 80% x 4 x 4
Rest less than two minutes between sets.

Post loads to comments.

July 10, 2014 | Registered CommenterDavid Osorio

"In addition to selling a wide array of cannabis products and hashish, many of the clubs also sell food and drinks and offer extras to their members, like live music nights and Pilates classes."


July 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSamir Chopra

"You know what I really want, but I'm not gonna BEG for it? A nickname." Another great write up of another outstanding CFSBKer!

July 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJJ

"I don't want to call anyone out on this, but his name starts with an 'L' and rhymes with 'Bookah.'"

HA! Wonder Twin! My favorite! Nick started calling us that in 7 AM because for a long time, we were lifting partners. Now, I am Strong Twin and KH is Coordinated Twin, and at the Open we activate our powers to see whether her double unders beat my deadlifts. Anyway, I find it hard to believe that KH ever did mute CrossFit but I'm so glad that was over by the time I met her!

Strength last night -- still quite sore from the squat ladder on Tuesday, so I went into this very apprehensive about how I was going to do. I really should spend less time doubting myself.

Pause squat 185x3x3. Yeah, Jeremy won't start counting the pause until you're at the bottom, which forced me to get to the bottom.
Bench 127.5x3x2, close grip 115x7 (F8).
Deadlift 250x3, 260x2, 250x3. Unlike the last deadlift exposure, none of these were a serious struggle. It might have been the excessive heat the other night -- last night was much kinder. Anyway, this made me feel a lot better about my DL strength and what I can attempt at the Total next Sunday!

I can't believe the cycle is almost over. Trying to decide whether to jump right into the next one or go back to 7 AM. There are things to love about both.

July 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterStella

nice interview kate & kh!! i never knew pilates was a persons name, i just assumed it was a crazy word, like maybe a "brangelina" mash-up (yes, i know those are names) of some latin words that meant something about core contortions.

July 11, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterginacatto

Cage! I'm a fan and have really been meaning to try the class.

July 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBen W

This was a fabulous interview Kate (and KH)!!!

K to the Hizzle Sauce is my favorite person ever, and I have her to thank for continuing to make me a better teacher (I teach Pilates, too), hash-tagging the shit out of #madabsyo (although now I know I should actually thank Chris Fox), and for joining CFSBK - obviously!

Everyone needs to know that Kristin actually taught me how to teach Pilates, and it's an understatement to say that she's an amazing teacher. I'm not just saying this because she is my good friend - It's the damn truth! She IS THE BEST in the business. You are all so lucky that she teaches a class at the gym because most of the time there are wait lists for her classes in the city. So BALLER...but are you surprised? That's how KH rolls. Duh.


July 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLaura a.k.a Dubie

6am with Nick & McDowell. I did Thursday's skin the cat, etc. work. The skin the cats went well - and felt easier than they have the other times I've done them. The overhand hand-to-hand kb swings, which I did with a 20kg bell, felt weird, but probably just because I'm not used to doing them that way. I managed to tear a couple of calluses off my hand with those - not pleased about that, obviously.

I tried some handstand pushups. I think I managed one. Good to give them a shot and get a sense of the setup and mechanics, though. Then I switched to 30 lb. dumbbell presses. I was apprehensive about all of this because I've been dealing with a problem with the muscles in my neck tightening up like crazy after doing presses. I've been stiff and unable to swivel my head fully without pain for a couple of weeks. But, my neck actually felt better after today's workout than it did before. Maybe hanging upside down stretched the right things out?

July 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterShawn

I just recently started taking Kristin's class, as well as a few privates with her, and I can happily endorse her shit. She's got an excellent eye and very clear way of conveying correct movement. She's also very good at understanding where you are at in terms of current capacity and knowledge-base (of anatomy, Pilates, etc.) and easily meets you there so you aren't too overwhelmed. I am stoked to be working with her!

(Also, there's one nickname you left out.... Robin.)

July 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMargie

Another great interview!

July 11, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterk2h2

I love this write up! Honestly KH has been a lifesaver for me. After experiencing on and off chronic lower back pain I came to KH as a last resort. I booked a few privates with her and almost immediately noticed a difference in my lifts and stability. I'm not exaggerating when I say Pilates with Kristin has changed my life! In fact recently I had been slacking off going to her classes and my back started tweaking out again. I went to her class on Tuesday and today while doing DB presses I could feel the difference in my core. No more missing Tuesday night Pilates for me!

I highly recommend her class. Plus KH (a.k.a. Cage) is highly entertaining.

July 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLeslie

Love me some K-Dawg, one of my favorite people. Great write up! She most certainly is trouble though, don't believe otherwise. Also her Yankee hat has a Mets logo on it...weird.

July 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterFox

High noon w/ Coach McDowell

Saturday's Program:
Snatch: Fitness:

Back squat: Fitness:
205, 225, 235# (New 5rep PR! I'm going to Sizzler!)

And it's been confirmed Coach Jess Fox, the book I'm reading is in English:
On Such A Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee

July 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterChris Yun

Cage!! Love your Pilates class and looking forward to getting back to it once Strength Cycle is over.
I was partnered with KH in my very first group class for my very first bench press and I was so nervous and freaked out and she made me feel like I was normal and that it was all good. I'll never forget that. Thanks Cage!!

Strength Cycle last night.

Paused Squat
45 x 10
95 x 5
135 x 4
165 x 2
190 x 3 x 3

Bench Press
45 x 5
65 x 4
75 x 3
85 x 2
95 x 1
107.5 x 3 x 2
100 x 9 close- grip

135 x 5
185 x 4
225 x 3
255 x 1
275 x 3
300 x 2 :)
275 x 3

My heavy double was supposed to be 295 but Jeremy said I could try 300 if 275 x 3 went well and it did so I did. I am super-excited about this. The second rep felt so slow and weird but it went up. Can't wait for the Total next week. So many ladies. This is going to be fun!

July 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCharlie

I nearly broke my ribs laughing at Kristin's answers to my questions. The woman is damn funny, an excellent teacher, and an overall lovely human. I've been looking forward to getting an interview with her up on the blog for a while, and I'm so glad you guys are enjoying it. Check out her class!!

July 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKate R

Also: Charlie! Hell yeah, 300# deadllift!

July 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKate R

I will also vouch for KH the pilates instructor not to mention the person. I have not so mad abs and a hip that is constantly mad at me, but my abs get angrier and my hip more agreeable whenever I do pilates with KH. It's also an opportunity to get roasted by your instructor as your flail on the floor.

What Margie said is dead on though, KH figures out ways to get your body to talk to your abs when you really have very little proprioception of your core. Do it.

July 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJoel

@KH - It was fun to read more about you. Your Pilates class is hands down the best one I've taken. You are one of the women I remember from my early days in group classes. Seeing strong, committed women like you was and continues to be very motivating at the gym and in life, while I'm at it...

I just sent the article from a few days ago "I don't want to look like her" as well as the Always video to some people after a recent wave of ignorant comments. Just when you think your skin is fully calloused... Makes me appreciate this community even more.

@KateR - great interview once again.

July 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

Thanks for all the kind comments everyone. I really can't tell you how much they mean to me. What a wonderful day I'm having! Now I'm gonna go kick some YMCA softball butt with the CFSBK Calaverazzz... 3, 2, 1 - tacos!!!

July 11, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKH a.k.a. Cage

Warm Up- Push starting my Motorcycle with Rikkie.


Clean and Jerk


July 12, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJakeL

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