Brownstone Fitness: Naked Health in Harlem

By Yolande Brener

When I read Brownstone Fitness’s invitation to try naked fitness, I felt slightly apprehensive about attending their class. With Hans and Bernadette Hageman’s longstanding dedication to physical training, they might find naked training easier than most of us. But by naked, they mean with the use of minimal devices and tools.

“People end up getting locked into machines which are supposed to serve all body types and all levels of strength,” said Hans. “That violates our creative nature. You are supposed to be able to move through many planes. You can’t do that if you’re locked into a machine.”

Hans and Bernadette both have a background in fitness and education. Bernadette used to dance with Alpha Omega, a dance company developed to give opportunities to choreographers of color. As well as his background in a variety of fitness practices including yoga, weightlifting, and boxing, Hans has practiced as a lawyer and now works in non-profits. He co-founded The East Harlem School at Exodus House for children who can’t find success in regular educational establishments.

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Hans used to compete as a bodybuilder, has “played” at judo, and now runs Brownstone Fitness with Bernadette on the top floor of their home in East Harlem.

There are month of group sessions with one class per week. Their groups are between 4 to 6 people and the fitness level is adapted for those participating.

“People want something that is quick and easy,” said Hans. “But they also want the social proof of it, like everybody else is doing it. But here, it’s individual, it respects the individual”

“Anyone can take our class,” said Bernadette. “But there are some classes that are a bit more advanced. We may add or change certain things or add certain intensities to the warm up but clients pretty much they become familiar with moves like the frog, the lizard and the Frankenstein.”

Brownstone Fitness offers a strenuous but fun workout. It’s good for people who want to sweat and feel that they’re getting in an intensive workout in a short amount of time. The class also provides clients with the tool of learning exercises they can do at home to keep up their fitness outside of regular class hours. This information is now available on Brownstone Fitness’s recently launched exercise video.

“We are living as zoo humans,” said Hans. “Animals are taken from the wild and put in habitats that people say are natural and they are fed. Their days are directed, that isn’t how life is supposed to be organized. Life is supposed to be random and the challenges are supposed to have stress and recovery.”

“Most people start out wanting to look better,” concluded Hans. “The nice side benefit that becomes a big benefit for many is they end up feeling better.”

Go to the Brownstone website at:

Photographs by Alexis Percival

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