Courtesy of Torrie Long

Strength Haven Athletics, which was formerly District Athletic Club, is beginning its push to assert itself as one of New Haven’s most prominent gyms. 

Through a host of programs that range from powerlifting and cross training to more foundational courses, Strength Haven has been steadily growing.

Torrie Long, a co-owner and instructor, highlighted how it all came together. 

“We, as a community, have been together since about 2010, when CrossFit New Haven started under previous owners,” Long said. “Many of us were also a part of District Athletic Club for a long time, which was sold earlier this year … Those who do strength and conditioning, Slack, Crossfit style workouts, powerlifting and weightlifting were looking for a new home.” 

With “divine intervention” and “a lot of manpower,” the community was able to create this space, according to Long. 

Long shared that staying in the city was integral to Strength Haven’s identity and success. 

“We wanted to stay in New Haven; that was a big thing. It’s a good location for our members and also a good community and city that we really love,” Long said. “We want to talk to people who actually live here and say what do you need from us?”

The facility, which was formerly a gym, was a great fit given the layout and other amenities, which include concrete slabs, locker rooms and elevated ceilings. 

The gym offers programs every day of the week, including training sessions for both experienced powerlifters and more introductory regiments for those who are new to lifting and working out. 

Programs start at 6:00 a.m. and run throughout the day, ending in the evening. 

Lyle Huneke, a powerlifting instructor at the gym, enjoys lifting and said it has taught him many lessons that he hopes to pass on to his students. According to Huneke, that is what makes Strength Haven special. 

“Powerlifting taught me accountability with myself and other people. You need other people around you when you’re attempting one rep maxes. You need spotters and people that you trust that are going to have your back,” he said. “A lot of us have experienced being on the fringes and the margins, so some of our core values are accessibility. We offer scholarships to help those who need it. If someone is working hard, I won’t abandon them because their finances have changed.”

Members who recently joined have had the opportunity to explore the gym’s offerings and join the community, and for some, the return of a gym space has been life changing. 

Kalani Rossell ’11 ENV ’15, a crossfit enthusiast, joined Strength Haven after Crossfit closed. 

“When the previous gym got sold, it was heartbreaking for all of us. But Torrie and the team sat down and found a way to keep the community going. That was the coolest thing to me. I didn’t have to lose the coaching and community, everything that became a core of my day to day life up here.”

Amanda Richitelli, a social worker in West Haven, who is also a part of the crossfit program, shared similar sentiments. 

Unlike Rossel, when Richitelli joined District Athletic Club, she did not know any of her classmates, but she would soon find herself immersed in the community. 

“I met my partner through the gym and I have established long term friendships, and it’s a family there,” Richitelli said. “No matter how long you’ve known a person there, everybody is always super friendly, caring, and supportive. It’s a great place to go when you’re feeling down. We even get distracted because people get into long conversations.” 

Renée Mihail LAW ’24  formerly served in the military and first began her fitness journey at District Athletic Club. Mihail, who is also an instructor at Strength Haven, appreciated seeing familiar faces from Crossfit.

Mihail wants to see the community at Strength Haven find new ways to connect outside the gym. 

“Community building can look like a trainer hosting students after,” Mihail said. “Socializing outside the gym allows you to bond beyond crying during a workout, which is also necessary.” 

Richitelli also hopes to see the facility expand in the near future to help the athletes hit their benchmarks. By expanding its facility, Strength Haven can hold more equipment and expand their offerings.

In the upcoming year, Strength Haven Athletics hopes to not only grow but also foster a relationship with the Greater New Haven community, according to Long. 

“Our biggest goal is making fitness accessible. We want to have people come in who have never found a way to move their body that feels good and find exercises for their health while also making it fun,” Long said. 

The gym will begin hosting competitions for powerlifters, as there has been continued interest after the pandemic. These events can also help members reach and find new benchmarks, according to Huneke. 

Strength Haven Athletics is located at 310 Winchester Ave.

Nati Tesfaye is a sophomore in Branford College from East Haven, Connecticut. He covers business, workers and unions in the city of New Haven. Last year, he covered housing and homelessness for the News.