Functional Fitness on the Bluffs, The Renaissance Gym

Danette Rivera
Nutrition, CrossFit


What if a gym had no front door? What if it had no walls, or a building of any kind for that matter, would it still be a gym? Would the concept work if the gym’s sound structure was only the people who were involved? Function Fitness on the Bluffs (FFOTB), which describes itself as both an elite school of fitness and, ironically, a “fake gym,” is discovering that the concept not only works, it thrives.


crossfit la, ffotb, danny lesslie, logan gelbrichBefore the coaches and members of FFOTB arrive for the early-morning class on the iconic Palisades Park bluffs in Santa Monica, all that exists is a strip of grass aglow in dawn’s pink haze. Towering palm trees mark every few meters. Then there's the view of the spectacular Pacific Ocean: to the north, Malibu, to the south, the still lit Ferris wheel balanced on the silhouette of the pier against the water. Logan Gelbrich and Danny Lesslie, the founders of FFOTB, begin placing barbells, kettlebells, and mats on the grass. A whiteboard is propped up against a palm’s trunk. Members begin to appear, yawning in zipped hoodies. Slowly the energy stirs. After they warm up, Gelbrich and Lesslie draw the members in under their thoughtful care and give top-tier instruction on weightlifting, on running, on how to attack their fitness fears. And suddenly, as cars whiz by on Ocean Avenue and as running clubs trot past in clusters, a gym appears on the grass. Outside among the trees, rain or shine, FFOTB athletes hit personal records regularly, transform their lives, and interweave to create a community unparalleled in any gym atmosphere.


“We were just supposed to pretend for a while,” Gelbrich said. “We were going to fake it outside until we could get a real space and then create a legit indoor school of fitness. But something happened along the way and this feels as legit as any world-class facility.” The value of FFOTB is based on the notion that being an athlete starts in the mind. The equipment or anything else one thinks they need does not make a gym and it’s not a necessity to build fitness. And though it sounds esoteric, it is absolutely working. FFOTB boasts major transformations with their members. One member has lost one hundred pounds. Coupled with nutritional guidance, two members have cleared their asthma. There are countless stories of members feeling their best and their fittest. Mainly, FFOTB has become an insulated sanctuary for their members, and within that insulation Gelbrich and Lesslie have created the safest and kindest of environments for students to lay it on the line as an athlete both physically and emotionally.


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