Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Pumped like Ahnold

Sorry, can't help myself....

Kind of makes me wish I hadn't wasted all that precious time having pointless sex when I could have been lifting weights.

I joined Crunch gym today. At the time, I overcame the obvious shame by doing what I always do when join any organization that decreases the awareness of the collective consciousness...I mentally distanced my own goals from those of my peers. Not only does this make it much easier to justify my involvement, but also to be highly judgmental of my fellow man, a hobby I've been meaning to devote more time to. The more obvious I discarded as not clever enough to hold my attention (despite any truth therein) - most having to do with some unhealthy obsession with the body. Currently I'm happy with the sexually-repressed OCD stress-case, filling their particular emotional void with purposeless rhythm. Plus, I'm pretty sure I'll fit in pretty well here.

This is the first official gym membership I've ever had to pay for - between college, apartment complexes, or just knowing the right people, somehow I've avoided ever taking out the wallet. And just like anything I have to pay for, I don't like it. But, the running's getting a little boring, and I'm not as consistent as I'd like, so I figure if I'm paying for it, I'll probably go more often. That theory didn't really work in college, but neither did a lot of others (like the one about getting a "job" afterward...)

So as any proper sexually-repressed OCD stress case should, and especially since I'd have to shell out some actual money for this round, I did my homework on the local gym scene.

There's a LOT of gyms in New York, ranging from national franchises to get lost in to local mom and pops to get scurvy in, and everything in between. There's even a chain of city-sponsored community gyms. I'm actually already a member of this one, and it's REALLY cheap ($50/year), but you quickly learn that pissing off the alpha-male no-neck by jumping in his set will likely land you in the hospital for bullet wounds instead of the normal choke-hold bruises.

Cleanliness is a big issue which separates the good from the ugly. Variety of equipment wasn't a huge concern for me, because I have specific training to do for the trip, but flexible hours were, as I'm still working a lot in the biz. In fact, here's a 'small' list of what I considered important to look for:

- MUST having biking machines, and enough of them. Anything fancy beyond this helps too.
- MUST have both early and late hours, including holidays (for us hedonistic non-salvationists)
- MUST have a free trial.
- MUST be clean, maintained (your ass sweat and my ass sweat should never meet)
- A plus if they have yoga, martial arts, or cycling classes
- A plus if they have in-house personal trainers
- A plus if they have a low commitment (though I'm thinking I'll be at least 2 years)
- A plus if they have multiple city/national locations (I figure I'll just stick to the closest one)
- A definite plus if the staff/crowd/vibe has only a minor amount of aggression
- A plus if they have massage therapy/sauna (yeah yeah, but my po' shoulder...)
- Oh also, the business MUST have some strong impression of permanence. I only want to do this crap once.

So with this list at the ready, I began the search, with only the gyms around me within a 15 minute walk. Since I live on the Soho/West Village border and work in the East Village, and with so many health-crazed gentrifiers around, this really didn't narrow things down, but I was able to get it down to the final 5 before I started comparison shopping:


TRIAL: 1 day. Lame.
LOCATIONS: 13 in Manhattan/Brooklyn, National locations in San Fran, LA, Chicago, Atlanta, and Miami. Nice.
CLASSES: Martial Arts, Yoga, and Cycling. They actually have a hell of a lot more than that, from boxing to pilates to dancing. I think their plan is to go for bulk instead of content, because the mutations get a little ridiculous, resulting in the bastard child "Yoga Bootcamp", advertised as the most vigorous and intense way to be serious about relaxation. Once more, the Jersey commuters give New York a bad rap.
BIZ: Solid, they're not going under anytime soon.
TRAINERS: Available in-house, and free for the first few sessions.
FINALIST?: Definitely


LOCATIONS: 9 in Manhattan.
IMPRESSION: Extremely yuppy-pampered, a little vomit came up when I got to the "Beach Club" and "Yacht Club" membership add-ons. Lounging models plastered on the web site. "Personal TV's at every station." Laundry Service. If the final ripple of class inequity is genocide, this is the type of place that makes the first splash.
CLASSES: Hatha yoga, restorative yoga, buddha belly, yoga yoga yoga. Wouldn't want to make all those trophy wives actually get off their asses and break a sweat.
TRAINERS: Obviously - somebody should get some use out of the equipment.
FINALIST?: Not a chance. The focus I'll have to maintain to forget people like this exist will burn enough calories.


ONLINE REVIEW: "Cheap, but at a price..."
BIZ: Privately owned, so I'll cut them a break for not having the greatest business savvy or even a fully-functional web site, but when there's obvious click-through marketing in a brick-and-mortar business, that's never a good sign for longevity. That being said, please click on everything you see in this blog.
LOCATIONS: 14 in NYC, but only 2 in Manhattan. It's been almost 3 months since I've been off the island at all, so 12 of those are useless.
GUESTS: Unlimited. Like I would want anyone I care about see my flab jiggle for an hour straight.
CLASSES: Suck. Only one per day, and not really anything I'd ever take time to go to anyway.
FREE MEDICAL EXAM: Just in case you want confirmation that you're flabby and shouldn't invite any guests.
HOURS: til' midnight weekdays, 9 on Sat/Sun.
TRIAL: 7 days
FINALIST?: I want to break it to these guys gently, like the sweet girl with the hump asking you to prom, "Really, it's not you, it's me..."


BIZ: On their home page, an announcement of 2 clubs closing. Not good.
TRIAL: 2 weeks for $20. Really guys? You can't just eat it with the $150 per month memberships from everyone else? They also label this option as the "Fear of Commitment" option. First time I've ever been called a pussy by a web site.
MEMBERSHIP OPTIONS: Lots. Too many, really - "Favorite Club", "Night Owl", "Traveling". I'll need my broker for this one.
LOCATIONS: A whopping 100 in NY Metro, 40 of those in Manhattan. There's also locations in Philly, Boston, and Washington.
TRAINER: 3 intro sessions for $79
HOURS: 11pm M-T, 10pm F, 9pm Sat, 8 pm Sun. Not the greatest, but just doable.
CLASSES: Lots, just as many as Crunch
KIDS: Day-care services. Wait, I forgot that I only have one kid, and I named it 10 hours sleep a night.
FINALIST?: Just barely, considering the closed clubs, the $20 trial cost, and their assumption that my biggest fear is of commitment. Not true, my biggest fear is that I'm stuck in an elevator with the simple-minded intellect-undermining douchebag that thinks passive-aggressive cliches make clever persuasive marketing.


BIZ: Solid, the most exclusive public gym in the city. The web site even tracks your IP address and shuts down if you're not in the right zip code.
LOCATIONS: 25 or so in NY Metro, 19 of those in Manhattan. Also has locations in DC, Chicago, Boston, Connecticut, Florida, Dallas, and California.
HOURS: til' 11pm M-Th, 10pm F, 8pm S&S
CLASSES: Lots, including something called "terracycle" and "cycle therapy"
AMENITIES: Juice bar, steam room, massage therapy
TRAINER: Yes, one free session
TRIAL: 1-week guest pass
FINALIST?: Sure, as long as I can find someone to give me a recommendation. (after confirming from a fellow entrepreneur colleague/friend who's, shall we say, more of the 'pampered' variety that it is indeed the highest-end club, and having burned all other bridges for recommendations long ago, I must regretfully remove this from the running.)

So, long story even longer, Crunch and NYSC were the only decent gyms with plenty of options, good hours, a variety of classes, and good locations (Crunch is right across the street from my office, NYSC is on the way home). Crunch won by slightly more than a nose because:

1 - they're right across the street
2 - my office building offers a discount ($84, month-to-month)
3 - they give off more of a straight-talk impression with everything they do, and advertise
4 - (and mostly) A guy who works there took a lot of time carefully explaining things to me days before I even signed up, and kept following up through email (my favorite form of communciation) to see if I had any other questions. Genuinely nice guy who cares about his job and his customers, a rare find in the city. Liz and I do the same in our business, and I'm surprised at just how many are out there that don't, and how much they suffer because of it (HINT!!!)

Oh, and I think the Governator has one more thing to say, something about proper etiquette during the post-workout analysis:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good review of the gyms.

There's a new one (that's been ready to open for months, but can't get permits . . . Jeter's 24 hour fitness).

Although, don't go to if you want info . . . it connects you to NYSC! Must be those clever NYSC marketing people . . . and sloppy 24 hour fitness people that made THAT happen!