Exercising the right to be fit Downtown

Share this:
September 26, 2005 // UPDATED 1:58 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Amy Anderson
Amy Anderson

A guide to local gyms

Heading out of the drive-through with French fries in hand, it suddenly hits mid-bite: That pesky New Year's resolution to exercise more and eat healthier were forgotten months ago.

There's no need to shove plans for working out aside anymore. Downtown gyms are increasingly adaptable to fast-paced urban lifestyles.

Instead of grabbing fast food, many businesspeople are opting to spend part of their lunch break at a health club, making the noon hour one of the most popular at local gyms. Call it a "Club" sandwich?

Busy Downtown workers and residents enjoy the casual atmosphere, workout equipment and classes at the Downtown YMCA. Located with skyway access at 30 S. 9th St., the gym thrives on the weekday activity of workers.

A Downtown worker and YMCA member of 24 years, who didn't want to be named, said he has always been pleased with the gym's quality. "It's so convenient, being only a block and a half from my work," he said. "I also joined because it was reasonably priced and they've improved the facilities a lot."

Student programs and a youth membership deal -- $29/month with no joiner's fee -- brings kids ages 10-17 into the Y on a regular basis. Students can find leadership groups, team sports, swimming lessons and afterschool care.

As a nonprofit, the YMCA is able to be more inclusive than other health clubs. "We have scholarships available for people who couldn't normally join," Membership Director Cassie Rood said. "Everyone is welcome at the Y."

The Firm --A Workout Studio is a trendy gym located at 245 Aldrich Ave. N. With intense funk dancing classes, power yoga and a juice bar, The Firm has a lot to offer to the urban crowd.

Kelly Miyamoto, who opened the studio nearly 20 years ago, said that The Firm is in a whole class of its own among health clubs. "We're more of a boutique -- a funky, urban studio," she said.

"We're known for being innovators and trying new things. We were the first in the area to do funk, cardio boxing, spinning and even step classes back in the day," Miyamoto added.

The Firm recently added a wildly popular Strip Tease class that is being extended to allow more eager teases. The lively, nightclub-style music draws in the 20-somethings by the masses, Miyamoto claims.

Being well known across the country helps The Firm gain a customer base from all walks of life. "We get businesspeople, high school and college kids, people who are retired," Miyamoto said. "The people who want the best cardio and personal training experience they can get come here."

As a gym specifically for women who want to workout in a supportive environment, Curves has found a prime market. Their concept of an all-women's gym is increasingly popular and has spurred multiple copycat chains across the country.

The center at 625 Marquette Ave., Suite 146, features a 30-minute exercise circuit including strength and aerobic training with easy-to-use equipment. Janie Westbrook, owner of the Downtown Curves, said the convenience and specialization of the gym makes it perfect for women.

"The average woman at Curves is 40 or older, weighs at least 200 pounds, and hasn't worked out in the past," Westbrook said. "There are a number of physically fit women who come here, too, but all find women who are likeminded and have similar goals."

All of the exercise equipment is specially designed for women's bodies, and the circuit allows busy women to do all the necessary components of a workout in only 30 minutes.

"A lot of women don't understand or don't want to use free weights, so they find our equipment easier and more convenient to use," Westbrook said.

The Downtown YWCA, at 1130 Nicollet Mall, was established as a way to empower women and respect diversity, and it maintains these goals today.

The YWCA is known for more than just exercising.

"We give back to the community. Profits go back to our programs rather than to a corporate bottom line," Public Relations Director Kristin Bergerud said. "We help shape public policy based on what is important for women and children."

Gym membership is open to everyone, but the board of directors remains all-women and the clientele is 76 percent female. Fitness activities include swim lessons, workout equipment, personal training and unique group classes.

"We offer multicultural group fitness and dance classes like African Aerobics, Salsa Aerobics and Adult Beginning Modern Dance," Bergerud said. "We have tennis lessons on the roof and Fluid Yogalates which combines aqua tai chi, yoga and pilates in the water."

The laid-back feel and mixture of activism and exercise attracts many urban women. "Our Downtown facility is a great place to work out," Bergerud said. "The atmosphere is relaxed and low-key."

Northwest Athletic Club makes its home in the Target Center, 600 1st Ave. N., where it draws a crowd of training athletes and local businesspeople. It is one of 10 Twin Cities Northwest locations.

Scott Shragg, director of partnership marketing, said the accessibility of the Target Center location and skyway are pluses for active businesspeople.

"Our corporate programs draw in the most people, usually ages 25-54," Shragg said. "They find it helpful that they can go to the Target Center when they work and then go to suburban locations closer to their homes."

The Downtown club features group fitness classes, a pool, gyms and personal training. Tanning, massage, a juice bar and the SportShop can also be found at the Target Center location.

"We always try to be at the top at Northwest," Shragg said. "We have some of the most highly qualified instructors for our group classes, and we engage members in our club by fitting their personal needs."

Regency Athletic Club and Spa, somewhat hidden in the Downtown Hyatt at 1300 Nicollet Ave., offers more than just an exercise experience. The chic club contains an Aveda salon and spa, as well as the in-house Gifford Family Chiropractic. Massage therapy and a deli for lunches and beverages are also available.

General Manager Heidi DeCoux said Regency is set apart from the large, urban clubs. "We're kind of your hometown club with an intimate environment in a big city," DeCoux said. "We focus on customer service and knowing our members by name. Nearly all members live or work within 10 blocks of Regency."

One Downtown resident and member of four years said that everything she wants in a gym is at Regency. "Initially, it was just because it was close to where I live," she said. "But then I found it had great facilities, a friendly staff and it's never too busy. You always get to watch whichever television station you want!"

Minneapolis Lifetime Athletic, housed in The Grand Hotel at 615 2nd Ave. S., is a business-class club for high-end athletics and socializing.

Benefits range from the full-service LifeSpa treatments and a discount at the trendy Martini Blu nightclub to a business center and reciprocal clubs around the world. And that doesn't even cover the fitness aspect of Lifetime.

For working out, the gym provides a pool, group classes, exercise equipment and gyms. "People want to look for clubs with the latest technologies," Public Relations Manager Kent Wips said. "There have been incredible advancements in fitness, and what used to be only for athletes has been brought into the health clubs."

Personal training -- from complementary assessments to intense six-week boot camps -- is a popular aspect of Lifetime. Individual golf and pilates sessions are also offered.

Monthly rates are $109.95 or $189.95 making it the priciest gym Downtown, but the status and amenities may be worth the cost for some businesspeople. "We're an executive club, and we have the right facilities to conduct business as well as exercise," Wips said.

With a variety of clubs with easy access Downtown, the tricky part is choosing a gym for membership.

Westbrook recommends figuring out what your personal goals are (think strength training, cardio classes, swimming facilities, etc.) and finding a club that matches those goals.

In addition, narrow down the choices according to what fits your price range and which location will be most convenient to your home or office.

Take a tour of the gyms to see the quality of the facility, the size and availability of machines, and the experience of staff and trainers.

Take advantage of any trial periods or complementary weeks that clubs have to offer. These will help you judge the atmosphere without signing a binding contract.

Most of all, find a place where you will be comfortable and can find ways to stay healthy -- whether it be through personal training, massage or even some strip teasing.