Working Out a Bit Too Close for Comfort

Beware. The Gym Rat is snooping around Southern California, looking at the best and worst in health clubs. And he isn't just any rat. He's been teaching more than five years at various clubs in the area. He is a member of IDEA, the Health & Fitness Source and is certified by the Aerobics and Fitness Assn. of America.


If you travel down Pacific Coast Highway and fitness is your goal, stop at Main Street in Huntington Beach, because you have two options. The first involves sun, fun and surfing. The second, three blocks away at 3rd and Main, is 24 Hour Fitness.

Stick with the first option.

On the positive side, the people--members and employees--at this 24 Hour Fitness are nice enough. And the aerobics class I took was enjoyable, even if the instructor was a bit too mellow for me.

But there is so much equipment packed into this snug, two-story, 15,000-square-foot facility that it is tough to get around without bumping into someone. Dave Adams, the general manager, said there are about 4,000 members.

On the second floor alone, there is the aerobics room and almost 70 pieces of cardiovascular equipment--28 Lifecycles, two Versa Climbers, 11 Precor elliptical cross trainers, 14 StairMasters and 14 LifeFitness treadmills (one was under repair). The bicycles are so close together that it is a wonder how surfer dudes and dudettes can squeeze on to them. And if you want to watch one of the five televisions while you do cardio, make sure you bring a radio. Signs on the TVs direct you to the correct FM station, which will bring you the audio portion of a TV program.

Also sandwiched onto the second floor are LifeFitness and Keiser pneumatic weight machines.

There's a ton (probably more) of weight equipment on the first floor, along with the locker rooms and the front desk and the sales area. Take your pick of Paramount, Hammer Strength, Nautilus, BodyMaster and Cybex machines. Weight plates are by Iron Grip and the free weights are by Ivanko, but you have to be alert so you don't run into someone doing a front lateral raise or get hit by someone working their pecs.

24 Hour Fitness has a very good selection of group exercise classes--it offers 39 a week. You can choose from yoga, tai chi, cardio boxing, step, turbo kick boxing, high-low impact and ATB (abs, thighs and buns).

I took the 8 a.m. ATB class taught by Danielle and had a good time. She has been teaching the class for about a year and has a strong following. I knew her name not from the nonexistent introduction, but from the board that listed her name and the type of class. And a disturbing trend, at clubs in general, reared its ugly head again: The instructor did not ask if anyone in the class had any preexisting injuries or conditions that would require them to modify their exercise. However, Danielle did show some options during the class. Since I was the only guy in class--it was obvious I was new--you would thought she would have introduced herself.

Danielle's microphone kept cutting out on her, and that was a bit annoying. Her cuing was good, and she made sure everyone maintained proper body alignment, but there was no energy or excitement in her voice; when I'm feeling fatigue in my muscles, I want someone yelling and screaming, "Just one more! C'mon, you can do it!" or something like that.

Apparently, it's not just Danielle who has a low-key demeanor in class. Other members I talked to later also mentioned the lack of excitement and energy of some instructors.

This workout was a wipeout.


If you know of a gym or health club you think the Gym Rat should scope out, fax to (213) 237-4712 or e-mail:

The Rat Trap

On a rating of one to four rats, four being best, here is how the Gym Rat rates 24 Hour Fitness in Huntington Beach:

* Parking: City parking lot across the street and it's free until 10 a.m. After that, the gym will validate your ticket for three free hours. ****

* Locker rooms: Nothing to write home about. At 7:15 a.m., the floor was dirty and the trash had not been emptied. At 9:30, nothing had changed. There are five showers with soap dispensers, no sauna, no steam. *

* Juice bar: None, just a soda machine that also dispensed water. Nutrition bars are available, too. *

24 Hour Fitness, 303 3rd St., Huntington Beach. (714) 374-3700. A day pass costs $10. Monthly fees are $12 to $34 a month and enrollment fees vary. Check with the staff for monthly specials and yearly rates. Child care is available at $2 for two hours, but the child care facility can only handle 12 children at a time. And this club really is 24/7: It's open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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