Fitting In at the Fitness Center
Published by New York Times, April 11, 2013, by Shinavi Vora
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AT 5 feet 3 inches and 203 pounds, Julia Dalton-Brush can attest to the challenge of finding the right exercise environment. A New York makeup artist, Ms. Dalton-Brush recently started a Web site, fit-journey.com, geared to those who are considerably overweight or new to gym workouts.
She is a former athlete who gained 80 pounds while taking care of her ailing mother. “I have tried to get into fitness again so many times but have given up because I have felt uncomfortable,” she said. “It might be my own insecurity, but I have walked into gyms where I see people in incredible shape and get intimidated or feel like everyone is staring at me.”
Group classes can be especially difficult because they include regulars who all seem to know one another. “Although people can be very nice,” Ms. Dalton-Brush said, “it’s also easy to feel like an outsider.”
She said the right setting was vital for those looking to plunge into a fitness routine for the first time or, like her, to re-engage after being away for years. For Ms. Dalton-Brush, that turned out to be Flywheel, a spin studio with three Manhattan locations. She had to be dragged to a class by a friend, but said that she immediately felt at ease because the instructors got to know her by asking about her goals and limitations and showing her modifications for every move. And indoor cycling is a popular and intense way to burn calories.
“Flywheel motivated me and changed my life,” she said. Through regular attendance and watching her diet, she has shed 28 pounds and is on the way to losing more. “I was endangering my health,” she said. “I used to be fat, but now I am in training.”
Here’s a look at several places in New York considered accommodating to new or renewed exercisers, regardless of size or fitness level.
FLYWHEEL Ruth Zukerman, a co-founder of this spin studio, said that indoor cycling long had the reputation of being intimidating. “One of our biggest goals is to be accessible to everybody, and we definitely have a noticeable amount of overweight clientele,” she said. “The thing is, they don’t stay overweight for long.” The classes are held in dimly lighted rooms where instructors can see students but students can’t always see — and judge — one another. Instructors help newcomers set up on the bike and determine proper pacing. Classes start at $32; flywheelsports.com.
STRIVE NYC This East Side gym, with more than 8,500 square feet spread out over three levels, offers no classes. But it is filled with the latest cardio and weight equipment and has ample space to work out with a trainer or stretch. The environment is welcoming, so don’t be surprised if a fellow gymgoer offers help if you’re fumbling with a machine.
“We all look out for each other, and people aren’t afraid to come here,” said Yves Bocquet, an owner. Membership is $725 a year; strivenyc.com.
BARRY’S BOOTCAMP Just the concept of boot camp is enough to scare off many people, but Sam Sharon, who manages the three Barry’s gyms in New York, said that should not be the case here.
“No matter your size or ability, you will feel like you’re part of a team when you take a class,” he said. Students adjust the workout to their fitness abilities, whether that means the setting on a treadmill or the amount of weight lifted. Classes start at $32; barrysbootcamp.com.
BODY SPACE FITNESS No membership is required at this 4,000-square-foot studio in Union Square, which offers small-group classes. Although the clientele includes athletes and models, the owner, Kelvin Gary, said that around 10 percent of exercisers were overweight and that a few classes were geared toward beginners.
“Obesity or being new to exercise shouldn’t inhibit you from trying hard,” Mr. Gary said. “We just make sure you do it safely.” Certain group classes start at $30; bodyspacefitness.com.