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Where to Go to Sweat Out Shaping Up : County Has a Wide Range of Gyms and Health Clubs


Ralph: Norton, when you see me walking down the street, you move to the other side.

Norton: Ralph, when you walk down the street, there ain't no other side.

So another round of holidays have ended and besides being broke, you now have the waistline of the Goodyear blimp, the muscle tone of the Pillsbury Dough Boy, the appetite of the Tasmanian devil and guilt enough to start your own religion. If you're fat, you can do something about it; if you just hate your looks, well, there's always therapy or strong drink.

This is a boom month for gyms, cashing in on old bad habits and New Year's resolutions. Gyms and health clubs are all over Ventura County, many offering a variety of enticing specials, designed to get you off that couch and into beach shape by summer.

To lose weight: Eat less. We all know that. But according to experts, it isn't enough. Along with eating less and eating right, comes tiresome exercise, often accompanied by unpleasant bending. According to Dr. Irv Loh, medical director of the Ventura Heart Institute at Los Robles Hospital in Thousand Oaks, the most important kind of exercise is what gets your heart pumping.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Friday January 28, 1994 Ventura West Edition Metro Part B Page 4 Column 1 Metro Desk 2 inches; 57 words Type of Material: Correction
Wrong gym--A Ventura County Life story Thursday incorrectly reported that the Powerhouse Gym at 880 Hampshire Road in Westlake is closed temporarily due to earthquake damage. In fact, it has remained open. It is the Powerhouse Gym at 411 Central Ave. in Fillmore that is temporarily closed. Dues for a membership special at the Westlake location were also wrong. The January special is $199 for 14 months.

"Cardiovascular exercise will increase stamina, improve blood circulation, improve heart rate and also reduces the risk of certain types of cancer," Loh said. "Lifting weights will do nothing to help your cardiovascular system. You may look good, but your cardiovascular system may be no better than a guy who sits at a desk all day."

Cardiovascular exercise includes aerobics, Lifecycles, Stairmasters, treadmills and rowing machines. Aerobics, is like going to a nightclub except you get to dance every dance without being hit on. Loh recommends a minimum of 20 minutes of aerobic activity three times a week. Local fitness expert Scott Meyer, manager of Harold and Jean's Gym in Oxnard has a more rigorous program. "You can do cardio every day," he said. But, he added, unless you work on a different muscle group each day, the free weights should be done every other day or three days a week.

Free weights include the old-fashioned dumbbells, with bouncer-sized guys (and some women, too) flexing in front of the inevitable mirror. Then there are the specialized fitness machines with Nautilus, perhaps, the most recognizable brand name. Some of these machines are positively ingenious and stretch muscles you didn't know you had. These exercises, according to fitness types, are intended to build muscle, and not necessarily to burn fat.

County gyms, like their clients, come in all shapes and sizes. There are monster gyms as large as a K mart and small, one-room neighborhood gyms.

Generally, the smaller gyms claim better one-on-one service and the larger ones stress space and variety of equipment. All gyms have, in varying quantities, Nautilus-type machines, free weights and cardiovascular equipment.

Prices vary, but around $30 per month is average. Business hours are usually from around 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. with the hours of 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. being the busiest block of time.

All the gyms have showers and locker rooms, and some have saunas. Only a couple have pools. Most gyms offer an endless schedule of aerobics classes and most offer child care.

The most important thing in choosing a gym is to know what you expect to get out of it. No gym can make Tom Cruise out of Don Knotts or Sharon Stone out of Philadelphia Cream Cheese.

There are pickup gyms, workout gyms, far-out gyms. Location seems to be an important consideration; people tend to end up at the gym that is closest to home or office.

Signing up and showing up, however, are two different things. Some gyms such as Family Fitness in Oxnard have about a 10% regular-attendance rate for members while the Gym in Ventura claims around 80%.

What follows are thumbnail sketches of most of the gyms in the county. There are a few women's only facilities, but for obvious reasons they wouldn't let me in.

Bally's Aerobics Plus

1313 E. Los Angeles Ave., Simi Valley, 520-2380

The county's newest facility--a mall monster with a monstrous exterior color scheme that includes tan, purple, turquoise and pink--has a problem with a portion of its ceiling as a result of the earthquake. So aerobics classes are temporarily on hold.

Other than that, the place has a nice new car smell, and all the equipment is shiny bright and operational. Everything is high tech like the Stairmaster Gravitron, which is like a video game that fights back. The Life Circuit Seated Row could be a steady job for Ben Hur--it hurts as much as his galley job but provides fewer whips and sea battles.

There are about all the treadmills, Stairmasters and stationary bicycles anyone could want, and nearly as many TVs.

Cost: Bally's has various membership plans, as well as earthquake specials and grand-opening specials. Right now, there is no initiation fee and monthly dues run between $19-$37.

Body Focus

77 Rolling Hills Drive 103, Thousand Oaks, 496-1834

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