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May 21, 1999|JAMES E. FOWLER

For millions of boys growing up in America in the 1940s-1960s, Charles Atlas was considered the epitome of male physical fitness. Countless ads for his muscle-building course graced the pages of adolescent-oriented magazines such as Superman, Batman and Adventure Comics. Atlas promised to transform 97-pound weaklings, who got sand kicked in their faces by bullies at the beach, into muscular supermen no one would dare disrespect.

Atlas' original "Dynamic-Tension" muscle-building course (effective for both men and women) is still available through the Internet (www.charlesatlas.com) for $45. In addition, the Atlas Web site also offers vitamins, T-shirts and other merchandise.

Gold's Gym, 9150 Reseda Blvd., Northridge, (818) 772-1400, has free weights and exercise machines, such as Stairmasters and treadmills. Personal instruction and nutritional advice also are available. $295 for a one-year contract; $195 for six months; $130 for three months; $60 a month.

Mid Valley Athletic Club, 18420 Hart St., Reseda, (818) 705-6500, features machines and free weights, plus aerobics, swimming, racquetball, basketball, a steam room, Jacuzzi and sauna. It also has a full-service restaurant, child-care center and valet parking. Costs include a $50 registration fee plus $75 per month.

Maybe you have a problem motivating yourself. Husband and wife team Steve and Martha Schewe can train you individually either at their home in Woodland Hills or at your home. Steve Schewe, a personal trainer since 1975, says he brings a folding bench and some free weights on house calls. He advises his clients to buy a treadmill or stationary bike, but they're not mandatory. He usually meets with his clients two to three times a week. The initial session costs about $150; subsequent sessions $60-$75. (818) 999-4FIT [4348].

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