After scanning the list of 90 exercise classes offered by the Pacific Athletic Club in Pacific Palisades, I wondered if I was in the Starbucks of gyms. I mean, should I take a tall double nonfat hi-lo class or a grande tae box?
And just like the ubiquitous coffeehouse chain, you should be prepared to pay the price. This is definitely a high-end health club, on a par with Spectrum Club, Crunch and the Sports Club chain as far as membership fees are concerned. The initiation fee here is a whopping $599, and the monthly fee is $73 for an individual membership. There's no valet parking, so you'll have to park your own Porsche.
But one thing that makes this club stand out is the great selection of classes. My friends and I chose Spinning, and later, while I toured the gym, my friends took in a class on iyengar yoga.
The Spinning class was taught by Jeff Wells, an instructor for 11 years. You know you've taken a great class when the time flies. It certainly didn't feel like I was on a bike for an hour, but my friends and I got a great workout pedaling hard for 60 minutes.
Wells is part showman, part instructor. He sang along with the music and kept up a friendly banter with the class regulars.
"Spinning as a format itself can be inherently boring, so I feel like I have to really be on the music and make sure the energy gets there," Wells said.
I didn't take the yoga class, but I did look in, and the room was filled. My friends are yoga aficionados, and they had high praise for instructor Larry Heliker's class.
Group exercise classes are taught in one of three studios on the first floor: One studio has a hardwood surface, and the other two are carpeted. With the Pacific Ocean so close, it's a shame the club owners didn't arrange to have the Spinning class held in a room with an ocean view. Instead, you look out on a supermarket parking lot.
The second floor is the main entrance, where you can pick up towels, drop off the kids at a child care facility and grab a bite to eat at Pure Energy Cafe. The third floor has weights, cardiovascular equipment and, finally, some great ocean views.
The weight area is not very large. In fact, there is more cardio equipment than weights on this floor. All the top weight manufacturers are represented: Body Masters, Cybex, Get Flexed, Icarian and Paramount. Free weights come from Ivanko and Standard. The cardio area has everything you would expect from a top facility: two NordicTrack ski machines, 13 Precor elliptical cross-trainers, 11 StarTrac treadmills, a StairMaster CrossRobics machine, three StairMaster step mills, eight LifeFitness recumbent bicycles, a StairMaster free runner, a VersaClimber, a Reebok Body Trec and three StairMaster stair steppers.
If that's not enough, there is an outdoor patio workout area with four more LifeFitness bicycles, two StarTrac treadmills and a Nautilus skate machine.
Pacific Athletic Club is a beautiful facility, located right at the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Pacific Coast Highway. This 20,000-square-foot building used to house a Pritikin Fitness Center, but it was taken over nine years ago by a private management group. The group is also building a fitness club on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
But one thing is missing--a swimming pool. With the prices the 3,000 members pay, you would think a pool would be included. Some might say that the club already has a really big pool, the Pacific Ocean, right across the street.
* Gary Metzker is a certified aerobics instructor who has been teaching for more than five years at various clubs.
* If you'd like to suggest a gym or health club for review, send your request by fax to (213) 237-4712 or by e-mail to: email@example.com.
* Gym Rat runs the third Monday of every month.
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The Rat Trap
On a rating of one to four rats, four being best, here is how the Gym Rat rates Pacific Athletic Club in Pacific Palisades:
* Parking: Spaces are available underneath the gym. It's well lighted, and the club validates for two hours. ****
* Locker rooms: Clean and well-appointed--the staff even put Q-Tips out for you. Each locker room has six showers plus one for the disabled, and sauna and steam rooms. ****
* Juice bar: A scrumptious selection. The Pure Energy Cafe features sandwiches, salads, smoothies, sugarless baked goods and freshly squeezed organic juices. ****
Pacific Athletic Club, 17383 Sunset Blvd., Pacific Palisades. (310) 459-2582. A day pass costs $20. Basic membership is $73 a month, plus an initiation fee of $599. Other special rates are available for seniors and students. Child care is $3 an hour. The gym is open 5 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, 5 a.m.-10 p.m. Thursday-Friday and 7 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.