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Gym Rat

A Disorganized Schedule of Classes Trips Up a Well-Kept Facility


Does anybody really know what time group exercise classes start at Bally's Total Fitness? Does anybody really care?

I found myself asking those questions after an unsettling experience at the chain's Macy's Plaza location in downtown Los Angeles.

I called Bally's twice on a Monday to find out the times and activities for group exercise classes that evening. Each time I was told there was a step-sculpt class at 4:30, followed by a high-impact class at 5:30 and power step at 6:45.

After taking the obligatory tour of the facility with a saleswoman (it was my first time there, after all), I walked into the aerobics room for the 4:30 step-sculpt class. First, I noticed that no one was setting up steps or gathering weights. The next clue that something was amiss was when the instructor entered, didn't introduce himself and started playing an audiotape at a speed setting more suited to a high-impact class. Sure enough, it was a high-impact class, sort of.

Barely 20 minutes had ticked by when the instructor started doing a cool-down stretch.

"What's going on here?" I asked the person next to me. "Isn't this supposed to be an hourlong class?"

"That's what I thought," she said. "But I guess not."

The quizzical look on my face must have caught the instructor's attention.

"This isn't a real class," he said. "I'm just doing some training so I can get recertified. The next class starts at 5, and it's a high-impact class."

So what happened to the 4:30 step-sculpt class?

"There is no 4:30 class on Mondays," he said.

As it turned out, the high-impact that I'd initially been told would start at 5:30 p.m.--but which was posted on a bulletin board as starting at 5--did, indeed, start at 5:30. Go figure.

To make matters worse, the schedule handed out at the front desk was a mess. The 30-minute Bally's Body class on Thursdays, for example, was listed in the 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. time block. But when does it start? At 7:30? 7:45? Or how about Sunday's 15-minute abdominals class, which floated in the 5 to 6 p.m. time slot? This type of schedule makes no sense.

When I asked the general manager about the time discrepancies, he said that when a class is listed for, say, 5 p.m., that means the class can start anywhere between 5 and 6. As for the lack of a step-sculpt class, he said there must have been a conflict for the instructor of that class.

The club offers 46 classes per week, including Power Flex, Kwando (a type of kick boxing), and nine indoor cycling classes. The Power Flex and cycling classes cost an extra $2 per class.

The group exercise program was the only aspect of the gym that was out of whack. It's a huge facility--26,000 square feet--and it's sparkling. Workers mop the floors after every group exercise class.

The cardiovascular area was impressive. This was the first time I had seen a piece of equipment called the SitUp Master (just guess what exercise is done on it). You can also rev up your heart rate on 27 Life Fitness bicycles, 16 of them recumbent, or 11 Tectrik steppers, 13 StarTrac treadmills, 22 Life Fitness treadmills, two Reebok body mills and 22 elliptical machines (four StarTracs, 12 Precors, four Life Fitnesses and two BodyTreks.) Nine television monitors are positioned throughout the area, but bring headphones and a portable radio so you can hear the sound.

This Bally's, which opened in 1997, has a weight area full of top-name machines: Cybex, StairMaster, Life Fitness, Nautilus, Trotter, MaxiCam and Hammer Strength. Ivanko is the weight plate and free weight of choice here.

* Gary Metzker is a certified aerobics instructor who has been teaching more than six years at various clubs.

* If you know of a gym or health club you think the Gym Rat should scope out, fax your suggestion to (213) 237-4712, or e-mail: This column runs the third Monday of every month.


The Rat Trap

On a rating of one to four rats, four being best, here is how the Gym Rat rates Bally's Total Fitness in downtown Los Angeles:

* Parking: Park in the enclosed Hyatt Hotel structure and Bally's will validate for 90 minutes. ****

* Locker rooms: Top-notch. The men's side was very clean. All the lockers were in working order. There wasn't a drop of water around the sinks. There are nine showers, including one for the disabled. ****

* Juice bar: Nutrition bars, power drinks and soft drinks. Hit the food court for something more substantial. *

Bally's Total Fitness, Macy's Plaza at MCI Center, 700 S. Flower St., Los Angeles (213) 624-3933. Three levels of membership: a specific gym; gyms in Southern California and a national membership. Fees range from $19 to $45 per month. The gym is open 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Friday and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.

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