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FITNESS

Not Just A Workout, A Lifestyle

Shape up your life

January 22, 2007|Jeannine Stein | Times Staff Writer

A new breed of gyms is cropping up -- the antithesis of the big-chain, cookie-cutter concept -- complete with hip decor, concierge services and lavish amenities. There's the Joint in Hollywood, with its rock 'n' roll, urban vibe. There's Active Fitness in Santa Monica, with its New York-loft state of mind. Then there's Burn Fitness, with its meld of soothing ocean views and ultra-sophisticated gym hardware. "You could define a club many years ago as providing equipment, and the club with the best equipment would get more people," says Joe Moore, president and chief executive of the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Assn., a national trade organization. No longer. Now exercise is a way to make friends, hang out -- anything but sweat and leave. A look at the latest in fitness lifestyles.

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Live to work ... out

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Hollywood club kicks it with the latest classes, then pours on the pampering

IF Avril Lavigne were to design a gym, it would probably look something like the Joint. Hollywood's hip new fitness hangout has a rock 'n' roll bent and chic sensibilities -- goth graphics, filmy curtains ringing the exercise studio and an exceedingly tranquil women's lounge.

The gym takes up several rooms in the Hillview building, a recently restored Hollywood landmark. Downstairs is the black-walled cycling studio, and on the ground floor facing traffic-snarled Hollywood Boulevard is Studio A, home to pole dancing and cardio kickboxing classes as well as meditation guru Noah Levine of Dharma Punx. Leading a tour is creative director-partner Andrea Lawent, a longtime dance and fitness instructor, who descends a few steps into the small, dark private-training gym, where equipment is placed randomly around nooks and crannies. Then comes the clothing boutique down the hall and the women's lounge featuring overstuffed chairs, dark wood and plush towels. A chiropractic office is one door down. Oversize photos serve as decor, such as the one of Rachel Hunter's back -- accented with a tattoo, of course.

"We hang out hard," Lawent says. "It's home. We're cool here. And we care." The gym also offers a concierge service that will book a massage, a manicure and other services (for an additional fee of about 20% of the total price) -- even handling every detail of dream vacations such as skiing in Gstaad, Switzerland, and a trainer to help get you in shape. A kids' program offering fitness and nutrition classes will start next month. There's no membership; classes are $20 each or $275 a month for unlimited classes. For a $15,000 a year, you're entitled to chiropractic and massage sessions, personal training, unlimited classes and other perks.

This month an organic cafe is set to open on the ground floor; downstairs Adleman's supper club is under construction. And this year, a boxing ring will be perched on the roof. "Why wouldn't you want to take a class or work out with a trainer, have a shower and then go eat dinner, or go to the nightclub and have a glass of wine and listen to great jazz?"

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High-tech sophistication -- near the beach

THERE'S nowhere to hide at Active Fitness. Its gray-toned, loft-like space reveals everything at once.

But that may be one of the reasons people choose this airy, high-ceilinged gym -- for the unadulterated equipment, pristine and functional. A schmooze palace this is not. The understated, chic decor -- with crisp LCD televisions and top-of-the-Billboard-chart music -- is just a few blocks from the beach, but the gym could be teleported to Manhattan, and no one would be the wiser.

The gym touts sports-specific training, Rene Abreu the muscled head trainer and director of education at Active Fitness, says clients come to him asking for everything from tennis-ready bodies to legs that can make a bicycle fly.

Then there's the reverse-osmosis water cooler (dispensing ultra-filtered H2O) -- and thick towels that John Damon, founder and chief executive, proudly shows off. "These are like home towels," he says, grabbing one off a shelf. "They smell like Downy or Snuggle or something."

The flooring is substantial rubberized tile, and high-tech equipment is picked from the newest cardio and strength machines. The mounted TVs show the latest videos, and music is hand-selected, not dictated by corporate. Buy a personal training package and you'll get a free massage at Fred Segal Beauty. And though classes aren't an option here, the staff is happy to recommend a nearby Spinning or yoga studio.

Since launching last fall, the gym has seen its membership climb to 200, which translates into no more than a dozen people in the gym at once. Damon hopes to lure 300 to 800 more clients, still keeping the space relatively uncrowded, even at peak times. "We didn't want it to be like an office, because people are in offices all day," he says. "So we don't have a dropped ceiling, and people don't feel cramped."

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New machines and Santa Monica at your feet

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