Work It

At Traditional Gyms, Finding New Ways to Compete

Old-school gyms are learning how to stand out in a Crossfit world.

By Michael Hardy January 4, 2015 Published in the January 2015 issue of Houstonia Magazine

Life Time Fitness

Life Time Fitness in CityCentre occupies three stories and 150,000 square feet. The locker rooms are appointed in cherrywood, limestone, and granite, and the front desk attendant wears a white dress shirt and suspenders. What the hell gives? “Part of the design is not to give you any excuse not to come back,” says Brad Peterson, the facility’s general manager, taking us on a brisk tour of his vast domain even as he orders personnel around and picks up abandoned towels. 

Over here is a towering rock wall draped in ropes and studded with multicolored handholds. Over there is the Astroturf-covered indoor soccer field. Elsewhere, there are squash courts, a Pilates studio, a full-service salon and spa, three swimming pools (two indoor, one outdoor), and a cardio room—outfitted with dozens of treadmills and six complete sets of Selectorized strength equipment—that’s large enough to hold a jumbo jet.

To look at them, you’d think that box gyms like Life Time Fitness, 24 Hour Fitness, and LA Fitness were engaged in an arms race of sorts. (Even the classes sound like weaponry: Core Blast, Xeffect, Warrior Fusion.) The aim, it seems, is not mutually-assured destruction but staying relevant in a fitness world that is increasingly captivated by Crossfit, would-be yogis, and bare-bones gyms like Planet Fitness, whose fees start at $10 per month—compare that to Life Time’s lowest rate of $110.

Y, Yes!

Building your body on a budget? Check out your neighborhood YMCA. Some of them have facilities that rival big box gyms (e.g., saunas, spas, studio classes, personal trainers, smoothie shops, even women's-only workout spaces). Student prices are $29 per month, young adults (ages 18 to 29) are $40, seniors $49, and adults start at $60—and give you access to any of the nearly 30 Ys throughout Houstonia.

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