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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Curves Experience

So, my daughters are going to a new dance school which shares place with a Curves gym. In order to get into the dance studio you walk down a hallway where one door leads to the dance studio and the other to Curves. One day I saw that Curves had put out a flyer saying they were conducting a 30 Days free trial offer. I thought how convenient it would be to workout while my kids were otherwise occupied and decided to give it a try.

For those of you not familiar with the concept of Curves, it is basically a women only gym, with a circuit of resistance machines that work various muscle groups. Ideally you are working the machines at a brisk pace and getting a combination of a cardio workout as well as strength training. Between each machine is a "recovery station" basically a padded platform that you march in place on in-between sessions on the equipment. You jump in at any point in the circuit and workout on each machine or recovery station you've chosen for 30 seconds. You are to do two laps around the circuit for a standard workout, which takes 30 minutes.

Curves from the outset are very different than other gyms. For one thing they are usually quite a bit smaller than a traditional gyms. With the machines and recovery stations pulled into a small circle at the center of the room women can easily chat across the way to their neighbors or look at the motivational and instructional posters on the walls. The day I arrived the CD was blaring a dance mix of 4 Non-Blondes hit, "What's Up." and 3 other women were already happily chatting and workout out at various points. A recorded voice tells you to "Change Stations Now" at 30 second intervals and people move to the next machine.

I was greeted by Sue, the trainer on duty and she was assisting some new members in the finer points of the workout. I sat down to wait and I was pleasantly surprised by how kind and patient she was with these clients. They were both older ladies, one of whom had a cane and Sue was helping to adapt the already low impact workout to their mobility issues. She even helped them perform cool down stretches from a seated position. I had to compare and contrast to the 19 year old "trainer" I was assigned in my time at a large traditional gym. He basically laughed in my face when I told him I had a hard time with a certain move due to an ankle injury I had that never healed properly. "I know how much you can do!" he sniggered at me. I was not yet 30 and this little pissant was picking on the wrong Mama. I basically told him where he could put his weights, his protein smoothies and his bad attitude and I walked out, never to return. The thing is, a good trainer helps you get stronger, not push you until you reach a point of injury or re-injury.

Curves are different in other ways as well, there is no traditional "locker room" people tend to come and go in their workout clothes. There was a curtained changing room stocked with lotions, hand sanitizers, tissues and a mirror. There isn't a smoothie bar, but there was a refrigerator stocked with water bottles for $1 each. Small clean towels were rolled into a small basket near the storage cubbies. The table I was at had a card for a departing member where people had signed their best wishes for their friend inside.

When Sue had finished with her other clients she came over to me and I signed up for my 30 day trial. She took me through the new member procedure, basically filling out a short health history form, asking if I had any health issues that might impact how I workout and then being weighed, having your BMI established with a small electric device and measured with a tape at the waist, hips, bust, thigh and arm. I asked her if a new client who was uncomfortable with these measurements could opt out. She said "Of course they could, but we do suggest that they do the measurements so they can see concrete progress from their workouts." I myself do not care about my measurements, but of course some people could feel triggered or judged by this procedure, or dislike someone touching them to take the tape measure. So GOOD NEWS this is an optional step. Lastly Sue took me and another client through the circuit once, explaining each piece of equipment, demonstrating the technique and pace for operating the machine, and then watching and correcting our technique. Then we were out on the circuit ourselves, Sue circulates through the room encouraging the other women, correcting form, or assisting in any way she was needed.

The circuit itself is very easy to do, very intuitive. The machines are basically simplified versions of familiar gym equipment. The machines employ resistance bands instead of free weights so you don't need to do any changes or adjustments from one operator to another. The faster you use the machine the greater the resistance. I did adductor machines, arm curls, stepping, leg press, and other equipment. It was a good, low impact, energizing workout that would be well suited to someone looking to just get into formal exercise, someone rehabbing an injury, or a person with other issues that make a traditional weighted workout unsafe or uncomfortable.

Questions about the Workout:

Female friendly? -- Yes. This particular franchise location is women owned and operated, and of course only women are admitted. The windows at the front are screened to prevent passers by from looking in if that makes you uncomfortable.

HAES friendly? -- (HAES is Health At Every Size which basically means ending the stigma of size, realizing that everyone at every weight deserves to improve the quality of your day-to-day life, finding sustainable ways to take care of yourself, and accepting the size that your body is when you are taking care of yourself as your unique healthy weight.) I would say YES with the caveat that the location I am attending seems very HAES friendly, there are women of various body shapes and sizes with and without disability. I cannot make that guarantee that all locations would be the same. The weigh in was optional here as were measurements of any kind. There was not a lot of "weight loss" talk or size talk, but there was a lot of "getting in shape", "being healthy" talk. The best thing was a wall of success that did not have "Before" and "After" pictures but simply a wall of members names on colorful cards underneath the number of workouts they had completed. Everything from 100 workouts up to 2000 workouts was being celebrated. The gym was also throwing a tea party for members had maintained an average of 18 workouts over the 6 weeks of summer when most people are on vacation. It seems like the emphasis here was just on coming back.

Nutrition or Food Program? -- None that I saw, which I like actually. I am a grown woman who is fully capable of choosing, preparing and eating her own food. If you like a strict nutrition regimen you could probably implement one along with the workout.

I will continue this workout for the next 30 days and let you know what I like and don't like about the program, what works for me, what doesn't. But for now... I'

ve worked out 2 days in a row, so there's that!


  1. The photo above is me mugging on the arm curl machine! :)

  2. I so miss Curves! I lost serious inches and pounds when I went on a regular basis, and made good friends-- remember? We knew each other from school, but Curves was where we really started chatting. :)

  3. Yup! It is a really nice way to meet people. I keep hearing that over and over again from the clients there. One lady told me she had just moved to Orlando from San Francisco and she's met all of her friends from working out there 3 days a week.

    I remember I met you AND your Mom at Curves, I think? I know there were all ages there for sure. :)