On a busy Thursday morning at Ladies Health and Fitness in
Gilroy, about six women pedaled and glided away on stationary
bicycles and elliptical machines, leafing through magazines,
watching television or chatting amiably.
A few minutes later, just before 9, more than a dozen women
began filing into the gym’s main studio, some good-naturedly
reluctant but most eager to huff and puff their way through 30
minutes of intense step aerobics followed by 30 minutes of weight
On a busy Thursday morning at Ladies Health and Fitness in Gilroy, about six women pedaled and glided away on stationary bicycles and elliptical machines, leafing through magazines, watching television or chatting amiably.
A few minutes later, just before 9, more than a dozen women began filing into the gym’s main studio, some good-naturedly reluctant but most eager to huff and puff their way through 30 minutes of intense step aerobics followed by 30 minutes of weight training.
Absent from the gym were muscle-pumped men, grunting and heaving 100-pound weights above their heads. Also nowhere to be found were women in skimpy Lycra outfits, primping their hair and sizing each other up with eyebrows raised.
For some women – and men, too – working out in a traditional gym can be an intimidating, esteem-damaging and generally unpleasant experience.
But instead of abandoning the notion of exercising altogether, many South Valley residents have joined gender-specific gyms, which cater to the needs of men and women.
“A lot of women come in here and say they hate to exercise,” said Maxine Query, a member services specialist at Hollister’s Designing Women Health and Fitness. “But when they’re put in an atmosphere that’s not intimidating, it makes the idea of working out more appealing. And when you’re exercising, you’re doing something for yourself that no one else can do for you.”
Like several other women-only gyms in the area such as Curves and Slender Lady, Designing Women serves a wide age range of clients, some as young as 13 and others in their late 70s.
The gym, which opened about seven years ago, has equipment that provides full upper- and lower-body weight-training workouts as well as low-impact, resistance-based cardiovascular exercises such as stationary biking and stair stepping.
Generally, the equipment in women-only gyms is the same as in traditional gyms, Query said.
However, some of the weight machines are outfitted with fewer plates and smaller weights, and others – such as the leg press – are designed slightly differently than a unisex machine to accommodate a woman’s body.
Also offered at many women’s gyms are circuit training sessions with personal trainers as well as nutritional counseling. For exercisers who enjoy working out in groups, classes are available for aerobics, strength training, yoga, fat-burning yoga, Pilates and even salsa dance. Many women’s gyms also provide daycare for children, something 38-year-old Sandy Moller particularly enjoys about Ladies Health and Fitness.
Moller, a stay-at-home mom, has a 22-month-old son. She joined the women-only gym in January 2004 in an effort to lose the weight she gained during pregnancy, and now she looks forward to her daily morning workouts.
“I used to be a big gym person, but then I didn’t want to go to (traditional) gyms because of the intimidation of having to look good or look a certain way,” said Moller, dressed in sweat pants and a T-shirt before taking an aerobics class. “But I have so much fun exercising here. There’s such a sense of camaraderie and a special kind of support and team spirit.”
The shift to gender-specific gyms is not unique to females. Women-only gyms meet their male match in Cuts Fitness for Men. Although the gym’s Morgan Hill location recently closed, a branch opened in Gilroy about six months ago and serves about 55 clients, said Ramiro Rodriguez, the gym’s owner.
Like women’s gyms, the clients at Cuts range in age, but most are between 35 and 80, Rodriguez said.
“We target middle- and older-aged men, and also guys who have been out because of injury and are getting back into rehab,” Rodriguez said. “Regular gyms can be intimidating, because sometimes you feel like you have to keep up with the younger guys or the seasoned veterans. … The pressure is taken off.”
Members of cuts follow an organized, 30-minute routine that rotates among 15 different stations, similar to the exercise regimen of Curves. The stations are made up of low-impact, resistance-based cardiovascular machines, and clients stay at one station for 45 seconds and make three full rotations through all of the machines.
Frank Godinez, a 62-year-old Gilroy resident, joined Cuts about four months ago. He had never belonged to a gym before, but he said he’s noticed an increase in his stamina and likes that he’s able to get in the gym, work out and leave, all without distractions – including attractive women, he admitted.
“I’m able to really focus on my workout here,” Godinez said. “It doesn’t take up a lot of my time, but I still feel like I’m getting a good workout.”
Generally, monthly membership fees for gender-specific gyms are about on par with fees for traditional gyms. Designing Women, for example is $35.
Ladies Health and Fitness is $39, and Cuts is $35. By contrast, Gilroy Health and Fitness – which owns Ladies Health and Fitness – ranges between $36 and $47 depending on options, and Hollister’s World Fitness is $39. Gender-specific forms of exercise, especially those targeted at women, encourage appreciation of the female form and can be unconventional.
Pole dancing, for example, is one way women can get moving and at the same time become more aware of their bodies. Although there are no exotic-dance studios in southern Santa Clara County or San Benito County, the sensual form of exercise is the specialty of Sedusa Studios near Los Gatos.
According to the business’ Web site, www.sedusastudios.com, the goal of taking exotic dance lessons is to learn to use natural movement to enhance one’s sense of sensuality, while exploring femininity.
An added bonus is the continuous body movement burns calories.
Whether pole dancing or simply running on a treadmill, movement and exercise of any kind offers several health benefits, including lowered blood pressure, less stress, a better night’s sleep and increased bone strength. Several studies have shown that exercise reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease and certain kinds of cancer.
The latest revision of United States government guidelines for exercise, released in January, recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week for everyone, 60 minutes to keep from gaining weight and up to 90 minutes to drop pounds.
Losing weight is the crowning goal for some exercisers, but not all.
Many choose to work out simply to improve their health and quality of life – a goal sometimes difficult to keep in mind when surrounded by gym-goers who seem more interested in getting a date than getting healthier.
For some women, working out with other women lends them a system of support and friendship as they try to make real, health-focused changes in their lives, said Jane Nicosia, manager of Gilroy’s Ladies Health and Fitness.
“I think they like the intimacy here. They don’t have to worry about putting makeup on. There’s no intimidation with others watching you,” she said. “I think there’s a camaraderie that comes with women working out together. They support each other.”
Here is a sampling of women-only gyms in the area. Many gyms offer ongoing promotions and discounts. Call for details.
1321 First St., Gilroy, (408) 846-9617, $39 per month
1715-2 Airline Highway, Hollister, (831) 636-8425, $39 per month
16129 Monterey St., Morgan Hill, (408) 776-7576, $39 per month
Designing Women Health & Fitness
640 McCray St., Hollister (831) 636-7874, $35 per month
Ladies Health and Fitness
8120 Westwood Drive, Gilroy (408) 847-9181, $39 per month
8515 Forest St., Gilroy, (408) 846-5420, $39 per month
401 McCray St., Hollister, (831) 637-3808, $39 per month
And for men:
Cuts Fitness for Men
745 First St., Gilroy (408) 842-5544, $35 per month