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The Moving Crew

Health Club Survey: The Votes Are In

Tuesday, August 10, 2004; Page HE03

Last week's informal survey of what improvements you most want in your health club drew a boisterous response. The top request from Moving Crew readers to gym managers? Offer classes in more time slots, especially before and after work, and on weekends. Half of the 50 readers who've responded so far said gyms should expand class schedules, and at least seven made this their top suggestion.

The next two vote-getters were more varied classes (especially yoga, Pilates, tai chi and step) and more cardio machines (modern ellipticals, recumbent bikes and treadmills). Each of those categories drew five "top-priority" votes. Class variety logged 19 overall votes; cardio machines, 16.

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"It seems that some of the hardly-ever-used equipment such as the older stair-steppers . . . could be replaced with treadmills or ellipticals that always seem to be full during peak hours," wrote Kristi Foster, a Gold's Gym member in Fairfax.

At press time, responses were still arriving, so we're likely to revisit this topic in a future column.

On the matter of class schedules, Jennifer Friedman, a Dupont Circle resident and Washington Sports Club member, spoke for many when she wrote that her gym "needs more evening classes that start between 7:30 and 8:30 [and] some class options on Saturday and Sunday afternoons."

But those weren't the only scheduling issues. Floris Flam of Bethesda complained that her gym, the Bethesda YMCA, "seems to think that no one will come to a class in the early afternoon. I think they need to test this. I can't be the only one who works at home and would like a midafternoon energy booster."

Readers' fourth most-cited area of concern was the locker room (12 votes).

"Would it kill them to provide towels that were actually big enough to cover your top and bottom?" Friedman asked. Maureen Browne of the District, another Washington Sports Club member, wrote, "There are not enough hair dryers in the women's locker room at any of the WSC locations and at least one or two are always broken."

Among the remaining categories, 10 readers called for updated machines, though nobody tagged this a No. 1 priority; 10 readers urged better trainers, with six of those responses listing this as a top-three priority; and 10 readers cited better class instruction as an issue. (Six listed this among their top three priorities.) Ten of you also want more elbow room in your fitness clubs, and nine respondents urged gyms to add machines. (One reader called this the top priority.)

Three plaintive calls for child care fell in the "other" category.

Groaned Maggie Fox of Woodley Park and a member of the Thomas Circle Sports Club, "I have found a single gym in D.C. that has child care -- Northwest Sport & Health -- and it's in a dingy, musty room. The gyms claim people don't use the child care, but I hear endless pleas for it from parents. Perhaps even offering a limited window to coincide with the most popular classes would suffice."

Other "other category" suggestions included earlier (5 a.m.) opening times, less-aggressive selling of memberships by club staff, and better air circulation and temperature. Also: better policing to get people to wipe their sweat from machines and having a roaming trainer offer tips on exercise form.

Gym managers, we'd like to hear from you on the issues raised here by members. Tell us what you can fix -- or what you can't and why -- so we can report back.

We are out of the chat room this week, back next Thursday. But you can find us meantime at move@washpost.com.

-- John Briley


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