You Don't Have to Feel Squashed by High Fees

(By Richard Thompson For The Washington Post)
By Vicky Hallett
Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Q: I used to play racquetball in college, and I want to get back into it. I live in Arlington, and the only courts I have found in the area are Sport & Health clubs. Those clubs all seem to charge $80 a month for the membership, which is out of my price range. Can you point me toward a lower-cost alternative?

-- Mickey

A: Some sports can't help their high price tags: skydiving, racecar driving and polo come to mind. But while racquetball has a bit of an exclusive, prep-school reputation, it can be done on the cheap, or at least, cheaper.

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The key, says Karen Denu, of, a Web site devoted to all of the tournaments in your neck of the commonwealth, is to get into a league. The one that runs out of the Sport & Health Crystal Gateway, for instance, charges just $60 for 10 weeks of play. It's for all levels, you'll automatically have people to compete with and, best of all, you could win shiny trophies. Plus, Denu adds, being "exposed to different people with different styles" will boost your game.

What you won't get to do, however, is play five nights a week. Picking up a racquet whenever you want is a slightly pricier proposition, but it still doesn't need to break the bank. Membership at the Arlington YMCA, which includes unlimited racquetball, runs just $52 a month. The Bally Total Fitness in Falls Church also boasts courts. If you sign up for a cheapo membership, it's $5 every time you want to hit a ball around. But if you're eager to play more frequently, it might be worth it to spring for the premier-plus level. That's in the $52-$59 monthly range, and it comes with all the racquetball you can handle.

I've just taken up running, and I absolutely love it. But I've developed an embarrassing flatulence problem. Is this normal? What can I do?

-- Anonymous

So you've found out that your new hobby is a gas, huh?

Most people have heard of the runner's high, but there's also the lesser-known runner's GI. For the most part, folks who lace up sneakers have happy gastrointestinal tracts that dig a good 5K. "If patients are constipated, we tell them to move more," says Zaifi Shanavas, a gastroenterologist with Capital Gastroenterology Consultants in Montgomery County. A morning jog can be better than a bran muffin for keeping you regular.

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