The gym has long been a kid-free oasis, a place where adults could burn off the stresses of daily life — including those brought on by children — along with a few hundred calories. If there were children at the gym, they were confined to its on-site day care, where they could play with toys, draw or watch TV.
Not anymore. Increasingly, local gyms are courting children, offering a variety of classes and activities that allow kids, too, to work out — if not on the elliptical machine next to you.
The gym “is the perfect place to bring kids and families together in a healthy, happy and friendly environment,” says Courtney Connors, who has been running the Results for Kids program at the Results Gym in Capitol Hill for about two years.
Results for Kids offers, among other programs, gymnastics and dance classes for children as young as 2. The gym also runs a small summer camp. Other local gyms have group and private swim classes and sports-specific training courses for kids. Teens can take Pilates at Sport & Health in Bethesda, martial arts at its Ballston location, and at the gym’s new club in Rockville, kids can get in shape using Wii-like technology in an interactive playroom. The boutique kickboxing gym 9Round in Arlington allows children to work out with their parents, and it will develop a routine based on a child’s skill level. Some local gyms offer parents’-night-out fitness classes for kids and even allow kids to have sports-centered birthday parties where their guests can, for example, swim or play soccer. While the kids are working out, their parents can exercise — or not.
“It’s a win-win,” says Alicia Trabert of Bethesda, whose daughters Kira, 5, and Brooke, 3, take a “Mix-It-Up Zumba” class at the South Bethesda Washington Sports Club. “With both kids in it, I get to work out, too.” When her kids come to the gym, she says, “they don’t want to watch TV at the day care; they want to work out.”
And so they do. At a recent class, the two girls, along with a handful of others, mimicked the adult version of the popular Zumba workout, jumping in sync to the music, as their teacher, Libby Linden Rubin, led them through a series of exercises — jumping over low hurdles and on bosu balls, running through ladder ropes and tunnels. The class, which took place in the gym’s windowed main studio, was a rousing mix of yoga and dance. “Shake it, shake it,” Rubin enthused, as the girls, dressed in semi-workout clothes (Uggs were okay) wiggled their way through an hour-long routine that left them sweaty and smiling. “They have no idea they are getting such a great workout,” Trabert says.
At the new Sport & Health in Rockville, which opened this month, the workout is more high-tech: At the spiffy Kidz Klub, children ages 3 to 11 can work out using the interactive games T-Wall and EyePlay. T-Wall is a bit like Simon crossed with Whac-a-Mole: On a wall with numerous touch surfaces, signals light up in sequence of varying positions and speeds. Players must hit the lights to deactivate them; the goal is to be faster than the light. With EyePlay, kids use their feet to play sports like soccer and ice hockey on an interactive screen that’s beamed from a projector above. The games are fast and entertaining, and the technology doesn’t stop at the kids’ feet and fingertips: A video camera in the room beams all the action to a channel Mom or Dad can see while using a workout machine.
Enhanced kids activities like these allow children “to be a part of the game and stay fit,” says Tim Clarke, a membership consultant at the Rockville Sport & Health.
They are also a great way for clubs to boost membership and make money, as many of these classes are not free. Most are also available to nonmembers at an increased price. The eight-week kids’ Mix-It-Up Zumba class at Washington Sports Club, for example, costs $132 for members’ kids and $156 for the children of non-members. To use the Kidz Klub in Rockville, a child must be part of a family membership, which can cost between $118 and $142 a month, roughly $50 more per month than an individual membership.
At what age are kids allowed into the adult workout space? It varies from 11 to 15, and at some local gyms, the younger kids must first take a wellness course (which can also cost money) and their parents must be present at the gym.
For some gym members, the pitter-patter of young feet is a welcome development. “It’s fun to see young people here,” says Bill Grosshandler, a member of WSC in South Bethesda, where on many weekday afternoons the facility brims with teens from the Bethesda Chevy Chase High School crew team, which holds many of its practices there. “They are an inspiration.” But another member said all was well and good until the weekends, when the locker rooms can get a bit crowded. “And then you’ll hear a different story,” she said.
Read past MisFits columns at washingtonpost.com/wellness
Where they start young
Kids’ programs are growing at gyms across the region. Here’s a sampling (price ranges show member vs. non-member prices):
Results for Kids at Results Gym
All classes $50 per month (1 class per week), plus $100 registration fee for non-members:
●Gymnastics for ages 3-13
●“Sprouts” tumbling and development for ages 24-36 months
●Sports performance academy for ages 12-18
Sports Clubs for Kids at
Washington Sports Club
Columbia Heights (3100 14th St. NW, 202-986-2281); South Bethesda (6828 Wisconsin Ave., 301-654-1990)
●Group swim lessons: 16-week course $362-$432 at South Bethesda, eight classes $182-$202 at Columbia Heights
●Private swim lessons: five-week course $300-$350 at South Bethesda, fives classes $250-$300 at Columbia Heights
●Mix-It-Up Zumba dance class for kids 3 to 8 (South Bethesda only): eight-week session $132-$156
●Tuff Kids circuit-training program for ages
8 to 12 (South Bethesda only): eight-week session $153-$174
Kidz Klub at Sport & Health
Children’s activities are available at multiple locations. Here are a few:
●Tiny Tigers weekly karate class for ages 3-6 (Ballston): $60-$90 per month
●Weekly Pilates class for ages 14-19 (Bethesda): six-week session, $135 (non-members pay $90 more or $15 more per class)
●Weekly pre-ballet class for ages 4-6 (Rio, in Gaithersburg): six-week session $60-$105