“Viva la YMCA” or “NYC Gym Search Craziness”

This week I put my membership with my local gym on “freeze.” Because summer has finally cared to show up, I don’t see any need in sweating inside a hot room without any AC on when I can run through Prospect Park or do sports outside. I had the choice to choose between 1 and 3 months of taking a “time-off,” so I decided to go with the maximum amount and took 3 months of “vacation.” This gives me well into mid-September until I will be back for my 3-4 times a week of working out.

Finding a gym in New York was a story by itself. When I first moved here, I lived on the other side of the park in the Flatbush area of Brooklyn. Since I came in March and just missed out on the cold, icy winter months, I went straight from inside weight-lifting to outside jogging. It went well until about September, when I decided to check out my options of joining a serious fitness studio. Albeit I loved to jog in the park, it tended to become really hot during July and August and I had to run either in the early morning or late evening hours.

If you know me a bit better, you are aware that I am not the person to stay persistent with any type of sports. Therefore, I love the gym because it gives me the variety I need and options to choose from. Although running is nice once in a while and Prospect Park is one of the best sceneries I could imagine, I am not the type to jog in the winter (frosty!) and I need my entire body to be challenged. Experimenting around with weights and taking some courses has proven to give me the diversity I need and to keep me motivated in pursuing my fitness goals throughout the year.

So it was off to finding a sports house that could satisfy my deepest desires, wasn’t too far from where I lived, and wouldn’t impoverish me through its fees. Sad to say, this was harder than it sounds. New York has an array of gyms to choose from, of course. There is the (tada!) New York Sports Club (NYSC), one of the most popular ones out there. You can find their branches practically in every part of Manhattan and sometimes even on almost every street corner, depending if you are in a highly populated area or not. They are not as densely represented in Brooklyn, but Park Slope has them, as I have walked past them many times. Crunch is another biggie, but I have only run across them in Manhattan, not so much in Brooklyn.
Other notable fitness centers are Equinox, Bally Sports Club, Citi Fitness, HRC, Cross Fit … the list goes on! What I didn’t like was the high prices of most of these fitness gyms and I thought I misheard or misread the pamphlet at first when I read a regular membership cost around 100 Dollars or more a month! WAAAAY overpriced! David Barton was offering a “special deal” in September 2010, which almost lured me into his fangs, because of its 65 Dollars per month membership. Still too much!

And that is not all: Most gyms don’t get you with their high membership costs but with the registration fee. Another 80 to 200 Dollars (the average is around $130) on top of this, even though it is a one-time fee but you won’t ever see it again.
Quite understandably, I wasn’t in the mood to join any gym after doing a bit of research. On top of this, the Flatbush area does not offer anything close-by at which I would want to stop on a regular basis, which meant I would have to check my odds of traveling to the city a few times a week for my daily workout or at least find something close to work.
And as if everything was following a certain plan, I moved to a nicer area in December of 2010, joined my local YMCA only one month after this and consider myself happy as a bird when it comes to sports!

When I switched locations to Park Slope, my roommate was able to convince me of going to the gym right around the corner and I am still thankful for the circumstances. I, coming from Europe and all, couldn’t connect the YMCA to any sports activity when I first heard the term. To me it was the theme of a well-known song from the 70s, but that’s about it. Well, the YMCA has A LOT more to offer than this: It provides its members with a gym, rooms for classes and courses, and a great inside track, where you can run your rounds and play basketball and pingpong. In short: It is geared towards families with children – low in cost, but high in fun! Sometimes the YMCA even has a pool – just another accessory added to the list. The one I go to, or rather went to, regularly is only 2 minutes walking distance from my apartment.

It costs me $42 Dollars a month and I didn’t pay the $75 registration fee, because they had a special from mid-December to mid-January, during which you could enroll for free. To top this all, I have the choice between 20 very different classes and have already tried out a few. My favorites are yoga, ballet, and zumba (a mix between various different Latin dances, and, depending on the instructor, really great work-out!). I am eager to try out spinning, thai chi, and boot camp, but that will have to wait until the fall.
It is also a matter of cramming your fitness schedule into your normal after- or before-work-schedule. This is partly a reason why I am abandoning the YMCA for the next 3 months: Summer has so much to offer in Brooklyn and the City, that I just know I won’t have the time to go to the gym. Too many free concerts, happy hours at rooftop bars, or other activities going on.

It took me a while to get used to the crowd in Park Slope. I live in an area, that is geared toward young families and homosexuals, but since it is the only acceptable gym nearby, it seems like some people come from the other side of the park, too. This accounts for a very diverse crowd. I had my troubles in the beginning, of course; had thought it partly weird but also amusing to be checked out by 55-year-old Lesbians or 17-year-old teenagers. The weight room is still a male domain, and occasionally the concentrated power of pure testosterone hit me when I walked right into it.
I adjusted to men dancing ballet and not finding themselves silly. I got used to girls sometimes being very mean toward you because they think your body is more attractive or you are more good-looking then they (come on, get over it!). But in the end, I am glad I found this secret treasure so close-by.

Their opening hours are from 6AM to 11PM on the weekdays (way to go!)and from 7AM to 9PM on weekends and holidays. They have a changing room but no showers (which is absolutely no problem when you live only moments away or in walking distance) and the staff is really friendly. Check it out, I am sure you’ll find it an affordable option for your first time in New York and maybe beyond!