I Moved to Sunny San Diego!

img00196-20100104-1230 Would anyone in NYC be offended if I tell you that I'm cold? :) In a city that usually holds temperatures in the 70s year-round, I'm feeling just a bit cold in the 50- and 60-degree lows we are seeing in SSD (Sunny San Diego).

After five and a half years of living and loving NYC, I made the move to San Diego to obtain an EMBA in Global Entrepreneurship from San Diego State. Sadly to say, the program has been since canceled...thanks to three people who dropped out last minute. Instead of spending a year abroad in Abu Dhabi, India and Hong Kong, learning all about international business, working out and eating in other climates and cultures, I'm "stuck" in San Diego. I know life works in mysterious ways, so I don't blame anyone, but I was quite bummed that I quit my job, moved across the country and am now jobless. No biggie...there's always Burger King. Just a joke.

With the move, I faced a great challenge facing my world. How do I leave the love of my life? Boyfriend? No...Equinox. This gym has been a long standing part of my life and saying goodbye was bittersweet. Unemployed and heartbroken, I learned that my only inexpensive option was 24 Hour Fitness. After all the luxuries found at Equinox, this whole "bring your own towel," "clean your machine after you workout" and "bring your own kettlebells" concept puts the fear in me, but I know I can make it through. I was a member of 24 Hour for about 10 years prior to moving to NYC, so I think the transition will be somewhat okay.

And...a  year membership only put me out $200, so I just keep reminding myself that Equinox cost me $142 PER MONTH. With the "extra" cash, I plan to utilize the personal trainers and have started out with 3 sessions for just $99. Wish me luck!

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San Diego: The Sporting Club at The Aventine

Located in La Jolla, California, The Sporting Club is actually one of the more expensive gyms in San Diego, but I guess coming from New York City, it seems pretty inexpensive for what you get. To be a member of this luxurious little gym, it costs $100 per month with a $300 initiation fee. Because this gym is part of the Hyatt, the property includes tennis courts and an Olympic-sized swimming pool where you can get poolside service. Shaped like a circle, The Sporting Club has an open layout; on the mezzanine, where the cardio equipment lies, overlooks the entirety of first floor of the gym, so you can look down on all the southern California hunks who are pumping iron. HA! Everything at this gym is clean, clean, clean. This was my second visit to this gym (the first was about two years ago when I attended a kick-boxing class), but on this trip my girlfriend, Jodi, and I stuck to the usual elliptical machines and then some abdominal work. I loved that I was looking outside at an 85-degree day with beautiful blue skies.

Once we finished our gym session, we went down to the locker rooms, which have the most serene sauna and steam room I have ever scene, outside of a spa. I didn't go in, but they looked lovely. The lockers were the lockless type where you can type in your own code. The showers had all the normal shampoo, conditioner and body wash, but the shampoo smelled a bit like Band-Aids (don't ask why I know this smell), but the conditioner was yummy and smelled of mint/eucalyptus. Jodi told me that there is a private locker room area that serves food and drinks the VIP members. Excuse me.

My second visit to the gym entailed lying by the pool with two of my best friends and some beers (woops!).  Although I didn't work out, I got to watch an incredible fit swim instructor hold a private lesson—it was at that time I was regretting my choice of beverage.

A guest pass will drain your wallet of $20, but if you sneak in the back door as a guest—it won't cost a thing. ;-)

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Hot tub in the locker room

Sports Club / LA, Rockefeller Center

rockefeller-plaza1 When I walked into the lobby of Sports Club / LA in Rockefeller Center, I was amazed by the grand entrance, reminding me somewhat of a fancy hotel lobby with a long front desk, which made the one person there look minuscule. After meeting with my member representative, Renee, a fellow Californian, I was given a tour of the gym and to my surprise, even though it is really nice, it just felt a bit dated.

Encompassing one floor, there are two sides, which are basically two really, really, REALLY long, humongous rooms. One side has mostly cardio equipment and weight machines, and an enormous studio for classes with every piece of free weight equipment for a class that you can imagine. The other side of the gym has free weights, more cardio equipment, a Pilates studio and a temperature-controlled workout room for hot yoga. I may be missing a room, but you get the idea—it’s gigantic!

The locker rooms are my favorite part; you are provided with daily workout attire (for in-gym use only)! I am guessing the clothes are made available because of the many commuters here, due to its location in Rockefeller Center. I didn’t know this before coming to the gym, so I brought my own, but 90 percent of the people working out around me had on the “free” gym clothes…branded with Sports Club / LA, of course.

There are two separate locker rooms: one regular and one VIP. The VIP locker room is only available through the Executive Membership, costing a grand total of $300 per month ($1500 initiation), but you are provided with a personal locker, 24-hour laundry service, fancy water, snacks and access to a TV. Not really worth it for me; at CLAY, this service is offered to all members, and the monthly dues are less expensive. For a regular “Health” membership to this club, the dues are $170 per month ($650 initiation). You can also do BiCoastal for $235 per month or an Access East Membership for $235 per month (both with a $1200 initiation fee). (All memberships are based on a month-to-month commitment.)

Although the price tag is pretty high, there are lots of fun classes to try including Capoeira, Kickboxing, Boot Camp Xpress, and more! If it weren’t for my poor directional skills in the Rockefeller Center area, I would enjoy frequenting this gym.

Printing House Fitness + Squash Club

View from the Top

The Printing House Fitness + Squash Club, a former printing factory, is located on the corner of Hudson and Leroy in the West Village. Known mostly to those who live in the neighborhood, Printing House is a hidden gem. At $88 a month plus a $50 initiation fee, this gym is a steal. After my long addiction to Equinox, I decided to switch gyms and I’m truly happy with my decision. I still believe Equinox is the best, but I enjoy the many features offered at Printing House.

Located on the 1st, 9th and 10th floors of the building, this boutique gym’s top floors feature floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the Hudson River, the Village and beyond—it's amazing...and it isn't crowded. Most machines have TVs, but forget having a TV; you can just look out the windows! Boasting all the usual suspects in terms of equipment, I was drawn to this gym for the rooftop pool, the views and the rooftop workout classes. Because there are two very separate floors, Printing House almost feels like two gyms; the bottom floor is where you find the squash courts, cycling studio, Pilates machines, free weights and regular class studio. One oddity is that the treadmills and a couple elliptical machines are pretty close to the reception desk and I don’t think there are any upstairs (correct me if I’m wrong!). I have yet to try the squash courts, but it looks like a great workout and top notch courts.

The pool is my favorite part; not only is it quiet, but you have an extensive view of the city from your lounge chair. They actually have a set time for children to swim, so after noon on the weekend, it's just the adults. The only hassle is securing yourself one of the 20 lounge chairs—you have to get there early or be prepared with your hawk eye for those leaving the pool area. You learn quickly. And for all of you BlackBerry and iPhone addicts, you aren't allowed to talk—I was actually told to get off my phone, but texting is allowed...secretly. The pool is small, although, if you like to swim laps, a current can be switched on, which makes for quite the interesting swim. The one drawback about the pool is that it's only accessible during the summer, but I don't know of any other gyms in NYC with rooftop pools, unless you have a membership to SoHo House. (I will touch on this pool in the future.)

The locker rooms on both the 1st and 9th floors are pretty normal, with nothing spectacular to report. They do have two large Jacuzzis to relax in after you workout, but I have yet to try these out—they seemed a bit scary, but I probably will check out the steam room and sauna. There are blow dryers, lotion, shampoo, conditioner and body wash, but nothing compared to Equinox—I mostly miss the Que Tips.

On the way out of the gym, there is an actual button on the 9th floor that can be pressed to call the elevator before you are standing in front of it. This may be due to the slow elevators, but it's a pretty neat little feature. Being the sucker that I am for open-air workouts, I can't wait for the rooftop classes to begin so I can get my yoga on while taking in an amazing view of NYC. Other classes I want to try are BodyPump and Fluidity, a class that combines movements from ballet, yoga and Pilates. If you want a pass, just ask!

Ludlow Fitness

logo1 Right off Delancey Street at Ludlow lies Ludlow Fitness. Just up one flight of stairs opens up to a room just around 1500 square feet with an area for cardio, free weights, weight machines and a small stretching/fitness room -- they offer body sculpting, Pilates, yoga and spinning. The gym has a very clean and open feel, you are offered free towels and the floor-to-ceiling windows are pretty nice...even though you're overlooking the oh-so-busy Delancey Street.

I went with my former roomie who isn't such a workout person and she actually brought me through a really cool routine which was created just for her through her friend's website. We did stretching and a bunch of other weight lifting exercises, but my favorite was the Bosu Lateral Hop (my favorite) side squats. I started out on one side of the bosu with the closest leg on top of the round ball part, then jumped over the ball, squating on each side, but moving quickly. My quads were so sore...and still are 2 days later. At the end of our workout, we lay on top of the Bosu, angle your arms in a V in front of you with thumbs facing the ceiling, your legs in a V behind you and gently lift your arms and legs up at the same time -- I was surprised at how good this was for my core -- making sure to balance your abs on the ball.

This gym is small, but has really everything one might need, other than a whole slew of classes, which is why I would never join, but it's a nice gym overall. There is a small locker room with 2 showers and a few lockers. On the counter are some toiletries, which include shampoo, conditioner, body wash and tampons (I thought this was odd) -- maybe razors would have been a better and more useful choice?

If you want to try out Ludlow for 6 months, you will only pay $299 and for a year it's just $449 - no initiation fee. Or if you want to try it out for a day, you just walk in and work out...or, that is what I did. :)

CLAY

Lobby Right off 14th Street, between 5th and 6th Avenues, CLAY offers more than just a gym. When my friend Lisa offered me pass for a free one-month membership, including personal training session, I gladly accepted.

CLAY has a full-service spa, member lounge with internet access, and an organic café. After sweating it out, you can cool down with a Eucalyptus infused towel from one of the refrigerators on the gym floor, relax in your own personal sauna, or grab a snack and smoothie and have it delivered to your lounge chair on the rooftop deck! The locker rooms are equipped with lockless-code lockers, disposable flip-flops and showers with the works—I love the grapefruit shower gel!

Women's Locker Room

With décor similar to a spa in Miami or California, (definitely not a 2nd floor on 14th Street gym feel), CLAY has a calm setting with top-of-the-line machines, each with its own TV, bamboo stretching mats and machines that many gyms don't have. My two favorites include the sliding device, to be used only with space booties (where you slide back and forth to work out your booty and quads) and I also like the jungle gym-like stretching device. I will do my best to get a photo of this sucker. :)

In terms of group classes, there are the usual Pilates, yoga and conditioning, but there's a class called TRED, a treadmill interval training class with core and sculpting drills taught on the gym floor, which appears to be incredibly hard -- I get the impression it's something like a routine on the Biggest Loser. I am really excited to try TRED and the Kettlebell class!

The idea of joining an exclusive gym that has a cap on membership (1500) is pretty appealing, but at $180/month, plus $560 initiation fee, I plan to indulge while I can. My only complaint: low ceilings.

Equinox: Soho

When I heard that an Equinox was going to open its doors in SoHo I was thrilled! I have made my home within this neighborhood since the end of 2006 and had always made the trek to the 19th Street location for my workouts. Even though I have always worked in the Union Square area, I am now able to workout close to my apartment. YAY!

I was expecting this gym to be nothing short of spectacular. I mean, we are in Soho. When you walk into the gym, you are greeted by the shop and 'witchcraft—nothing out of the ordinary really. After walking up two half flights of stairs, there is a lounge area (about 350 sq ft) with couches, tables and a flat screen TV where you can eat, go online or just sit on the comfy cushions. The next two sets of half flights take you to the long front desk where a few snobby Soho wannabes check you in. Walking to the right of the front desk there are two choices: walk upstairs to the men's locker room and yoga studio or make a right to the main gym floor.

The main floor of the gym is pretty straightforward; you've got the regular treadmill, elliptical and bike section with flat screen TVs to keep you distracted from your workout. The rest of the large space is filled with every typical weight machine, free weights and stretching mat and, of course, a workout studio and cycling studio. In the back of the gym, above Broadway, there is a small Pilates studio where you can take private lessons for an extra fee. I tried this machine-type Pilates once, but it wasn't for me—too slow.

The yoga studio is the hands-down best in-gym studio I have ever seen (yet). With calming brown walls, giant flower pots with huge bamboo sticks, and beautiful lamps, this room puts you immediately in a relaxed state. Although I truly love what they did to the yoga studio, I hate that the women's restroom is downstairs and long walk away. If the men's locker room is adjacent to the studio, why didn't they just build a small unisex restroom next to it so I don't have to run my ass down the stairs and around the corner?!

This gym is beautiful and it exudes a new and open, and if you go during the day you may see a celebrity (I haven't seen anyone just yet). The only issue I have with going to this location is when I have to walk/push down Prince Street to Broadway through hundreds of tourists, which makes me want to turn around and go back home.

Equinox: 19th @ Broadway

Ad campaign...nice plastic surgery marks... When I moved to New York in September of 2004, Equinox was my first gym experience; it was my father who by the way never works out, who gave me the guest pass. As a former member of 24 Hour Fitness in California, I immediately fell in love with Equinox. I'm not sure how to put my love into words, but there is nothing better than a clean gym, with beautiful people. It’s pretty pricey, at $176 per month (plus $300+ initiation) for an all-access membership, but if you work for a corporation you can usually get a steep discount.

Located in the Flatiron district, this Equinox location reminds me of the loft I have always dreamed of...the top floor in particular. A very industrial, yet modern feel, this gym exudes cleanliness and you always see a cleaning person wandering around dusting some machine or mopping the floor. Embodying four floors, there are towels at your disposal and machines and weights galore—and they are super clean. Yes, I know I keep emphasizing this, but I am a clean freak.

Right when you step in the front door, you are greeted by at least two friendly staff members and sometimes when I'm working out, the delicious smells coming from Citi Chow, Equinox's café, make me work out that much harder so I can hurry up to get the food when my workout is complete. They sell sandwiches, salads, shakes and healthy meal platters...my favorite meal includes the spinach, black bean and tofu salad with a turkey burger -- delish!

Each floor houses all the regular free weights, three stretching areas (huge one on the upper level, medium-sized area on the mezzanine and smaller one on the bottom floor) and numerous top-of-the-line weight machines and cardio equipment. There are four workout rooms including boxing and cycling studios, where you can find any class to fit your fancy, with world-renowned instructors and over 90 different classes to choose from. My three favorite classes are 30/60/90 with Kristi Molinaro, Inten-Sati with Patricia Moreno and Will Power & Grace with Christine D'Ercole. (Reviews coming.)

The women's locker room, found on the bottom floor, features a steam room, recently renovated showers with wood panel flooring, ample blow dryers and little baggies to pack away your sweaty gym clothes. Each shower is equipped with soap, shampoo, conditioner and shaving cream (razors can be found outside of the shower near the lotion, qui-tips and cotton balls). Although I don't particularly like the smell and feel of the shampoo, conditioner...or the soap—I'm happy they exist because many gyms do not have these. Also, if you feel so inclined to spend the extra bucks, you can rent a monthly locker and each time you come to the gym, your clothes will be washed for you, ready to wear.

If you get bored of looking at the pretty people or of your workout, you can always check your email on two flat screen computers found next to the women's locker room. Equinox also has a spa, which offers the usual array of services, from facials to massages. I recommend taking a trip to this gym either for a class or just to work out on the machines.

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