Is Curves that bad? Other options?
April 20, 2008 10:02 AM   Subscribe

Is Curves International (i.e. the company behind Curves gyms) really that bad? If it is, are there any other gyms that are similar to this chain in terms of target clientele and training plan?

I've read the controversies about the CEO of Curves - articles stating that he donates large amounts of money to pro-life/anti-abortion groups; and then rebuttals stating that he gives money to many different organizations, this was just one of them, and he'll reduce the amount. Almost everyone I've talked to about this is pretty anti-Curves.

But, I am getting a little blubbery due to my sedentary job, and there is a Curves in a really convenient location that I pass on my way home from work. I like the fact that they are women-only, and they offer a fast circuit workout.

So is the controversy really true? If so, is there a similar gym I might join that is women-only and offers the same quick type of circuit program? Particularly in the King of Prussia, PA area?
posted by LolaGeek to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If they provide a service you like, what does it matter what some guy does with his money?
posted by gjc at 10:12 AM on April 20, 2008 [3 favorites]

If the political groups a business supports give you pause, then yes, you should go somewhere else. As for me, I would patronize a business if it were convenient, regardless if they gave money to groups that diametrically opposed my view on abortion rights (and I'm on the other side of the fence as you, so I guess by that logic I'd have no problem going to a health club that gives boatloads of cash to NARAL.)

I can understand avoiding a business that has a reputation for being evil (for instance, GoDaddy does bait-and-switch moves with domain names ... I wouldn't want to support them because I don't want to have the rug pulled out from under me.) But because they use some of their profits to donate to political groups you don't believe in? I guess I'm missing the point.
posted by Happydaz at 10:20 AM on April 20, 2008

I understand exactly what you mean, and it's kept me from joining Curves too.

From Today's Christian: Heavin matches the first $1,000 that each franchise raises for community causes such as walkathons to benefit pro-life pregnancy-care centers. Such controversial stances have led to criticism, but Heavin is unfazed. "There's nothing healthy about abortion," he says. "I'm not afraid to tell the truth."

Have you looked at yoga as an alternative? It would probably have a high ratio of women and liberals. And a pilates class would give you a similar benefit as the circuit.
posted by saffry at 10:31 AM on April 20, 2008

Snopes says it's true, sorta. I'd say you'll have to make up your own mind about whether the support documented therein means you can't patronize the man's gym. I wouldn't, but you are not me.
posted by mumkin at 10:34 AM on April 20, 2008

The flipside is that these are franchises, and the local business owners may not share the politics of the CEO. I've got a friend who owns a Curves franchise, and her views couldn't be more different.

This is not to say that none of your money would be going back to someone you disagree with: it would. The head office may be getting 5-10% of your fees. It just adds a little complication to your decision (you're welcome).
posted by adamrice at 10:45 AM on April 20, 2008

I posted a similar query some time ago in a different forum, and the overwhelming response that I got was that politics aside, the workout is just not that great. It's being sold as a sort of magic bullet, but it's all marketing. Sure it's better than nothing, but I was advised to explore other alternatives and ended up at the YMCA.

Despite the "M" and the "C" in its acronym, the Y turned out to be a great gym for me, even though I'm a liberal atheist who originally wanted a women-only environment. Unlike most chain gyms, it was not a scene, nobody looked like a model (I'm in Los Angeles, after all!), and it was an all-around great place to work out.

My only complaint was the 8pm close time, which I think most Curves locations also have.
posted by chez shoes at 10:51 AM on April 20, 2008

Butterfly Life is pretty similar to Curves (my mom is a member of one). This may be too far for you to get to (I am a lifelong West Coaster and have no clue as to where anything is in Pennsylvania), but it's an alternative.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:52 AM on April 20, 2008

It might not just be the money, but the culture of the gym. Check out the hours because at least when I was researching gyms a couple of years ago, the Curves location I looked at was not open on Sunday and closed much earlier in the evening than other gyms, I was told it was because women need to spend time with church activities and preparing dinner for their families. Also, the location I looked at was playing Christian pop music and had lots of Christian inspirational type stuff up on bulletin boards and walls. The sales pitch was pretty obnoxious too. I would have been very uncomfortable there. I'm sure franchises vary but it's something to think about.

Now I am going to the YMCA which is great! They do a good job maintaining their machines, the customer service is friendly and competent, they have good classes and I'm really motivated to go work out.
posted by Melsky at 11:15 AM on April 20, 2008

I guess I'll do my usual pimping of Jazzercise. Jazzercise classes are 1 hour each (40 minutes of cardio and 20 minutes of strength training). Some facilities are officially women-only and some, like the one I currently go to, are not, but even at the ones that nominally allow men there are very few male attendees. It looks like there are 4 locations in the King of Prussia area.

I've never been able to stick with any other form of regular exercise besides Jazzercise, and I've tried a lot of them (all kinds of gyms, yoga, Pilates, running, etc... although not Curves, actually). It is a really positive, empowering atmosphere, and inexpensive---usually only around $40 a month for unlimited classes. I guess it's not a circuit program so it might not be what you think you're looking for in terms of a workout, but maybe you could just try one class and see what you think. (Not a Jazzercise shill, I promise! Just a satisfied client :)
posted by slenderloris at 11:20 AM on April 20, 2008

I forgot to say also that one of the YMCAs that is near me has a women only workout room.
posted by Melsky at 11:21 AM on April 20, 2008

I've heard what Melsky heard. A Curves franchise opened near my parents business here in Phoenix. They wanted to put flyers and a membership box in our store. I was already turned off because I know of their politics and despite what gjc says, I like to vote with my dollars when possible.
I was offered a free, 30-day pass but when I saw the hours, I told the woman I'd never be able to get there...They were something like 10-2 and then 3-5. She told me that many of her customers were stay-at-home moms (Which is odd since we were essentially serving the same customer base and most of our customers work at least part-time.) Uhhh, not going to work for me or my customers. I told her thanks but no thanks.

You'd get the same mileage out of a 30 minute brisk walk or jog and the purchase of some handweights at Target. Then buy the Kathy Smith "Lift Weights to Lose Weight" DVD. Cheaper, more effective and less offensive.
posted by notjustfoxybrown at 11:41 AM on April 20, 2008

Regardless of the politics of the situation, perhaps you might find other reasons to avoid this very successful marketing gimmick.

Curves revolves around the idea of a workout being a safe, social and easy experience. Unfortunately, the Curves equipment (meaning the the way it works versus weight loaded machines), and the environment of socializing while you workout will both sabotage any workout goals you may have beyond just getting some blood pumping.

Becoming fit requires work. Moreover, should you do the same workout on the same equipment over and over, whatever gains you may make, would eventually level off because of adaptation.

My advice would be that if you are looking for a comfortable place to workout, find a real gym that comes the closest to suiting your comfort level and then find a steady, reliable partner to work out with you. Not only will they help to make you more comfortable, but they will also serve to motivate you. Borrow fitness magazines and books from the library and inform yourself. This too will help to make you feel more comfortable. Good luck!
posted by pazoozoo at 12:17 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

You could always ask for a trial membership or 1 day "try-out" pass. I tried Curves in the past, but ended up quiting because a)the hours weren't convenient for me, b) half the time I went they were playing Christian music which made me uncomfortable, and c) it wasn't that great of a work-out. Curves is designed more for elderly women or unhealthily overweight women. I am young (23) and was looking to lose about 10 pounds, and it just didn't push me hard enough.
posted by kidsleepy at 12:25 PM on April 20, 2008

I belonged to Curves for a while... and at the time I worked at Planned Parenthood. The owner of the franchise that I belonged to was very liberal, and did not support the CEO's politics. We had long conversations about this, and we even did a workshop for some of the other Curves members to talk about the issue. I understand that people want to be "responsible" about where their money goes. But a boycott mentality does little to make a difference in the long run. It just gives people a sense of doing the "right" thing... when actually your aren't really doing anything at all. If you dig deep enough into any company, most of the time you'll find something that makes your stomach churn.

I do prospect research a large non-profit. I spend a lot of time looking at the 990's of charitable foundations, and many of them have assets in shares of Halliburton, big oil, or big pharma... none of whom my org would take money from directly. In today's conglomerate world, it becomes really very tricky to avoid having your money go towards something that you find odious. If I tried to boycott every company who had donated to the Republicans, I'd have to be a dirt farmer in Botswana.

If you like Curves, then join Curves. And then make a donation to the pro-choice charity or your choosing. Or better yet, give some of your time. Because that will make more of an impact than boycotting Curves ever would.
posted by kimdog at 1:40 PM on April 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've never tried Curves or anything like it, but this new-to-me place called Planet Fitness looks similar. They look a bit more modern, and they claim they're a "judgment-free zone". That's all I know about them, however...
posted by chowflap at 2:03 PM on April 20, 2008

Many of the Planet Fitnesses have Curves-style training circuits. The music is radio whatever and easy to tune out. Clientele will vary by location, but even the, um, New Jersey style males in the weight area in mine are relatively friendly and don't sneer at you. I do not know all their locations, but it does appear to have some relatively in the KoP area.
posted by cobaltnine at 2:52 PM on April 20, 2008

I'm all for crisis pregnancy centers, but Curves as a workout place-well, from what I know and have been told, they aren't all that.

See if you can find some Spinning classes....a lot of gyms carry that and also something called Body Pump if you are looking for weight training in a group.
posted by konolia at 2:59 PM on April 20, 2008
posted by GPF at 8:32 PM on April 20, 2008

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