Exercise: Curves experiences?
July 27, 2004 10:16 AM   Subscribe

ExcerFilter - Do any of you lovely Mefi Girls go to Curves? Speaking as a person who has miserably failed at a vast number of exercise regimes for a few reasons (I have asthma, I hate looking at skinny people while I sweat through my fat and exercise bores me), I'm looking at Curves as a possibility for my latest exercise venture. I'd be interested in hearing about whether it works, whether exercise haters like me can get into it, and since it's probably inevitable, all the reasons why it's a stupid program and I'd be better off at a real gym.
posted by jacquilynne to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (19 answers total)
If you get bored easily, Curves will send you running for the door. I had a gift membership for 2 months, and I didn't make it through to the end of that time. If I ever have to hear "Change stations now" again over the same sped up crappy pop music, I think I might get violent.

Seriously - there are many reasons to go, and there are many reasons to not go. Depends on who you are. But I can't recommend it to anyone.

(And there's a thread somewhere on Mefi (search is failing me right now) about how the founder of Curves gives money to pro-life groups. So that's something to consider as well.)
posted by MsVader at 10:30 AM on July 27, 2004

people will tell you not to go to curves because the ceo, or the guy who ultimately owns the company or something like that (sorry, i didn't pay more attention to the controversy) is a conservative christian who donates part of his annual income to some sort of pro-life organization. as far as i'm concerned, whatever. every CEO in the world donates money to something--given all the horrors capitalist enterprises perpetuate more directly, i personally think that's a non issue. so onto your real question.

curves worked well for a friend of mine (i have no personal experience with any gym except the Y) for a couple reasons: it wasn't a thinly disguised meat market; there were no skinny girls; there were no perky employees; someone told her precisely what to do next and when.

if you're not a "joiner"--you know, the group motivating each other thing--you may find the whole experience off-putting, as, from what i understand, it's all about sharing the struggle of fitness with other people.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:30 AM on July 27, 2004

I always wondered: How do they avoid the 'stations' getting covered in sweat? Or more accuarately a soupy mix of everyone's sweat.
posted by Flat Feet Pete at 10:36 AM on July 27, 2004

Flat - people should be toweling down the stations once they're done. The gyms I've been to either supply the towels or tell you to bring one, and many have spray bottles of disinfectant.

But I'd still wash my hands at the end of a workout.

I can't speak for Curves as I go to a regular gym (when I use a gym, usually a winter thing for me). I totally sympathise with anyone finding it boring. Part of the reason I use the local rec is to bribe myself with the swimming pool or hot tub afterwards.

I don't know how much Curves is, but where I was living, the cost for my municipal rec pass + a trainer for 6 weeks was the same as just attending a private gym. I found having a trainer work with me really cut down on the boredom factor and made it well worthwhile. Plus, you don't have time to think about others in the gym since the trainer keeps you focused.

At the end of my time with her I had a written plan of machines and reps for me to use (I have a crap knee so I have to be careful, she planned around that) that I still use.
posted by Salmonberry at 11:09 AM on July 27, 2004

Oddly enough, there WERE skinny girls at the one I went to. There were also really heavy women and every size in between.

Pete - the workout isn't designed to make you sweat enough to the point where you're dripping. It's a really light workout. Then again, it's how much effort you put into it. But, to answer your question - there's no sweat precautions taken. Everybody shares...
posted by MsVader at 11:11 AM on July 27, 2004

You might want to poke around and see what else is out there. I go to a fitness center owned by a hospital and work out with people of all shapes and sizes-and ages too. Water aerobics is a good group workout that they offer, fun, and no pesky sweat, but I have also found the spinning classes they offer to be great too.
posted by konolia at 11:17 AM on July 27, 2004

I joined Curves briefly a few years ago, before the new stations workout program you're referring to. I can't say anything about the station program, but I can say that I did quite enjoy working out at a women-only gym. There's a lot to be said for not having to deal with come-ons from men while you're obviously BUSY. You also do find more sizes and shapes than you do at normal gyms, if that's important to you. The music tends to be your average soft rock stuff - bring a walkman if that drives you nuts. My Curves had a pool and offered aquarobics as well, which is one of my favorite ways to exercise since I overheat quickly. Unfortunately, these classes tend to attract a lot of seniors and seriously overweight people, so the workouts may not be as strenous as you might like, but you can usually make up for it with speed and/or repetitions.
posted by widdershins at 11:34 AM on July 27, 2004

me = seriously overweight person, so an exercise program designed for them is not a bad thing.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:44 AM on July 27, 2004 [1 favorite]

What about DIY? I give props to Denise Austin dvds.
posted by pieoverdone at 12:31 PM on July 27, 2004

The Curves I belonged to was like kindergarten for soccer moms. Construction paper stars on the wall with everyone's name and how many pounds and inches they'd lost that week, with a horrifying purgatory-pop soundtrack. The whole stations-of-the-workout thing -- where we worked out in a circle, therefore staring at each other lamely during the whole thing -- made me too self-conscious to push myself. I felt like the fattest thing in the room, and, while I did experience modest "success" during my few months there, it was more due to my fear and shame of not having a lost inch or pound to report on my star than because I felt good about exercising.

In the end, it wasn't worth the psychological pain for me (I have issues. Your mileage may vary!), and I invested in the three-tape set of Leslie Sansone's horrifyingly cheesy (yet EASY and suprisingly effective) Walk Away The Pounds series, to which I dutifully stomp along on most evenings in the privacy of my own living room.
posted by kittyb at 12:43 PM on July 27, 2004

I joined a few weeks ago. As far as fitness goes, it sounds like we're in the same boat. Honestly, I love it. I really feel like I've done something, and it's not intimidating at all. I think if you're already in pretty good shape, it probably wouldn't be the greatest workout, but for me, it's something that's enjoyable enough and manageable enough, while still being challenging. And hey, I'm going, which is way better than my old fitness plan of reclining on the couch and lifting Cheetos. Results... I started changing nutritional habits about a month before I joined, and I'm definitely seeing better results on the scale after joining. But again, it's only been a few weeks, so I really can't speak of the long-term effects.
posted by ferociouskitty at 12:48 PM on July 27, 2004

Jacquilynne, if you are seriously overweight any exercise will be a health improvement for you. I've never tried Curves, but I know several people who have. Not one of them has stuck with it. Whether it's the program or their own lack of dedication, I can't say.

Not too many years ago, I was too a "seriously overweight" person. I joined my local YMCA and went on Atkins. I had never worked out before in my life. I noticed right away that the Y was full of people of all ages and sizes. That was important to me because I didn't feel that I stood out due to my girth.

I started out swimming. I made little goals for myself, i.e. swim an entire lap without stopping to catch my breath (seriously, I couldn't swim a lap without stopping). Then it was swim five laps, then 10, then one mile, then five. There was something very comforting about being submerged in water. Eventually, I moved onto the fitness center where I hired a trainer and learned how to lift weights, starting on machines and moving to free weights.

One day, after I had been working out for nine months, this really big guy came up to me when I was doing squats. He was one of those guys who had oodles of muscles and I would see bench pressing hundreds of lbs. He said to me "I just want to tell you what an inspiration you are to me." That made all those hours spent in the gym and pool worth it. Well that and the fact that I went down five sizes in clothes.

You can do it too! Maybe you can start with Curves, then move onto a gym with a trainer.
posted by Juicylicious at 1:00 PM on July 27, 2004 [1 favorite]

pieoverdone - my living room has approximately two and half square inches of spare floor space, so do it yourself isn't going to cut it, unfortunately.

juicylicious - I used to take water aerobics classes at the Y. My problem with the Y was that in the gym part, it was all filled with cute little things in thongs trying to pick up on men, while in the aquafit classes, it was all 60 year old grandmothers who were there to socialize, not work out, (it's hard to get a good workout when you're trapped behind a coffee clatch), while the lap pool was filled with serious masters swimmers and the aerobics classes appeared to be filled with ballet dancers. There just wasn't any place there for people who were serious about what they were doing, but not actually good at it.

kittyb - the environment you describe doesn't sound like something I'd enjoy, really. I'm game for real personal encouragement, but stars on the wall are for five year olds. It sounds like Curves can be fairly different depending on the location, there are 2 (and possibly a third) that would be reasonably convenient to my office or home, I might take some time to see if they're different if the first makes me uncomfortable.

Because I've told this information to nearly every person in my actual life, I'll add that when I started my diet (Weight Watchers) 6 weeks ago, I weighed 337.5 pounds. Seriously, massively overweight. I'm down over 20 pounds already, which is nice, but I think exercise is going to be necessary to seriously push pounds off. I'm 27 years old, and a bit concerned that everybody I've met who goes to Curves is over 40, and many over 50.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:45 PM on July 27, 2004

jacquilynne, if I were you I think I might simply start with walking. (I am an overweight exerciser myself.) One thing people don't tell you is that when you start lifting weights, there is a weight GAIN from water retention, and also muscle weighs more than fat, yadda yadda yadda. One of the fitness dudes where I go encourages people like me to do mostly aerobic stuff at first (and face it when you start where we do that will build muscle as well) and only gradually add in weight training. The psychological benefits of seeing the numbers go down at first counts for something. As for me, I have dropped inches instead of pounds, but I don't diet.
posted by konolia at 1:52 PM on July 27, 2004

I've never been to Curves, but I've heard from people who hate regular gyms that it's been a godsend. I think it's a franchise setup, so it's probably worth looking at all the ones close by to find the one where you feel most comfortable.

My advice is to find some kind of movement that you enjoy. If it's something you task yourself with, it will be hard to stick with it. For me, it's swimming. I like it because I don't get all hot and sweaty, and I can get into a groove where I know how long the pool is, and how many strokes until I have to turn, and I can just sort of go into autopilot, feel the resistance of the water against my body, and let my brain decompress. I've also grown to really enjoy weightlifting, which probably sounds weird. But if I hated doing those things, I wouldn't be able to stick with it.

Congratulations on starting your program. I wish you much success.
posted by ambrosia at 2:14 PM on July 27, 2004

I haven't been to a Curves, but I have friends who really like them. I think they provide a pretty good atmosphere for people who are new to regular exercise and/or self-conscious. I don't know if you have one in your area, but I have a membership (that I studiously ignore, but that's beside the point) at a "women only" gym and was pleasantly surprised at the wide array of body types there.

Also, here's my totally unsolicited advice: When I lost weight a couple of years ago (60 pounds) the only exercise I did was a daily weight lifting routine. I despise aerobic activity, but when you're overweight and out of shape a good session with the weights gets your heart pumping and sweat pouring -- and it completely reshaped my body. I only really lost half the weight I should, but at least I evened out so it's not all hanging off my butt. :) Good luck!
posted by jess at 3:48 PM on July 27, 2004

I have two friends who absolutely adore curves. They're both in their mid-30s, so my impression is that you wouldn't be vastly younger than everyone.
posted by arielmeadow at 4:11 PM on July 27, 2004

My wife has had success with Curves, and recommends it to others. She currently has recruited 5 co-workers to the local Curves and her mother. All are still at it several months later.

That is the extent of my knowledge on the subject.
posted by Ynoxas at 6:55 PM on July 27, 2004

Is your asthma being treated? I have exercise-induced asthma and it makes a huge difference if I use my inhaler about 10-15 minutes before any aerobic workout. I always thought I was just in bad shape or a weenie even though I did gymnastics, swimming, rowing, jogging, etc. Turns out, I couldn't breathe. I was much more positive about exercise when I was doing it at a more normal lung capacity, rather than at below 50 percent.

I second the suggestion for walking to start out. I also like weight training, but I know some find it boring. The more muscle you have the more effective an aerobic workout will be.
posted by lobakgo at 11:11 PM on July 27, 2004

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