SHAPE Gym Awards 2013: Coolest Clubs in America
Winner: Chelsea Piers, Stamford, CT
Do you get bored easily? This 400,000-square-foot outpost of the popular New York City facility is anything but ho-hum. When you tire of the treadmill, trot over to the 100-yard turf field for shuttle runs, or swap a strength session for a back-burning climb up the 22-foot rock wall. Want to shoot hoops, play volleyball, or hit the batting cages? Done, done, and done. You can swim laps in the Olympic-size pool while your kids zoom down the Splash Zone's three water slides. Or drop them off at an ice-skating or gymnastics class and play doubles with your better half—there are 12 squash and seven tennis courts. We can't think of anything this gym doesn't have—and trust us, we tried.
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Winner: Zenergy Health Club and Spa, Ketchum, ID
If you're having trouble breathing during a workout at this pristine property, the view may be to blame. The club's Pilates and yoga studios, and the outdoor saltwater lap pool, overlook nearby Bald Mountain. In the summer and fall, group-cycling classes (plus others like bootcamp and TRX) are alfresco—making it that much easier to imagine you're pedaling up a steep hill.
Top Hotel Gym
Winner: Bellevue Club at Hotel Bellevue, Seattle
Guests at this luxury hotel can take a gratis group class in one of four exercise studios (anything from Pilates to TRX) or challenge another out-of-towner to a squash, racquetball, or tennis match. At 200,000 square feet, the health club also houses a full-size basketball court, an elevated running track, and three pools. We won't be surprised if you extend your stay.
Best for Dropping Pounds
Winner: Downsize Fitness, Chicago and Dallas
When you're overweight, it can be intimidating to work out next to someone slim—which is why this new chain only accepts clients who have 50 pounds or more to lose. The $300-per-month membership fee nets you three weekly personal training sessions, unlimited use of the facility (which features equipment custom-built for heavier bodies), access to group fitness classes, and a monthly consultation with a nutritionist.
Ideal for Busy Urbanites
Winner: East Bank Club, Chicago
This amenity-filled gym boasts more than 400 pieces of cardio equipment, 190-plus group exercise classes per week, and an indoor driving range. But there are additional perks of membership: You can get your shoes repaired, laundry done, and car washed all while breaking a sweat. Post-workout, treat yourself to a cut and color at the hair salon, then dine at one of four eateries before picking up your car from the valet.
Most Eye Candy
Winner: Defranco's, Wyckoff, NJ
If super-buff guys motivate you to move, make an appointment at this private sports-training facility. The minimalist gym is set in a warehouse and has no locker room, juice bar, or classes—just 5,000 square feet of serious weight-lifting equipment, including tools like tires, chains, and a metal log. It's a top choice for pro athletes and regular joes who are serious about sculpting. (We suggest asking one of them to spot you during bench presses.)
Primo Place to Work and Play
Winner: Sweat Fitness & Frames, Philadelphia
A sweat sesh at this unique club transitions seamlessly into a fun night out. Membership gets you access to the fully equipped gym, group-exercise classes (a few use bowling balls as weights), and unlimited games of ten-pin at the establishment's 10-lane alley.
Most for the Least
Winner: Blink Fitness, 13 locations in New Jersey and New York
The price of admission may be low (membership costs as little as $15 a month, plus an annual maintenance fee of $29), but your expectations shouldn't be: Each Blink Fitness facility has everything you need, including clean locker rooms, Life Fitness and Precor cardio and strength equipment, and vending machines that dispense locks, water bottles, and earbuds—in case you forgot them. Personal training won't hurt your wallet either, at just $30 per half hour. Or opt for small-group sessions for $10 a pop.
Tops for Acrobats
Winner: Shine Alternative Fitness, Las Vegas
Catch some air at this studio, founded by two Cirque du Soleil veterans. During the popular Aerial Arts classes, you'll perform inversions while wrapped up in silks suspended from the ceiling; take Antigravity Yoga, and you'll pose in a fabric hammock hanging several inches off the floor. Prefer to stay grounded? There are also boxing, dance, pole fitness, and gyrotonics classes.
Best for Kids and Kids at Heart
Winner: Urban Air Trampoline Park, Southlake, TX
More than 130 trampolines make up five different jumping zones at this 25,000-square-foot complex in suburban Dallas. Bounce around as you please for just $12 per hour. For a more structured workout, register for the dodgeball league or weekly bootcamp and Zumba classes, which are (naturally) also held on the rebounders.
Best for the Competitive Set
Winner: Flywheel Sports, 23 locations nationwide
Type-A personalities flock to these adrenaline-fueled cycling studios, where each two-wheeler displays the rider's speed, resistance, and energy exerted in real time. Students can even opt to have their stats exhibited on the studio's TorqBoards (two large flat screens at the front of the room) and participate in races throughout the class.
Winner: Bunker, Beverly Hills
To get into this aptly named, paparazzi-proof spot, you'll drive down an alley, turn right into a parking garage, and then wait for owner Adam Ernster to buzz you in through an unmarked door. Once inside, clients (most of whom are accepted by referral and pony up $200 an hour) work out with kettlebells, ropes, cables, sandbags, and more. No wonder celebs like Debra Messing, Nicki Minaj, and Nicole Scherzinger have shaped up here.
First-Rate College Fitness Center
Winner: University of Missouri Student Recreation Complex, Columbia, MO
Gaining the freshman 15 must be damn near impossible at Mizzou, which boasts a 293,000-square-foot wellness center on campus. All 100 of the facility's cardio machines have internet access, so students can walk, run, ride, or step while they research a term paper. They'll also find 10 basketball courts, a three- story rock-climbing tower, and a 50-meter swimming pool. But the ultimate attraction is the indoor beach club, featuring whirlpools, waterfalls, and a lazy river—where waiters serve up wraps and protein shakes.
Winner: AC4 Fitness, Goleta, CA
Exercise at this new Santa Barbara–area gym and you won't just improve your health, you'll help the planet too. The energy produced by treadmills and ellipticals is harnessed and used to power the building. And the green mindset doesn't stop there: Lockers are made of recycled plastic, repurposed rubber covers the floor, and an LEED-certified ceiling fan cools the place. Don't worry—it's as powerful as 36 standard ones but uses 75 percent less energy.
Winner: Mecca Gym & Spa, Austin, TX
Walk on the treadmill, lift weights, or take a Pilates class, then reward yourself with a spa treatment—members get $15 off. Massage therapists will work with your trainer to create a rubdown that supplements your routine. Or you can order off the menu of athlete-targeted services (like Simply Stretching, a combination of Shitasu massage and yoga, or the Sports Pedicure). If you've got extra time to bliss out, we recommend reclining in the eucalyptus steam room or stopping by the smoothie bar—in addition to snacks, it serves complimentary wine, Champagne, and cocktails.
Tops for Tennis
Winner: Greenwood Athletic and Tennis Club, Denver
This wellness center is home to the largest indoor clay-court facility in the U.S. (with seven playing areas across 52,000 square feet). When it's warm, stake out a spot on one of five outdoor hard courts. The gym features a cardio area, weight room, and aquatics zone too, but with no court fees for members and nine pros available for lessons, we can't stop asking: "Tennis, anyone?"
Best for Pilates Powerhouses
Winner: Studio Blue, Portland, OR
Walk into this boutique Pilates studio and employees will greet you by name. The individual attention also extends to one-on-one lessons held in private rooms equipped with a cadillac, chair, and reformer. For something a little less personal, there are more than 30 mat, reformer, and springboard classes each week, in addition to bootcamp, yoga, and TRX sessions.
Winner: Pure Yoga, two locations in New York City
Entering these 20,000- and 25,000-square-foot facilities is like stepping into an ancient temple: You'll pass a vertical garden, trickling waterfall, and arched footbridge before reaching one of six palm wood–floored practice studios and the spa-like locker rooms that offer laundry service and mat storage. There are 27 different styles of yoga offered weekly, ranging from Restorative to Hot Ki Power Vinyasa, but devotees also pack themselves in for Figure 4 barre classes and Bassett's Bootcamp.
Supreme Staying Power
Winner: Slimmons, Beverly Hills
Just try not to smile during a class at Richard Simmons' signature studio, where having fun is as important as getting fit. Since 1974 students have been sweatin' to the oldies, performing a combination of aerobics, dance, stretching, and strength training. Time it right and you might even get to exercise with the icon himself—Simmons still teaches three sessions a week. Short shorts and tank top not required!
Best for Girls' Night Out
Winner: IronFlower Fitness, Miami
Know an exercise-obsessed bride-to-be? Throw the bachelorette party at this women-only fitness studio. Get your makeup done and don tiaras and boas for a photo shoot, then gossip with your gal pals in the all-pink lobby before taking a class. Some to try: Cheer Fit, Booty Bounce, Boxercise (with pink gloves and bags), or Striperella, a dance-cardio session with sassy choreography.
Winner: Mike Fitch of Equinox Clubs, nationwide
Motivation? Check. (Just look at those arms!) You'll never want to miss this former model's Animal Flow class, which combines obstacle training, break dancing, and capoeira.