Gym Rundown

Because of a running injury, I had knee arthroscopy last March. The surgery was a success, but now I have to strengthen the muscles connected to my knee and do some general conditioning before I can get back in the running shoes. I normally exercise either at home or outside, but I feel that working out in a controlled environment during the rehab process is the way to go. With that in mind, it was off to find a gym.

Here in Daly City, CA, there are plenty of gyms within shouting distance: each with their own rates and perks. I was in no rush, so I decided to sample a few gyms before making a decision. I tried four gyms, 24-Hour Fitness, Fitness USA, Planet Fitness, and The Fitness Core.

24-Hour Fitness
373 Gellert Blvd
Daly City, CA 94015

This is the fitness chain that we all know and love. 24 has advertisements everywhere, so it was no surprise that it was the first gym to come to mind when I started this venture. 24 has it’s own building and features many perks in addition to weights and cardio: there’s also a sauna, basketball court, pool, and juice bar.

During my generous 7-day trial there, I focused on weights and cardio since that’s what’s most important to me right now. My first impression walking into the gym was, “it’s dark in here”; the few windows that sat at the entrance are blocked by trees, depriving the facility of natural light. My first day I focused on cardio, and was impressed by the modernity of the equipment. Every cardio machine (treadmill, cycle, elliptical, stairs) at 24 featured a heart-rate monitor and offered a myriad of workout options. The machines are also plentiful, I never had trouble finding an open bike nor did I see anyone waiting for me to finish one of my personal marathons. My only gripe about the cardio area was that there’s too many machines, it was pretty cramped. I don’t mind someone working out next to me, but it’s hard to navigate the area without disturbing anyone’s workout.

Overall, I had a good impression of the cardio area. The next day I gave the weight machines a go , and I was left disapointed in the variety. Machines for working the upper body were plentiful and were of good quality (Nautilus and Paramount mostly). However, I was there mainly to work my knees and quads, and no machine offered me a proper workout for those areas. The equipment offered five different leg workouts: leg curl, leg extension, hip abduction and adduction, and a multi-hip machine. There was no leg press, toe press or squat machine of any sort.  also there wasn’t enough open space for me to do some traditional squats and lunges with dumbbells. Leg curls and extensions, though good workouts, aren’t healthy for rehabilitating a knee (which I learned the hard way, I had to ice my knee later that day). This became the dealbreaker for me.

Friends of mine tend to frown on the aggressive behavior of the staff when getting you to sign a contract. I didn’t experience this, possibly because I went during a slower period (weekend morning), so they have less staff on the floor. Aside for the poor lighting, the atmosphere was okay and they offer so many different plans that I easily found one suiting, but I had to pass on this gym due to the unbalanced workout I was getting.

Fitness USA
386 Gellert Blvd (across the street for 24!)
Daly City, CA 94015

Next on my list was Fitness USA: a gym I often walk by during errands. This gym has plenty of windows, anyone who drives by can easily view gym members enjoying the indoor pool, the other areas offered plenty of lighting without being excessive. I definitely had a good feeling going in, arranging for a guest pass the day before, I was greeted by friendly staff who quickly gave me the lowdown of the gym layout (one section of the gym is ladies only, the rest is co-ed). I decided to focus mostly on weights this time, and the equipment was reminiscent of the gym I used back in my community college days. Becuase of the familiarty, I handled each machine with relative ease. I was happy to find both a leg press and calf press machine to rehab my weak spots. There only existed one of each of these machines, but they’re not popular among most gym-goers, so I never had to wait or get rushed. The machines were simple, balanced, and well-kept; I got a good full-body workout in a short amount of time.

There wasn’t as many cardio machines as 24, but there were plenty go around. Mirrors surrounded the treadmills so I can easily check and adjust my gait without losing pace and the bikes were exactly the same as 24 (lifecycle). The only annoyance to the experience was the mandatory 20-minute limit on each machine. There’s nothing wrong with changing workouts in the middle of a cardio session, but I worry that I may have to get off one machine and the others are already occupied.

I really liked the weights, and the cardio wasn’t perfect, but I felt it was more than tolerable if the deal was right. However, after talking to the staff about the different plans, I couldn’t find one to match my needs. I don’t plan to stay at a gym for longer than 3 months; after all, I plan to return to running outdoors again once my body feels ready. All of Fitness USA’s rates involve signing either a 1 or 2 year contract. This wasn’t necessarily a dealbreaker, but it inspired me to try other places for a better offer.

Planet Fitness
2945 Junipero Serra Blvd.
Daly City, CA

I don’t have to much to say about this one, since I didn’t actually visit it. Planet Fitness just opened a branch in my area and I received a flyer through the mail. I called to arrange a visit and discovered that there was no free trial and the day pass was too pricey for my blood ($20). Additionally, the person I talked to sounded like a robot; not too long after voicing my interest in the club, I had to sit through a rehearsed monologue of the club’s goals and atmosphere. Looking at the website, the rates are hard to beat ($49/start, $10/month) so I might give this gym an honest try if and when I’m interested in making a longer commitment to a club.

The Fitness Core
30 Hill Street
Daly City, CA 94014

Finally, I visited the Fitness Core: a small, family-owned gym. When I looked at the website, I knew this neighborhood gym was entirely devoted towards training. Situated in a spacious warehouse with skylights, The Fitness Core looked like a place Rocky would train. Shortly after entering the place, I was greeted by one of the gym’s owners who showed me how to use the gym’s pneumatic machines. Pneumatic machines differ from weight machines in that a hydraulic is used as resistance, with varying air pressure during different points of the lift/press/pull. I never seen machines like this before so I was nervous at first but after the demonstration I found it remarkably simple and efficient. The pneumatic machines also featured a built in counter for repetitions; nice! There existed plenty of weight machines as well, they looked dated, but they handled as smooth as any modern machine. There were also plenty of machines that require loading free weights for the bodybuilders, I avoided these for now since I’m focused more on endurance. There also existed two Universal machines, which I didn’t see in other gyms I’ve visited. The most appealing part of the weight room was the number of machines that work the legs without stressing the knee: single and both leg press, glute press which involves kicking the leg backwards against resistance, toe press, free weights(lunges), and a smith machine for squats.

The cardio equipment was okay. While the treadmills and elliptical are as good as any, the stationary bikes aren’t getting much love here. Only one bike had an HR monitor and bottle holder, and they felt a little too close together. Overall, I can still get a good cardio session without having to switch machines, but I see room for improvement. Another unique perk is the boxer-style training area with punching bags and room to jump-rope for some different cardio.

I think this is the gym I’ve been looking for, I liked everything about it from the moment I walked in. The industrial atmosphere helps me to maintain focus and the music is at a low volume to avoid being intrusive on one’s headphones. The weight room is the best I’ve seen and the most catering to my needs, the staff is nice, and it never seems crowded or overbearing. There even exists a circuit area that I plan to try once my knee is 100%. The prices are nice, too; I plan to get a 90 day membership for $135.

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