Pros: Works entire body in 30 minutes, easy to use equipment, free trial membership
Cons: Cost, but try the free trial membership. It may be worth it to you.
A few years ago I entered a drawing and won a free one week trial at the Curves for Women in a nearby town. Now they offer a free one week trial membership to qualifying new members who sign up on their website. Because I had been in an accident my mobility was limited, so I had doubts about joining any sort of health club but since I had a free one week membership I figured that it couldn't hurt to check them out.
As I walked into the building, I was greated by a friendly face who took the free trial certificate from me and had me fill out some paperwork regarding medical information and the like. She then took me into another room where she got my weight, height and other measurements. From there we went back into the main area where the exercise equipment was set up, and she began to explain to me how the system worked.
She explained that Curves offered a 30 minute workout that combines both strength training and cardio, so it works your entire body. She said that the workout can burn up to 500 calories during the half hour workout. She explained the process of the workout, saying that I would be working short intervals on each of the eight machines in the room, and then moving on to the next one. She also told me that each of the machines is designed especially for women, and that the hydraulic resistace machines are easy to learn and use, with no weights to change. She said that she would be with me through the circuit to make sure that I understood how to work the machines to get the maximum benefit from each one.
She then took me around to the machines. Each of the machines in the "Quickfit Circuit" uses hydraulic resistance rather than weights or other manual adjustments to the settings. The resistance self adjusts depending on your actions. If you move faster, the resistance will adjust accordingly. Because you push/pull the equipment rather than lifting, it is supposed to be easier on your body.
As I mentioned earlier, there are 8 pieces of equipment arranged in a circle and 8 platforms next to the machines. Each piece of equipment is designed to work a specific body part. She assured me that if any of the machines agravated my injuries, I could skip that machine and go on with the rest of the circuit. I suppose this means that I would miss out on working an area or two of my body, but it would be better than making an existing injury worse.
We went around the circle, with her demonstrating each machine for me and explaining how to use it. I would stand, or walk in place on each platform while she demonstrated the machine for 30 seconds, and then it was my turn to use the machine for 30 seconds. After 30 seconds on the machine, I was given the signal to move on to the next one. I would then move on to the next platform and watch her 30 second demonstation, then it was my turn. Every few minutes we were told to check our pulse to make sure we were on track. Don't worry if you don't know how to check your pulse though, because your trainer will be happy to show you.
She demonstrated the proper way to use the 8 pieces of equipment on the first trip around the circle to get me started, then stepped back and allowed me to do the second and third circuits by myself. She stayed close by in case I needed her, but did not hover over me while I completed my workout.
During the couse of my workout, they had upbeat music playing which helps to keep you moving. Although my injuries prevented me from using a couple of the machines, the workout went well on the remaining machines. During my time on the platforms, I could either stand, walk in place, or dance for the 30 second break between machines. I danced through most of them to keep my heart rate up. When the workout was finished, it was time to go to a stretching area. We went through several stretches to cool down from our exercise session. She would tell me how to do each stretch, and there was also a chart on the wall for easy reference.
I'm sure my workout would have been more beneficial if I had been able to use all of the machines, but even so, I was happy with the workout I got, especially since I got my one week trial membership for free. From what I could tell, the Curves for Women programs are geared toward older women, beginners, those who are very short on time, or those who are not fit to start with. Because of this, those who exercise a lot would probably not find this nearly as beneficial as those who don't get the exercise they need. From what I have seen though, this program works quite well for those it is meant for.
At the time, there was no Curves facility in my town, I had to drive for over half an hour to visit the nearest location. My one week trial membership was barely used because of the distance. If there were a nearer location I would have made the recommended 3 visits for the week. Since then they have added a location in my town as well, and there is probably one near you too. In fact there are over 10,000 Curves locations worldwide.
Curves is a franchised business so even though there are basic similarities, there may be slight differences between locations. Each one will take you through the 30 minute interval training using anywhere between 8 and 12 assorted machines, targeting all areas of the body. Both locations I visited in Michigan were neat and clean, and the equipment was emaculate. The staff was friendly in both locations, and took me through the circuit with no problems. Neither location offered showers or any other extras, although both provided changing rooms and restrooms. The hours may vary by location, however most locations are open in the morning and ranging as late as 7pm so this should work well for most people.
The main difference between locations would probably be the knowledge of the staff. Since it is a franchise, they are required to take a little bit of training, but are not necessarily well trained on some aspects of fitness. Since the machines are pretty simple though, it doesn't seem to be a problem.
The main problem I found with joining this health club is the pricing. Although I had a free trial, they tried to convince me to sign a contract for a one year membership. She was not pushy about it, and I had expected a sales pitch when I walked in, but I had no idea how expensive it would be. Because I first visited a few years ago, the pricing is even higher than when I first visited I don't recall exactly what the cost was, although I'm sure that the cost has gone up even more by now. I can tell you though that there is a setup fee, and then monthly fees on top of that. I don't recall just how much the fees were, however I felt that they were too high for 2-3 half hour sessions per week. You may not find this to be the case, especially if there is one nearby.
This workout may not be for you if you are an avid exerciser. Some may find it too easy, and perhaps get bored with the simplicity of the system. All in all though, I do recommend that you take advantage of the free one week trial membership and decide for yourself. It costs nothing to try it out, and you may find that it works out well for you. If you have one in your area, it is easy enough to fit this workout into your schedule. It does provide a good, basic workout for beginners or those with limited mobility, and many women are much more comfortable doing the workout here than in a coed location. Check with your doctor before beginning this or any other exercise program.