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On Fitness
WRITTEN BY MOLLY MARTIN
PHOTOGRAPHED BY TOM REESE
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More Curves
Readers give it to us straight on this popular chain of clubs

More letters from readers regarding Curves

I just read your article and have to tell you my experience with Curves. It has been fantastic and a blessing. I have been in search for the best program for me. I have been in many. I had almost given up on the idea of belonging to another club, but someone had told me they had joined Curves and loved it. I had seen the sign and I thought that I should check it out. I walked in the door in May and felt like it was the answer to my prayers. I have always dealt with eating and weight issues, and the exercise looked like something that I could handle. I thought to myself: Will it be easy to get to? Are you ready to commit? Are you desperate? Yes, yes and yes!

I began on May 17, 2002, and have not looked back. I am a true testimony to how the program works. Right away the exercise was great for me. I was beginning to move better: some of my flexibility was coming back. I was getting daily support from the staff and found that their positive outlook and my physical improvement helped me to keep on coming back.

I knew that the process was going to be long and that I was going to take many baby steps. The program weighs you, measures you and shows the amount of fat you have lost. Right away I was showing results. I was so excited when my name was put on the wall as a member of the one-foot club. Last September I decided to add Weight Watchers to my regime and have had even better success. I have now lost 28 inches and 19 pounds of fat weight included in the total of 26 pounds lost. I believe I have found what I need. I felt that I should write and toot my horn about this. For the first time I can see the light at the end of the tunnel when it has to do with my health. I will lose 150 pounds. I am already a third of the way there.

— Janet Wakefield, Mukilteo

I read your Curves article with interest, having joined a Curves location in November 2002. I thought that the most important part of the article was given somewhat less attention than it may have deserved: My observation and experience at Curves is that the vast majority of Curves members would NOT be doing anything else in terms of exercise and fitness if not for Curves. I am a case in point.

At 49, I am not seriously overweight, but have put on 20 pounds-plus in 2-1-2 years. This weight gain coincides with beginning antidepressants. Apparently my choices were: thin and angry/depressed/suicidal or calm/loving/thoughtful and fat. My blood pressure is bordering on high, and my cholesterol ranges from OK to "watch what you eat."

My doctor has been after me for 20 years to exercise. She has sent me to counseling, she has authorized my seeing a Feldenkreis practitioner, all to help me address my reluctance (OK, refusal) to exercise. She finally looked at me and said, "I just don't get it. You're intelligent, you know the risks, you know what you need to do to stay healthy, you WANT to be healthy — so why won't you exercise?"

"You're right. It doesn't make sense. But I just HATE it." What more could I say?

I have several theories about why I wouldn't exercise, but none ever made complete enough sense to motivate me to change. I hated exercise, walking into health clubs gave me panic attacks, (even after Paxil!) and despite many, many, many starts, I simply couldn't sustain any regular exercise. The closest I got was walking around Green Lake with a friend three times a week for about six months.

Then, in November, I had a blood-pressure scare. I learned that one of my brothers, who is very thin and gets a lot of exercise, has very high blood pressure. I'd been having headaches and feeling dizzy off and on for a week, and I panicked. I rushed to the doctor, convinced my head was going to explode. Nope, just a little high, but not off the charts. What to do? Watch my salt and maybe get some regular exercise.

All right, I decided, it's MY body, MY future, and I'M the only one who can control what happens. I am also one of those women who had children very late; my first and only at 40 years old. If I want to see grandchildren, and I very much do, I'd better get it together.

A friend had told me about Curves, and she loved it. I'd seen one next to Central Market in Shoreline, where I shop, so I went in. When asked about limitations in regard to exercise, I mentioned my arm and shoulder and the fact that I HATE exercise. The woman laughed and said "I think most of us here do — at least you admit it!" I was offered two free weeks and told I could decide then if it would work for me. No sales pitches, no pressure, no fitness evangelizing. Most important to me: no mirrors, no babes with perky personalities.

I'm still going, and still WANTING to go. I go a minimum of three times, up to five times, depending on my schedule. I haven't lost a significant amount of weight, but I'm stronger, and my endurance is noticeably better. I leave feeling cheerful and proud of myself. I can lift bags of groceries more easily, wrestle with my 8-year-old son for longer, and am noticing that there's more of an indentation where my waistline used to be.

What has made the difference? I love Curves. I go in, I start, I change stations when the woman on the tape tells me to, I go around the circuit three times, I stretch, I'm done. I never have to think too hard about what I'm doing (beyond "feet pointing up on this one, keep my knees parallel on this one"), I'm surrounded by friendly, supportive, NONJUDGMENTAL women who are working toward similar goals. People are nice to me, help me when I ask or if I'm doing something wrong, but never pressure me, don't follow me around and offer tips on doing more and better, more and better. We mostly want to get healthier, we want to feel more in control of our lives, health and bodies, and maybe get back into clothes in the back of the closet!

I think that Curves is definitely marketing to a niche audience. It's not for athletes, not for those for whom fitness is a central, driving part of life. All women are welcome, and I see plenty of young women, but it's mostly for the rest of us, the pre-Title IX crowd, or the ones who left sports to raise families and the potlucks caught up with them, the women who want to talk about their kids and grandkids. Every Curves is a little different. But myself, I'm a convert and a healthier one. Next time friends want to go dancing, I might even consider it!

— Nanette Westerman, Seattle

spacer spacer spacer I read your article with great interest, but was disappointed on your coverage. First, interview more women! Many of us have had GREAT success in this program. Second, come to the Northgate Curves, PLEASE! Photograph our ceiling. We have beautiful stars hanging down with inches of ribbon dangling from each one — each inch of ribbon represents pounds and inches lost by every woman. There is a chart on the wall that the owner, Susan Mulholland, keeps updated.

It's an amazing view seeing all those stars and all that ribbon.

Curves works, and here's why:

It's 30 minutes; it builds your muscles and burns fat; you don't get bored — you're in constant rotation on the machines; the women are REAL (not skinny, muscle-toned women dressed in designer outfits who intimidate you to even enter the place); the music keeps you moving; and best of all — you see real results, especially if you can change your eating habits along with the workouts.

Here's my story:

Curves saved my life — literally and for real. In November of 2001, I had a life-changing event that brought enormous stress, and I needed a physical outlet to help me deal with the anxiety and emotional distress. As a working mother, it had become more and more difficult to find a place to work out that wasn't crowded after work, that was affordable, that didn't take an hour and a half from start to finish, including travel time, and offered a workout in a nonintimidating environment.

I began in November of 2001 and by January 2003 had lost almost 40 pounds, but even more impressive is that I have lost more than 30 inches all over my body. I went from a size 16/18 to a size 10. And I am keeping the weight off. I work out three to four times a week and have turned many women friends on to Curves.

I think it deserves another revisit from your column, with better photos, maybe some before/after shots of those who have achieved success, and a few more comments from women who, while they may not have had dramatic weight or size loss, have seen results. It's what the program is all about, after all.

Thanks for listening!

— Lynn Grigsby, Shoreline

I belong to one of the Curves for Women locations in Fort Wayne, Ind. I have to say, after wasting almost $1,000 at (another club), where the thong bunnies hang out and make us large people feel inferior with their stares and looks, I have found Curves for Women to be an uplifting, inspiring, even welcoming place to go.

My best friend and I started out as month-to-month clients to see if it was really something we would stick with. Except during these last couple of cold months and bouts with the flu and cold, we go regularly and decided to join for a year. The workout goes so fast you have no time to get bored. Sometimes we forget that we went around the 16 machines/squares three times and go over.

It also makes a big difference that it is just for women. It feels more comfortable. There are no thong bunnies there, and the age ranges from teen-agers to a few ladies in their 70s.

I lost 6-1/2 inches in about four months. To me, that is a big deal. My best friend lost 10, but she also did the Atkins diet. I didn't diet, just tried to be more aware of what/how much I ate.

I love Curves For Women!

— Theresa Haneline, Fort Wayne, Ind.

I have not been a consistent exerciser for years due to weight, chronic bursitis and, most recently, a dislocated metatarsal, which limits me from walking more than functional distances. Curves is not only a nonthreatening and supportive atmosphere, fun and functional, it is something I CAN DO. No treadmills, etc., which are impossible for me. I can put all my energy into the machines and recover on the boards in a flat-footed manner. I have been going since November, three to five times a week. If I gain nothing else I am doing the cardio work that is so highly recommended. I have lost weight at a healthy rate and have toned my muscles as they have never been toned before! I love it because of what it is and how it is set up. If it gets me there to do anything, I am ahead in life, don't you think? It really is great for so many women that can't stand to walk into the macho, "beautiful people" gyms. It is the answer for me. The biggest part of the concept for me is that it is so fun. There are evenings at my Shoreline location that with a certain mix of regulars we are SINGING along with the tape. It just adds a little further dimension to the fun of it all.

Just a little more information for you. Thanks for checking it out.

— Pam Jensen, Shoreline

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