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