Get Fit

The blank slate of a new year prompted us to check out the wealth of fitness clubs and classes available to Greater Clevelanders, whether one lives downtown, east, west or south. We found offerings that could inspire even the most ardent couch potato.

Forget all the talk about our city's collective aversion to exercise. Don't let the wind-chill factor cool that raging desire to once again fit into your skinny jeans.

The blank slate of a new year prompted us to check out the wealth of fitness clubs and classes available to Greater Clevelanders, whether one lives downtown, east, west or south. We found offerings that could inspire even the most ardent couch potato.

So, go ahead. Run. Jump. Pedal. Move. The only thing you have to lose is a few extra pounds.

Fit Info

For this issue, we visited fitness clubs large and small across Greater Cleveland. We did full workouts at each, scoped out their equipment and attended group exercise classes ranging from Pilates and yoga to spinning and Russian kettlebell.

We asked club managers to supply numbers concerning the size of their facility, how many people come through the door in a week and how much the average member pays each month. Clubs marked with an asterisk have more than one Greater Cleveland location. A list of those can be found by visiting

We also gave each group exercise class we reviewed a "fitness level" ranking of one to three dumbbells --the lower the number, the easier it is. Starters should stick with the simplest classes. The ones with higher fitness-level rankings are best suited for people looking to spice up their existing exercise regimen.

And, as the disclaimer on the Stairmaster goes, it's a good idea to pay your doctor a visit before starting any new exercise program.

Fit Fuel

Finding time to work out is the real challenge. We're usually squeezing it into our morning or evening schedules, even if it means skipping meals. But working out on an empty stomach can lead to dizzy spells, muscle aches and an overall lack of energy.

And while you don't want to eat a lot before revving up the treadmill, you also don't want to hit the gym with your body's gas tank sitting on "E."

Early risers, remember it's been 12 hours since your last meal. Try a piece of whole-wheat toast with peanut butter and half a banana. The bread and peanut butter provide protein and carbohydrates you need for energy. The banana contains potassium, which will help fight muscle cramps. If you can't stomach food early in the morning, a bottle of half water and half sports drink provides hydration and an energy boost.

Those working out after a full day on the job can opt for a handful of unsalted peanuts and a granola bar on the way to the gym. Energy bars are another option. We recommend PowerBar or Balance brands for the right mix of nutrients and taste.


Cleveland Athletic Club
1118 Euclid Ave.
(216) 621-8900

Club size: 150,000 square feet
Visitors per week: 600
Average monthly fee range: $81-$100
Most popular classes: Boxing Circuit, muscle conditioning, yoga

The skinny: High above Euclid Avenue, the Cleveland Athletic Club quickly feels like home to those who work out here. Occupying 10 stories in the old National City Bank building, the private club offers everything from fine dining to spinning. While it may not have a glossy new look, it still possesses an older, cozier charm of its own. In other words, it truly does feel like a club. In addition to group exercise classes, cardio equipment, a gymnasium, a pool, a sauna, a steam room, a running track, a bowling alley and weights, the CAC offers a slew of social opportunities such as an annual bash of gambling, food, booze and boxing (you watch), rooftop parties and wine-tasting events. If you live or work downtown, the CAC is definitely worth a look.

The Club at Key Center
127 Public Square
(216) 241-6152
Club size: 17,000 square feet
Visitors per week: 675
Average monthly fee range: $81-$100
Most popular classes: Spinning, Hard Bodies, yoga

The skinny: The Club at Key Tower is one of downtown's most attractive places to exercise. The locker rooms are posh, the help is attentive and the place is immaculately clean. The equipment is a nice mix of free weights, circuit weights and cardio machines. A window running the length of the gym's north wall offers a view of City Hall, the Rock Hall and Lake Erie. After your workout, rest in the whirlpool, sweat it out in the steam room or swim a few laps. It's one of the pricier fitness options (membership to the private club also includes access to meeting rooms and formal and casual dining), but the low traffic and lavish amenities make this place hard to beat.

Downtown YMCA*
2200 Prospect Ave.
(216) 344-7700
Club size: 77,000 square feet
Visitors per week: 2,033
Average monthly fee range: $31-$60
Most popular classes: Group cycling, Pilates, Body Pump

The skinny: The Downtown YMCA has been at 2200 Prospect Ave. since 1912. But if you haven't visited in the past several years, it's a different place from the one you remember. A 1998 makeover created a renewed, family-friendly environment in which to stay fit. The free-weight room downstairs is small but satisfactory, while the large locker rooms are outfitted with fresh towels, televisions and a sauna. The Y's main level contains dozens of pieces of cardio equipment (including a row of exercise bikes that overlook the club's four swimming lanes), circuit weight machines and dumbbells. A basketball court is housed on the second floor and members can tick off a mile with 24 laps around a running track that looks down over the gymnasium.

HFC Athletic Club at One Cleveland Center
1375 E. Ninth St.
(216) 621-0770
Club size: 45,000 square feet
Visitors per week: 1,500
Average monthly fee range: $31-$60
Most popular classes: Muscle Pump, yoga, Pilates

The skinny: The price is right, the views are great and, even during peak times, HFC Athletic Club at One Cleveland Center is a comfortable place to exercise. Located on the seventh floor, you can park in the attached garage and get your ticket validated (as long as your visit lasts less than two hours). The main workout floor is filled with cardio and circuit weight machines. A large window running the length of the long, narrow room provides views of downtown and the club's rooftop basketball and tennis courts. The club's lower level houses racquetball courts, two spacious group exercise areas and an ample free-weights room, making it the perfect place for people who want the feel of a smaller, more exclusive club but don't want to plunk down $80 or more a month.

LifeStart Wellness Network*
200 Public Square, Suite 300
(216) 875-2051
Club size: 5,500 square feet
Visitors per week: 400
Average monthly fee range: $31-$60
Most popular classes: Cardio kickboxing, Pilates, muscle conditioning

The skinny: Located on the third floor of the BP Building, LifeStart Wellness Network is a small, yet well-stocked fitness facility for those who work on or near Public Square. Roughly 80 percent of the club's members work nearby and the relatively light midday crowd we encountered during our visit makes it possible to take in a great workout during your lunch hour. The club has a small free-weights area, circuit weight machines and a dozen pieces of cardio equipment. Our favorites were the Reebok "Ridge Rocker" exercise bicycles, which mimic the movement of a real bike. New members are given a free fitness evaluation, which must be completed within 30 days of joining, a perk that helps the small club provide its members with results.

Tower City Fitness Center
1500 W. Third St.
(216) 771-6900
Club size: 19,000 square feet
Visitors per week: 600-800
Average monthly fee range: $31-$60
Most Popular Classes: Pilates, Boot Camp, body sculpting

The skinny: At $39 a month, Tower City Fitness Center is one of downtown's more affordable fitness options. And for what you pay, you get a lot. Though the club is relatively small, it boasts all the cardio and weight equipment the average person needs, including a dozen treadmills, six exercise bikes, seven elliptical trainers and two stair climbers. Even when we checked out the club at a peak after-work hour, we had no problem getting on any machines. The club offers a limited, but challenging, group exercise schedule, including a 30-minute lunchtime body-sculpting class. Our one beef with the place is the less-than-pristine bathrooms. The club also validates parking at Tower City Center if you keep your stay to less than two hours.


Black's Health World
11934 Lorain Ave., Cleveland
(216) 252-1695
Club size: 10,000 square feet
Visitors per week: n/a
Average monthly fee range: $30 or less

The skinny: Black's Health World dubs itself "Cleveland's friendliest gym" and there's no argument it's one of the least expensive. The place is old school to the bone. It's the sort of place you would expect to find grunting power lifters hoisting hundreds of pounds. (They do on Saturday afternoons from 3 to 6 p.m.) And though it has a few treadmills, the club is mostly about pumping iron. The weight equipment is plentiful and though a bit weathered, it all works just fine. In fact, the place's scrappy look is part of its charm. Housed in a former German sports club, Black's radiates an authenticity that strip-mall fitness clubs can't create. If you're looking for a neighborhood place to work out hard, this is it.

21429 Center Ridge Road, Rocky River
(440) 331-4600
Club size: 1,700 square feet
Visitors per week: 1,000
Average monthly fee range: $30 or less

The skinny: When it comes to working out, most women are looking for a place where men won't leer at them. Others find that balancing a career and family leaves little time for the gym. Curves, one of the fastest-growing franchises in the United States, is the answer to these common female-fitness pitfalls. The women-only club is built upon the idea that you can achieve a full-body workout in three 30-minute sessions each week. The workout itself is a circuit of hydraulic resistance machines and recovery stations. At the Rocky River Curves, we spent 30 seconds at each machine and traveled the entire circuit twice. After working on a machine, you move on to a recovery station, where you run or walk in place to give your muscles time to rest. The result is a fun workout that truly does achieve the promise of a complete aerobic and strength-training workout.

Omni Fitness Club
6600 W. 130th St., Middleburg Heights
(440) 886-4545
Club size: 66,000 square feet
Visitors per week: 1,500-2,000
Average monthly fee range: $31-$60
Most popular classes: Spinning, step, Spin & Strength

The skinny: Omni Fitness Club opens every day at 3 a.m. Yes, members here are pretty serious about staying fit. Scan the walls and you'll find a note from Phil Collins (he visited when Genesis played Cleveland in the '80s). A nearby stairwell is adorned with signatures from NBA players who've practiced on the club's two full basketball courts. But Omni's wealth of exercise equipment and comfortable atmosphere are the real reasons it's a local fitness favorite. The first floor houses racquetball courts and group exercise rooms, and is crammed full with circuit weights and cardio machines. Downstairs, you'll find a huge array of free weights, as well as locker areas with adjoining steam rooms, saunas and a six-lane pool. The club's huge gymnasium is on the second floor, along with a running track and dozens more cardio machines.

Personally Fit Health Center
21929 Lorain Road, Fairview Park
(440) 333-6104
Club size: 12,000 square feet
Visitors per week: 700
Average monthly fee range: $31-$60
Most popular classes: Jumpstretch

The skinny: Tucked away on the second level of a strip mall, Personally Fit Health Center is a small club perfect for those just beginning a fitness program. The friendly, knowledgeable staff will help you get acquainted by asking about your health history and fitness goals. New members receive a free session with one of the club's personal trainers to draft a workout suited to their individual needs. While the cardio machines are sparse, the free weights are ample and the circuit weight machines are even color-coded. Work your way from one end to the other on the pink ones and you have just completed a workout using every major muscle group. The green machines are in no particular order, allowing you to attack specific muscles as you (or your trainer) see fit.


Bally Total Fitness*
3600 Park East Drive, Beachwood
(216) 765-8085
Club size: 52,220 square feet
Visitors per week: 6,000
Average monthly fee range: $30 or less
Most popular classes: Advanced Step, Power Flex, Boot Camp

The skinny: Bally Total Fitness is exactly like what you've heard. From the filled parking lot to the tightly packed exercise equipment, the Beachwood location lives up to the chain's reputation as a busy and somewhat intimidating place to work out. On the other hand, the club is fully stocked with the latest exercise equipment. The first floor houses a fitness store, racquetball courts, two free-weight areas and a lap pool. Upstairs, you'll find locker rooms and tons of cardio equipment. An indoor running track is just above that. Ladies beware: It's hard to use a machine without looking up to find a group of men staring, followed quickly by a chorus of "How you doin'?" Though the place has great equipment, we found the atmosphere similar to a West Sixth Street nightclub.

Kings Gym
24775 Aurora Road, Bedford Heights
(440) 439-5464
Club Size: 15,000 square feet
Visitors per week: 1,400
Average monthly fee range: $30 or less
Most popular classes: Kickboxing, yoga, boxing

The skinny: This place is a no-frills, old-school gym. It has friendly owners walking the floor, classic rock on the sound system and 25,000 pounds of free weights and dumbbells waiting to be hoisted. And though one might expect Kings Gym to be filled with only men, more than 30 percent of its members are women. The gym has mostly free weights, dumbbells and Hammer Strength machines (which must be loaded with weights), though there are circuit weight machines and two-dozen pieces of cardio equipment here, as well. Many people come for the personal training, which owners Ed and Frank King say is the best around. A wall filled with pictures of ripped bodybuilders lends that claim some weight. But you don't have to be vying for the Mr. Universe title to feel comfortable here.

Mind & Body Fitness
23215 Mercantile Road, Beachwood
(216) 464-6117
Club size: 7,500 square feet
Total members: 300
Average monthly fee range: $30 or less

The skinny: Ninety percent of Mind & Body Fitness members join because they have specific fitness goals and want the consistent help of a personal trainer, says John Henry Creel. A bodybuilder, he opened this small, yet superbly stocked club to combat the lack of direction most people have when starting an exercise regimen. Every member is interviewed and given a personalized 12-month fitness plan. During our visit, Creel ran us through a few paces. His focus is training correctly in calculated, controlled movements that make working out a mental exercise, too. Dance music chugged lightly in the background as Creel showed us how to pump up those biceps without slinging a ton of weight. It's all targeted intensity and this place seems like a good one for those looking to apply the same attitude toward their workouts.

Severance Athletic Club
15 Severance Circle Drive, Cleveland Heights
(216) 291-5550
Club size: 30,000 square feet
Visitors per week: 2,100
Average monthly fee range: $31-$60
Most popular classes: Spinning, Step & Pump, Cardio Challenge

The skinny: The tables located just beyond the Severance Athletic Club's front door tell visitors this place isn't all about sweat. Members gather here after grueling matches in the adjacent racquetball courts or sit alone and thumb through magazines. We went straight for the equipment and the club's Cardio Theater proved a good distraction while racking up miles on one of the gym's punishing recumbent bicycles. (Plug in your headphones and browse eight television channels and a mix of radio stations for the diversion of your choice.) A group exercise area, free weights and locker rooms round out the first floor. The second is ringed by a small track that circles a diverse blend of circuit weight machines. Rowing machines, more treadmills and two smaller exercise rooms are also located on the second level.

Wellness Works Fitness Center
30455 Solon Road, Solon
(440) 519-1123
Club size: 36,000 square feet
Visitors per week: n/a
Average monthly fee range: $61-$80
Most popular classes: Super Sculpt, Pure Power Yoga

The skinny: What we like most about Wellness Works Fitness Center is how the open design allows members to switch from dumbbell work to weight machines to running laps without having to walk to another part of the building. Aside from the club's pool, locker rooms and café, everything is housed on the second floor and ringed by a running track (15 laps per mile). It circles more than two-dozen pieces of cardio equipment, a suitable free-weight area, a variety of circuit weight machines and an aerobics studio. One unexpected feature was a recumbent bicycle and two stair climbers outfitted with video screens that mix working out with a trip to the arcade. Though the graphics were more Atari 2600 than PlayStation 2, it was still more fun to race against three competitors than endlessly pedaling to nowhere.

Outer Suburbs

Club Ultimate
34650 Melinz Parkway, Eastlake
(440) 942-2700
Club size: 144,000 square feet
Visitors per week: 3,000
Average monthly fee range: $30 or less
Most popular classes: Yoga, spinning

The skinny: In many ways, the name fits. Club Ultimate offers the standard cardio and weights area (inside one huge warehouselike room), as well as tennis and racquetball courts, a pool, a volleyball court, an indoor track and even a sports bar. Unfortunately, the club is a bit scruffy around the edges (paint chipping off lockers, old carpeting). But when you're paying less than $30 a month, these are not much of an issue. While the club seems particularly suited for the younger crowd (rock music, signs advertising ladies' night at the sports bar), we encountered a number of older folks who seemed just as pleased to get a good workout for a great price. While we didn't sample the food, the value of Club Ultimate extends there as well, with burgers going for $2.75 and calamari for $4.95.

EMH Center for Health and Fitness
1997 Healthway Drive, Avon
(440) 988-6800
Club size: 60,000 square feet
Visitors per week: 5,000
Average monthly fee range: $61-$80
Most popular classes: Kickboxing, yoga, Aqua Cardio Challenge

The skinny: A cross between a country club and a gym, the EMH Center for Health and Fitness offers the chance to get toned abs, smoothies and facials all under one roof. In addition to a gym, pool and racquetball courts, the bright and airy center offers cardio machines five rows deep and more weight equipment than we've seen in most other clubs. An indoor track (10 laps per mile) circles the fitness area and pool, while an outdoor trail (three laps per mile) takes joggers past a pond and tennis courts. After your workout, hit the sauna, steam room or whirlpool, followed by a stop at D'Caribbean Café for a raspberry reliever smoothie. For those who need a little extra fitness help, this center is run by a hospital — EMH Regional Healthcare System — and offers a comprehensive weight-management program.

4301 Kent Road, Stow
(330) 688-4040
Club size: 30,000 square feet
Visitors per week: 3,000
Average monthly fee range: $30 or less
Most popular classes: Cardio Jam, Powerfit, Step Interval

The skinny: The Stow-Kent Fitworks is an affordable gym for those looking for a comfortable and well-equipped place to work out. The popular Northeast Ohio fitness chain does not have a pool, racquetball courts or juice bar. However, what its lacks in bells and whistles it makes up for in quantity and variety of fitness equipment. The Stow-Kent location is one of the larger in the chain and a good choice for those who lack patience when it comes to waiting for machines. You'll find multiple rows of cardio equipment and a large selection of circuit weight machines. The free weights are tucked away in the back. We were happy to find the locker rooms spacious and clean. Parents will be pleased to find a child-care center where they can drop off their little ones while working out.

LifeCenter Plus Health and Fitness Center
5133 Darrow Road, Hudson
(330) 655-2377
Club size: 58,000 square feet (currently adding 18,000 additional square feet)
Visitors per week: 5,000
Average monthly fee range: $61-$80
Most popular classes: Water Tune Up, kickboxing, Power Pump

The skinny: Come on a Saturday morning and you'll find entire families showing up to exercise together. LifeCenter Plus Health and Fitness Center is a popular health-club choice for Summit County suburbanites and it doesn't take long to figure out why. It has racquetball courts, a large group-exercise area, a spinning room, a rock-climbing wall, weights and cardio equipment, all circled by a running track. (An 18,000-square-foot addition will soon house a new therapy pool and an outdoor swimming complex.) Though we found the weight and cardio areas a bit cramped, they were stocked with all the equipment needed for a solid workout. The club's staff was friendly — maybe a little too much so. When you've just ticked off your second mile on the treadmill, do you really want somebody leaning on the machine trying to make smalltalk with you?

Peak Performance Center
1 Eagle Valley Court, Broadview Heights
(440) 838-5600
Club size: 70,000 square feet
Visitors per week: 1,500
Average monthly fee range: $31-$60
Most popular classes: Senior Strength & Aqua Aerobics, Step & Power Strength, Boot Camp

The skinny: The expansive Peak Performance Center offers a comfortable, homey vibe whether you're locked into a training regimen or just in the mood for tennis. The business philosophy here is based on each member using the club a lot, whether for working with a personal trainer, hopping on the table for a massage or popping by for a tanning session. The first floor houses the club's two swimming pools, massage therapy, tanning rooms and five indoor tennis courts, while the cardio machines, free weights, indoor track and a group-exercise room are on the second. Here, you'll also find the club's Med-X strength circuit — a series of machines that can fully fatigue a muscle with just 12 repetitions. When you're done, slide by Johnny's Café on the first floor for a protein shake or fresh fruit smoothie.

The Classes

Omni Fitness Club
Class Length: 60 minutes
Fitness Level: 2
Music: A high-energy mix of dance and rock

A sign on the wall reads "Spinning: Part Yoga, Part Tour de France, Part 12th-Century Torture Chamber." Sounds about right. But if it truly is that hellish, why are two-dozen people here at 5 a.m. on a Friday to start their day with furious pedaling? By the end of the hour, we'll be converts. But to the uninitiated, a spinning class takes an action that is very familiar (riding a bicycle) and morphs it into an exercise that seems a bit sadistic. You pedal for an hour on a stationary bike that has a 38-pound weight as its front wheel, while varying your position and pedal speed at the instructor's orders. The result is a fun yet intense cardiovascular workout that chars calories, works every muscle from the stomach down and allows you to embrace your inner Lance Armstrong. Name another exercise class that does all that. Beginners will feel comfortable and it doesn't take long to get the hang of the bike and the three positions used in class. A knob allows you to increase tension on the bike's flywheel, but those just starting a fitness plan may want to build their endurance before taking part. Also, don't forget water. There are no breaks and you can make short work of a liter by the time the pedals stop turning.

Total Body Circuit
The Club at Key Center
Class Length: 60 minutes
Fitness Level: 3
Music: A blend of pumping dance music and remixed rock classics

The idea behind the Total Body Circuit is to throw a variety of exercises at you in the span of an hour for a comprehensive, head-to-toe workout. It delivers. Since the class changes weekly, it is always unexpected and interesting. But be forewarned that keeping up is more than a little challenging if you're a novice to this type of workout. Our visit started with spinning, before moving to push-ups using an aerobics bench. After that, it was on to lunges with simultaneous dumbbell curls. Then it was back to the bike and the aerobic bench and the lunges. Get the idea? This is also the sort of class where the wild card gets thrown often. Near the end of the hour, for example, the instructor took us into the stairwell for the sort of gut-wrenching stair runs you haven't done since high-school sports practice. Then, we did them a second time, stopping at each landing to do 10 jumping jacks. The cool-down included stretching and a heavy dose of abdominal work, leaving a top-to-bottom burn that lasted for hours.

Extreme Step
FitWorks (Stow-Kent)
Class Length: 60 minutes
Fitness Level: 3
Music: Dance remixes of pop hits

This class is intense, moves unbelievably fast and requires a load of determination. Trust us, it will leave you dripping with sweat and red in the face by the time you're done. Extreme Step is a cardiovascular workout for the advanced only. Arrive early because this class fills up fast and having room to move is crucial as you will not only use your step, but the floor space around it as well. A brief warmup is followed by 50 minutes of fast-paced combinations that absolutely require a previous knowledge of step aerobics. The instructor leads the class through a series of moves and repeats them multiple times before throwing in different combinations. That's when it gets complex. There's really no time to even think about how out of breath or sweaty you are. You'll just be happy you haven't dropped yet. The instructor's energy and constant encouragement keep everyone motivated and the feeling of completing a combination correctly is truly a boost to your fitness ego. The last 10 minutes of the class are filled with abdominal work and cool-down stretching. A bottle of water and towel are must-have accessories for this one.

Russian Kettlebell
Peak Performance Center
Class Length: 60 minutes
Fitness Level: 2
Music: Rock 'n' roll (our visit was all Rolling Stones tunes)

A consistent Russian kettlebell workout promises to melt fat, boost muscle growth and send your strength endurance soaring — all from lifting an ancient cast-iron weight that looks like a cannonball with a handle. The benefits come from the multitude of ways you can use this simple-looking device to work your body. The design of the kettlebell itself, which comes in a variety of weights, makes the difference. Unlike a traditional dumbbell, it has an offset center of gravity that allows it to work deeper into your muscles, while also dramatically strengthening tendons and ligaments. This sort of workout isn't for the novice. But if you have a moderate level of strength and cardiovascular fitness, an offering such as Peak Performance's Saturday morning Russian kettlebell class is an interesting detour from your day-to-day routine. Participants start at one of three stations and rotate every few minutes. Actual kettlebell work comprises about a third of the hourlong class. Cardiovascular work and strength-building exercises make up the rest. The slow, deliberate kettlebell moves are at first awkward and a little intimidating (since the weight is always hovering above your bare feet), but the instructor quickly makes even first-timers feel comfortable. He points out that doing this sort of workout even once a week will seriously increase muscle efficiency and give a boost to your normal fitness routine.

Power Pump
LifeCenter Plus Health & Fitness Center
Class Length: 60 minutes
Fitness Level: 1
Music: Techno remixes of Top-40 pop music

We looked ready for some sort of aerobics war. Along with 15 other women, we gathered the various pieces of equipment needed for the class — a barbell, hand weights, a step and a floor mat, all supplied by the club — and headed toward the group exercise area. Power Pump is a battle, but it's between you and your muscles. Concentrating solely on toning and weightlifting, the class works all major muscle groups with a variety of exercises from push-ups to lunges to using your step as a bench, while doing various arm-strengthening exercises with the barbell and hand weights. This is the type of class women need to mix into their exercise routines, since many females tend to concentrate on cardiovascular work in favor of the weight training and toning vital to preventing osteoporosis. Beginners should go at their own pace and fitness level, starting with a low amount of weight on their barbell and lighter hand weights. First-timers should also be aware that it's more important to learn how to do the moves correctly with smaller weights, no matter how much the instructor barks at you. Piling on the weight and overexerting yourself is a quick way to injury.

Cardio Kickbox
HFC Athletic Club at One Cleveland Center
Class Length: 60 minutes
Fitness Level: 1
Music: Latin dance remixes play quietly in the background

Cardio Kickbox is a great place to take out aggression. Finally, here's your chance to punch that evil ex, annoying co-worker or nagging family member and not get arrested for assault. After all, if you squint your eyes and concentrate enough, the freestanding bag you're matched up against does start to look like that person to whom you wouldn't mind delivering a powerful right hook and strong sidekick. And while Cardio Kickbox is intense, it is still a comfortable environment for beginners. Tucked away in one of the club's lower-level aerobics studios, the small class size makes it easy to hear and see the instructor. And while she motivates and pushes you to work hard, she also takes time t

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