Hands Off My Treadmill! Gym Turf Wars Heat Up

By Nicole Bode on January 21, 2011 10:07am 

One of Kristi Marino's gym classes, which have been packed since the New Year.
One of Kristi Marino's gym classes, which have been packed since the New Year.
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Joanna O'Shea

By Nicole Bode

DNAinfo Senior Editor

MANHATTAN — They take up all the equipment, steal your favorite spot in class, and leave the yoga mats sweaty and folded wrong. They’re the New Year’s "Resolutionaries," and they’re flooding a gym near you.

For the past three weeks, I've watched the sparks fly at my own gym, the New York Health & Raquet Club, as entitled gym newbies who have no idea how much room they’re taking up spar with self-righteous gym veterans who resent the intrusion and go out of their way to put newcomers in their place.

Case in point, I was in a gym class last weekend and two other regulars were complaining about a flood of new faces. "Don’t worry," one said, "They’ll be gone by March."

A polite young woman sitting next to them piped up, identifying herself as one of the new members they were excoriating.

Mortified, the classmates apologized, and told her that she was ok as long as she stuck around past March.

The madness is hard to believe unless you see it with your own eyes.

"I did a class at the Wall St. [New York Sports Club] where there were only three people the week between Christmas and New Year's. One week later it was so crowded there wasn't even enough space to run," said John Frost, 37, who works for the city in the Financial District, "It started slackening up already last week; by mid-February all the 'Resolutions' will be gone."

Kristi Molinaro, whose 30-60-90 interval training aerobics classes at Equinox have been voted the best in the city by New York magazine, said the number of people showing up for her classes this month "has been insane."

Turnout at her 16 classes a week has ranged from 30 - 75 people apiece, and one Greenwich Village class she teaches at 11:30 a.m. recently drew 50 people, she said.

It's gotten so bad, she's had to start making an announcement at the start of class to cut the tension.

"I know its really crowded and there’s not a lot of space," Molinaro tells her students. "Look at the person next to you and smile, the class is going to be worse if you’re not getting along with the person next to you."

Kristi Molinaro's interval training classes have been voted the best way to burn fat in the city by New York Magazine.
Kristi Molinaro's interval training classes have been voted the best way to burn fat in the city by New York Magazine.
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Meredith Zinner

Usually that helps, she explained. "People see how ridiculous it is to be fighting with the person next to you."

Molinaro said in her decade of teaching, she’s learned to mediate between students who are completely oblivious about their personal space and other students tempted to close ranks against newcomers.

"I think it’s really hard when you walk into a new class and you are new, when there are 67 people in a class and you are new, it’s really easy to make it feel like a clique and you’re not a part of it," Molinaro said.

"Everybody deserves a chance at getting into it. Everyone was new [once]."

Some gym members see the flood of newbies as a good thing for everyone.

"These people don't bother me... because my membership fees would be much higher if they weren't subsidizing me by sitting on the couch 10 months out of the year, stuck in their 12-month contracts," Frost said.

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