Seeking a Gym or Fitness Club

Parent Q&A

  • Hi all, I am moving to North Berkeley from San Francisco and am looking for a gym that has challenging strength training workouts. I would love to hear your recommendations! I am willing to drive to Oakland, Emeryville, or Albany for the right place. I have been working out at a boxing gym with fantastic HIIT classes and am really going to miss it. Thanks for your help! 

    I go to the 24 Hour Fitness in El Cerrito. It is close to North Berkeley. There are a lot of classes, especially the BodyPump class, that is a whole body workout. Here is the class schedule. https://www.24hourfitness.com/utility/classes/?clubid=00937. Sign up for a free three-day pass.

    Try Happy Hour Fitness or Sweat, both along the Solano Ave corridor in North Berkeley. I've had fantastic classes there. They both charge by the class rather than the month, and both have introductory offers (e.g. 5 classes for $50).

    I love Sweat fitness- they have locations in Albany and Oakland (Rockridge).

    Always challenging HIIT classes but modifiable depending on one’s needs. The instructors are great too! 

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Questions  

 


Getting fit - what was the name of that gym?

April 2009

After having baby #3, I am trying to lose some of the weight I have gained over the past 6 years. A while back, someone posted that some former trainers from the Ice Chamber opened their own gym. What was the name of that? And has anyone been to both that gym and the Ice Chamber to offer some perspective or recs? To be honest, I am not even sure with my schedule that I could make it to the gym. How have others worked this out with a nursing baby? Maybe scrap the gyms and hire a personal trainer who will come once a week to create a fitness and nutritional plan for the week? I have the motivation, just not the time, not a ton of money, and no babysitters during the day. Early mornings and evenings are not really a great option (crazy time of day for me and the kids)but I am willing to try. Anyway, just looking for some recommendations from those who have been in the same boat. Thanks! reeling from my Wii Fit age


Hi - That was me with the post about Phoenix Gym and personal training. Congrats on your little one! I also have three kids and totally understand the lack of time/energy for exercise and being short on cash for extras. I worked out at Ice Chamber for 4 months and I've been with Phoenix for 4 months now. I'd be happy to talk to you about my experiences with both - no negativity, just perspective. You mentioned possibly a personal trainer - Juliet Harris or Kelly Mills (both also moms) are really great. I haven't had a lot of exposure to Dmitri (the third owner of Phoenix), but I have had nothing but great workouts when he's led the class. All of them do personal training, all are certified and all have flexible schedules - they seem to always be there. I'm pretty sure they have information on their website about personal training. www.phoenixfitnessgym.com Their classes are MWF at 6:30 and 9:30 am. They also have a Saturday class at that starts (I think) at 10:30 am. It ha! s all made a huge difference to me. Email me directly and I'll give you my phone number if you'd like to talk. chameleonmom


It's FourthStreet FitCamp Class. It's awesome! I've been going to classes during the week and they now offer a Saturday 9 am class. Eva, one of the trainers, is super high energy and is great at tailoring the class to fit your needs - especially for moms! (she has 2 kids too!). I highly recommend you check it out. Eva is also a personal trainer and has flexible hours. You can do either the class or personal training or both. More info: info [at] 4streetfitcamp.com or call 510-367-7568. Diane


I had my third child in July and I just finished a six week session at the boot/fit camp I think you are referring to in your request. It was fantastic!! I think the 4th Street Fit Camp is filling a really important gap that has existed in helping woman feel strong and physically capable while also raising a family and managing all that goes along with the journey of parenthood. They are incredibly encouraging and are open to having the babies join.....I've even brought my middle child and the baby to a work out that was at MLK field. It is so nice to be back in a work-out routine and I must say one of the hardest things to do is to squeeze in time for myself right now, but the class is so enjoyable and the three woman that run it are really motivating and bring such unique attributes to the table.....across the board it makes the experience so worthwhile!!

Here is the info, it would be fun to have you join the crew! I love the timing and pricing scheme as it makes it realistic given all of the other demands on my time! Oh, and I almost forgot, I lost 4 inches off of my waist in 6 weeks going 2 times a week....so not only is it fun and realistic, but they also get results!! Classes are M,W, F, and Sat. 9:30am AND 11:30am Email: info [at] 4streetfitcamp.com or call:510-367-7568 Finally Getting Fit


The gym started by former Ice Chamber trainers is Phoenix Gym . The URL is here: http://phoenixfitnessgym.com/about.html Having been an Ice Chamber devotee and now working with Kelly at Phoenix Gym, I prefer Phoenix. All of the trainers are great and knowledgeable (I worked with each of them while they were at the IC) the workouts are outstanding, and it's just much less of a crowded scene. The level of attention and comraderie you will get is unmatched anywhere I've ever worked out, and I have been to many gyms and classes. I love this place! Check them out. Therese


The name of the gym is Phoenix Gym (http://www.phoenixfitnessgym.com/about.html ).

I belonged to the Ice Chamber and now I go to Phoenix and am extremely happy there. Whichever place you decide to join, you will get in good shape because the workouts are very effective.

Both gyms offer classes or personal training only you don't go and run on the treadmill or lift weights whenever you want. You mentioned that early morning and evenings don't work for you. Both gyms offer mid-morning boot camp classes. The Ice Chamber offers a 45 minute class M - F at 9:00 and 10:00. Phoenix's mid-morning class is an hour, M,W and F at 9:30. Phoenix also has a Saturday 10:30 class for an additional fee. The Ice Chamber has a Saturday morning class as well but it is usually tied into their evening program. The Ice Chamber requires that you do Personal Training before you join boot camp. Phoenix does not but they will give you lots of one:one attention until you learn the correct form on the basic movements. Both gyms offer personal training, if the class times don't work for you.

The Ice Chamber is really involved in kettle bell sport (endurance) and has on-going classes (for a fee) and a competitive team. Phoenix regularly uses kettle bells in their workouts but in what I consider more old school style (explosive movement). Phoenix is currently located in a converted barn so the inside space is pretty small (although there is a nice grassy yard). But they utilize the neighborhood as much as possible, including field trips to loading docks and the King track. The Ice Chamber is in an industrial section of Albany. It's more spacious and has some cardio equipment (treadmill, spin bikes). But overall the gyms have pretty much the same equipment.

The classes at both gyms are generally circuit-style where you complete a certain number of exercises in a certain amount of time. The workouts incorporate weights, body weight, cardio, balance, core, etc. and are different each time. I've had great workouts at both places but have found that I really prefer classes that are an hour. I've never felt like I could do more at the end of an hour like I have felt at the end of 45 minutes. When I was there, the Ice Chamber's classes had 15 - 25+ people in them, taught by 1 - 2 trainers. Phoenix is small - there are 8 people who regularly attend at 9:30. There are always 2 trainers (3 on Saturday) so your form gets a lot of attention. This also means you can't hide so if you don't want to be pushed, Phoenix might not be the place for you. Two of the owners of Phoenix are moms who weren't always fit like they are now. So, I feel like they really get me. And all three owners are very passionate about what they do. I never get the s! ense they are phoning in the workout. And I love knowing they have already done the workout themselves so they know where the challenging moments are. I can't speak about the trainers at the Ice Chamber because I don't know who is training anymore.

One of the major differences between the two places however is this: Phoenix is a gym; the Ice Chamber is a lifestyle. The Ice Chamber owners, Steve and Maya, are incredibly charismatic and so inspire this zealous devotion - it's a cult of personality, really (in fact, my husband used to call it my cult). So, if you are looking for a community, with parties and competitions, where high-5s after a workout are standard, then consider the Ice Chamber. Phoenix doesn't blog about their members, they aren't throwing any parties (although they would snuggle you if your brought them cupcakes), and I haven't high-5ed anyone in ages. I have laughed my ass off though - Kelly, Juliet and Dmitri, in addition to being really talented trainers, are also irreverently funny. Makes the brutality of their workouts a bit easier to bear. (Kelly writes her own blog - not about the gym - so you could check out her sense of humor at www.fitnessfixation.com ).

If you're still not sure, I suggest you drop into Phoenix sometime soon and try a class. When I was there, you couldn't drop-in to the Ice Chamber though. But at least you would get a taste of Phoenix without the commitment. Whichever place you choose, work hard and you'll get great results. Phoenix Fan


I believe the gym you mention is Phoenix Gym and it is great! Two of the three owners are mothers and have tons of experience helping women get back into shape after having babies (including helping women with split abdominal muscles and other post-pregnancy issues). They have a 9:30 class for parents (and 6:30 for early-risers) and also do personal training throughout the day.

The classes are small so I get a ton of one-on-one personal attention, which is hard to find at other gyms and great if you are just starting out. The classes are a full hour so by the time I drag myself out of bed and get to the gym, it is really worthwhile. They coach a number of top athletes, but really they take as much (if not more) pride in the personal gains of people just starting out or just getting back in shape. They are genuinely excited when I am able to achieve something that I could not do before (pull-ups, a new rowing record, a heavier barbell weight...) sometimes with giddy clapping. They also know when to push me and when to back away slowly. I am so grateful for their coaching and I know a bunch of other people feel the same. Plus they are super witty and goofy which distracts from the pain and I get an ab workout from laughing (one of the owners is Kelly Mills who writes for the Chronicle's parenting blog ''The Poop''). Sometimes I have to yell at them for making me laugh when I am trying to do an isometric hold. I used to go to the Ice Chamber but I am *obviously* happy at Phoenix gym. Gogobetty


I've been going to the Ice Chamber for two years now, and just wanted to add a plug for their program (which I originally discovered via Berkeley Parents Net). I haven't been to Phoenix, so don't know how it compares, but I really have great things to say about IC.

I'm a mom of two, and someone who always liked the idea of being active a lot more than doing the work to actually be active. I was incredibly out of shape when I started. I decided to sign up just for one month of boot camp, and I was hooked. I recently worked out on vacation with my brother (an ex-college athelete) and my husband (who bikes to work every day) and frankly, they had trouble keeping up with the workout I led them through.

The workouts are incredibly efficient because the exercises are designed to do multiple things - in about 50 minutes you get everything - warmup, cardio, strength, flexibility and stretch out. It would take me at least 2 hours in the gym to accomplish the same results. I also like the fact that you are usually working in a team or with a partner, which gives you a great feeling of camaraderie. (And yes, it is a big place for high fives). I feel like the trainers push me but also are very supportive. The workouts are scalable, and you are encouraged to adjust them as needed so you are giving YOUR max but able to finish. It's hard, and some days I can barely drag myself there, but I love seeing my progress - the things I couldn't do when I started that I can do now. Not to mention the workout itself is the biggest endorphin kick imaginable.

In fact, the funny thing is I discovered for me the secret to staying with a workout was actually to make it tougher and more serious. Usually the advice is ''start slow, try walking every day, etc.'' But I needed to get more intense in order to get going.

There are a lot of moms (and dads) in the 9 am and 10 am classes, and also a room off the main exercise area with a TV and books and crayons and stuff, so if you kids are reasonably self-sufficient for a 45 minute period you can bring them - and people do.

I'm sure Phoenix is great too, but you might want to give them both a try. Ice Chamber fan


Gym & Pool Membership near Montclair

March 2009

We just moved to Montclair and are considering our options for gym / pool membership. We were at the YMCA in the Presidio previously so had a full gym with classes and childcare plus a great swimming pool (albeit indoors). We'd ideally like to take advantage of an outdoor pool over the warm months. We have heard of the Hills, Claremont and Montclair Swim Club and obviously the YMCA, but most of the reviews online are fairly old. Specific questions:
- Any good outdoor public pools nearby for summer enjoyment with family?
- Hills v Montclair Swim Club v Claremont: social opportunities? guest policies? overall offering
- YMCA options (Berkeley, Oakland)
- Other gyms we might want to consider (particularly if we decide against the hefty joining fees of the above mentioned clubs) Thanks very much! Lainey Lainey


We belong to the Hills Club (that is the one on Manzanita, not to be confused with the Oakland Hills Club on Redwood Rd). We moved to Oakland about 3.5 years ago and joined the club about 1.5 years ago. My wife uses they gym and takes occasional classes which she has liked. I mostly like to Swim. There are two hot tubs (one adults only) and saunas in each dressing room. They are doing a major renovation right now and I hear what is done so far looks great. It is a beautiful spot and the kids love it. They have child care, though we have not used it, and a summer camp, which we have used and our kids have enjoyed. One of the main reasons we joined is that we knew so many people there and the social aspects have been great. When we go up with the kids in the summer they almost always have friends there. The pool is heated and there are plenty of people who use it year round.

The memberships can be resold, and I'm guessing they may have gone down in price with the economy. I did not worry to much about it because you can resell it when you are done with it and as long as you plan to hold on to it for a while it is not likely you will lose money on it. Happy Hills member


Join the Hills Swim and Tennis Club . Memberships are at an all time low, just go on Craigslist to find them. You also pay a monthly fee - I think its 205 these days. There are three pools, one for every size. It is much cheaper than the Claremont. It is also a much nicer club than the Montclair Swim club in terms of surroundings. Go up for a tour. My family has been a member for 7 years or so and my son is on the swim team. The people are pretty laid back, a lot of members bought in when the price was $250 to join. It is not a bunch of wealthy, well-dressed people, just average families with kids. In the summer it is great because there are tons of kids to play with and people bring up their wine and beer and food. There is also a new cook and the food at the cafe is great. Karen


We have been members at the Oakland Hills Tennis Club on Redwood Road for almost two years now. My young daughter and I enjoy the outdoor pools (one is a baby pool for non-swimming children and it's heated to 90 degrees or so). They even offer swim lessons. My husband enjoys the gym. There is a separate type of membership if you also want to take advantage of the tennis courts. Childcare is provided for a nominal fee during certain hours. There is also a nice little snack bar. There are various events throughout the year as well. If you want just a pool, Mills College offers swim lessons and public swim opportunities as well. It's a nice pool and it doesn't cost much to enjoy. OHTC Member


Gyms or Exercise Clubs for the whole family

Sept 2007

I would like some recommendations for gyms/places to get the whole family into exercise (2 adults, 10 year old, 4 year old). I have friends who belong to the Claremont and the Hills club but those are way out of our price range. Can people recommend the Oakland Y and/or Berkeley Y? Any other places with good childcare? We live in Rockridge. anon


Well, we love the Berkeley YMCA , but I can't say that we've compared to other places. We just moved here from San Luis Obispo, so EVERYTHING is better around here for a family with kids, but this place is especially nice. When we joined, while we are essentially paying for just two adults, it was clear that our children were members too, and the developmental and physical programs are really nice for them. I love it there, including the childcare. Jen


 

Looking for a gym near Rockridge for morning workouts

Feb 2004

I live in Rockridge and am looking for a nearby gym where I can workout early in the morning. Because I work and have two kids who need to be taken to school/daycare in the morning, I need to be done with my workout by 6:30 or so. So those 'women's' fitness places in Rockridge won't do it for me. I'm considering Courthouse Athletic and Montclair Fitness. How have people's experiences been there? Any place else I might be missing? --- Need to get moving!

Recommendations received:


Gold's Gym

Feb 2004

Re: Looking for a gym near Rockridge for morning workouts
You can also check out Gold's on Grand Avenue. It is just off the 580E Grand Avenue freeway exit so it wouldn't take you any longer than going to Courthouse, I don't think. It opens at 5 am every weekday, 7 am on the weekends. I can't compare equipment to other gyms, but they seem to have quite a few aerobic machines and a large area of weight machines and then free weights. They have classes too, but the first one doesn't start until 6 am. trying to get in shape


Jazzercize

From: Debbe

Another note for exercising parents who are into aerobics, Jazzercize on Jacuzzi St. (next to I-80) in Richmond/El Cerrito off Central exit is very good and provides daycare during some classes, which I think is free. Swimming is good too, but you'd need two adults, and I don't know how much exercise you'd get. They have family swims at the Richmond Plunge in Point Richmond.


March 2000

I'm looking for a place that offers step classes, preferably on a drop-in basis where you pay a fee for that class (or a class-card). I'm moving in less than 5 months, so health club memberships don't look like a great idea with all the initiation fees. I found Pulse in El Cerrito and No Sweat on Solano in Berkeley, but they both only have morning classes. There's also the YMCA in Albany with the reduced community membership, but nothing is totally ideal. Any other ideas? Or if you've used any of these places, did you like the classes/instructors? Can non-students do the Cal Rec center?


Dawn
The Cal Fit program on Campus offers short term classes (6 weeks each or so). Non students (and even non-campus members) can take them. My Water Exercise class costs something like $87 for 12 sessions (I think, with some discounts available for staff or students (as opposed to community). If space is available, they will let you add a class late and pro-rate. They also offer drop-in classes for about $10 each. I don't know about step aerobics in particular, however. Call 643-5151 for more information or to request a brochure.


Sherry
I've been taking classes at Pulse (recently moved to San Pablo Avenue) for years and love the instructors, the class members and the work out I get. Classes can definitely be taken on drop in basis. But, you are right. Because of the move to a new studio, there are only morning step classes (including Sat and Sun), but they do have a weight room which is available in the evening. Have you considered Jazzercize for a period of time on Jacuzzi street. They do drop in and have evening classes.