Review: Equinox gym in Brookfield Place

Equinox entrance 1-11-2015February 24, 2015- By Steven E. Greer, MD

The Equinox Gym in Brookfield Place has finally opened and is attracting the expected crowd of employees who work in the World Financial Centers (sorry, I mean Brookfield Place). Given that Battery Park has not had a gym in the neighborhood for many years ever since Goldman Sachs removed the New York Sports Club, the new gym is an incremental positive. But once the novelty of having a gym in the hood wears off, will people stick with their memberships?

I tried out the gym for a few days, fully expecting to join, despite the hefty monthly membership fee of $165 plus a $300 signing fee. I was told that there were many classes led by instructors and that the free-weights section would have a roving Equinox staff member at all times to help people with spotting, etc. However, what I found over my four-day trial period was not as promised.

First, to be clear, I am not like the vast majority of people who join gyms because I am not interested too much in yoga or spin classes. To me, running on a giant hamster wheel called a treadmill is so boring that I would rather do my neighbor’s accounting for free. I mostly want from a gym just some nice iron to left like Sisyphus. I was looking forward to having the help of roving personal trainers on the floor just for a quick spot or suggestion for a different exercise (as part of the membership, not an hourly personal training session).

On the first day, there was one lady in the free-weights section with a blue shirt on designating her as the roving helper. However, on the other days, I saw no one in blue shirts. All that I saw were the black-shirted trainers doing personal sessions.

Perhaps this was for the best, because the one trainer from whom I asked advice gave me egregiously unsound advice two days in a row. He told me on the first day that triceps machines hurt the shoulder joints. I ignored him but I took note. On the second day, he said that standing row exercises “destroy” the shoulders, which is wrong. I asked who taught him that dogma and he had no answer. I had to awkwardly avoid him for the next two days.

I am sure that some of the trainers can get results and that they are not all imbeciles, but from what I observed, I saw a bunch of 20-something Millennials who took some courses in “personal training” and were walking around acting as if they were physical therapists or orthopedic surgeons. A little knowledge is dangerous and can hurt people.

And what about all of those group classes that come with the membership justifying the high price? Over my four days, I did not see many of them. I never went to the gym in the morning, and they had some scheduled then, but in the early evening, I saw one class of 40 females and no males, and that was it. The class seemed too big and the women had to wait on a very long line in the middle of the gym to get in. It seemed embarrassing to them.

When I signed up, I was told by a sales agent that I could get an initial evaluation from a head trainer, complete with a treadmill stress test, and then receive a recommended workout program based on my goals. A trainer on the floor also said that this was available and told me to come back the next day and he would help me. I did that, but that trainer was busy with a personal session the next day and blew me off.

I told the General Manger Will Diaz that they should really monitor more closely the potential members using a trial periods, and make sure that their staff helps them out. Even if someone signs up as a member, if they are not guided into an effective routine, they will lose interest and quit. He said that those initial evaluations were only for people who signed up to be members; Just dumb; Missed opportunity.

The weight room itself is a nice facility with a good view overlooking the North Cove Marina. The squat racks are excellent. My one complaint is that all of the weights were coated with a silicone-like slippery substance. I had to wipe my hands on the towel often to keep a good grip.

The changing room and showers are also nice and clean. Equinox’s main distinguishing trademark is that it has clean facilities with good equipment.

Downstairs, I tried the smoothies and carbohydrate bars. They were god-awful and pricey. The $10 energy smoothie had only blueberries in it, along with bland yogurt, so it tasted like baby puke. The next day, I tried an energy bar the size of a brownie that looked a bit like a rice crispy treat. It was like eating sawdust, and I am not exaggerating. The juices were pre-made sitting in bottles and not freshly pressed. I need to see large bulky vegetables become juice before my eyes.

As with most gyms, Equinox tries to sucker you into contracts. It is an age-old way of doing business for these places and it has to stop. People do not like contracts. They also use the same deceptive pricing schemes that most gyms use. They threaten you with a $300 signing fee “But if you join now, we will waive it.”. They also rip-off the local citizen by charging them $165 per month, when any schmuck working in the corporate offices can get a rate of $130.

All in all, I am happy with my $30-per-month-no-contract Stuyvesant Community Center membership. I have an entire weight room and swimming pool to myself on most days. Sure, it is occasionally creepy to mingle with STEM-whiz teenagers from the high school, but it is not as bad as dealing with personal trainers who give misleading advice.

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