When I was a teenager, summer vacations didn’t mean fun and relaxation. While they were short breaks from schoolwork, my summers were spent doing another kind of work. For me, particularly, they were spent losing weight. As the fat kid who later became a fat teenager and an even fatter young woman, this was the kind of a “work” I both hated and dreaded.
No doubt many would think me lucky that my parents spared no expense in gym memberships for me. Mom, always the more worried parent, would do her homework by checking out different gyms, fitness clubs, and weight loss programs for me. I appreciated the effort and the expense, but after a while, the whole idea of losing weight became much more of an emotional burden for my fragile self-esteem.
I was really thin when I graduated from high school, but the weight slowly crept back in from stress eating. By the fourth year of college, which was also the second year of medical school, I had gained almost all that I had lost, probably more. Mom got so concerned that she decided to upgrade my membership, adding extra programs for the rest of the year. After lectures or duties, and on free weekends, I would haul myself to the gym, never once telling my parents I hated every second of it. Shortly after, I had a bad workout and I hurt my back, turning me off exercise and gyms forever. That pain saved me from having to go back again, but it also hounded me for years, causing me emotional distress and a lot of physical discomfort.
I had given up on the idea of ever going back to the gym when I discovered Curves Philippines a few years ago. The first local branch of Curves, a franchise from Gary and Diane Heavin’s original Texas fitness club, was located at the Bonifacio Global City, and they have since expanded to more locations in the city. I wanted to give the concept of circuit training a try and their guarantee of short but effective workouts was tempting, but the distance and long travel time (think Metro Manila traffic) ultimately dissuaded me from pushing through with the plan. I figured, the harder it is to go anywhere, the more likely I would not want to go because of the commute.
Fortunately, just this year, I got wind of a location nearer me — at the new Robinsons Magnolia Residences, just beside the commercial complex of Robinsons Magnolia in New Manila. While not exactly within my neighborhood, it was near enough for me (around 15 minutes without traffic, and 30-45 minutes with) to want to explore the fitness services offered by Curves Philippines.
I went in for a consultation bright and early one morning and after a short interview and explanation of how the circuit works, eagerly jumped to the workout. The concept of the Curves circuit revolves around the combination of strength training and cardiovascular workouts to elicit maximum exercise efficiency. The use of specially designed hydraulic resistance machines that target different muscle groups provides consistency and regularity to the drills. Alternating each turn at a machine with cardiovascular exercises (aerobics or dance) builds resistance and endurance, thereby creating the “burn” that one hopes for. And because the circuit involves only two complete rounds each time, 30 minutes is all one needs at a minimum to start a fitness routine.
Having been to many gyms in my lifetime, I love that Curves has many advantages over others I’ve joined in years past. One, I love the comfort and security of being in an all-women gym. The tagline “no make-up, no mirrors, and no men” is absolutely spot-on as Curves abides by this faithfully. Not having to share facilities with men allows women the confidence to push our bodies to our limits, without unnecessary worries.
Two, I appreciate the one-on-one supervision, which, unlike some gym clubs where you work out independently, is part and parcel of one’s membership. Curves has trained coaches on hand to supervise you in machine use and create workouts tailored to your level of ability. I started experiencing knee pain right after a trip abroad last year, and at the time of my Curves visits, I wasn’t too steady on my knees. The coaches who supervised me at each of my visits made sure I was challenged and pushed to my best but were always mindful of my physical limitations.
Three, I love that toning and conditioning were necessary components of their fitness regimen. Inside the Curves gym is a large, immovable cube frame meant for stretching before and after the circuit. I would do this as part of my warm-up and recovery regimen, and time with this was always my favorite part of the routine.
Four, I love that Curves keeps upping their game by providing a wide variety of additional activities. For those looking to extend their workouts’ duration and intensity, Curves offers yoga, kickboxing, zumba, and dance aerobics sessions as adjuncts to the circuit. They also have special Arms and Core sessions throughout the week to help you gain tone and strength in these areas. From their Facebook page, I recently learned that they also have Tai Chi, and this has me second-guessing my absence from the circuit, despite injuries.
Sadly, in April of this year, I had to hold off exercise while I was under medical observation and treatment for my heart. When I hurt my remaining good knee in August and partially tore a ligament, I had to scuttle any thoughts of returning to the circuit, at least not before my knees are healed enough to walk without constant pain.
I miss Curves, really. After each workout, I would come out walking taller and straighter, my back, neck, and knees less painful. I also didn’t limp and hobble as much after each session. And while I didn’t focus on weight loss as an incentive to work out, I did lose a kilo or two despite having one of the lightest regimens in the gym, this, based on the activities of the superwomen I worked out with. Working out at Curves, I realized, just always made me feel stronger than the way I felt the day before. It’s a feeling I miss every day these days.
I am grateful to the wonderful people who looked after me during my visits — Coaches Jhing, Jessie, and Irene — and I miss them all. I look forward to going back one day soon, “Pinky” promise. So please, drop by and see for yourself what an amazing place Curves Magnolia is, and while you’re there, please say “hi” to them for me!