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MIAMI MIRROR TRUE REFLECTIONS

WE CRUNCH by David Arthur Walters

2007 Crunch Fitness Review

The Crunch fitness center on so-called ultra-chic South Beach is a comfortably dated gym situated on the corner of Thirteenth Street and nightclub-ridden Washington Avenue, in the same coral-faced building that houses the World Erotic Art Museum and the popular Mansion nightclub, across the street from Hustler Hollywood and the Post Office the evening haunt of hustlers, skateboarders, and vagrants. Crunch has a barely noticeable storefront squeezed between the sushi bar and the thrift shop. A Crunch representative occasionally stands on the sidewalk by the door, and there are often colorful balloons and a sign on the door to attract attention and reel passersby in on frequently offered special deals, which amount to a varying discount all the way down to a dollar or nothing on the initiation fee. The City of Miami Beach recently invested tons of tax dollars on a
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MIAMI MIRROR TRUE REFLECTIONS

Washington Avenue makeover, but the powers-that-be cannot, because of liberal laws, and will not, because of liberal profits, totally get rid of the sleaze that makes the strip so hip. The location of the gym certainly fits the bill, for Crunch is famous for making fitness even more fun than booze and other drugs, without doing away with sex and Rock n Roll. For example, get rid of your shyness and become a sultry vixen: give the sexy and challenging Pole Dancing class a whirl for upper body and core strength. There is nothing like a natural high, so you may want to sweat off yesterdays hangover at Crunch, and become drunk with Crunch Power. For Happy Hour try the cardio Strip Bar class it takes Striptease to the next level. Fight off the sleazes with Kickboxing, Kardio Combat, or Cardio Capoeria, and dont forget to do the Samba, Zumba, Urbante, or whatever, and then chill out with Yoga and Pilates. Bicycle Spinning sessions and Yoga classes are packed. Crunch classes have plenty of gimmicky accessories, the latest thing being a kind of pogo stick. In sum, almost anything is done to distract the Cruncher from the arduous facts of strenuous exercise by making the fitness endeavor as fun as possible. Crunch is certainly a great gym for people who like that sort of thing. I loved the place right off the bat. Mind you that I am not a serious workerouter. In fact I have always hated exercise as such. But I knew early on that I had to exercise or probably die an early and miserable death; I took up ballet, modern, and jazz dance in the Eighties so I would hardly know I was exercising. Now that I no longer dance five hours a day, I like to work out at gyms on the beach for an hour or two every day, taking care not to overwork any particular muscle group otherwise my circuit is conducted at random. Chanting positive affirmations and mentally mapping out strategies during repetitious activities belays boredom; one may not reach the stars on the Stairmaster or arrive at Utopia on the treadmill, but hope springs eternal and joy is in the prospect. The little I do does me a lot of
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MIAMI MIRROR TRUE REFLECTIONS

good compared to doing nothing but mental calisthenics. I have never met a gym or dance studio that I didnt like, but I must say, Crunch is especially fun. A visitor to Crunch might get the first impression that he is entering a Washington Avenue tattoo parlor. The entranceway is narrow and crowded with all sorts of jostlers during peak hours, giving former New Yorkers a feeling of home sweet home. A cooler of sports drinks and a tiny athleticwear boutique are crammed into spaces around the desk, and a personal computer has somehow been stuffed between one end of the desk and the front window for people to use in a jiffy. A battery of membership advisors is lodged along the skinny passageway between the front desk and the stairs to the gym on the second floor. Ask a question and you will be run through the induction process including a mandatory tour of the gym and a special offer before you know it the sales tactic is firm but not really pushy; you are welcome to think it over and shop around the pricey competition for a few days. It is no wonder that prospects are taken upstairs as soon as possible, for then they can see that the gym itself is spacious. The gym is constantly cleaned but it still has a down-and-dirty, real gym look. The L-shaped configuration of the premises, and the layout, of large studios on the ends of the L, the free weights, weight and aerobics machines along the way, and the boxing ring and bags where the arms of the L meet, break up the space attractively and with a pleasing functional variety. The longer arm of the gym faces stunning sunsets; hence there is an ongoing tug-of-war: between members who love the light show and have the gall to pull the blinds up, and the staff who believe it is their sacred duty to keep blinds pulled down. A number of Crunch machines are the older, chunkier, more ergonomically fitting and substantial looking models in contrast to the newer models that have a flimsy, corporate-cost-cutting look and just dont
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MIAMI MIRROR TRUE REFLECTIONS

feel right. The joint is a bit crowded after work, but still not that crowded, not even during the tourist season, so the Cruncher can always Crunch to the hearts content. Many Crunchers actually prefer the busy hours because they like the social scene. The overall atmosphere in the gym is funky and saloon-like, especially when the DJ does his thing and members feel more like pumping flesh than iron. In any case the music is great. The flat panel screens are there for those who like that sort of thing. Some Crunchers like to watch the News while on the treadmill instead of staying home to watch it, and appreciate the fact that the captions are running on the televisions listening to the News while working out would detract from the great music and the noises of the gym. Crunchers are friendly for the most part, but that does not mean they are interested in perfecting common courtesy or adhering to standard exercise forms bad form presents ample opportunity for trainers to pick up new customers. Buddies will occasionally horse around a machine while you are trying to work out. And that aggressive guy found in every gym, the fast-paced cat with a 30-minute brutally intense workout agenda, will invariably ask you how many sets you have left to do when you have just started working on a machine; and then he will stand and glare impatiently at you instead of using the dozen empty machines all around. Some Crunchers will insist on working together with you one man actually wanted to get onto the same little bench with me, to do what, I dont know. Cell phones are my pet peeve, which deserves a paragraph of its own. I had no idea that I would wind up living in a public phone booth without walls. The propensity people have for yelling into their yackety-yak devices about nothing at all and unashamedly broadcasting their personal business to anyone within earshot is comparable to the proclivity apes have for
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running around naked and grooming one another even for bugs that do not exist. Cells are ubiquitous on the gym floor at Crunch. They are only prohibited in the locker rooms, where the posted prohibition under threat of membership termination is flagrantly ignored; indeed, the signs serve as magnets for violators. Grunting while lifting heavy weights is one thing, but I certainly did not appreciate the grunts in the bathroom coming from a member who was arguing with his mother about his high protein diet while sitting on the toilet. But never mind. A real gym has to have personal trainers. Books and video aids, high-tech, programmed machines, or anything else that furthers the cause are undoubtedly helpful, but there is no substitute for personal training. That is why almost everyone who has mastered his art or craft or trade or sport has made a considerable investment in personal training, and that is why personal training revenues are a substantial revenue source for gym, sometimes running as high as 30-40% of revenue and even more if training is the main service provided. Bally, for instance, disclosed that its personal training revenue for the year 2005 amounted to $135 million, or 16% of membership services revenue. In any case the fitness novice should have at least three or four training sessions to get him or her going in the right direction. A Crunch membership includes one personal training session. Crunch trainers when not busy cruise the gym floor to pick up clients. A fully booked trainer can earn around $300 a day for himself at Crunch, but its not easy for the new kids on the block to fill their books. My favorite trainer, an old-timer, is on an indefinite leave of absence at this writing, reportedly for giving it away and going AWOL. The brand new trainers look desperate and forlorn prowling the gym for pay. I sometimes ask them to show me a trick or two from time to time, which they are usually eager to do without soliciting me to book sessions.
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I hooked trainer Jose Maldonado into a conversation one evening. I enjoyed his disagreeable but intelligent position on the war in Iraq and our discussion of such historical personages as Saladin and Frederick II so much that I forgot to mooch a personal-training tip off him; too late now: he is too busy training others to chat. Jose attended university to study International Law and GIS technology, and then he enlisted in the Army and served ten years as a Ranger (2nd Battalion, 75th Regiment) in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Jose certainly is well trained: Todays Rangers are called three-time volunteers because they complete U.S. Army Basic Combat Training, U.S. Army Airborne School, and then serve in the 75th Ranger Regiment they are said to be four-time volunteers if they complete Ranger School, which is not a prerequisite of serving in the 75th Ranger Regiment for lower enlisted men. What it amounts to is about two months more training than other soldiers get, and a goodly portion of that has often been described as torture. The Ranger Creed specifies that Rangers lead the way whether by land, sea, or air, and to that end Rangers move farther, faster, and fight harder than any other soldier, keeping themselves mental alert, physically strong, and morally straight, a good example for others to follow. Sergeant Maldonado was a Master Fitness Trainer. Unfit American soldiers lost battles; therefore the Army set up the U.S. Army Physical Fitness School and its Master Fitness Trainer and Master Fitness Leader Courses. In addition to their other duties, Master Fitness Trainers advise their commanders on prescribing exercise and lifestyle programs that will keep soldiers in tip-top shape for winning battles. More specifically, according to Field Manual 21-20: A Master Fitness Trainers (MFT) is a soldier who has completed either the four-week active-component, two-week reserve-component, or U.S.
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Military Academys MFT course work. Although called masters. MFTs are simply soldiers who know about all aspects of physical fitness training and how soldiers bodies function. Most importantly, since MFTs are taught to design individual and unit programs, they should be used by commanders as special staff assistants for this purpose. MFTs can do the following: Assess the physical fitness levels of individuals and units; analyze the units mission-related tasks and develop sound fitness training programs to support those tasks; train other trainers to conduct sound, safe physical training; understand the structure and functions of the human body, especially as it related to exercise. Jose is also certified by the National Academy of Sports Medicine, ACE, the Aerobics Fitness Association of America, and others although he invested a ton of money in certification programs, he said there is no substitute for hands-on experience. As fit as he is, he said he was burned out by his overseas duties, therefore he did not reenlist after ten years of service. However, he is seriously considering returning to Iraq because he is worried that the soldiers, particularly many of the officers, need better training in several respects, including what he learned from Vietnam veterans. I believe he should stick around and create a Crunch Fitness Course for Crunch I would write the Crunch Field Manual, of course. All those who pass the Course will, as elite Crunchers, be entitled to wear a special cap. Every gym must have its celebrities. Members of the Hulk family come around the South Beach Crunch. I met the ABC weather girl on her birthday. She is as nice in person as she appears to be on television, so now I watch her in the mornings. There are undoubtedly other famous people around, but I am not a celebrity nut so I dont know one when I see one although I had heard her songs, I didnt recognized Madonna years ago when I met her in a dance studio.
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You will see a few professional and semi-professional boxers around Crunchs small boxing ring they got bored with the boxing club down the street. Many Crunchers like to furiously kick and knee each others protective gear, and one burly man loves to wrestle like a bear with the bags an hour at a time, so you get a lot of crashing, smashing, grunting and groaning sounds besides the usual racket made by the habitual weight slammers and droppers. Crunch grunts are ferocious. Some heavy lifters are so far gone that they cannot grasp the fact that holding the breath during exertion can cause not only heart and lung damage but brain damage as well. But let them roar if that makes them happy, and focus on the eye candy. Crunch is a multicultural institution, so there is no one standard model of beauty but rather a variety of flavors. Yes, women are sometimes literally drooled on at Crunch, but they thumb their noses at the gawkers and droolers or put on sideshows and work them to their advantage. There is no shortage of brains with beauty and brawn around Crunch, or lack of money for that matter. At least the gays do not have to prove they are straight by staring at passing female buns; they are discreet, with that out of the corner of the eye thing they do. Lesbians are a powerful faction, by the way, but who cares? Crunch has its Rules and Regulations somewhere, not precisely spelled out, hence leaving considerable discretion to everyone concerned. No doubt an abusive, dangerous or offensive person will be summarily eightysixed by the powers-that-be, but almost anything else goes. Take the virtually non-existence dress code for instance, and consider the twentysomething Latinas athletic shirt with I AM A C##KSUCKING DYKE boldly emblazoned thereon. Yes, she was bilingual, she meant what she said. The men did not know quite what to think, but a conservative businesswoman who frequents the gym fully clothed from neck to ankle
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guffawed out loud, apparently at some feminist truth couched in the statement. As a matter of fact, there is no common type of Cruncher. One might take, for instance, the petite Miami office worker who moved away from Miami Beach to a location two blocks from a cheaper gym that has a spa and pool, yet she rides the bus an additional hour every weekday after work to work out at the Crunch center. Why does she bother with Crunch? It is no bother. She says she loves Crunchers, whom she regards as her friends. But we rarely see her chatting with anyone at the gym: she gets a serious workout, and the observer may get the impression that she might be a spinster if she did not spin at Crunch. Of course Crunchers might be stereotyped by social critics as alienated members of the self-directed, Me-generation, the Baby Boomers on the make who did not want to make war and who cared less about what the other-directed others thought of them as long as they could make out and make a living to boot. Crunch founder Doug Levine, a would-be architect and stand-up comedian whose creative interest was whetted as a child while building sandcastles in Florida during Christmas vacations, thought gyms were too serious and he wanted exercise to be fun, so he catered to his New York contemporaries, investing the $80,000 he had earned as a Wall Street trader to establish the first Crunch in 1989, naturally at St. Marks Place in the East Village. He saw the stampede into fitness clubs coming and put his Crunch brand on a goodly portion, a brand suited to the growing dissatisfaction with Corporate in all its forms; a brand that, first of all, means Fun. Crunch differentiated itself from the herd, welcoming people alienated from all walks of life by standing out, by engaging in antics, by being odd-ball, outrageous, weird, novel, audacious, zany, goofy, ugly, and off-the-wall.

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A wall at South Beach Crunch, by the way, is anti-artfully decorated with absolutely absurd graffiti in jarring juxtapositions of dullish blue, yellow, orange, pink and red, all seemingly in accord with the Crunch postmodernist motto: NO JUDGEMENT (sic). A post-Kennedy, antiNixon Me-Generation slogan emblazoned on the wall amidst the disjointed graphics advises you to ask not what you can do for your country but what you can do for yourself. We learn from the wall that Crunchers are a gymunity under the gymfluence, inclined to workout their problems while improving their ability to operate heavy machinery. They are urged to speak good body language because In Bod we trust. Words of warning appear: Funny how one kind of six-pack can ruin another. The Baby Boomers among us who once chanted up against the wall (expletive deleted) recognize the counter-cultural tone recently blanketed by the neoconservative dress code and nearly extinguished during the latest rush to more endless warfare. The dcor or rather the attitude it represents is one reason Crunch is said to be dated. Doug Levine, Crunchs progressive guru, bailed out just before the millenarian neoconservative forces of darkness arrived. Bally Fitness bought Crunch for $95 million and carried it over the first half of the terrifying aspects of the current dark decade, just as the Catholic Church carried progressive civilization over the Dark Ages, albeit in censored form. Bally claimed the Crunch operation was underperforming and sold it to the current partners for $45 million in 2006, ostensibly to reduce Ballys staggering debt burden and improve cash flow yet Bally is in even direr straits at this writing and its bankruptcy seems imminent. Perhaps the new Crunch management, who were, incidentally, distracted by a horrendous membership billing fiasco just after the takeover, might erase the graffiti and have the design department come up with a less jarring color scheme. But as we can see from the justifiably progressive
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reaction to the regressive neobarbarism of the neoconservative faction, some elements of the datedness are well worth retaining if Crunch wants to go with the flow and be the in place to workout again under the much kinder auspices of welfare capitalism benevolent capitalism, if you prefer. The secret to success behind the plug for a nonjudgmental attitude, NO JUDGEMENT, is a call for good judgment, a call to make peace not war. In any case, I believe good taste calls not only for a Crunch Fitness renaissance, but a restoration of liberal heads and beards, a resurgence of patched up jeans, floppy hats, and wide lapels, and fat ties for those who prefer to wear phallic symbols around their necks. Of course barbarians and conservatives are as welcome as any one else at Crunch, for we all Crunch. Crunchers are an exciting crowd, and sometimes tend to hysteria. When someone begins to freak or wig out, General Manager Alex Fernandez steps in to remind them that, after all, this is just a gym, not a revolutionary battleground, so chill and go Crunch. Alex should know: he has 18 years experience in the business all over the country. He studied physical education and journalism at the University of Colorado, and took his first job in the nonprofit sector of fitness industry, working for the City of Boulder. On the other hand, Crunchers know that Crunch is more than a gym and may become even more than that more. Fitness is presumably the core benefit provided by any gym, and the basic product is in fact just a gym, someplace to workout. But we expect more than that: at the bare minimum, we want an adequately equipped, clean and uncrowded place, and, hopefully, a fairly competent staff. And more, we want our steak to sizzle, to exceed those minimal expectations. That is not to say that Crunchers think Fancy Dan bathrooms, the latest gym equipment, and sleek and shiny premises are crucial to the development and realization of Crunch Power, for the potential basis of that power is in the community. Crunchers go to
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Crunch mainly because they want to work out together. Crunch may be just a gym when we get down to the basics; however, as the general manager knows very well, Crunchers demand a lot more than that. Crunch is a community. That is why we Crunch.

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