Ahead of the curve

Princeton’s newest health club caters to time-starved women.

By: Rachel Silverman
   All too often, gyms become a place where feelings of competition, intimidation and inadequacy run amok.
   Take, for example, the new mom who doesn’t want to stare at herself in the mirror as she works off those pregnancy pounds. Or how about the elderly woman who feels too out-of-shape to exercise in public?
   For these women, health clubs are not a comfortable place to sport their sweat, but constitute yet another source of negative reinforcement.
   Susan DePonte, owner of Princeton’s newest health club, couldn’t agree more. "Health clubs are for healthy people," she said in an interview Monday.
   "Here at Curves, we say ‘no men, no makeup, no mirrors,’" she countered. "We try to focus more on health than on weight loss."
   Located in an office building on Bunn Drive, Curves, which opened last week, offers a unique 30-minute strength training and aerobic workout program.
   "It is only 30 minutes, so you are able to squeeze it in and get back to work," Ms. DePonte pointed out.
   This half-hour regimen, which participants are urged to follow three times a week, is a dramatic departure from the one hour of weights and 30 minutes of "cardio" Ms. DePonte said other gyms recommend.
   "That’s an hour and a half women just don’t have to fit into their schedule," she said.
   The trimmed-down workout time is thanks largely to the franchise’s 14 exercise machines, which aim to provide the same degree of activity in a shorter time frame.
   "The machines are designed to do cardio and strength training at the same time," Ms. DePonte explained. "You can work at least two muscles on any machine."
   Curves’ machines are also said to offer added health benefits because of their hydraulic design.
   "They are a lot softer on the muscles for women," Ms. DePonte said. "Because of that, there is very little muscle pain and soreness."
   Ms. DePonte, who has run a Curves franchise in Woodstown for the past year and a half, believes that this set of easy-to-operate machines lifts the bar for all women, regardless of athletic ability or fitness level, to become gym users.
   "We get women who never felt comfortable walking into a gym," she said. "I have women say, ‘I love Curves, but I hate exercising. This is the best of the evils out there.’"
   The former psychologist is also enthusiastic about Curves’ new, tucked-away location at 256 Bunn Drive.
   "No one wants to fight traffic on Nassau Street for 20 minutes for a 30-minute workout," she said.
   Curves, which has more than 9,000 locations worldwide, is the largest fitness franchise in the world when ranked by number of locations.