TheLiberty is a local paper for Dublin's south inner city

February 2001

Gym'll fix it for Liberties

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By Brian Healy


AS CHRISTMAS becomes a distant and perhaps drunken memory, thoughts often turn to the promises made at the start of the New Year. One of the most common and most difficult to fulfil is the pledge to get fit, tone up and generally purify the body after the gorging of the festive season.

One effective method of shedding the pounds is by sweating it out at the gym. The growing popularity of this pastime is illustrated by the significant rise of membership in places like the Iveagh Fitness Club.

Niamh Laher of the Iveagh Fitness Club always notices an influx of new members at this time of year. "January and February are completely black", she says. "People come here to get the New Year off to a healthy start. Other people have one eye on their holidays so they want to get fit for that."

The Iveagh Fitness Club offers off-peak and full membership rates, ranging from £34 to £47 a month (excluding joining fee). They provide a supervised work-out that caters for all levels of fitness. "We put them through a basic program which covers their whole body, but we don't go into anything too technical," Niamh explains. "After every six weeks we upgrade their program to adapt to their increased fitness."

The YMCA on Aungier St has also witnessed an increase in membership, with many of the classes filled to capacity already. A greater participation of men is one of the main reasons why numbers have risen, according to gym manager Sandra O'Neill. "A couple of years ago it would have been mainly women attending, but we've varied the classes, for example introducing Tae-Bo, and now the ratio is almost 50:50." The age barrier has also been broken with members as old as 75 actively participating in the aerobic exercises.

For many, joining a gym is an expensive luxury. But there are good deals out there. The YMCA provides an unwaged rate whereby a payment of £30 is made upfront, followed by £2.50 per session. This eliminates the monthly bulk fee, easing the burden on the customer. Sandra feels that its popularity is also due to the social aspect of the classes. "There is a huge social element here and also a huge feel good factor. Once you start you feel absolutely wonderful afterwards," she says.

She acknowledges that some people feel intimidated about joining a gym for fear of being unable to keep up. "It is up to the individual instructor to put the newcomers at ease. The exercise is important but it is also about having fun. It's not brain surgery, nobody's going to die. It's just an exercise class, so enjoyment is the most important factor."

It may be a lot of fun, but the gym is clearly not suitable for everyone. However, experts like Niamh and Sandra admit that a few simple steps can be taken to improve general fitness without necessarily joining a gym. Going for walks, cycling to work or taking the kids for a swim are all effective ways to keep the body in shape.

They recommend people develop a regime that suits their own lifestyle and to stick with it. The hard work, they assure us, will pay off.