With a membership to New York Sports Club, Hobokenites get two gyms for the price of one. You can choose between the uptown location—at the corner of 14th and Park—or the downtown, on Newark Street next to CVS. While the two carry the same name, they are as different as night and day.
I worked out at NYSC off and on for the first year I lived in Hoboken. Living right in the middle of town, I enjoyed the option of choosing between the two gyms, but by the second month, the only time I was going to the downtown gym was when I wanted a specific class. Otherwise, it was always uptown for me.
In Part 1 of this column I'll tell you about the downtown NYSC, next week we'll move on to the—which has my preference—uptown NYSC.
The downtown NYSC is in the basement of a building. The only natural light flows in through the front doors, to the check-in counter. It quickly disappears as you descend to the fitness floor, located one level down. The L-shaped space grows more and more jammed with equipment as you walk to the left, first through treadmills and Elipticals, then through weight machines and past lockerrooms before arriving at the free weights.
At peak hours, it's absolutely packed. I've waited upwards of 20 minutes to get on a machine, because there is always a line after work until around 8 p.m. The gym imposes a 30-minute time limit on popular machines during peak hours, but few people abide. It is great on off hours, and not too crowded on weekends. I never had to wait for a machine during the day or after 9 p.m. (downtown is open until 11 o'clock most nights.)
There is only one small mat for push-ups and ab work, which is crowded or semi-crowded throughout the day.
The classes—there are 40 each week (14 spinning)—are pretty full. I can remember one or two times when there were only a handful of people in a cross-training class, but I have seen people denied entrance to full classes on multiple occasions.
The best class I took was Boot Camp. It was basically a sports circuit, incorporating the most effective moves from a variety of popular sports to attain overall toning. The yoga and Pilates classes were not challenging enough. Core Conditioning is a gut-buster, depending on the instructor. Kickboxing on Monday nights is also a good one, you won't walk out of there without breaking a sweat. The instructors love to yell, so be prepared. If you're not inspired by tough love, head elsewhere.
The lockerrooms are decent, though the showers are less than inviting. If you are a germ-a-phobe, this is not the gym for you.
What causes all of the crowding? Reasonable price packages and a convenient location. New members choose between several packages. Gold membership, which allows unlimited use of your primary club and off-peak access to other locations, is $69 a month, plus a one-time "joining fee" and requires a one-year contract (or $79 a month plus a $99 joining fee for month-to-month). Passport membership allows for unlimited use of all NYSC locations. Passport members pay $79 a month plus a $20 initial processing fee for a one-year contract; $89 a month plus a $99 fee for month-to-month. Additional fees are charged for lockers and personal training.
Look for holiday deals coming up in the next few months, making this gym even more affordable. There are often packages for private training and incentives to extend your contract.
Several of my friends workout here, having switched from other, more expensive Hoboken gyms because, in their opinion, at the end of the day the only thing that matters is having weights and a treadmill. If you are looking for more from your gym, you might want to shop around a little bit.
Working out in a basement does not suit me at all. Natural light is always more inviting; it makes the room feel more fresh. This is best for those who want to get in and out, get their reps done and get on with their day or night. But if you are using the downtown NYSC to supplement the uptown gym, it is worth it.
Next week, we'll head to the other NYSC location in Hoboken.