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Keeping fit in all weather

The Baltimore Sun

It's no secret that Howard County residents are active and fit. Get out and about early Saturday morning in Columbia and you'll see plenty of local bikers, joggers and walkers with flushed faces, fresh from a go around the park.

While the outdoor parks continue to be a destination for local exercisers, the shorter and colder winter days, and the hot and humid summer days, may mean fewer chances to go outside and get active. The local YMCA and the well-known Columbia Association gyms have provided climate-controlled exercise spaces for decades, but with Columbia's continuing expansion, popular fitness chains have been popping up around the county. Not envisioned to replace the hiking trails of Patapsco Park or local lakeside jogging paths, these facilities offer expansive fitness opportunities all year round and in all weather.

People have their own methods to stay physically fit; goals and activities vary depending on age, ability, interest and health. For some, a workout is sweating through a five-mile run each morning, lifting weights, and cooling down with a protein shake. For others, it could be a yoga class or a game of basketball. With so many fitness facilities and a long list of classes and amenities at each, it can be a task to find a place and program that works for you. The growing number of fitness facilities in the area mean more choices and a great chance of finding a gym that is perfect for you.

Here's the scoop on some popular local fitness facilities to help you determine which services and amenities are important to you and which facilities best meet your needs.

Colosseum 9159F Red Branch Road Columbia 21045 410-740-2339

Objective listed on Web: -- "Your trainer owned community gym, offering personal attention in a comfortable setting."

Floor plan: -- The 10,000- square-foot facility offers 40 cardiovascular machines and well organized lanes of exercise equipment. Three dumbbell sets and a power-lifting area promote strength training while motivated employees and members promote fitness. Everyone who works at the gym is a certified trainer and available to answer questions or give you a spot. The recently renovated environment emphasizes safety, community and proper exercise technique.

Classes: -- The Colosseum tends to focus more on individualized training and personal attention but offers Pilates classes.

Trainers/instructors: -- The owners of the gym are both certified personal trainers and grew up in the area. Private sessions with one of their 27 nationally certified trainers are available to members and nonmembers. New members are offered an hour with a trainer, during which they learn the proper use of the machines and discuss ways to reach their fitness goals.

Child care: -- Yes.

Perks: -- The facility has a full-time physical therapist on site and is dedicated to providing guidance to its members. It attracts all fitness levels with its personalized approach. "We can tackle any fitness issue, at any age and fitness level, including post-rehab, sport specific, weight loss, back pain, pre-surgery strength conditioning and more."

Columbia Athletic Club 5435 Beaverkill Road Columbia 21044 410-730-6744

Objective listed on Web: -- "Large enough to satisfy all of your interests, yet small enough to get to know you."

Floor plan: -- The well-known club houses an indoor track, strength and weight training machines, cardiovascular machines, group fitness studios, an 800-square-foot cycling studio, racquetball, squash and tennis courts. A coed whirlpool is a plus for couples and families, but the unique feature of the club is the hot-water therapy pool. The locker rooms are equipped with saunas and free or rental lockers.

Classes: -- Step aerobics and group power classes are open to all. Services offered with certain memberships include studio cycling, yoga, and tai chi. Children and adult martial arts are available for an extra fee.

Trainers/instructors: -- The facility is part of the Columbia Association. Their facilities offer two kinds of personal trainers. The professional personal fitness trainers are certified through the American Council on Exercise. The elite personal fitness trainers have more advanced levels of certification and five years' experience, or have three years of experience and a bachelor's or master's degree in a relevant discipline.

Child care: -- Yes. Kidspace is offered for children ages 6 weeks to 13 years and available as an add-on to membership.

Perks: -- The 1,500-square-foot hot-water therapy pool offering aqua-arthritis classes, water tai chi, and water yoga, and the When If Not Now, personalized program for adults 50 and older. Massage therapy is offered for an extra fee.

Columbia Gym 6151 Day Long Lane Clarksville 21029 410-531-0800

Objective listed on Web: -- "A club designed with the family in mind."

Floor plan: -- This newest Columbia Association facility houses a high-tech aerobic gym, a 1,000-square-foot cycling studio, strength-training equipment, an indoor lap pool and recreational swimming area, a hot tub, basketball courts, and lockers rooms with saunas and separate entrances direct to the pool. Beach-style entry into the baby pool and an interactive water feature give the pool pizzazz that is hard to find. Like its sister club, the Supreme Sports Club, it maintains a fully stocked women's gym. Lynn's Day Spa offers relaxing and rejuvenating options, including hot stone therapy to reward yourself after a tough workout.

Classes: -- Aeroboxing, qigong, cycling, yoga, and tai chi require that you phone in reservations. Step aerobics and group power classes take place regularly.

Trainers/instructors: -- As a Columbia Association facility, the gym offers two kinds of personal trainers. See details under the Columbia Athletic Club.

Child care: -- Yes. Kidspace offers a 5,000-square-foot youth arena with a game room, tree house, and jungle gym. With so many activities catered to children, it's easy to occupy the whole family.

Perks: -- The gym has major appeal for all generations and types of families. Activities include swimming lessons, martial arts and dance classes, and sports leagues.

Curves 9275 Baltimore National Pike Ellicott City 21042 410-480-1009

Objective listed on Web: -- "The support you need to reach your goals."

Floor plan: -- Curves offers a 30-minute workout that meets a lot of women's fitness needs. Alternating 30 seconds of cardiovascular activity and 30 seconds of strength training, members move through 14 machines for a full-body workout. A quarterly weight management class helps you design a realistic diet that you can stick with. The program can be as challenging as you make it, and while it's suggested that you visit the club three times a week, many members go more frequently.

Classes: -- The facility is on the smaller side and does not offer classes, however the circuit training can be equally high energy.

Trainers/instructors: -- Staff members provide encouragement and assistance throughout your workout and offer instruction to new members.

Child care: -- No.

Perks: -- Their program packs a lot of punch into a short time, and the environment gives you the confidence to push through a few more reps. Plus, if you belong to one Curves, you can grab a travel pass and visit any one of their facilities.

Life Time Fitness 7720 Lee DeForest Drive Columbia 21046 410-953-0022

Objective listed on Web: -- "Everything we do is built on three cornerstones: exercise, nutrition and education."

Floor plan: -- The two-story, 110,000-square-foot facility houses more than 400 cardiovascular and weight machines, meaning less chance of standing in line for a treadmill or stationary bicycle. Indoor and outdoor aquatic areas with water slides, sports courts and rock-climbing caverns offer a combination of fun and fitness for the whole family. In the LifeStudio, dedicated to Pilates and yoga; the spa; and plenty of other areas, it feels more like a resort than a fitness facility. The stunning locker rooms offer dry saunas, steam rooms and whirlpools, and free lockers and towels.

Classes: -- Group fitness studios with innovative classes offer a variety of classes. Team Weight Loss, divides its three weekly meetings with a dietitian. High energy and high-tech cycling classes take place in a facility with 40-45 bikes and a blowing machine to give the sensation of movement.

Trainers/instructors: -- A team of certified personal trainers serve all ages and fitness levels.

Child care -- Yes. There are also a number of programs designed for children and teens, including rock-climbing courses with auto belays and classes that mimic physical education in grade school.

Perks: -- Life Time Fitness is a package deal. Not only is it open 24 hours a day, but the club also offers you a healthy bite to eat at LifeCafe and a therapeutic massage or aromatherapy in the LifeSpa. True to the club's ability to meet the needs and wants of the entire family, the child care center has a computer center with games. And no Internet access on the computers means a worry-free workout for parents.

Planet 8488 Baltimore National Pike Ellicott City 21043 410-465-1100

Objective listed on Web: -- "The judgement free zone."

Floor plan: -- The newest fitness facility to the area opened in mid-January with plenty of energy amenities. More than 50 cardio machines, lots of strength training equipment and free weights occupy the main room of the gym. A smaller circuit gym houses 15 machines. The modern locker rooms always have a free locker available and are a nice place to wash up after a workout.

Classes: -- Members can do group training with a few other members and a fitness professional for no extra charge.

Trainers/instructors: -- Who needs a trainer with a circuit room like theirs? The facility has found an energizing way to move you through about 15 machines targeting total body strength. A knowledgeable staff is available to answer questions.

Child care: -- No.

Perks: -- From 7 a.m. on Mondays to 9 p.m. on Fridays, the gym is open around the clock.

Quest Fitness 10045 Baltimore National Pike; Suite A-11 Ellicott City 21042 410-750-7300

Objective listed on Web: -- "Whatever you're looking for in a health and fitness regimen, you'll find it here."

Floor plan: -- With dozens of treadmills, and rows of stationary bikes, elliptical machines and stair-climbers overlooking a section of weight machines, it's easy to stay motivated. The cycling studio is always blasting with energy, as is the group-fitness studio. A smaller-scale gym, for women only, houses its own set of cardio machines, television and some strength training equipment. The locker rooms offer free and rental lockers, and a dry sauna.

Classes: -- Certified instructors lead group fitness classes including step aerobics, Xtreme Training, cycling, and for a fee, yoga. The weekly class schedule offers a variety of classes throughout the morning and evening hours, making it easy to make a few a week.

Trainers/instructors: -- Personal trainers and group-fitness instructors, with varied backgrounds and training, offer diverse, personalized fitness programs.

Child care: -- Yes.

Perks: -- The on-site spa and massage facility offer a full range of spa services. The club also has tanning beds available not far from a large cooler of fitness beverages and access to tea and coffee. The gym has plenty going on without being intimidating.

Supreme Sports Club 7080 Deepage Drive Columbia, MD 21045 410-381-5355

Objective listed on Web: -- "Designed for your time, convenience and peace of mind."

Floor plan: -- This gym offers at least two of everything. With two male and two female locker rooms, you're sure to get a locker. Two entrances, one for families with small children, keeps the door traffic to a minimum. Two types of personal trainers provide the advice your looking for. You'll find plenty of room and options for exercise, including the indoor track, a multitude of cardiovascular equipment and the eight-lane lap pool. The 1,600- square-foot cycling studio houses 20 V-bikes by Star Trac. The women's gym offers a feeling of privacy, a nice selection of weight machines and enough cardio machines to satisfy the members. If the saunas and coed whirlpool aren't enough, Lynn's Day Spa offers massage therapy on site.

Classes: -- Group fitness classes are taught on a regular basis. Studio cycling, yoga and tai chi are available with certain memberships.

Trainers/instructors: -- As a Columbia Association facility, the gym offers two kinds of personal trainers. See Details under the Columbia Athletic Club.

Child care: -- Yes. Kidspace child care is optional with your membership.

Perks: -- The roller skating rink separates this gym from the pack and draws Columbia Association members to this location.

Synergy 8815 Columbia Parkway Suite 2 Columbia 21045 410-964-9858

Objective listed on Web: -- "Provides the equipment, instruction, and support system that a woman needs to succeed, whether you are looking to tone up or trim down."

Floor plan: -- The female-only facility offers a multitude of cardiovascular machines, extensive strength-training equipment and dozens of group-fitness classes. From free weights to free child care, women feel welcome at Synergy.

Classes: -- Aerobics, step aerobics, Boxercise, and kickboxing are included in each membership. Other classes offered for an additional fee include yoga, Pilates, cycling and X-Treme fitness. Certain memberships offer unlimited access to spinning, yoga, and Pilates at Synergy Pilates and Yoga, a few steps away.

Trainers/instructors: -- Male and female professional and certified personal trainers are available for consultation and training. Membership advisers are available to conduct fitness tests, help you pinpoint areas to work on and set goals.

Child care: -- Yes. It's free Monday through Friday.

Perks: -- The fitness center also offers metabolic testing, nutritional counseling, massage therapy, reflexology and tanning.

YMCA Howard County Family Branch 4331 Montgomery Road Ellicott City 21043 410-465-4334

Objective listed on Web: -- "Offers an innovative program mix for children, adults, families and seniors."

Floor plan: -- The bustling 23,000-square-foot facility is well-known for its indoor lap and recreational pool, workout facility and variety of wellness-promoting activities. They are adding another pool, this one with four lanes and warm water; two gymnasiums; a rock-climbing wall; and a few more locker rooms. The Wellness Center houses cardiovascular and weight machines, and continues to expand and meet the needs of all age groups.

Classes: -- High-energy classes like step, cycling, cardio kickboxing, and Total Fitness are free for members, as are targeted exercise classes, Abs and Buns and strength training. Specialty classes, including yoga and tai chi, are also available. Swimming lessons and classes to promote overall wellness are also popular.

Trainers/instructors: -- A computerized personal training program called FitLinxx, is a unique approach to personal training. Members spend an hour with a coach, who becomes their fitness contact, to learn how to use a five-digit code to track weight and repetitions on each machine. Nutritionists and trainers are regularly available for consultations.

Child care: -- Yes. The YMCA emphasizes character development and offers a large variety of programs to promote overall wellness, catered to children and families. Enroll your children, and exercise nearby.

Perks: -- If you have a child enrolled in the full-time child care program with the YMCA, you get a free family membership. And with all these additions and renovations, the center opens up room to service more members and offer them plenty of variety.

Facilities -- Not everyone opts to stay fit in the fast-paced environment of the local gym. Although many of the larger facilities offer yoga and Pilates classes, there are smaller centers that specialize in these activities. With teachers who have long been dedicated to these practices, the centers provide specialized classes in a focused environment. If you prefer the serenity of yoga or the fine-tuned strength-training of Pilates, you may be interested in these local facilities.

The Yoga Center of Columbia 6100 Day Long Lane Suite 210 Clarksville 21029 410-720-4340

8950 Route 108 Suite 109 Columbia 21045 410-720-4340

Classes, facility -- The Yoga Center of Columbia offers six styles of yoga in each of its two facilities. Certified instructors teach all levels day and night, including weekends (as well as Pilates, Meditation and Qigong). As far as child care goes, babies, kids and teens can attend classes as well. Their Wellness Room offers massage, Reiki, Yoga Therapy, Herbal Consultations.

The Pilates Center 5146 Dorsey Hall Drive Ellicott City 21042 410-992-5155

Classes, facility -- With private instruction as well as group mat classes and workshops, even the novice can feel comfortable at the Pilates Center. New York certified instructors work with you in 3,000 square feet dedicated to Pure Pilates. The center offers Tower classes and unique programs. Equipped with reformers, Cadillac, Wunda chairs, spine correctors, and magic circles, the center is certain to align your mind, body and strength.

Coreworks Fitness Studio 9160 Rumsey Road Suite B4 Columbia 21045 410-772-0600

Classes -- With more than 10 types of classes to choose from, it is easy to find your place at this Pilates studio. The entry-level Pilates and reformer classes appeal to those with no previous experience, while advanced and specialized classes offer strength training for the well-practiced participant. Sessions specialized for weight loss, expectant mothers and even golfers offer alternatives to traditional exercises.

Facilities -- Whether you're new to the fitness arena, new to the area, thinking about spicing up your exercise routine, or slowing it down, there is a local facility that caters to your goals. Membership fees vary in accordance with facility amenities.

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