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March 3, 2010 > Results may vary

Results may vary

By David J. Nicolas
Photos By William Mancebo

Nearly 70 women form a tangled line in front of guarded wooden doors Wednesday evening. Most are in black tights, shorts and cut off T-shirts or tank tops. When the entrance finally opens, a little before 6 p.m., the lucky few holding tiny red cards are waved inside. After 60 people enter, the doorman stops the heavy flow and closes the door. Music begins to play inside.

"Let them in. It's ok," said a man who sports a Blue Tooth in his right ear. Latin beats spill out of the door as people scurry inside. Everyone is dancing.

Zumba is one of the 15 instructional classes offered by the Union City Sports Center, the city's lone fitness establishment. Wednesday night's Zumba class led by Mimi Quiroz is the Center's most popular class, and it's the only class that requires members to get passes one hour before it begins.

It's no surprise that gyms like the Center are experiencing such high traffic. January, February and March are the busiest times for health facilities-a time when countless people across the nation decide it's time to shed a few pounds.

It is no different for Planet Fitness in Hayward who signed 361 new members in the month of January. Total usage increased from 15, 857 for December, 2009, to 21, 853 for January, 2010.

According to Destini Utley, general manger of Planet Fitness in Hayward, the center will be lucky to sign 10 new members every day as the year goes on.

"In March, the crowds die down and cancellations begin," Utley said. Utley has worked for Bay Area locations of Planet Fitness. "Long-time members hate January because they have to wait longer for machines."

Power Fitness, unlike other gyms, draws customers in a manner different from many other fitness centers. Its mission statements call for a judgment-free zone, where customers must adhere to an environment where no grunting or excessive dropping of weights is allowed. If anyone crosses this rule, he can be removed from the gym. This attempt at a relaxed atmosphere, according to Utley, attracts new individuals who have never step foot in a gym.

"You get every type of person in here," Utley said. "The minimum age to be a member is 13 years old, and some people who visit are 90 years old. Once new members see that there aren't just people in tiny tank tops in good shape in here, they start coming."

For centuries, the onset of a new year brings about many concerns people have. Some seek to become more frugal and only spend within their means. Some may try to finally kick a bad habit and quite smoking. For Union City native Jenny Wun, 2010 presented a chance for something beyond a Hollywood look.

Wun, who started attending Quiroz's Zumba class last summer, maintained weekly exercise to stay healthy and active, as well as avoid obtaining diabetes and cancer. It wasn't until the cardio-packed aerobic class that Wun felt liberated from the mundane gym atmosphere.

"It's fun. It doesn't feel like a regular work out," said Wun. "It's like going to a club on a week day with a really supportive group."

Andres Villalbazo of Hayward feels similarly of the positive effects that the gym can bring versus the "results". He started an every-other-day gym routine in 2009 to kill calories. But the gym quickly proved to be the perfect place to alleviate the strain of a full-time job and his yearning to go back to college.

"It gets your stress out. A lot of people these days use alcohol or drugs to relieve stress, but the gym is a lot better," Villalbazo said.

John Hebison, a certified personal trainer at Planet Fitness in Hayward, saw his schedule bloom in January. Planet Fitness offers group training sessions for free along with a membership.

"It's hit or miss with people who sign up at gyms," said Hebison. "Clients get hooked or they don't."

But even after results, Hebison has seen clients search for imperfections.

"People are happy when they see results, but they still want more. Some set goals to lose 10 pounds, and then they want to gain weight back," Hebison stated. "People can be in good shape, but the way that our society is built up, people want to be perfect."

His best advice for people trying the gym to get healthier is staying consistent.

"You have to go to the gym at least three times a week, an hour each time," Hebison advised. "Make it part of your lifestyle."

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