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Photograph by Traci Hukill
The Writing's on The Window: This is a good time to sign up with one of our local houses of buff.

Way of the Workout

Where to go once you've hauled yourself off the couch

By Curtis Cartier

24-Hour Fitness
1261 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.454.0333.
Rates: $35-$45 per month.
Initiation fee: $50-$100.

The club of choice for insomniacs far and wide, 24-Hour Fitness is a gym that offers exactly what its name suggests--round-the-clock access to barbells and ellipticals. A huge gym floor complete with free weights, machines, an aerobics room and a kid's club, this center also includes all fitness classes in the price of membership. So if the urge to burn tends to strike at odd hours, 24-Hour Fitness will leave the light on for you.

Cabrillo Fitness Club
6200 Soquel Drive, Aptos. 831.475.5979.
Rates: $33-$39 per month.
Initiation fee: $99.

Cabrillo Fitness Club represents Aptos' best locally run fitness center and is one of the few clubs in the area with a full squash court. Also boasting an outdoor heated pool, three hot tubs, two saunas and a steam room, this place has plenty of options for a wet workout and a steamy recovery. Claiming to send anyone without a smile to some other gym instead, this gym puts local love back into the big club experience.

Club One
100 Enterprise Way, Scotts Valley. 831.431.2202.
Rates: $50-$88 per month.
Initiation fee: $100-$250.

The largest fitness center in Scotts Valley, this massive muscle factory has more than 30,000 square feet of workout space, not counting the pool and tennis courts. Everything from Pilates machines to massage therapy is offered at this megagym, and since it's so big, employees claim you'll never have to wait for a machine. If it's variety and size you're after, this is the One for it.

415 River St. #F, Santa Cruz. 831.466.0166.
2724 Soquel Ave. #D, Santa Cruz. 831.465.8228.
16 Victor Square #E, Scott's Valley. 831.430.0634.
6149 Highway 9, Felton. 831.335.7870.
7960 Soquel Drive # H1, Aptos. 831.688.2348.
2908 Freedom Blvd., Watsonville. 831.722.2772.
916 E. Lake Ave., Watsonville. 831.724.0900.
Rates: $46.20-$56.70 per month.
Initiation fee: $99-$199.

Not every woman wants to have her "gluteal definition" complimented by sweaty gents while she's on the hamstring cruncher. At the wildly popular Curves franchise, men are taken out of the equation and women are left to concentrate on their workouts ogle-free. Curves' circuit-based program evaluates members' initial fitness level and goals, then leads them step-by-step through a specific regimen designed for their individual needs. And with diligent workers ready to chase away window gawkers, Curves is the best gym for women to be women.

Gold's Gym
620 Water St., Santa Cruz. 831.425.4653.
120 Westridge Drive, Watsonville. 831.728.4653.
Rates: $35-$45 per month.
Initiation fee: $0-$50.

Gold's Gym is known worldwide as the premier meat market in the world of fitness centers. Whether it's tank-topped T-bones or leotarded lamb chops, Gold's attracts enough hard bodies to humiliate anyone's puny torso into submission. In Santa Cruz, however, the atmosphere isn't quite as intimidating as in other locales. And with a massive workout floor and a million classes, including the gnarly Crossfit program, this turkey does have all the trimmings.

Scotts Valley Fitness Club
59 Mount Hermon Road, Scott's Valley. 831.438.6778.
Rates: $39.95 per month.
Initiation fee: currently being waived.

A Scotts Valley alternative to the big-name hustle of Club One, this fitness center is locally owned and operated and delivers personalized service that you can't get elsewhere. With a big-time cardio schedule, including the Latin dance-party-turned-workout known as Zumba, the gym offers a day-care facility, weight room and aerobics center, covering all the basics while still making sure employees remember your name.

Spa Fitness Center
1100 41st Ave., Capitola. 831.476.7373.
1200 41st Ave., Capitola. 831.462.2004.
25 Penny Lane, Watsonville. 831.722.3895.
Rates: $31-$49 per month.
Initiation fee: $70-$99.

One of the oldest and most established athletic clubs in Santa Cruz County, Spa Fitness Center has been burning calories for more than 35 years. Locally owned and operated and featuring pools, courts, saunas and a full aerobics class schedule, this gym has just about every amenity you could ask for, plus a staff that makes customer service its priority.

Toadal Fitness
133 Lincoln St., Santa Cruz. 831.423.3764.
1212 17th Ave., Santa Cruz. 831.464.3764.
Rates: $33-$39 per month.
Initiation fee: $99

Easily the most personable and friendly gym in town, Toadal Fitness is the perfect club for the everyday slacker. Though fairly small, the interior of this spunky sweatshop still boasts plenty of free weights and machines, including a handful of the state-of-the-art Xpresso cycle machines, which feature video screens that turn a trip to the gym into a virtual ride through the Swiss Alps or Hawaiian islands. With a friendly staff and easygoing clientele, there's no place we'd rather get fit.

The Weight Room
120 Dubois St., Santa Cruz. 831.423.5617.
Rates: $39.50-$44.50 per month.
Initiation fee: $85.

If funky virtual Stairmasters and electronic abdomen shockers are not your bag, this locally owned gym, with its back-to-basics emphasis on good old-fashioned free weights, might be a better fit. Founded by the former Mr. Universe, Dave Draper, the Weight Room also prides itself on a laid-back atmosphere that lets its members pump iron without sharing it with people who pump steroids.

321 Corralitos Road, Watsonville. 831.761.8725.
Rates: $42-$70 per month.
Initiation fee: $50.

It is indeed fun to stay at the YMCA. And with free weights, machines, a swimming pool, racquetball, handball and basketball courts, an aerobics room and full schedule of workout classes, it's fun to sweat there too. Also, since membership to one Y gets you into any of the nation's 2,686 other centers, there is really no better bang for your body's buck.

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