The True Shape of Curves


If you want to get in shape and you’re short of time, visit a Curves gym. You enter the clean, cozy branch at 375 9th Street in Brooklyn to greetings from the employees and the women exercising. Upbeat house music and chatter fill the narrow, ground-floor space along with an alluring recorded voice that, every 30 seconds, prompts you to “Change stations now.” You’ll find no overzealous men, no trendy outfits, no waiting, no weights to mess with, and no funky smells. With over 8,000 locations—92 in New York City—and 3 million members worldwide, the Curves program is certainly onto something.

The patented workout combines cardio and strength training in a straightforward 30-minute routine. You commit to going three times a week—no more, no less. It is realistic, fast, and effective for its core membership of women, both working and raising kids, who want to maintain a steady workout. Twelve machines are laid out in a sociable circle with “recovery boards”—spots for running, hopping, or doing targeted exercises like leg lifts—between each. The machines use hydraulic resistance, making them ideal for women with joint issues. This resistance also allows each woman to exercise at her own level while working multiple muscle groups at once. Every 30 seconds you move from an upper body machine to a board and then to a lower body machine. Though it may seem short, 30 seconds on these machines exhausts you. After a full-throttle push through a complete cycle (two and half rotations) I was spent.

While the strength training may be thorough, the cardio training is insufficient on its own. The machine exercises never vary, and though the speed of your workout increases over time and you add targeted exercises on the recovery boards, the program’s monotony can lead to laziness. Another worry is the murky reputation of founder Gary Heavin who’s been accused of pushing a Christian agenda. He denies the allegations. Curves franchise owners (themselves mostly women) are doing their best to stay true to the core of what Curves stands for: no judgments. So ask questions and find an ideology-free Curves location that soothes not only your body and spirit, but your mind as well. Visit to find a nearby location: there are 87 in New York City alone.