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Avoiding the 'ego thing'

September 11, 2006|by TIFFANY ARNOLD

MAUGANSVILLE - Nothing against the opposite sex, but sometimes it's just better to exercise at a gym without women, explained Dennis Harne, a client at a local men's gym, just before starting his work out.

"There aren't a bunch of guys standing around trying to pick up women," said Harne, a 51-year-old Cearfoss resident who exercises at The Blitz, a men-only gym in Maugansville. "You're there for a reason."

Years ago, women's complaints that health clubs weren't very lady-friendly spurred the growth of women-only workout facilities, such as Curves and Contours Express, which both have centers in and around Hagerstown.

"My assumption is that these women-only gyms have become popular because it's a women-only environment and there might be less concern about (looks)," said Deborah Young, a researcher and professor at the University of Maryland's Kinesiology Department, in College Park, Md. One of her areas of expertise involves examining ways to encourage women to be more physically active.

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But do men feel the same way? Don Gettel, who co-owns The Blitz in Maugansville and another Blitz gym in Chambersburg, Pa., thinks so.

"It's a good way to go," Gettel said. "If you're heavyset and you have a female around ... men get this ego thing."

Men-only gyms have been popping up ever since women-only fitness centers gained popularity in the '90s. National franchises, such as The Blitz - which has three gyms in the Tri-State area - and Cuts Fitness For Men, which plans to open a gym in Waynesboro, Pa., this month, each claim to cater to men who don't have time to spend in a traditional gym.

As Curves does for women, gyms for men typically feature a timed circuit-training workout with a mix of weights and hydraulic equipment, though some only feature hydraulic equipment.

The Blitz's workout space is encased in boxing ropes, so that it looks like a boxing ring. Boxing bags are among the equipment in the circuit. The recorded sound of a boxing bell tells exercisers when to move to the next machine.

Jay Stouffer, 70, of Maugansville, said he joined The Blitz because it is convenient and close to his home. And the gym works for him.

"I'm diabetic," Stouffer said. "Working out keeps the sugar down and keeps the weight under control. I've been here one year, and I've seen results."

Harne said he stops by the gym in the mornings, after he's finished working third shift at Volvo Powertrain. He weighs 320 pounds and is trying to loose 100. At The Blitz, he can finish his workout in 20 minutes, without people gawking or hogging the equipment, he said.

"It makes me feel better," Harne said. "You're here for a reason."

Young is not aware of a scientific study that indicates men or women fare better by exercising with those of the same gender, but, in her experience, "women tend to enjoy exercising in a group, in a less competitive environment," she said.

The Waynesboro YMCA offers twice-weekly weight-training classes. James Bailes, the YMCA's sports fitness director, will lead the classes, which start today. There are also similar programs throughout Washington County.

Bernadette Gettel, Don Gettel's wife and co-owner of the Maugansville and Chambersburg gyms, was the one who thought of the idea to start a local gym for exclusively for men.

"I had joined a couple of gyms, but I felt put down because I wasn't the Barbie-type - that's not the best choice of words - I was average," Gettel said. "But, when I joined Curves, I had an immediate sense of belonging."

"I'm overweight," she said. "Nobody was judgmental. Everybody was friendly. Then, I started thinking there needs to be something like this for the guys."

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