San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Gym Joys: Finding the Right Workout

There is no shortage of good reasons to work out: the return of the scorching hot weather that draws us into our bathing suits and to the beach; the New Year’s resolution to shed the holiday padding; the simple desire to be healthy. Of the host of gyms the country has to offer, The Tico Times spoke to three; a breakdown of their services and prices follows.

Slim and Tone

Slim and Tone is a women’s-only U.S. gym franchise with locations in the western San José suburb of Escazú (289-3696) and in Curridabat (225-4440), east of San José. Franchise owners in Costa Rica have also added a men’sonly facility, Strong and Fit (234-1813).

Both gyms offer a standard 30-minute circuit workout in which people move from station to station, alternating strength training with cardiovascular exercise. The men’s workout includes more boxing and weight training, said Horst Niehaus, president of Strong and Fit in Costa Rica.

For the strength training, both facilities use hydraulic weight machines that react to the amount of force the user exerts. This is easier on muscles, decreases soreness and cuts down on injuries, Niehaus said.

“Most injuries (don’t occur) during the time you are pulling the weight – it’s when you start releasing,” Niehaus said. “With hydraulic (weights), you are applying force both pulling and extending, which prevents a lot of injuries.”

While Niehaus advises people to participate for at least 30 minutes, three times a week, members can enter and leave class whenever they want.

Both facilities offer aerobics and pilates classes, and will soon be adding Tae Bo.

For an additional cost, members can sign up for personal instruction and nutrition packages. In the instruction package, the member works one-on-one with a personal workout instructor, while the nutrition plan includes itemized nutrition planning with a certified nutritionist, based on readings from a machine that measures metabolism.

However, even without the extra packages, all members get one free session with the personal trainer and the nutritionist, a monthly evaluation of body fat percentage and a detailed progress evaluation of strength, endurance and flexibility every three months.

Memberships are month to month or per year, and can be discounted when joining with others. According to Niehaus, monthly membership costs range from $38-52.


Fitsimons (296-0264,, on the south side of San José’s La Sabana Park, is a standard gym offering personalized attention to its clients, including individualized workout programs with regular physical checkups to monitor members’ progress.

Based on a health questionnaire filled out by members when they join the gym, and the members’ own personal objectives, trainers develop a workout program that is spread over approximately 20-25 workout sessions, Fitsimons manager Andrés Alfaro explained.

Members present a membership card every time they arrive at the gym, and sessions are deducted until only three remain.

The member’s condition and objectives are then reassessed, another plan is developed and the card is refilled with the number of visits detailed in the plan.

To assess members’ progress, Alfaro said, Fitsimons tests body fat and oxygen consumption.

The latter is achieved by monitoring the member’s heartbeat as they run for five minutes on a treadmill.

For workouts, the gym offers a weight room, a cardio room and classes such as aerobics, spinning, yoga and Latin dance. Aerobics classes are either the standard choreographed aerobics, which are less and less common, Alfaro said, or localized aerobics, which involves various aerobic stations that work particular muscles or muscle groups.

Membership is $55 a month, with a onetime joining fee of $39; Alfaro points out that this is a lifetime affiliation fee, meaning that if a member stops attending for a month or even a year, they can rejoin anytime without having to pay the fee.

The Jungle Gym

For those living near Playa Flamingo, on the northern Pacific coast, The Jungle Gym (654-4686, offers yoga, pilates and aerobics, in addition to a standard workout gym with cardio equipment, free weights and Cybex workout machines. For post-workout pains or overall health, the gym has a masseuse and chiropractor.

In approximately three months, owner Don Ruetz told The Tico Times in an e-mail, The Jungle Gym will be opening the air-conditioned Justin and Jack Ruetz Basketball Center and the Paul and Connor Kells Skateboard Center, both dedicated to young victims of a tragic plane crash last year off the coast of Playa Flamingo, which claimed the lives of Ruetz’s wife Cindy, his sons Justin and Jack, and friends of the family Paul and Connor Kells (TT, July 22, 2005).

Joining fees are $52 for Costa Rican residents and $60 for nonresidents, and the monthly cost is $32 for residents and $40 for nonresidents, which can be paid month by month for six months or for the year. Families of more than four people can receive a discount by showing up with the whole gang to sign up.

Membership includes aerobics classes, but pilates and yoga classes and massage and chiropractic appointments are extra.


Comments are closed.