High season for Dot fitness spots

Whether it's a New Year's resolution to get fit in 2008, or the thought of donning a bathing suit in the next few months, fitness club owners in Dorchester say 'tis the season to start working out and getting healthy. Gym membership peaks in January, February and March, said Mark Jarvis, owner of Planet Fitness on Neponset Avenue and though she doesn't encourage "seasonal fitness," Christine Holmes, owner of Fitness Vibe on Blue Hill Ave., said if that's what brings people into her gym she will help them make a long-term lifestyle change.

"It's more about helping people commit to their health," Holmes said.

Gayle Marrow has been coming to Fitness Vibe since it opened two and a half years ago. She says her training sessions with Holmes have helped her control her diabetes and stay off medications.

"Christine's very hard, but she's consistent and you're guaranteed results," Marrow said. "I look my best training with her."

In addition to cardio and weight training equipment, Fitness Vibe has an array of evening and weekend classes. Traditional yoga and Pilates classes are offered, as well as limited mobility yoga, a half-hour program customized for club members with physical disabilities. Gospel spinning classes invite participants take a spiritual ride, while salsa aerobics and African dance classes bring excitement into the club. "We are a diverse community," Holmes said, "full of color and flavor. We try to show that diversity in our fitness program."

In January, Holmes started an after-school program called "Girls on Da Move," in partnership with the Girl Scouts. There are about 12 girls, grades six through 10, currently in the program, Holmes said, and they welcome new members. Brandy Brown, 12, of Dorchester, said her mom signed her up for the program to help her get fit. She's excited to get in shape for summer with the kickboxing, step aerobics, and yoga classes that the program offers the girls each day. "Girls on Da Move" also incorporates nutrition workshops, rap sessions, service learning projects and homework help into the activity schedule.

Two other fitness centers in Dorchester cater only to women: Lambert's Fitness Center for Women and Curves, both on William T. Morrissey Boulevard.

"We cater to all females, of all ages, sizes and ethnicities," said Tracy Lambert, who founded Lambert's Fitness Center 20 years ago. "You don't have to be a size two to come here and work out. You can wear whatever you want and get an awesome workout every time," she said.

Lambert's offers "state of the art equipment," Lambert said, along with childcare and a wide selection of classes from yoga and Pilates to Zumba, the newest fitness craze inspired by a variety of Latin dance styles and music. "Zumba" comes from a Columbian word that means move fast and have fun.

Curves for Women is also featuring Spring specials to get people moving this winter. The Food for Friends program replaces the traditional sign up fee with a food donation to local organizations. "The goal is to help those in need right in our hometown," said owner Jane Carthas, who is accepting suggestions for where to donate the food.

An international chain, Curves, is known as the "30 Minute Fitness & Weight Loss Center." The Curves program is a 30 minute circuit that combines cardio with strength and flexibility training. A trainer is on hand in the circuit ring to guide women through the exercises, Carthas said. "It's all middle-aged women here," she said. "We're into overall women's health," which is why Curves also offers special programs free of charge to members, such as bra fittings, bone density tests, and chiropractor visits. Members can also sign up for six weeks of nutrition classes for an added cost.

Planet Fitness, a national chain, advertises itself as "the judgment free zone." They don't offer any classes, but they do have several perks available to members who enroll in their Black Card membership program, General Manager Mark Jarvis said. Black Card members can use any of Planet Fitness's 189 clubs for free; they can bring guests to workout, receive half-priced drinks and get 10 minutes of tanning and five minutes in the massage chairs for free.

The Dorchester YMCA also has a fitness center. YMCA memberships include childcare, access to the gym, the pool, and over 16 fitness classes offered throughout the week. Membership rates are determined by a sliding scale depending on your income, said James Lozano.

Another option to get fit and de-stress this winter is Savin Hill Yoga, "a neighborhood yoga studio," said director, Larry Pryor. Savin Hill Yoga studios share a space with Ahimsa studio, an art gallery. Instead of mirrors on the walls, Pryor hangs local artwork.

In South Boston, the Curley Community Center and Gold's Gym are other fitness club options popular with Dorchester residents. The Curley - also known locally as "L Street" - was built along Southie's beach-front by former mayor James Michael Curley. It offers the lowest cost membership in the area, likely in the city, with a once a year fee.