|President Barack Obama and talk-show host Oprah Winfrey have been spotted at the East Bank Club in Chicago.|
You've already formulated enough excuses not to work out: left the bag at home, ripped the yoga mat, forgot to do laundry, noticed a funky smell coming from the water bottle. Perhaps you'd lie to yourself a little less if getting fit involved doing Pilates alongside singer John Legend, sharing court time with basketball player Alonzo Mourning, putting your kids in the same fitness class as that of former model Heidi Klum and her husband, Seal, or ordering lunch from the same rooftop cafe as Oprah. Welcome to the U.S. version of high-end fitness, where clubs shun the term "gym" and active living is in the eye of the beholder. When one of Town Sports' ( CLUB) myriad city outlets or the local Life Time Fitness ( LTM) isn't cutting it aesthetically, or when your gym's amenities seem a bit too centered around Apple ( AAPL) products, follow the celebs to one of these four welcoming shrines of wellness. If it weren't for the lack of beds, you'd have no reason to leave. East Bank Club (500 N. Kingsbury St., Chicago, 312-527-5800).
This isn't a fitness club; it's a palace. Members in the 20,000-square-foot cardio room work the elliptical machines beneath a 90-foot-by-14-foot mural: Peter Hurley and Scott Bullock's panorama "Lakefront Afternoon." President Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey have been among the notables spotted by the two pools on the facility's 60,000-square-foot rooftop sun deck. The quarter-mile running track, indoor driving range, aerobics and spinning studios, and tennis, racquetball and squash courts, however, serve as a thin veil for less pro-active pampering EBC members enjoy. For your $500 initiation fee and more than $2,000 in annual dues, you get access to full salon and spa treatments, dry cleaning and shoe repair, a car wash, gourmet grocery shop and four dining options.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson is among those who favor the salads, low-cal sandwiches and fruit cups at the Sun Deck Cafe. (Though less healthy tenderloin sandwiches and hot pretzels are also available.) However, if you're a member who considers health and the ancillary benefit of breaking a sweat among Chicago's elite, feel free to undo an entire day's workout with a piece of chocolate souffle cake, a plate of steakburger sliders or thick-cut Colorado lamb chops at the club's restaurant, Maxwell's. Smoothies are for peasants. Clay (24 W. 14th St., New York City, 212-206-9200). How swanky is Clay? "Sex in the City" super-club SoHo House actually sends its members there for classes. Dotted with cozy lounges that feature plush seating, a sunken fireplace and free cappuccino, the club keeps its membership capped at 2,000 to make sure everyone stays comfortable. It may be why John Legend's been sighted there, while Mary J. Blige and Uma Thurman also have been among Clay's clientele. It also may have something to do with the dozens of conditioning, cycling, Pilates and yoga classes that Clay substitutes for the rows of cold machinery found at other health clubs. The nearly $2,200 that members pay annually also includes a nutrition service that will not only do a guided tour of your local market, clean out your kitchen and restock your shelves, but cook you health-conscious meals at its roof-deck café. "It acts more like an urban country club," Clay owner Seth Hirschel says. "We have people who work out Monday, Wednesday and Friday, but they're coming in Tuesday or Thursday to eat breakfast or lunch with us."
Shuichi Take (3250 NE 1st Ave., No. 504, Miami, 305-856-4588). Don't let the view of Miami from the sky deck or amenities like wraps, smoothies and free Wi-Fi fool you: This fitness boutique will beat you senseless. Sure, this facility tries to be cute with its "Salsa Sculpt" and $240 pole-dancing classes, but its namesake founder built his Asian-inspired health temple on tough love. Shuichi Take is the same man who helped former Miami Heat center Alonzo Mourning win an NBA title after undergoing a liver transplant, and he applies the same principles to train triathletes, mixed martial arts fighters and boxers. You can go to his club just for the sunrise tai chi, acupuncture and reiki and sip smoothies by the rooftop pool, but the nearly $1,200 annual fee (much less for midtown Miami residents) and hundreds of dollars in extra fees for personal training, massage and other services almost demand more of a beating. At least try training with the kettle bells: Russian weights that look like cannonballs with handles. You can say you've trained like a cage fighter even if you spend the rest of the day as a ray catcher. The Sports Club/LA (9601 Wilshire Blvd., Beverly Hills, 310-444-4214). Most of this Los Angeles-based chain's competitors go to great lengths to keep their celebrity clientele out of the public eye. Not Sports Club/LA ( SCYL), which maintains a "Hot List" of club celebrity sightings on its Web site. Among the luminaries who most recently toweled off its equipment: Tiger Woods, Heidi Klum and her issue, Kyra Sedgwick, Jaime Foxx, David and Victoria Beckham, and Jay-Z.
It's almost a justification for the club's $600 to $1,900 initiation fee and $1,800 to more than $3,000 annual fee. Forget about the massive weight room (10,000 square feet), sun deck along Wilshire Boulevard, restaurant, salon, valet parking, corporate meeting rooms, Wi-Fi, child care, shoe shines, day spa, massage and just about everything else you can get at any other high-end fitness facility. The bicoastal membership plan (which allows you access to this and the other two California facilities as well as a Rockefeller Center facility in New York) and the chance to work out with Justin Timberlake, Jessica Alba, Taye Diggs or Fergie are what make this chain a standout and keep wannabe jet-setters filling the cycling and cardio coffers.