Just Me and My Multi-trainer

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An empty wall and NIS 3,000 - not much more than that is needed to set up a private fitness room. At least if you are a fitness coach, like Ali Heller. Heller's home has a room at whose entrance hangs a tension bar. Alongside one wall free weights in a variety of sizes are lined up, and there are also a special mattress and bench for fitness training that can be adjusted to sitting, lying and intermediate positions. "It's minimal," Heller admits, "but if you work out right you can get to all the muscle groups."

Not all fitness rooms are as minimalistic as this one; there are those who invest tens or even hundreds of thousands of shekels in a home fitness room, and their number is increasing. According to Heller, who works only out of the homes of clients, the home fitness room has many advantages over the health club. "First of all, it's always at hand," he says. "You don't have to waste time on driving and parking. You don't need to pack a bag for the post-workout shower, and you don't have to lay out money in the cafeteria for a post-workout snack. Apart from that, there aren't other people there: You don't have to compete for the apparatus, no one leaves behind a tissue or an empty water bottle on the machines, no one bugs you with stories and questions, no one sweats on the weights and coughs on you when he's running alongside you. And there aren't any rules to worry about, about how you have to be dressed or how you have to use the machines. The music is your music, the television broadcasts your channel and the machines have been chosen in accordance with your needs."

So why go to a fitness club at all? Whoever needs a permanent and committed framework, those who want company and enjoy contact with others, those who want to participate in classes like spinning, yoga or aerobics, and above all those who can't afford to buy equipment or pay a personal trainer, will go to a fitness club and try to extract the maximum from it.

Included in the mortgage

Fitness rooms are multiplying, not only in private homes, but also in cooperative apartment buildings. And not necessarily prestige buildings. Dalia Azar, 43, lives in the Lev Hasavyonim project in Petah Tikva's Em Hamoshavot neighborhood. Her building has 27 families - and a fitness room. "We have a parquet floor, mattresses, a treadmill, TV, weights and basic apparatus," she relates. "People are already working out there at 6:00 in the morning before work, and from 8:00 in the evening until 11:00, the place is full. I do walking there and abdominal exercises, whenever I get the chance. It's suitable for married people with children and a career, who don't go to a fitness club to meet partners or to have a good time, but rather to work out and go home. How much equipment do you really need to stay in shape?"

Brings back neighborly relations

Azar has another motivation for heading down to the fitness room: "Working out in the building also creates sociability, and fosters relations among the residents. The large projects that have been going up everywhere in the last few years tend to isolate people. You no longer know who the person is who lives across the hall. The encounters in the fitness room bring back neighborly relations among the residents of the building."

Yaron Tzubarai, the director of the marketing division at Africa-Israel Megoorim, says that nearly half of the company's new residential projects are outfitted with fitness rooms. "In the past," he says, "this was part of the definition of prestige. Today, it's just one of the many elements that people expect to find at ordinary projects intended for the upper-middle class."

In a fitness room of this sort not much is needed. "We invest several thousand dollars in treadmills, strength-training equipment, weights, air-conditioning, mirrors and mattresses," Tzubari explains. "This is basic, and people use it because it's convenient for them to stay at home and also because not every couple that buys an apartment and is paying a mortgage has money left for membership in a fitness club."

Atmosphere can make or break a fitness room, though. The exercise room at a five-year-old building in Ramat Hasharon has three treadmills, a multi-trainer, a few sets of free weights, a workout bench, two mattresses, a bicycle and rubber stretch bands. The room is floored with parquet, but it is not especially inviting or pleasant. There is no TV, and the air is very chilly. Perhaps this is why the building superintendent explains that it is always almost empty.

NIS 25,000 to 50,000

Understandably, the demand for fitness rooms, whether in apartment buildings or in private homes, is growing, and not surprisingly, consulting firms for planning and setting them up have arisen. Global Fitness Services offers advice and planning for fitness rooms, and Unisport and Energym both import equipment and will consult with clients on the machines that are appropriate for them. The Gilsport.co.il and Sport24.co.il Web sites offer a great deal of equipment for the home gym, from the most basic to the professional. For comparison shopping, the Zap.co.il site is helpful.

Shlomi Weinbaum, the managing director of Intersport, does not confine himself to advice: His own home is decked out with a fully equipped exercise space, where he works out five or six times a week on a cross-trainer (aerobic equipment that simulates ski movements), a bicycle and a variety of strength-training devices. "I don't go to a fitness room. I like it at home, with myself, with my own equipment, in my own time," he says.

Since Weinbaum's company mainly imports professional-level equipment, he will also give you an estimate for a home fitness room that's fairly high, ranging from NIS 25,000 to 150,000. "There are clients for every price range," he relates.

Eran Schuster, the director of the product division at the Mega-Sport fitness- equipment company, in fact prefers to leave home and go to a fitness club. "I like step aerobics classes, and stretching and shaping classes," he relates. "These are important for a long, clean muscle look, and essential for supporting the strength activities on the equipment." He also participates in spinning classes, but he too cannot refrain from working out at home. "I do a lot of abdominal exercises at home because, after all the strength-training, aerobics and stretching that I do at the club, I don't have the strength to do them as well."

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