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Learning Curves

When women are overweight, both their health and self-confidence can be affected.

Perhaps that is why Curves for Women has grown into the world’s largest health club franchise, with 1.2 million members and 2,000 branches internationally.

Kitsap County’s second Curves club opened March 4 at 9000 Ridgetop Blvd. Owner Laura Mitchell said it is off to a bustling start, with 50 women signed up for memberships. The county’s first franchise opened in fall 2001 at 3627 Wheaton Way in Bremerton.

“The common thread is that the women want better health. They come in saying, ‘I want to be alive to see my children grow up and see my grandchildren,’” Mitchell said.

The hydraulic machines and Curves’ signature 30-minute workout are designed especially for women, according to Mitchell.

“If you go into regular gyms, the stuff is mostly designed for men,” Mitchell said.

One likely reason the Texas-based Curves for Women have popped up all over the world — 200-250 clubs open every month — is the facilities are smaller than traditional health clubs. Most Curves don’t house fancy locker rooms, spas or saunas. They can be located in strip malls, and are designed for convenient workouts.

The club on Ridgetop is 2,000 square feet, and the Wheaton Way location is 1,050 square feet.

“Some women come in exhausted from work. They close their eyes and I can see them recovering from their day,” Mitchell said.

A Curves workout resembles a cross between an aerobics class and a weight training circuit.

Hydraulic weight machines and running squares, or small platforms designed for exercising in place, are arranged in a circle, and women move rapidly through 16 stations. Pop music plays in the background, and a verbal cue signals time to change stations. For a complete workout, women rotate through the stations three times and do cool-down stretches.

“Sometimes we crank up the tunes and we all sing to them,” Mitchell said.

Exercise is only part of the health and weight loss process, Mitchell stressed. The Curves for Women weight-loss method includes an education component and dietary guidelines in a book available to all members.

One of the the club’s advantages is that joining gives members license to patronize Curves all over the U.S., in addition to Mexico, Canada, the United Kingdom and Spain.

When members travel, Curves staff provides a list of the clubs nearest their destinations so they don’t have to skip workouts.

In addition, the club provides an opportunity for women to socialize in a relaxed and fun environment, Mitchell said. Curves also offers a specialized workout plan for senior citizens.

“Many of the women who come in here don’t know a lot of people and they make friends,” Mitchell said.

The Silverdale Curves, an independently operated franchise, employs five women, including the owner.

Fitness fan?

The Silverdale Curves for Women is open from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. and 3 p.m.-7:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and closed on weekends. Membership costs $29 per month, plus an initial fee of $49. For more information, call 692-4560.

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