Madison Square Club
210 Fifth Avenue, at 26th street; 212-683-1836
Annual membership, $1,200; twelve sessions, $1,200
The Scene: David Kirsch leads clients like Heidi Klum and Liv Tyler through squats and crunches in this small, sunny space. The emphasis is on seriously clean living—tough workouts and healthy eating.
Pros: Delicious food-delivery program ($70 per day) complements the exercise. Kirsch coined the term “carb face,” so expect egg whites, protein shakes, and veggies.
Cons: No matter what anyone tells you, working out alongside models can be disheartening. Who Goes: Glamorous media types, models.
E at Time Warner Center
10 Columbus Circle; 212-871-3001
Annual membership, $2,000; sessions, $75 to $95 per hour
The Scene: Equinox’s new private gym shares an emphasis on total well-being with La Palestra, but lacks its energizing sense of community. What it does have is a top-of-the-line collection of shiny equipment, gorgeous changing rooms, and highly qualified trainers.
Pros: Access to the main gym’s classes—yoga, spinning, aerobics—and a sparkling swimming pool.
Cons: Antiseptic; too much time spent on testing posture, not enough on actually working out.
Who Goes: Nobody, yet.
Casa Spa & Fitness
48 East 73rd street; 212-717-1998
Annual membership, $6,000; sessions, $100 per hour
The Scene: The upbeat vibe at this studio founded by Equinox veteran Chris Imbo will have even cynics using phrases like “great energy!” The facilities are clean but spare, and the workouts are dynamic and diverse.
Pros: Super-positive trainers and a great nutritionist on call. Running and Rollerblading in Central Park.
Cons: Limited cardio equipment and no access on Sundays make it hard to come in for a workout on your own—which, at these prices, would be a good option.
Who Goes: Upper East Siders, moguls, socialites.
La Palestra Center for Preventative Medicine
11 West 67th Street; 212-799-8900
Price determined after consultation
The Scene: No one here will ever talk to you about how you look; the focus is on health. Programs are personally designed and take place in the stunningly renovated former ballroom of Café des Artistes.
Pros: Well-qualified squadron of trainers with a strong emphasis on education and reaching lofty goals—like a hike up Kilimanjaro.
Cons: Impossible to find out the price without visiting the gym.
Who Goes: Everyone from pro athletes to patients in recovery.
16 East 52nd street; 212-644-9559
Sessions, $100 per hour
The Scene: The fitness rooms at Exude have a couple of cardio machines and not much else. Clients are typically classified as one of four body types (cone, hourglass, spoon, ruler), and prescribed an appropriate routine. There are no weight machines—you work with a four-pound body bar. The formula is simple: cardio, basic toning.
Pros: Program is quick to master and infinitely portable.
Cons: It’s easy to plateau.
Who Goes: Midtown office workers fighting the battle of the bulge.
Fitness guru David Kirsch’s tips on choosing a trainer.
1. Is the trainer qualified? Be sure to check. The American Council on Exercise and the American College of Sports Medicine are the best-known forms of certification.
2. Has the trainer tested you before designing your program? The routine has to match your abilities: A trainer should evaluate your cardio fitness and strength before doing anything else.
3. Do you like him? If you can’t stand the trainer, you’ll probably be canceling lots of appointments, no matter how good he is.
4. Does he understand your health goals? You want to slim down, he likes to beef up. Best to hash out differences in advance.
5. Does he motivate you? If the trainer’s got a lazy vibe, odds are it’s catching.