Get Pumped: A Guide to Fitness Clubs in Downtown Boston

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Posted March 21, 2013 by Scott Kearnan in Downtown Boston
Franklin Street location of luxe Equinox gym.

You’ve found a home downtown (or, at the very least, a job). Check.

UPDATE: Please also check out the more recent post on best gyms in Downtown Boston.

You’re enjoying the convenience of dozens of bars and restaurants within arms’ reach. All good.

The one challenge: avoiding the extra pounds that come when you can’t resist stopping in for happy hour beers on your walk home from work.

Luckily, there are plenty of fitness clubs in downtown Boston. Whether you’re the type to lie on a bench press, run on a treadmill, or cycle yourself silly in spin class, one of them is sure to fit your favorite method of getting and staying in shape. Here are a few favorite spots:

Boston Sports Club

If gyms were coffee shops, BSC would be like Dunkin’ Donuts: a solid and reliable people pleaser, with enough locations that you’re never far from your next quick fix of caffeine—or, rather, cardio. Downtown alone has two BSC locations at Downtown Crossing and South Station. With a Passport Membership, you can bounce between all the locations in Boston at no extra fee. If you want to sneak in a quick workout on your way home, there’s probably one in your neck of the woods. If you want cleanliness and convenience at a reasonable price point, packed with diverse fitness class schedules (yoga, kickboxing, Zumba) but no money-wasting frills, BSC could be your best bet.

Boston Union Gym

Among all the fitness clubs in downtown Boston, this spot is a hidden gem. It bills itself as the “oldest gym in the country.” If you blink, its Boylston Street entrance is easy to miss. But once you step inside, you’ll find a maze-like series of rooms that seem to extend back farther than a city block: weight rooms, fitness classrooms, full basketball and racquetball courts, and more. Originally founded by Harvard students in the 1800s, this nonprofit gym keeps up a certain air of antiquity. Expect to see plenty of historic, black-and-white photos of mustachioed guys old enough to be your great-grandpa pumping iron in short shorts. (Hey, it was the style.) Sure, it’s sort of bare bones, but so is the price tag. If you’re satisfied with an unpretentious spot that prioritizes value over vanity, Boston Union Gym is worth joining.

Equinox

You want a little more luxury? Equinox is probably up your alley. This Financial District facility, located inside a former bank, is a popular spot for well-heeled and well-toned types. It’s the kind of gym where you might find yourself trading stock tips in the locker room (formerly a bank vault) while wrapped in a plush robe, or kicking back with your boss in the eucalyptus steam room. When you’re actually ready to work out, the gorgeous two-floor space boasts plenty of state-of-the-art equipment and group fitness studios with classes led by top-tier trainers. Boxing and martial arts classes come especially recommended. And then there’s the Spa at Equinox, where massages, facials, and manicures await. One downside: Probably due to its corporate clientele, this club has somewhat limited weekend hours.

Planet Fitness

If you’re bulking up on a lean budget, set your coordinates for Planet Fitness. This massive chain (600 gyms nationwide) offers prices starting at about $20 per month at the location by City Hall. And there are a lot of “unlimited” amenities to be found here: unlimited guest passes, unlimited tanning, and unlimited use at other Planet Fitness locations. However, you cannot run wild when it comes to obnoxious gym rat grunting. As part of its Judgment Free Zone approach, which is intended to make the gym a hospitable climate for frequent fitness buffs and weekend warriors alike, Planet Fitness has a siren-like Lunk Alarm. It screeches whenever someone fills the sweaty air with a too loud, too intimidating, too Neanderthal-like grunt. Exercise newbies, you’ve found your new home.

Sports Club/LA

Sports Club/LA located on 4 Avery Street in the heart of downtown Boston. Photo Credit: Jason Balla

Sports Club/LA

Think top-notch luxury at the top of the world—or, at least, really high up. At Sports Club/LA, treadmill runners are treated to panoramic views of downtown Boston through wide walls of windows. Hit the roof deck for real fresh air. Burgeoning basketball pros have a full-sized court to shoot hoops, and Michael Phelps fanatics can hit the pool to practice their strokes. Plus, there are squash courts, a boxing studio, and every type of gym equipment devised by man, beast, or Billy Blanks. After your workout, treat your muscles to a body treatment in the spa, reenergize with lunch or dinner at blu Restaurant & Bar, or get primped for a night out at Marc Harris hair salon. Every amenity provides maximum luxury. Would you expect any less from a fitness club housed inside a Ritz-Carlton? If you’re on a high-end gym hunt, this is the summit.

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