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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow Searches for Abs of Steel




After watching a Chuck Norris workout commercial for the 500th time, I pulled myself off the couch last weekend and decided to take a tour of the Moscow gym circuit. Was there anyone who could promise me abs of steel and bulging biceps?


While there are dozens of different clubs to choose from, I started with one of the most prestigious f World Class, a larger than life fitness center located on the bottom floor of Moscow's Oil House. An established member of Moscow's fitness community, World Class is one of the biggest clubs in town, with three training halls, Finnish saunas, Turkish baths, and a staff of 200 to cater to clients' needs. The gym has also introduced some new programs, such as aerobics for men only and karate lessons for housewives.


The center is popular among Moscow's elite circles, claiming celebrity members such as Oscar-winning director Nikita Mikhalkov. I thought during my visit I might run into some celebrities as my friend Dima, a young law student, used to during his regular workouts at World Class. Once, Dima told me, he ran right into the popular singer Igor Nikolayev on his way out of the shower.


I did not bump into any naked celebrities. Instead I ran into a bunch of children running around dressed as Batmans and Mickey Mouses. I was there the day World Class runs a costume party for the children of its members. The Saturday afternoon event is not only popular among kids, but parents too. They can exercise while their miniature superheroes are entertained.


World Class may be famous for its famous clientele, but the gym's owner, former fencing champion Olga Slyutsker, says they provide a quality product without pretension.


"Everyone is equal in our club," Slyutsker said. "There is no social ladder here. Everyone dances to the same music."


A bit closer to the city center, Gold's Gym is another luxurious fitness choice f a gym known for its well-equipped basketball, soccer and tennis courts. The social aspect of these group sporting activities is one of the reasons for the club's success, and for the fact that membership has not fallen since last August's ruble collapse, according to club spokesman Alexei Kashirin.


Gold's is not just a gym, but a place to establish business contacts over a game of basketball or soccer, Kashirin said. But it is first and foremost a place where customers can forget their troubles.


"There are a lot of negative things waiting outside the club's walls," he said. "Clients come here to relax body and soul."


Vying for the elite customers of World Class and Gold's Gym is a newcomer to Moscow: Fit and Fun. The club offers a full range of services for its clients, who can linger in the whirlpool or one of three saunas after a workout, or choose a massage instead. Many clients, among them Red Star models, get a head start on their summer tans at the club's solarium. And those who have worked off enough calories can relax in the restaurant or coffee bar also located in the club's 19-century mansion.


Fit and Fun's crowning glory is its swimming pool, according to the club's general manager, Czech-born Jan Vrabets. The club's water aerobics program is one of its biggest attractions.


For those who prefer a more spartan approach, the Panatta-Sport Fitness Center is an option. The luxuries here are more modest compared to the other gyms, but the real draw is the professional weight trainers, among them Oleg Shpiliotov.


A former body building champion, who has earned prestigious titles around the world, Shpiliotov takes his job seriously.


"I was poisoned by body-building," said Shpiliotov, adding that it is his goal to pass his love of the sport on to others.