Meant2Be: Gym crush dream doesn’t work out

You’re 10 minutes into an hour treadmill run when she walks into the Equinox gym in Century City. She’s the love of your life, but she doesn’t know it yet. All Gym Crush knows now is that some tall guy on the treadmill is gawking at her. You quickly look away. Fantasy is healthy, you tell yourself, and this is Los Angeles, nothing if not a town full of dreamers. So you turn up the speed on the treadmill (in case she’s watching) and again give in to imagination.

Gym Crush rolls out her perfect thigh muscles and you can’t help but notice that her long brown hair is perfectly tucked away in a ponytail. You wonder how she’ll wear her hair on your first date to Gracias Madre in West Hollywood. You’ve agreed to this hot spot because it turns out, you’re both vegetarians! You pick her up in an Uber Select and wonder if she’ll notice when, by date four, you switch back to the more affordable Uber X. The conversation is easy and wonderful and you laugh at all the suckers who meet each other on dating apps. This is way better.

Gym Crush does squats while you’re planning your wedding in Malibu. You have it on the autumn equinox to remind everyone where you met. You invite some of the other gym members like Silver Fox, the Workout Twins, and even Jerkwad Guy with Great Hair. Your best friend will give a speech and joke that this is why his wife doesn’t let him go to the gym. You’ll laugh with everyone else but you actually don’t find infidelity jokes very funny. Pictures will be all over Facebook and you will get hundreds of likes. An ex-girlfriend will unfriend you when she sees, but you’re too busy being in love to notice.

Gym Crush does hanging leg lifts while you’re attending to your newborn baby girl. Sadie is not only brilliant for a 4-month-old, but she already has her mother’s defined calf muscles. You hold Sadie when Gym Crush passes you with her Nike gym bag over her shoulder, off again to the Westwood Equinox, your new gym since you got the condo in Brentwood. Gym Crush kisses you on the lips and calls you the best and you hope that this magical feeling never goes away.

Gym Crush stretches her quads on the stretching table but you’re upset because the magical feeling has gone away. Sadie has a brother named Ira and you all have moved to the more affordable San Fernando Valley. You’re at work on a hot Valley day wondering what happened to the cool, spontaneous Westside lives you used to lead. But then your phone dings and it’s a text from Gym Crush and she’s wondering if you could sneak out and meet her at the Encino Equinox for an hour. She signs it with two red hearts and you know that there’s so much love that everything will be all right.

You check the time on the treadmill and when you look back up you can’t find Gym Crush. You’re instantly back in reality. You jump off the treadmill, race through your shower and rub Kiehl’s body wash over the important spots. You toss your wet towels into Smiley Towel Attendant’s bin and make an insipid comment about how you’re hurting today. Smiley Towel Attendant smiles.

You run outside to the Equinox valet and see that your plan worked: Gym Crush is waiting for her car. But Jerkwad with Great Hair has sidled up to her on the bench and now you know why you called him Jerkwad all this time. You stand next to them and you eavesdrop while you pretend to look at your iPhone. She tells him she’s from outside New Orleans. You silently pray to God that Blue Shirt Valet Guy brings Jerkwad’s car first and when he does, you are reaffirmed that He exists and He is good.

“Funny, I spent three months in NOLA working on a Will Ferrell movie,” you say, knowing you just namedropped big-time. Gym Crush is friendly and she tells you that her name is Ryan, which of course is just the cutest thing in the world EVER, and you wonder if it’s spelled Ryan, Ryanne or Rian so you can stalk her on social media later.

Blue Shirt Valet Guy brings Gym Crush’s car next and she tosses you the greatest smile and tells you she’ll see you around. And you coolly say, ‘Yeah, for sure,’ but you wish you would have gotten her number then and there.

You never see Gym Crush again. The Century City Equinox closed last summer for renovations. You and all the other characters are now displaced to other L.A. Equinoxes (Equinoxi?). You’ll go to every Equinox in the Southland all summer, but the truth is that you might never see Gym Crush again. Still, the fantasy remains alive. And it keeps you religiously going to the gym. So maybe that’s enough.

Jonah Goldfinger is a Los Angeles-based screenwriter, and if your name is Ryan or Ryanne or Rian, you went to the Century City Equinox and you are single, please consider adding him on Facebook.

Do you have a story about dating, marriage, singlehood or any important relationship in your life? Email us at

Aly Raisman loses bronze in tie-breaker, Gabby Douglas wins gold

Smiling 16-year-old Gabby Douglas took the Olympic Games by storm on Thursday when she won the all-around gold medal ahead of Russian Victoria Komova.

Komova was reduced to tears for the second time in three days when American Douglas pipped her to the title by 0.259 of a point after producing the day’s best performances on the vault and the beam.

Aliya Mustafina, who with Komova was disappointed to take team silver behind the Americans on Tuesday, clung on for bronze despite a fall from the beam. She and Douglas’s compatriot Aly Raisman finished with the same total but the Russian won the medal on the tiebreak rule.

Douglas, dubbed the “Flying Squirrel” for the shape she produces on the bars, was watched from the stands by team mate and world champion Jordyn Wieber, who had come into the Games touted as the favorite for Thursday’s honors but failed to qualify for the final.

[For more Olympics coverage, visit]

Rules and regulations seem to be plaguing the Americans here. Wieber finished fourth in qualifying for the all-around but missed the cut since each nation is allowed only two women in the final. As Douglas and Raisman ranked above her in the preliminaries, Wieber was demoted to the role of spectator at the North Greenwich Arena on Thursday.

Raisman lost out on bronze despite finishing off with the second-best floor routine of the evening under the rule that separates equally-placed contestants by toting up the totals of their three best apparatus.

Douglas, though, was beyond the reach of such concerns, leading from the first of the four rotations when she was the opener on the vault.

A slight hop sideways on landing could have cost her but all her rivals fluffed their landings, with Komova stumbling sideways right off the mat.


Raisman banged her foot on one of the asymmetric bars in the second routine and began to look concerned. Douglas, for all her prowess on the apparatus, was beaten by the two Russians, with Mustafina scoring a high 16.100, but the American stayed in the lead.

With Douglas and the 17-year-old Komova duelling for the gold, their team mates were left to fight for bronze and Mustafina looked to have thrown away her chances when she came off the beam attempting to complete a twisting somersault.

Her score was a low 13.633 and Raisman took to the narrow piece of wood knowing she could take advantage. Her hopes shrivelled, though, when she only just saved herself from overbalancing and then wobbled precariously on a spin and she dropped to fifth place.

Though she recovered with 15.133 on the floor, where she won a world bronze medal last October, it was not enough to put her ahead of 2010 world all-around champion Mustafina.

Komova was last on the floor and Raisman stood with her arm around Douglas as they waited for the giant scoreboard, high above them, to show their fate. Seconds later, only Douglas was celebrating.

As Raisman bit her lip and Komova slumped in a chair and covered her face with both hands, Douglas climbed on to the dais by the vault run-up and waved to the wildly cheering and flag-waving American fans.

Her victory was another feather in the cap of Chinese-born coach Liang Chow who coached another American, Shawn Johnson, to all-around silver and beam gold at the Beijing Olympics four years ago.

Reporting by Clare Fallon; Editing by Pritha Sarkar

02Max puts a youthful spin on the gym scene

At first glance, the brightly decorated warehouse-turned-gym space of O2Max Fitness in Santa Monica may seem like your conventional workout space, filled with typical cardio and core training apparatuses (think treadmills, balance balls and resistance bands). But it only takes a few steps upstairs to figure out that this is no ordinary gym.

The loft portion of the space is filled with couches, lounge-style furniture, magazines, a television and a computer workspace. The walls are brightly painted and decorated with inspirational quotes from a variety of notable people.

And then look closer: Everyone here seems young — really young. That’s because O2 Max is designed just for teens and college students.

Thinking of everything from one-on-one personal trainers to Princeton Review classes for college entrance exams, entrepreneur Karen Jashinsky has created a full teen hangout, where fitness is just one component.

“We are creating a venue that empowers teens,” said Jashinsky, a New Jersey yeshiva day school graduate who now lives in Los Angeles. “Obviously, fitness is an important part of what we doing — it’s a huge part of what we’re doing — but we’re also creating a social environment.”

Around 30 to 40 teens a month work out at O2Max, which opened last spring. Some kids pay by the day, others pay $80 a month for membership and some do volunteer work for the gym to pay for their workout time.

Jashinsky says that she got her inspiration to get into the teenage-fitness market after working as a personal trainer, which she felt was a fun way to earn money during graduate school at USC’s Marshall School of Business.

“When I started working as a personal trainer I had a few ideas of the fitness industry and then kind of decided to focus on teens because they weren’t being addressed,” she said. “It really evolved into this sort of cool fun social venue that [the teenagers] could come to after school to work out, hang out, meet friends from other schools, rent it out for parties, events, lectures and workshops.”

As a graduate of Frisch yeshiva in New Jersey, Jashinsky is also aware the students at Jewish schools might need an extra nudge when it comes to athletics and fitness.

Upon joining, teenagers are walked through an individual fitness test to assess their fitness capacity and are then given a food journal. After filling out the food journal for two days, students go over the journal with a licensed nutritionist, who gives them tips and pointers to make their meals more nutritionally valuable.

“Our goal is that by the time you graduate college you know how to eat properly, you know how to put an exercise program together,” Jashinsky said.

Seasonal programming can also help with motivation. O2Max is sponsoring the Fall Fitness Fusion starting Oct. 1, a six-week challenge in which students team up with an instructor and earn points for various exercises. The challenge is free to all teens, and the teams that knock out the most points win prizes.

But while exercise is associated with improved physical and mental health, there is a risk that comes with targeting a group that is already thought to be thoroughly overworked and overbooked.

“The issue is that it can’t be another part of the parental schedule,” said Dr. Ian Russ, a psychologist who works with adolescents. “If it’s the parents saying ‘you should go to the gym’ then you might get some exercise out of it, but nothing else. If it’s something kids can do freely and have their life, it sounds like a nice thing.”

O2Max has an interactive Web site with tips on how to eat right and how to exercise even if you can’t make it to the gym, and a blog that all people, not just O2Max members, can access. The Web site also provides a safe forum for kids across the nation to chat about whatever is on their mind. People leave posts, ask questions and respond to each other all within the confines of the Web site.

Such social interactions are part of what make 02 Max “not your parents gym,” as the advertising suggests.

“The way the fitness industry is evolving … [the gym] is becoming your home away from home,” Jashinsky said. “You have your work, you have your home, and you have your gym, and teens aren’t that different, they just don’t need a tanning room or a spa. They need a place to hang out and do their homework and get on the computer.”

O2MAX Fitness is located at 3026 Nebraska Ave. in Santa Monica. For more information, call (310) 867-1650.

Federation drops security grants for shuls; Farmar shoots, scores for Chabad

Federation Drops Grants to Provide Security for High Holy Days at Small Synagogues

In 2006, in the wake of Israel’s war with Hezbollah, Jewish communities throughout the Diaspora were on edge. A lone gunman had already killed one and wounded five at a Seattle Jewish center, and many were concerned that High Holy Days could make Jews an easy mark.

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles responded by granting $1,000 each to nearly 150 small synagogues to be used for High Holy Day security.

This year, The Federation will not be offering those grants.

“This year, we decided we wouldn’t do it again,” said John Fishel, Federation president. “What we are doing, and will continue to do, is in-depth security analyses with Jewish schools throughout Los Angeles, which is not really focused on getting a guard for the holiday. We think focusing on venues that on a daily basis have children and youth and could be targets is a better use of community resources.”

Concern about security at services and how to fund it persists among at least some of the small synagogues, which will now need to reallocate resources or decide to go without.

“It will be extremely difficult to provide security,” said Andrew Friedman, president of the 100-member Congregation Bais Naftoli. “I’m not going to say we are not going to for two reasons: (a) we may, and (b) I don’t want the terrorist to know we will not provide security. We may — but it will be a great financial burden.”

Though 2008 has been marked by several high-profile anti-Semitic attacks, including the firebombing of The New JCC at Milken, the global threat against Jews seems to have lessened since summer 2006.

Fishel said that in such a noncrisis atmosphere, the security briefing co-sponsored annually by the Anti-Defamation League and L.A. Councilman Jack Weiss is sufficient for improving cautionary measures during holiday season. The briefing, held last Friday at the Skirball Cultural Center, instructed the 80 synagogue and Jewish institutional leaders attending on how to increase security for the High Holy Days and improve it throughout the year. Amanda Susskind, ADL regional director, said all members of the Jewish community bear a responsibility in protecting against threats.

“Everyone who works at a Jewish institution is part security officer,” she said.

The ADL offers a manual, “Protecting Your Jewish Institution,” on its Web site,

— Brad A. Greenberg, Senior Writer

Chabad Telethon Raises $8 Million

Los Angeles Lakers star Jordan Farmar shoots 36 baskets in 90 seconds to raise $64,800 for Chabad. Apparel executive Masud Sarshar offered the challenge

Chabad’s “To Life” telethon raised more than $8 million Sunday night — some of it due to amazing basketball shooting by Lakers star Jordan Formar.

Farmar, just back from Israel, shot 36 baskets (‘double chai’) in 90 seconds to raise over $64K for the organization. Apparel exec Masud Sashar offered to donate $1800 from every basket the UCLA alum shot.

The telethon, which was broadcast nationally on the AmericanLife TV Network, featured Chabad rabbis dancing on stage with high-profile donors such as former Beverly Hills Mayor Jimmy Delshad. The mayor, a Persian Jew, contributed $1,800 and made a plea in his native Farsi for others to donate.

The actor Jon Voight, making his 18th appearance on the Chabad telethon, was given a Lubavitch-style black hat. Voight also made a plug for Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

Other celebrities featured on the show included Martin Landau, James Cromwell, Camryn Manheim, Mimi Rogers, JoBeth Williams, Tom Arnold, Kellie Martin and Merrin Dungey. Pre-taped messages of support came from Larry King, Jackie Mason, Howie Mandel and Regis Philbin.

The $8,092,269 raised during the telethon will be used to support, among other large-scale religious and philanthropic projects, the Chabad Residential Drug Treatment Center in Los Angeles, as well as Chabad’s Camp Gan Israel, which has been a safe haven for Israeli girls escaping rocket attacks in Sderot.

— Dennis Wilen, Web Director, with contributions from Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Adat Ari El Completes New Gym

Adat Ari El Day School has completed the installation of a state-of-the-art sports pavilion. The facility includes a covered basketball court and climbing wall, among other features, and enables students to participate in physical activity year round.

Haim Linder, the school’s head physical education teacher, said the temperature in the pavilion is about 20 degrees cooler than the outside temperature — important during the Valley’s hot, summer days.

“It’s a big milestone for our school,” he said.

Linder said the sports facility would also help ensure that students stay focused, because research shows that children who are physically active are better able to concentrate on academics.

Additionally, the facility gives the school’s sports teams a place to practice. The pavilion will be named after Mannon Kaplan — one of the founder’s of the school — and in memory of his wife, Sybil. The Kaplan family funded the project and a dedication and thank you ceremony will be held at the school on Sept. 21.

— Lilly Fowler, Contributing Writer

After 40, it’s all maintenance

The other day at the gym, the teacher sent us to the wall for a set of standing push-ups.

“Place your hands on the wall at breast level,” she instructed.

I placed my hands on the wall at breast level. I saw that my hands were headed for the Gulf of Mexico.

“How did this happen?” I asked, sorrow catching in my throat.

“You know what they say,” said my neighbor. “After 40, it’s all maintenance.”

I gritted my teeth and performed three grueling sets of push-ups, determined to show that my strength and agility were not sliding nearly as fast as some of the rest of me. I did not cheat, exactly. I leveled the playing field, so to speak, by sliding my hands north on the wall closer to California, where the rest of my body lives. This made the push-ups much easier to complete. Besides, the true pain of the exercise was realizing that my 40th birthday had passed a few years ago, which meant I was overdue for some desperately needed deferred maintenance.

Back home, my first corrective measure was fishing out a catalog of women’s sports clothing. This catalog sold bras for every possible shape and fitness need. Sure enough, I found a model designed by a researcher in New Zealand who had a doctorate in Newtonian physics.

This great humanitarian had created a bra for women just like me: past our “best by” date for the cheerleading squad, but far too early for the shuffleboard squad. The researcher had actually attached sensors and electrodes to women as they jogged to determine how much retro-fitting they’d need to stay in their cups.

The bra was called “Stand and Deliver,” and I paid extra to have it shipped to me overnight.

When I heard the telltale diesel-chugging of the UPS truck on my block the following day, I ran to the door.

“Must be something special in there,” our friendly UPS man said, observing my rapid-response signature.

“Uh, yeah, the rat glue traps finally arrived,” I said. “No matter what we do, we just can’t seem to get rid of those rodents. I know this will do the trick.”
“Totally understandable. Well, I hope it works!”

“You and me both!” I waved goodbye.

When I looked at myself in the mirror wearing my new suspension rigging, I was amazed at what a little retrofitting could do for me. And I felt ashamed at my utter disdain for science classes back in high school. Had I only known how much I would benefit from a close study of Newtonian physics and its application to my ability to perform wall push-ups, I would have paid more attention in class.

My new bra was not the sexiest-looking underwire garment to have ever left the shores of Macau. It had an uncanny resemblance to building scaffolding, but I didn’t care. I had found it easily enough, which meant I was not a “problem fit” who would require the services of one of the nation’s leading bra-sizing consultants. (This was not the case for my friend Gerry, who one evening admitted to me, after a few glasses of wine, that she had been measured for a new bra with a carpenter’s level.)

I feel vindicated that Stage 1 of my deferred maintenance program has had such striking results. A neighbor stopped me the other day, looked at me quizzically and said, “Something’s different about you, I can tell. Wait, don’t tell me: I bet you finally got rid of those rodents!”

I admit that my success has had its limitations. Walking past Victoria’s Secret, that bastion of female object glorification, remains a painful experience, but at least now I do so holding my head (and my mammaries) a little higher and feeling younger. I have no doubt that Victoria’s skinny models may look better in a push-up bra than I do, but those scrawny arms of theirs will be their undoing in a contest with me for wall push-ups. With my greater musculature, I will leave them in the dust, and enjoy every thrilling minute of it.

There is more program work to be done, and my next target will be a re-evaluation of my skin care routine. Doing research online, I found a “face bra” that promises anti-aging miracles. However, this requires that I first soak the device in various solutions and pastes and be willing to wear it wrapped around my face like an Egyptian mummy for four hours a day, thereby feeling like an idiot. Fortunately, I am neither so old that I require such desperate measures, nor so young that I will fall for this kind of consumer sucker-punch.

For now, I’m happy to resume my wall push-ups, placing my hands right where they ought to be.

Judy Gruen writes the popular “Off My Noodle” column at Her next book, “The Women’s Daily Irony Supplement,” will be published in May.

‘Sex and the City’ Workout

“You’re joining a gym again?” I laughed. “If you could get back even half the money you’ve spent on gym memberships, you could go to Hawaii!”

“This time it’s different,” my friend said. “I’m joining that new one right by the mall. It’s so convenient, I can’t not go! And I’ll even use my free sessions with the personal trainer. I swear to you I am not throwing my money away this time.”

Where have I heard that before? Gym joiners are a dime a dozen here in fitness-obsessed Los Angeles. And you can’t drive three blocks without seeing some kind of gym or studio. Where I live, every time a new Starbucks pops up so does another gym. But I gave up on gyms long ago.

I joined my first gym while in college. My friends and I signed up for a three-month trial together, intending to rid ourselves of the proverbial freshman 10 — the end result of late-night doughnut runs.

We went religiously for three weeks, and then at least twice a week for three weeks after that, and then once in a while for three more weeks, and then we took a break for finals. After finals, the excuses began: “I have too much studying to do.” “I have a date.” “My sister has my car.” “I need to go shopping.”

We didn’t sign up again when the three months ran out.

Over the years I joined a few more gyms, always with the best intentions. But eventually my motivation to workout just wore out. For every reason there was to go, I had at least three reasons not to.

After I swore off of gym memberships, I decided that I needed to come up with different incentives to get moving. I used my dog. My dog loves to walk, and I love my dog. But dogs tend to stop frequently, and my dog must have been concerned that the female dogs on our block were not aware of his existence. So even though our walks were delightful, it became less of a fitness routine and more of a way for my dog to mark his masculinity.

Although the dog-walk routine didn’t pan out, a bit of canine inspiration led me to a workout regimen that finally worked.

When I next ran into my gym-joining friend, she was sipping a low-fat frap at the Starbucks next door to her new gym.

“Hey! How’s the new workout?” I asked.

“Um, good. The trainer was great, but kind of expensive once the freebees ran out. The locker room is very clean, and the juice bar totally yum,” she said, diverting her eyes and concentrating on the whipped cream oozing up her straw.

“You quit, didn’t you?”

“Not exactly,” she said.

“You stopped going?”

“I just needed a break.”

“I told you so,” I said as I ordered a tall decaf latte.

“OK, so you did,” she said defensively. “And what about you? What are you doing for exercise?”

I raised my eyebrows and smiled coyly. “I invented my own routine. I call it the ‘Sex and the City’ Workout,” I said.

“I’m intrigued,” she said. We took a seat in a quiet corner in the back. “How does it work?”

“Do you remember Pavlov? Well, I now am conditioned just like his dog.”

“You drool?”

“Don’t be silly. I developed a system so that I associate exercise with something I really want. I got an elliptical machine and put it in front of the TV.”

“I bet you hang your dirty clothes on it.”

“I do,” I admitted. “Exercise equipment always turns into a clothesline. Anyway, the trick to my workout is DVDs of ‘Sex and the City.'”

“I don’t get it.”

“I love watching ‘Sex and the City,’ right? Well, I allow myself to watch only if I am on the elliptical. So just like Pavlov’s dog learned to associate the bell with food, I associate exercise with my favorite show. If I want to watch, I have to workout. It’s that simple. I got caught up in season five one night, and when I looked down I had burned more than 3,000 calories.”

“That’s amazing!”

“It’s the best idea I ever had. My regular workout consists of two episodes — first episode on the elliptical and second episode stretching and lifting weights.”

“Wow,” she shook her head. “You do look, uh, pretty fit.”

I showed her my upper arm and allowed her to poke my bicep.

“I’m not only in shape,” I bragged, “I am also the ‘Sex and the City’ trivia game champion. I was the only one in my havurah who knew where Carrie and Miranda bought their cupcakes.” (Magnolia Bakery.)

“So you just watch ‘Sex and the City’ over and over?” she asked.
“When I could recite Carrie’s lines as well as she could, I decided to move on. So I addicted myself to ‘Gilmore Girls,'” I said.

“Ooooh, I love that show!”

“Then ‘The Sopranos,’ ’24,’ ‘Will and Grace’….”

Senior Moments – And in This Corner, Stella Goren

Stella Goren is only about 4-foot-10, but she packs a strong punch.

It all started when she was turning 79, and her husband asked what she wanted for her birthday.

“I'd like to work out at a gym with a personal trainer,” Goren told him.

In spite of thinking she was meshugge and assuming this wouldn't last, her husband gave his wife of 45 years what she wanted.

“I was very happy,” Sam Goren recalled. “I didn't have to go out and buy her a present.”

It turned out to be the perfect gift. Goren has been working out at the In Training Fitness Center in Hollywood, and loving it, for the past five years.

“Most exercise classes for seniors have you sitting in a chair and you bend down, you lift your arms, you turn your head,” Goren said. “The teachers don't really push you and there's no weight training. This makes sense, because you can get injured if you aren't with a real trainer. But I wanted to build up my muscles and bones.”

Well, Goren wanted to be pushed — and she got it.

Her personal trainer is Stan Ward, a champion heavyweight boxer who was recently inducted into the California State Boxing Hall of Fame. It's obvious that he really likes and admires Stella Goren.

“When you see an 80-year-old lady come into the gym and she has an attitude of 'Yeah, I can do that,' and then she does it, that's impressive,” Ward said. “There are several people in the gym, much younger than she is who don't have half her gumption to do half of the things she does. In fact, when she was there six months, everyone was appalled at how well she was doing. 'She can't do that. How's she doing that?'”

Indeed, Ward was so impressed with Goren's stamina, attitude and coordination that he thought she could handle something more — something like boxing.

“When he asked if I wanted to try boxing, I said sure,” Goren recalled, “and it's been great. What I really like is that you can get out all of your aggressions.”

Goren did make one stipulation when she began her boxing training: “I can hit, but they can't hit me back. I'm not stupid — I don't want to get hurt. I do, however, get hit in the nose sometimes when I work out with the speed ball by myself.”

Goren's background might have suggested the possibility of beginning to box at 81 years old.

She grew up in New Haven, Conn., the middle child of three girls. But she had a special role in the family.

“I had a brother that died in the flu epidemic,” she said. “I became the boy of the family; I was my father's son. He taught me to do electrical and plumbing repairs, and I was driving his truck at 14.”

When the United States entered World War II, Goren joined the Marines. What she learned in that training, as well as her willingness to take on a challenge, apparently emerged when she came to the gym.

“She's definitely a Marine,” Ward said. “She's in it 100 percent. She refuses to quit; she doesn't give an inch. Once she sets her mind to something, she gets it done.”

The payoff for all of her hard work has been tremendous, Goren said.

“Everybody knows me at the gym,” she said. “I walk in, and I'm greeted — 'Hi love.' 'Hi champ.' I feel so loved and like a ganser macher — like a big shot.”

Goren's husband, Sam, who at 81 runs several miles a day, is very impressed with his wife's accomplishments.

“She's become younger, in her thinking and talking,” he said. “And she tries to keep me in line by telling me about all the adulation she gets from the young men at the gym.”

Before she started her physical training at 79, Goren already had a wonderful hobby. In fact, a visit to her home is like touring an art gallery. Every wall and every shelf is filled with fabulous paintings, sculptures and quilts that Goren has created.

“The day I turned 62,” she said, “I retired from my work as a secretary and started taking art classes at Westside JCC. Now I spend more time working out and boxing.”

Ward said Goren inspires him.

“Because of the vivaciousness she has and how she conducts herself, people don't look at her as if she is old,” he said. “If you go around like you're on your last leg, you will stimulate people's negative views of what old people will be like. She is the opposite. She dances and she has fun. She always comes into the gym with a smile; everyone loves her. She's a wonderful person.”

Goren said that working out has truly changed her.

“You can really see the difference from when I showed up the first time and how I am now,” she said. “I was very timid. I'm much more outgoing now, and that is a very new feeling for me. I actually feel confident for the first time in my life.”

Ellie Kahn is a freelance writer and owner of Living Legacies Family Histories. She can be reached at or

Fit From N.Y. to L.A.

When I first moved to Los Angeles several months ago, I went to the gym every day. So, I discovered, does everyone else here.

This came as a shock to me. As a displaced New Yorker among the angels, I could adjust to the un-NYC features of this sunny world: the shocked glares I’d receive at mere mention of walking or (God forbid) public transport, the industry chit-chat that’s a cliché by now, the masses of people here with ambiguous jobs involving "something in music or film" who never seem to go to work but somehow manage to pay their rents. Yet one thing I did need schooling in: L.A. fitness mores.

In New York, my daily workout routine made me something of a spectacle among my health-considerate but hardly health-obsessed friends. For most of them, the gym was an event, not a routine.

"I’m going to the gym a week from tonight," my friend Jane would declare. This meant she was off-limits for at least three evenings: the crucial night before the workout (to be spent getting a good night’s sleep), the night of the workout (to be spent sweating), and the night after it (to be spent recovering).

But in Los Angeles, my sneaker-clad self became something I never wanted to be: yet another 20-something single girl with a regular fitness routine. Going to the gym is a given here. Nobody’s impressed if you do it; they’re stunned if you don’t. In car culture, gyms are Los Angeles’ traffic lights: "Turn right at the Bally’s," I’d hear, "and make a left at Hollywood Fitness."

I became a closet case. Embarrassed to be a cliché, I began telling people I was going to the supermarket instead of the gym. They began wondering why my groceries had such a short shelf life.

They also invited me on what I came to think of as gym-related leisure activities: hiking, running, ball-playing, swimming. Performed by those who engage in regular workouts but who also like to cultivate hobbies, these activities are so very Los Angeles because they, like everything else in this city, blur the line between work and play (Is it a night on the town or a networking venture? Is it a walk through the mountains or an efficient workout?).

If fitness is the official religion of Los Angeles, then everyone, I’ve determined, has a bad case of Jewish guilt. If they’re not working out, they’re thinking about it, talking about it, or planning to do it. The Jewish mother in this metaphor is the ubiquitous personal trainer, who always lurks as a reminder that however hard you’re working out, you could always be putting in just a little more effort, couldn’t you?

My first gym membership here was at Gold’s in Venice, one of the few institutions in this city with some history attached to it. Unfortunately, I never seemed to get an efficient workout there, because I’d end up ogling my fellow exercisers, most of whom had bodies that seemed to defy nature itself. How, I wondered, did they get all that bulge and bulk in all those bizarre places? Most of the women at Gold’s could bench press me 10 times over. As for the men, I couldn’t fathom how they jammed all that bulk into human clothing.

Then again, when it comes to fitness, I learned, L.A. men are a whole different breed. Vanity in women — that’s a given. But vain men are the specialty of the region. Five minutes into a conversation with one, I’d often end up hearing more than I cared to know about his workout schedule and problem areas. They were shocked to hear that I had no opinion about the quality, texture, and/or value of a six-pack.

Ah, the elusive six-pack — something my male roommate never tires of discussing, especially while his Healthy Choice dinner is in the microwave and he’s confessing to all the carbs he ate that day, as if to purge himself of sin. "If I could only work out that extra hour, and stop my late-night snacking," he’d moan. I’d nod, absolve him, and shake my head in puzzlement. A man who knows what a low-carb diet is? I don’t think I could find a single one in New York — but I meet them every day at the frozen yogurt store in West Hollywood, filling their perfect abdominals with carbo-lite milkshakes and low-carb muffins. I admit it: These guys have beaten me at my own game.

I’m not in New York anymore, and this is the new game of fitness. So I yield to the insanity and drive (drive!) back to the gym.

The Novice

It is called Pilates, and I had been hearing about it for some time but dismissed it as a faddish ’90s workout. It fit the mold perfectly: It had the requisite exotic name (pronounced puh-LAH-tees), you had to go to a gym to do it, and celebrities hailed it as a miracle workout that managed, with perfect ’90s perversity, to give shapely women the bodies of 12-year-old boys.

Pilates, I had heard, involved archaic equipment with names like “the reformer” and “the barrel,” but that was about all I knew when I arrived at TriBeCa Bodyworks, a Pilates studio on Duane Street, determined to see if my bias was well-founded. A model-thin woman blew by me, a single line of sweat dripping down her radiant cheek. Great. I hated the place already.

Alycea Baylis-Ungaro, the owner of the studio, had instructed me to bring loose clothing and to wear socks. No sneakers were necessary.

Showing me to the changing room, she whispered, “Even men do Pilates. We get a lot of them.” It is true. During my workouts at least one-third were men. Besides, there is, as I soon learned, nothing feminine about Pilates.

The exercise method was invented by a man, Joseph Pilates, a boxer and physical therapist from Germany. Obsessed with body conditioning, he developed the framework for Pilates while serving as a nurse during World War I. So that patients could exercise in bed, he redesigned a hospital bed and developed simple exercises. Modern Pilates apparatus relies on the use of springs to provide resistance, much like weights, but easier on the body. He opened the first Pilates Studio in the United States in New York City in 1926.

A workout developed that long ago, when athletes smoked and tennis players wore long pants? Still, I signed up for three one-hour Pilates sessions. The first, Alycea said, would just be introductory. For $65, she would lead me through the fundamental exercises. Later sessions would get more intense, Alycea promised, at $55 a session. A bargain! I could not quite believe I was handing over this much money to exercise. I am a reasonable person. I live near a park. I own a pair of sneakers. Why not just put them on and run around the park?

The reason became clearer with each exercise. Alycea took me to the Reformer, a long, low, bedlike apparatus with a flat, padded carriage that slid back and forth the length of the bed. It made a dentist’s chair look friendly. Alycea had me lie face up on the carriage, with my knees bent and my feet on a raised steel bar at the end of the apparatus. I was to straighten my legs as I pulled in my stomach.

The carriage, which is set on three long springs, was difficult to slide out, then snapped back against the end of the apparatus with a loud “Bang!” that echoed through the studio. Heads turned. Alycea did not look pleased. The next time, I was told, do it smoothly, no banging. And I was told to stop arching my back. Pilates exercises are designed to protect and strengthen the back.

“The more distance you put between your belly button and your spine, the more pressure you put on your back,” Alycea said.

By changing the position of my feet on the steel bar and pushing, I worked different muscle groups in my legs while working my stomach muscles.

“It’s a real New York workout because it’s really efficient,” Alycea said. “You have to use all your muscles at once.” And you get it all in a neat and snappy 60 minutes.

We moved on to more complex movements, my least favorite being the “hundreds.” Lying face up on the Reformer, I had to raise my feet six inches, suck in my stomach, squeeze my buttocks together and, holding a stirrup set on springs in each hand, keep my arms at my sides and bounce them up and down, 100 times. With so many details to focus on, you hardly feel the pain.

I was beginning to understand why Mr. Pilates called his workout contrology. For every exercise that focuses on strengthening muscle, another stretches the body and encourages balance. And each movement – whether a derivative of the sit-up with legs jutting in the air, or lying flat and pulling on leather harnesses attached to springs – involves stabilizing the core of the body, the torso and buttocks, while moving the arms or legs. (This is the part that appeals to women: The movements are small and repetitions are short, so you tone muscle without bulking up.)

After about a half hour on the Reformer, Alycea introduced me to the Cadillac, which looked a lot like a gurney with harnesses and pulleys. After more stomach exercises, including sit-ups and leg lifts, Alycea had me lie on my back and put my feet into the harnesses. With my feet above my head and my back raised off of the mat, I was hung like a side of beef. Then, using my stomach muscles, I had to pull my body down to the mat against the resistance of the springs, curling my spine, vertebra by vertebra. It felt as if I was stretching every bone in my back. But there was no pain. Instead, I felt stress ebbing until it was gone. I could have done it all day.

But that was not the best part. Alycea had me sit up and stretch to touch my toes while she pushed and rubbed my back. I was forgetting about the $65.

I left my first session with my stomach muscles dazed and confused, but I was still troubled that I had not broken a sweat. But when I arrived for my second session, Alycea reminded me that the Reformer workout did not get longer, it got faster.

“And that’s where the aerobics come in,” she said.

And did they ever. I was more relaxed with the machines and my movements became smoother and faster. But when I slowed down, I heard about it.

At most Pilates gyms, you do individual sessions with a personal trainer to learn the movements – there are more than 500 – until you get up to pace. After about 30 sessions, you can advance to what is called a duet – two people with a trainer – then to groups of three and four.

I had never employed a personal trainer, but I found that having one by my side was surprisingly comforting. I liked having someone there to coddle me while I suffered through the workout. Besides, it is far too easy and tempting to cheat with Pilates.

What is extraordinary about Pilates is its broad appeal. Some professional dancers do it to maintain flexibility and stay fit without adding excess stress to their bodies. And unlike running or aerobics, Pilates is good for the elderly, people with injuries, and even pregnant women.

“They do it right up to delivery,” Alycea said.

As for me, Pilates was a revelation. I had not realized how tight my muscles had become working in an office, slouching over a computer keyboard. By the third session, I was a convert. I was getting the aerobic workout I wanted while regaining some of the flexibility I had lost.

But if I start to get that 12-year-old boy look, I just may have to ease off. For a while, anyway.