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Luxury Fitness: The Gyms to Join When Money is No Object

It’s the second week of January – how’s that weight loss and fitness program going so far? Ready to start throwing money at the problem?

Unfortunately, you cannot pay someone to work out for you (our friends in the tech world have not figured that one out, yet). But with enough cash, you can upgrade the quality of your gym.

Just in case your resolutions and your resolve are starting to falter, we here at Dandelion Chandelier thought we’d have a look at how the most expensive gyms in the world keep their luxury-class clients on track.  This may be the most effective way to get yourself into the zone: by joining a truly expensive gym, you could end up a lot lighter in the wallet, but also a lot lighter on the scale. Hey, everything in life is a tradeoff.

So what’s a workout like at the pinnacle of the fitness world? Here’s what our fit friends tell us:

The facilities are small and private. Privacy is a top priority for the uber-rich, so not surprisingly, at uber-luxury gyms the clients are well-shielded from public view:

–The top-tier program “E” at luxury gym Equinox in New York costs $26,000 per year and is limited to 50 members. With their Tier 4 one-on-one training sessions, clients also receive workout attire upon arrival in their private changing cabanas.

–Sessions at The Bunker in Beverly Hills are $200 an hour. Run by celebrity trainer Adam Ernster, this referral-only gym is only accessible via a nondescript corridor and is reserved exclusively for one-on-one sessions. A major selling point is the adjoining private paparazzi-proof parking garage, which keeps post-workout photos out of the press.

It’s really expensive (but you might see some celebrities). If you spend enough dough to make it past the velvet rope, you’ll actually get to sweat alongside the rich and famous:

–Nantucket’s newly-launched Ezia Athletic Club requires a $120,000 initiation fee, and $5,000 annual dues. It’s limited to only 250 members, and promises “the best features of a luxury lifestyle resort, cutting-edge health club, and premium sports complex.” Mums the word on the membership, but it is said to include many hedge-fund and private equity executives, as well as a couple of real estate moguls.

–The Madison Square Club in Manhattan costs $35,000 per year. Training sessions with owner David Kirsch are $500 per hour. Heidi Klum, Liv Tyler and Ellen Barkin have been spotted there.

–Manhattan’s recently-opened Dogpound gym is where you’ll find Hugh Jackman and a number of Victoria’s Secret fashion show models working out. Prices are $34 for a single boxing class, or $3,000 for 12 training sessions with a Dogpound founder. Could we pay that amount just to work out with Hugh? Just asking. ‘Cause that would definitely get us to the gym on a regular basis.

You can’t always buy your way in. Sadly, all the money in the world won’t get you into some of the world’s most exclusive gyms:

–Sitaras Fitness in New York runs $13,760 per year for two sessions a week (you can also pay $115 each for additional sessions each week). Members have access to top-of-the-line equipment and luxurious locker rooms. The catch? Membership is limited to 200, and a personal interview with founder John Sitaras, plus a mandatory commitment to working out at least two days per week is required.

–The Houstonian gym in Houston is like a private club: it requires a one-time fee of $25,000 plus $348 per month. Prospective members must go through an application and approval process, and must be sponsored by an existing member or personally interview with the Director of Membership.

–KX (pronounced “kicks”) is the most exclusive gym in London, and it is strictly members-only for workouts, although non-members can book treatments at the spa. Should you pass muster with the membership committee, the initiation fee is $2,465, and annual membership is $7,395. Gwyneth Paltrow and Kylie Minogue are members, and Prince Harry was once spotted there, working out with Cameron Diaz. If we can hang with HRH Prince Harry, then we’re totally interested.

Your workout will be bespoke and holistic. Top-tier gyms focus on personalized evaluations that result in full-body fitness programs, covering everything from nutrition to cardio to sleep therapy.

–Equinox’s Tier X is health coaching at its most extreme; it’s the luxury gym’s newest and highest level of personal training. The goal is customizing an entire lifestyle program.  Tier X coaches are not just personal trainers – they must undergo additional training to qualify for the program, which is only offered at select locations.

–Boutique gym Ethos in London recently launched its eight-week Alchemy course, which promises a “body and lifestyle transformation” courtesy of hot yoga, TRX and Wattbike classes.

There might be some pro athletes and tough guys in the house. It’s become increasingly popular for former athletes to open expensive gyms or personal training studios, and for luxury gyms to specialize in training the pros:

–EXOS in Phoenix costs $2,400 per week to train once per day or $3,500 per week for two sessions a day. Formerly called Athletes’ Performance, the gym takes a pro athlete’s approach to fitness. The 31,000-square-foot facility is divided into areas for training and recovery, and includes only the most high-tech equipment, like underwater treadmills. Members include active-duty military, as well as athletes from Major League Baseball, the NFL, and the NBA.

–Zenergy in Ketchum, Idaho is a tennis maven’s dream. Membership requires a $15,000 initiation fee plus a $142 monthly fee. The 48,000-square-foot space offers more than 80 classes per week, including tennis instruction from Mats Wilander, the former world number-one-ranked player and eight-time Grand Slam Champion.

–Tiger Muay Thai in Phuket bills itself as the world’s most prestigious fighting gym. For only about $700 per week, the “VIP” package includes Muay Thai and Western boxing classes, meals and accommodations. The gym’s alumni include UFC fighter George St. Pierre, and it features a program run by Brian “Bad Boy” Ebersole and Roger “El Matador” Huerta (can we just say that we love these nicknames, and we want one, too?). If MMA isn’t really your thing, the gym also provides cross-training, boot camp and yoga classes. Devotees swear that it’s really intense, but after two weeks you’ll be ready for the cover of Men’s Fitness (or Self).

There might be a doctor available. The holistic approach at luxury gyms sometimes extends to having medical professionals on staff or on call:

–Membership in the La Palestra gym in Manhattan costs $8,000 per year. Beneath the famous Plaza Hotel, this two-story, 9,000-square-foot compound was designed by Frank Gehry, and takes a medically-focused approach to fitness. Beyond the traditional workout facilities, they employ an internist, nutritionist, physical therapist and psychologist.

–Clients of the E at Equinox program have access to an Advisory Board of leading doctors from sport and fitness-related fields as part of their $26,000 annual fee.

You can do some power networking. Might as well multi-task, right? At the Sporting Club at the Bellevue in Philadelphia, there’s a full-size NBA basketball court and a 43-bike spinning studio. In addition to acupuncture, massage therapy and a fitness studio with city views, the club also hosts networking events and art openings. The price is “Upon Request” – you know what that means.

Your surroundings will be stunning. Sure, it’s a gym, but at this level, the environment has to be pristine and luxurious:

–Wellness Sky in Belgrade, Serbia has an annual fee of $30,000. An architectural marvel, the gym could probably charge admission just for its views of the city. It’s world-renowned for its body balance program, which blends yoga, Pilates and tai-chi into a comprehensive training regimen.

–London’s Harbour Club costs $20,000 per year. The late Princess Diana and Duchess Kate have trained there. In addition to royal-spotting, the highlight of the gym is its gorgeous waterfall swimming pool.

Sold? Before you take the plunge, just remember that according to the experts, only 8% of people with fitness-related New Year’s resolutions actually keep them. 67% of people with gym memberships never use them. Eek. We confess to having been among these people from time to time.

Maybe your financial advisor (or your partner or spouse) can motivate you by consistently haranguing you about how much cash you’ve invested in this endeavor. An expensive gym membership could generate a great return on investment for you – the only catch is that you have to actually use it.

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