Since I have arrived in San Francisco (SF) I have been on the hunt for somewhere to work out daily. Typically, (or when I am in a routine of some sort, which I am not currently) I work out about 5-6 times a week: 2-3 of those times I swim, 2-3 lift weights, and do one cycle class a week. My standards for a fitness facility are pretty high. In University I had access to University facilities, when I lived in Calgary I worked out at the YMCA near Eau Claire market, in Vancouver I worked out at the YWCA downtown.  All were nice facilities that include a 25 meter pool (which is a must somewhere I work out, otherwise I am forced to go to two different facilties which is not cost effective or practical). Finding something in SF that fits this title that is not a million dollars a month has been difficult.

We live in SOMA (stands for “South of Market) in SF, which is about 15-20 minutes walking to downtown SF and Union Square. I needed to find something close to home, as my fiance always has the vehicle.

The facilities that I investigated and tried were:

  • YMCA – Central
  • Golds Gym – on Brennan
  • The Sports Club LA – downtown near Union Square
  • 24 Hour Fitness – on Bryant
  • YMCA – Embarcadero

YMCA Central is archaic at best. The pool is down in the basement, and is not well kept. In order to use the pool you have to use the even more archaic changing rooms. The regular changing rooms are only available if you use the upstairs facilities. The facility is on numerous different floors, very impractical. You have to pay for towel service yourself. There is old carpet that has been worn to the ground all over the facility. It does not have TV available while you work out, or any other unnecessary but nice benefits some facilities have. There is no contract, and fees are about $51 a month for just the central facility, with $25 start up fee.  If you want a Bay Area Membership it is $70 a month with $99 to start up fee.

Golds Gym on Brennan is a well equipped work out facility if you don’t want a pool, and don’t mind working out with a bunch of roid monkeys. It does have handy dandy shared televisions (channels are already choosen my gym staff) in front of the cardio area so you can plug your own headphones into the outlet and watch your favourite show while working out. But to use the weights, I found it quite intimidating. In the week I had my free access to the facility I only used the weight section once when it was 11pm and no one was there. Also comes with an over pushy dude trying to sell you a membership. The rates were about $59 a month with a $99 start up fee AND a one year contract.

The Sports Club LA on Market Street, not far from Union Square on SF. It is a swanky club with all the amenities. The only reason I got to try out this facility for almost two weeks was because a friend of a friend sells memberships there and gave me a free pass. So wonderful, but very expensive. Included in the changing room is towel service, shampoo/conditioner, lotion, Qtips, cotton balls, complimentary locks, etc. The changing room feels like you are in a lounge, with nice carpets… so I felt odd being naked and getting changed in there. There is a salon in the Sports Club and I actually saw a lady having her hair done in the changing room for her evening out. The pool is nice, but I am pretty sure it is not the complete 25 meters… more like 22. You get an individual TV and freedom to change it to any channel while using the cardio facilities. Major downfall is the cost! $120 a month for one person plus $500 start up fee… ouch!

24 hour fitness on Bryant. I walked past and saw it’s sign and also saw all the brown paper on all the windows. I only knew it was still open because I saw people walking into the facility through the parking garage. I went at the busiest time, but felt like they were herding sheep and disliked the atmosphere. They attempted to tell me that the pool that they have was 25 meters. SO INCORRECT, I am sorry but at best it was 18 yards! When you are used to a 25m pool and swim all the time, you get dizzy doing your tumble turns all the time and it is just plain annoying. The changing room was not well kept and too small for the amount of people using the facility. The equipment was a little old and all occupied, so you could not use what you wanted. The weights area was small. The rates were similar to Golds, perhaps a little cheaper.

YMCA Embarcadero is nice. It is much closer to the Y’s that I go to in Canada. They not only have a pool, but it is actually 25 meters, at a decent temperature so you can do your lap workout, AND it is above ground AND it appears well kept! It is actually about a 33m pool with a bulk head at 25 m, so they can have a deep water workout class and all lanes open for lap swim. Very nice to someone that swims all the time! It is chlorine, but I have not found a pool in SF that is otherwise yet. The other equipment is well kept and located on one or two floors. The cardio equipment is all facing the windows with a gorgeous view of the Bay! No TVs to watch though.  Towel service is included, which I find unusual for a Y! The rates are $63 a month with $25 start up fee. For a couple to get a Bay Area membership (which means we can use other Y’s in the Bay area) it is only $120 per month, $99 start up fee with no contract! That is the same price as the monthly rate at The Sports Club LA for ONE person. The little downfall is it is about a good 30 minute walk from my house, and all the other facilities are 15 minutes or less.

After all that looking around, and even though the Y at Embarcadero is a good walk, I think it will be our choice 🙂