Recently I stayed in Chicago for a weekend with the family. I get up usually a couple of hours before the wife and kids so I like to use this time to get a workout in. With my recent back issues, my workouts are restricted to cycling (I am fine with it).
The place we stayed at in Chicago, the Talbott, doesn't have a work out room. When my wife told me this, I figured I would have to go for a walk and read a book in the early morning hours. My first reaction was "what hotel doesn't have a work out area?". I have worked out in plush dedicated workout rooms such as the Peppermill in Reno, and crapholes at chincy hotels who simply took a room or two and tossed some cardio equipment and a set of weights in there. But I honestly couldn't remember the last time I stayed at a hotel where they didn't have something.
Luckily, we found out that the Talbott gives you a day pass to a local health club if you need your fix. The club is called Equinox and it is on Michigan Avenue. It is in the basement of the 900 North Michigan shops, which is an immense mall that has a Bloomingdales as the anchor.
So it was about 6am and I went down to the desk at the Talbott and they gave me a pass. I walked over there and the 900 North Michigan shops were locked up tight as a drum. I had to walk around the block to Walton Street and enter through a parking garage. After many twists and turns I finally found my way to Equinox - closed. It opens at 7. Thanks, hotel desk person. By this time it was 6.30 so I decided to sit there and wait for the joint to open up. As opening time got closer, a few more people were waiting. The clientele was pretty well aged. Very few people under 40.
I wasn't used to waiting for a health club to open up - my health club, the Princeton Club, is open 24/7/365 (I think maybe it is closed on x-mas and part of Thanksgiving) which works out much better for my goofy hours and schedule.
Some other differences I noted:
At the Princeton Club, every cardio machine has its own TV. I LOVE THIS. At Equinox, you are limited to watching whatever is on the overhead screens. I forgot my ear buds so I couldn't plug into the machines to listen to the TV, and was subjected to the club music that they were pumping at Equinox. There were a lot of unidentifiable dance type tunes mixed in with an occasional classic rock song (Brown Sugar by the Rolling Stones is not a good workout tune). It was an odd mix. At Princeton Club they do not pump music into the workout area.
The equipment was about the same, quality wise, in both locations. The Princeton Club has a much wider variety of equipment, however. I think part of the reason for this is because the location I frequent the most is absolutely enormous, much bigger than Equinox.
Price - I pay (I think) $42 per month at Princeton Club - but I prepay two years in advance so that is a little off the normal rate. Equinox lists their membership at $142 per month, or $188 per month for all access (Equinox has locations in many larger cities). Perhaps you get a little break if you pay up front like I did.
Equinox had what I call the "towel boy" who would circulate while the patrons were working out and ask if anyone needed fresh towels. Once he came around and asked if we wanted cold towels. They had a refrigerator and put some towels in there to cool them down. I was thinking that they might be damp as well but don't know. Most modern workout equipment has fans on it - I always turn the fans off to make my workout as hard as possible, so I didn't have much use for towel boy and his cold towels. I just wanted him to leave me alone, but that is me.
The thing that bothered me the most at Equinox was the lack of cleaning spray. At Princeton Club they have bottles of cleaning spray and towels that you are to use when done to clean up your sweat off of the machine. They didn't have these at Equinox. I like to use them also BEFORE I use a machine. When I am done working out I leave the machines a gross sweaty mess and I don't like to leave that crap for the next person. So at Equinox I cleaned up the machine when I was done the best I could with my sweat towel. It didn't appear that towel boy or anyone else was going to clean up the machine before the next person used it. GROSS.
Equinox, to me, offered less than Princeton Club in their offerings, yet can command 3.5x the rate. Location, location, location. I think that most of the people living in the Gold Coast area don't care about $142 per month anyway.