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« Celebrate the little things | Main | More shortbread bakers worldwide! »

Jillian Michaels & Curves: Savior or she-devil?

She may have a perfectly fit body. She may be the female Jack LaLanne of Gen X-ers.

In anyone's book, personal trainer and TV personality Jillian Michaels epitomizes success and the American dream, right? Fitness-crazed forty-something with great hair and an even greater bod takes American TV by storm.

She's the Don Draper of dumbbells. The Lord Grantham of glutes. The Honey Boo Boo of hamstring stretches. 

While I admire her unflagging discipline to fitness, I also find her to be a loathesome human being and a bully. She had to have been a mean girl in high school because she is a mean girl now--shredding vulnerable contestants just trying to preserve their self-esteem and their sanity while struggling to survive on The Biggest Loser.

Jillian Michaels is now part of the Curves fitness programSo, I was (more than a little) distressed to hear that Jillian Michaels was going to be Curves' new "It Girl." Yes, come the New Year, Curves members (perhaps worldwide) would be watching her videos on a large screen TV, with Michaels telling us what to do on the recovery board between using the hydraulic equipment, during every single blinking workout.

I have been a member of Curves since 2005, and that's longer than I've ever stuck with a single fitness program. I've experienced the Curves peaks and valleys. I've stayed mostly because of the great staff at our Ephrata Curves, and that's the truth. They are all good, hard-working women whom I admire. The way I feel about people greatly informs whether I want to spend my free time with them or not. 

Given the choice of exercising with Jillian Michaels at every workout or finding another salon, I figured the handwriting was on the wall. I am not a fitness nut. I don't even like exercising. I don't need an all-too-intense, humorless mean girl scowling at me during workouts I pay for with hard-earned money.

One year ago, the founders of Curves sold the company to some folks who proceeded to make a lot of changes. They wanted to strengthen the Curves brand. Walls were repainted the perfect brand purple. All the fun little extras that made my Curves unique and special were gone. No more running craft show where I bought lots of gifts year-round. No more hula hoops. While scrubbing up the brand, the new owners forgot to consult the customer in the process. It was clear what they wanted. Did they ever ask us what we want? Not that I was aware of.

I've been doing the SAME workout for nine years. The exact same machines, every single time because it is a circuit. Some of the little extras that the manager implemented helped relieved the sameness, the boredom that inevitably sets in. Now, new corporate management was eliminating the value add. What did they want us to do--jump up and down, waving and cheering, or fall prostrate in gratitude?

And they were going to shove Jillian Michaels down our throats in 2014, too? I know Curves memberships were not nearly as plentiful as they had been and that this whole push of integrating Jillian Michaels exercises was to spur more memberships. But that didn't mean that I liked her any better. Was it time to find out more about that Planet Fitness that went in a couple years ago, that I never paid mind to?

This morning marked my first Curves workout of the New Year. (I unofficially worked out yesterday shoveling snow for an hour and a half.)  After I signed in, I couldn't help but notice the women whose eyes were Superglued to the new TV screen mounted in the workout area featuring videos of Jillian Michaels, skating on the industrial grade Curves carpet, doing pushups, knee bends, twisting bendy things.

All the women in the salon, when not working a piece of equipment, were trying Michaels' moves, too, instead of marching or doing knee lifts on the recovery board.

Since I didn't have to listen to her, I tried the suggested exercises Michaels was demonstrating in place of using the recovery boards, too.

And her exercises were actually really great for me!  They made the workout more impactful and interesting. I was sweating and breathing heavier (but not panting) when I was done. I felt as though I got more out of my Curves workout than I had in a long time.

The Curves trainer asked whether we wanted to hear what Michaels was saying because the sound was muted. I could easily pick up the exercises we were supposed to do by just watching her. "Please, don't," I said. "I really don't like her."

"I would like to hear what she is saying," another lady said. 

And with the that, the trainer turned up the volume on the Jillian Michaels' video. Instead of pleasant pop music ramped up to 140 beats per minute, I heard Jillian pushing us, barking at us.

I almost walked out. 

I don't need to barked at by her during one of the few things I do for renewal.

After five minutes of this I said, "I hope she's not going to be talking the whole time we are working out." If that were to happen, I would definitely leave Curves. 

I put up with exercising to praise and worship music. And giving up browsing and shopping at the little craft display every week. Oh, and no more hula hoops. But having to listen to Jillian Michaels, clearly superior to me in every way that society valued, made me feel like a loser--a big loser--and not in a good way, and I drew a line in the sand. I would not subject myself to her on my nickel. 

"I'll turn it down now," the trainer said. "We won't have the sound on all the time."

I smiled weakly, grateful that she took my complaint seriously. I'm really not a big complainer. When it comes to complaining, I'm more like Mr. Ed and don't speak up unless it really matters to me.

I do like the essential Curves workout, or I wouldn't have stuck with it for the last nine years. I like my Curves fitness center. They offer an awesome yoga class several times a year that has really helped me recapture some flexibility. And I have to admit that I like the extra effort that I must make to do Jillian Michaels' exercises during my workout. I need and appreciated the increased cardio the Curves workout now offers.

But let me be clear. I'm not paying to listen to Jillian Michaels "coaching" me all during my 30-minute workout. I'll take my business elsewhere if that becomes de rigueur at my Ephrata Curves.


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Reader Comments (16)

I aman owner of a curves location in Toronto.
I love your article. It was informative and balanced.
We are struggling with the same issues you have raised about Jillian.
We have loyal members like you, but, the business struggles because many woman want the Jillian style workout. Closing the sound sounds like a good approach. Sometimes with the Jillian help, and sometimes without.
Great article, thank you.

January 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterZale Tabakman

Hi, Zale. I think a muted Jillian can be the best of both worlds. It's easy on the ears for those who can't abide her like me, but helps those who are excited about what she brings to the Curves workout to make it more beneficial.

Thanks so much for stopping by, and good luck. I do like Curves and as long as I don't have to listen to her, I think I will tough it out.

January 14, 2014 | Registered CommenterGale Martin / @Gale_Martin

I agree with your opinion of the new Curves. While my friend and I enjoyed the new JM workout, the next thing we knew , they were raising the cost of membership. Curves seems to me to be geared for teachers. Their hours of operation are limited at best, and if you work a full time job, you barely have time to get your workout in if you have anything else to do after work. We will also be leaving Curves, $10 for Planet Fitness looks pretty good at this point.

March 19, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterB J Robinson

Thanks for stopping by, BJ. I will be checking out Planet Fitness, too. It's too bad. I just loved that Curves workout.

So sad to see curves coming to an end. I have been a member for 7 years in Oro Valley Arizona. The new direction "curves " is taking is frustrating and not worth my time or money. It's hard to get a workout in because it gets so crowded in our small area. They say you can do the traditional work out during Jillian, but the recovery boards are moved and the audio is all Jillian, so you just have to guess when to change stations.
This is not what I joined for. I found an exercise routine I loved and could stick to and it's not available at "curves" any more. If I want to do Zumba or a Jillian type workout, I can do those at home or join a Zumba class. I don't want to do Zumba or Jillian. I want to do Curves. Curves is not Curves any more. I will be looking for other options.

April 6, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDootdah

I was a nine-year member and I left one month ago. Like you, I had found a routine I could stick with years ago, and then the game changed right out from underneath me.

Best of luck finding another fitness option. I appreciate your stopping by because my fitness center thinks it's just me being cranky and intolerant.

I too am planning on leaving Curves. I think bringing in Jillian and removing the recovery boards for mats that are too soft, has ruined them for me. Trying to do leg work on the new mats hurts my back. The recovery boards gave a nice supportive/spring feel and the mats give an unstable feeling to me. I enjoyed my 3 1/2 years at the OLD Curves. Jan

April 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJan

I certainly enjoyed my Curves years. I thank you for visiting, Jan, and I hope you find something else. I'm just a hard head and liked things the way they were.

I've been a member of Curves since 2007, and have enjoyed and still enjoy the workout! Even with the new Jillian Michael's classes, Body Basics, and Zumba. Jillian's instruction is great, while the presence of our personal coaches, to guide and make sure everyone is moving on properly has worked smoothly in our club! Try to be open to change and use it to benefit your life, and ultimately your physical health. Mixing up your workout is another way to help strengthen, and add to weight loss! BE OPEN TO CHANGE LADIES AND GENTLEMEN! :)

April 17, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterD.R.J.

DRJ, I have a great deal of change in my life, and let's not forget, who is the customer. Apparently Curves Corporate did. You can enjoy your new Jillianized Curves and I can choose to patronize another fitness center. Isn't America great?

Gale I Agree but Jillian is Curves plan for destroying the Brand, they want to concentrate on Jillian so they can weed out Curves Complete as they now own Jenny Craig. So Sorry

July 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMaria Pedrara

How about that? I didn't know that they owned Jenny Craig. Yes, I just don't like the direction Curves has taken since January, but I haven't found anything better. So, now what?

I am an ex Curves owner in Australia. I had issues with the Curves brand before & had to close my club due to rent increase & memberships dropping. I agree totally with the author of this letter. Curves Circuit with Zumba Fitness was supposed to be the new "it" routine along with Curves Smart. I see a lot of clubs have dropped the Zumba here in Australia. I think the JM thing will be another flash in the pan idea. I didn't know they owned JC either. As much as I loved the Curves workout, the 24 hour gyms in Australia have taken over. Good luck with your workouts Gale.

October 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSue from Australia

Gale, I can completely understand your frustration at the change of the Curves system. I was a Curves member for years and found it a great program.
I do have to stick up for Jillian Michaels though. She's admitted to being an overweight child who was bullied in school. She helps people with weight loss because it's fulfilling for her. Also I might note that she's not a huge fan of exercise. Please don't jump to conclusions due to editing on the Biggest Loser (a show which she left because of this and because she wanted to educate people with long lasting weight loss results rather than just fluff).
I wish you all the best with your work out and hopefully you find a new place that you enjoy.

February 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJody from Aus

Hi, jody. Thanks for stopping in on my blog. Right now, I am doing yoga online and haven't found anything I like better than Curves. I appreciate the back story on Jillian but I didn't like exercising along with her video because I always had to do the modified exercise versions. I used to feel like a winner and feel good about myself after my workouts. When that stopped happening, I realized I had to leave.

February 7, 2015 | Registered CommenterGale Martin / @Gale_Martin

I just returned to Curves after a 10year absence. At my level of fitness (none) it works for me right now...but I also think Jillian Michaels is a "mean girl" and make sure I come in when she is not scheduled. I do prefer the mats over the old recovery boards though! My Curves still has that small town feel and not the corporate "business" feel so it is a comfortable place to be...for now.

June 13, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMelody

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