In the 1990s, Curves was a big hit with moms, including mine. Every week she’d put on comfy shorts and a big T-shirt and make her way around the fitness studio’s resistance machines, set up in a friendly circle and interspersed with rubberized mats where she’d walk in place or march. I, with my aerodynamic spandex and gym-rat overconfidence, would gently tease her about her “Curves Girls” and how they’d spend their workouts chit-chatting about family dramas or lunch. But I was really glad she’d found a gym that wasn’t intimidating, a place where she could be active, get stronger, and stave off bone loss without feeling judged.
Those studios are still around, though the company has lost some of its luster amid financial losses, legal dramas, and donation controversies. Today a similar kind of personalized circuit training is making a comeback in Atlanta—and it’s hoping to attract people like my mom and me.
At the Refinery, a new boutique fitness studio on the Westside, you can find the only BIOCIRCUIT machines in America. As at Curves, the Refinery’s machines are set up around a circle and don’t use plates or racks. But BIOCIRCUIT takes circuit training a step further, in terms of intensity and technology.
First, you download the Technogym app and use it to create a profile. Then a trainer at the Refinery takes you through initial strength tests on the machines and helps you find your settings. They’re stored on the app, so every time you check into the BIOCIRCUIT, the machines auto-adjust for your needs and strengths. The full workout—which typically includes periods of hard work on treadmills, stationary bikes, and weight-training machines (like the chest fly and hamstrings curls), followed by short periods of rest—is two laps around and lasts about 30 minutes.
Experts typically agree that circuit training can be effective. But a lot depends on you, and how hard you want to work. The key, according to studies, is to keep your heart rate elevated.
That’s the idea in Refinery’s BIOCIRCUIT. They stress that it’s a workout for everyone, and a complement to the other high-end offerings at the 12,000-square-foot, astroturfed, “industrial-luxe” studio. Think calorie-blasting personal training sessions and small-group fitness classes guided by in-person coaches as well as on-screen demos and countdowns. There’s a big metal rig in the middle of the room, with straps and monkey bars and the like.
So it’s not quite the unintimidating beginner’s haven that Curves was and is. But my mom doesn’t go there anymore anyway. She’s gotten into some weightlifting. So maybe we’ll try the BIOCIRCUIT together the next time she’s in town. If we’re not entirely out of breath, she can talk about her HOA, and I can keep my judgmental mouth shut.
About $28 to $45 for a single class, $99 to $349 for a monthly membership. refineryfit.com