NEWS- Fast fitness? Gym promises big results, little time

Think getting fit means fitting in lengthy workouts? Not according to Quick Gym, the latest addition to the Charlottesville fitness scene. Opened in mid-February on the ground floor of the Water Street Parking Garage near the former ACAC spot, Quick Gym makes a startling claim: four minutes is all it takes.

"It's for busy parents, busy professional people who value health and fitness," says Quick Gym owner Kwame Burroughs, a Yale grad with an MBA who says a personal health crisis put him on his current career path.

Three years ago, Burroughs' father, a type II diabetic, blacked out while driving and crashed his car. Though his father recovered, Burroughs' doctor told him he could face similar health issues if he didn't exercise and lose weight.

"It really brought home that I need to take my health seriously," says Burroughs, who at 6'3" topped out at about 214 pounds before discovering the Range of Motion, or ROM machine, a combination rower/stairclimber that's the basis for the Quick Gym concept. (They're advertised in airline mags for over $16,000 each.)

Two years later, nearly 20 pounds lighter and with body fat index of 9.5 percent, the enviably physiqued Burroughs swears he does no other exercise.

"I'm living proof that it works," he says.

Memberships are selling quickly, says Burroughs, who explains that every visitor is given a one-week free pass and asserts that of the hundred-plus people who have taken the pass since the gym opened, approximately 60 percent have joined. At around $60 per month plus an additional $70 initiation fee, Quick Gym is less expensive than a membership at ACAC– approximately $80 per month– but more expensive than Gold's Gym at $40 per month, despite the miniscule amount of time members expect to spend there.

Burroughs says he asks people to consider the amount of time they're saving and the fact that they'll likely stick with a program that takes so little time and doesn't even require them to change out of street clothes. He encourages members to come in each day the gym is open– Monday through Saturday– alternating the upper body and lower body workouts. The ROM's adjustable resistance, Burroughs says, makes it a challenge for everyone from novices to marathon runners. 

The trick to the four-minute workout, says Burroughs, is the high intensity. "You use 55 percent of your muscles," he explains, so your heart rate stays elevated longer, and you burn calories all day.

"You do leave that place feeling like you really worked out," says Bill Fox, 40, an internal medicine physician who says he was "intrigued  at the idea of using a much greater percentage of muscles over briefer period of time." Fox is taking a break from his membership at ACAC to try Quick Gym.

"I'll be looking at my overall cardiac conditioning through resting heart rate and through perceived exertion of tasks," he says, "as well as my overall weight and lean body mass." 

Another new member says Quick Gym is the answer to her prayers.

"I exercise because I have to, but I hate it with a passion," says Mary Morony, whose past workout routines– which included yoga, cardio machines, aerobic classes, and weight lifting– ticked her off. "I hate the effort, and I hate the time it takes," she says. "Even if it takes just an hour, you then have to take a shower, change your clothes. It's no fun, I don't like it, and then I don't do it."

Quick Gym has changed everything for Morony.

"I feel like I'm getting a workout," she says. "You get a great buzz, you feel wonderful. I usually do it in the morning, earlyish, and I'm still pumped when I go to bed."

But not everyone buys the Quick Gym claim.

"Our experience," says Arthur Weltman, director of Exercise Physiology at UVA, "has been that most devices that make claims that sound too good to be true usually are too good to be true."

Quick Gym's not the only fitness center to make bold claims. In 2004, Ladies Workout Express opened at the Rivanna Ridge Shopping Center on Pantops, promising women could burn 600-900 calories in just 30 minutes of interval training. A UVA exercise physiologist called that claim "absurd," and the gym closed after a year. But Burroughs points out Quick Gym isn't making any such specific claims. 

"We don't measure calories during the workout," he says. "You burn the most after you finish." He demonstrates that his heart rate is still significantly elevated 20 minutes after he's completed the four-minute rowing routine.

Weltman, however, is not convinced. Although a site dedicated to the ROM,, cites several studies, Weltman points out that none specifically studied the ROM machine, but instead looked at the benefit of high intensity interval training on a stationary bike.

Weltman notes that exercise is not a regulated industry and that if the Quick Gym claim is true, there should be studies published in peer reviewed journals to support it.

That might soon happen. Albuquerque-based Dwayne Victor, founder of Quick Gym, which now has 14 franchises across the country and is aiming for 500 within five years, says an independent study on the ROM is currently under way in the Netherlands, but won't be complete for several months.

And even skeptic Weltman, who estimates the Quick Gym workout burns just 40 calories, doesn't completely scoff at those who join.

"Anything's better than nothing," he says. "There is now data that supports the idea that for health-related benefit, the biggest thing is just getting off the couch." 

Morony, who has gone to Quick Gym every day for the past week and a half, says she is already noticing her clothes fit her better, though she admits she's actually gained some weight, which she attributes to muscle gain.

"I've heard all the skeptics,' she says, "but as far as I can tell, none of them have tried it."

Avoiding exercise, she insists, is a thing of the past for her.

"I've slain that dragon," she says. "Now I've found something I can do for the rest of my life."

Kwame Burroughs of Quick Gym demonstrates the four-minute workout machine known as the ROM.