sweat shopsVEGAS, February, 2004

From astrologers to belly dancers, L.A.’s top fitness gurus are bringing Hollywood flair to the good old-fashioned workout

By Anna David

Ask anyone what the people in L.A. are like and without a doubt you’ll receive a diatribe about a bunch of body-obsessed kooks who jet from step class to the psychic, with a pit stop at their kabbala or Pilates class in between. The most shocking aspect of these ridiculous assessments, of course, is that they’re probably completely accurate. Lately, however, the citizens of Los Angeles have been able to streamline their lives a bit by combining their exercise fanaticism with some of their other – some might say kookier – interests.

When Darryl Gaines talks about astrology, it’s obvious that he doesn’t just check on the daily alignment of the stars because it’s his job. This is a man who lives and breathes the discipline, a man who believes Nancy Reagan got her husband elected through the help of an astrologer and who credits his own “Saturn background” with the “Neptunian element in my sign” for his current career. And, since his other obsession just happens to be fitness, it makes perfect sense that he invented the “Astro Rev” class. You might even say it was written in the stars.

Astro Rev is a spinning class that manages to incorporate elements of astrology – not, Gaines wants to make perfectly clear, “a hokey class with songs like ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and ‘Life on Mars.'” Gaines, who hails from Pittsburgh and worked in sales and marketing at Showtime in New York, launched the class at Crunch in Los Angeles (where the first one was broadcast live on the BBC). He now teaches it exclusively at the recently opened Sports Club/LA in Beverly Hills. “We base the movement of the class around the alignment of the planets that day,” Gaines explains. Thus, each class begins with a roughly seven-minute introduction from Gaines, in which he talks about “what’s going on in the sky and how we can utilize that to determine the type of class we’ll have – whether we’re going to do a lot of climbing or sprinting or interval training.”

Special emphasis is placed on the planets, Gaines explains, “that have more meaning to health, fitness and wellness” – to the uninitiated, that’s Mars (physical energy), the moon (how we feel), Saturn (structure) and Mercury (speed). But those thinking that Gaines will cut students a break when the planets are suggesting a general feeling of sluggishness or laziness may be in for a spinning surprise: “When it’s so-called ‘difficult,’ this is a chance for us to make it better,” Gaines reasons. Translation: when the planets get tough, the class gets tougher.

Though Gaines ends class with a mini astrology lecture focusing on the coming week, devotees consider all that’s transpired merely a warm-up to the half hour discussion that usually follows. “A group of maybe seven to 10 people stays and discusses astrology,” Gaines reveals. (He knows the signs and planetary alignments of his regulars so they usually receive personalized information.) In case class and post-class don’t satisfy students’ astrological needs, they can always log onto Gaines’ website (www.guidingplanet.com) where they can see “more detailed, layered information about what’s happening for the week,” says Gaines.