The gym situation in Petworth? It's not working out

(photo: Graeme Maclean)

Op/Ed by Yuliya Panfil

When my husband and I moved to Petworth last November, we were excited to see the neighborhood's growing offering of bars, restaurants and shops. One thing we didn't see so much of? Gyms. Particularly not affordable ones. 

A year later, I'm sad to report that not much has changed. I've searched, I've prodded, and I've come back to the same question, time and time again: Why is there nowhere in all of Petworth to break a sweat without breaking the bank? 

Petworth is one of DC's largest neighborhoods - based on the 2010 census there were 20,000 people living here, and that number has surely risen. Yet I have found exactly four businesses in all of Petworth that offer athletic activities, with only one clocking in at less than $200 a month (if I’ve missed some, please let me know in the comments - I would be thrilled to be wrong):

  • Lighthouse Yoga Center - this seems like a wonderful community business, prices are reasonable (unlimited monthly passes for $108/month), and it gets glowing reviews. For the yogis in our midst, this is a great find.
  • Crossfit Petworth - also great reviews, but unlimited classes are $204/month (13 classes/month sets you back $174) and Crossfit is not for everyone.
  • Level Up Personal Training - Level Up is great, and I trained there for a couple of months when I moved to the neighborhood, but again, this isn’t a gym. One-on-one or group personal training can be great if that fits your needs, but by its nature it can be expensive, and even at the studio's very reasonable rates, sessions came out to approximately $45 a pop. 
  • District Pilates - This brand new reformer Pilates studio is a sure way to tone up, but at $200/month for an 8 class membership, it's out of reach for many. 

And…. that’s it. Four workout options for 20,000 people, each of them very specific and niche. Other than a single yoga studio, nowhere can you work out to your heart’s content for under $200/month. By comparison, Columbia Heights has two all-purpose gyms, three boot camp studios, five yoga studios, and two Pilates studios. 

What’s up with that? Wouldn’t this neighborhood benefit from a good old Washington Sports Club, or a YMCA? A place that allows you to sweat however you like, whenever you like, and doesn't require you to sell your first born to do it? This is Petworth after all, not Georgetown. During the summer, we have options - running paths, basketball courts, and the like - but what about the winter months, when it’s dark and cold outside of work hours? 

Surely, as Petworth’s density grows, and high-rise apartment buildings pop up along Georgia Avenue and elsewhere, there will be a market for a decent health club that more of us can afford. I keep waiting for one of these new buildings to announce a gym as a ground floor tenant, but it hasn’t happened yet.  

The 800 block of Upshur Street alone has seven options to load up on calories; how about some affordable options to burn those calories off? 

As far as I can tell, DC Government doesn't give incentives for fitness studios. That said, Petworth seems like an ideal location for a gym branch: growing density, growing incomes, and almost zero competition. 

Who has ideas for how to make affordable, inclusive Petworth fitness a reality?