Steve Zim (né Zimelman) leads a visitor to a treadmill at
A Tighter U, his three-year-old gym in Culver City, California,
and sets his inner clock. Ten minutes later, he takes his guest's
raised pulse and calculates a target heart rate, forgoing the usual
dossier on first-time clients (weight, body fat, other measurements).
Then he maneuvers her around to a Hip Abduction machine and next
to a Leg Curl machine and then to a mat. Lying butt lifts, triceps
kickbacks, kickbacks with twist, and a killer maneuver called W-shoulders
build to a sweaty, muscle-burning finale, a series of crunches and
bicycle churns. Afterward, Zim recalls the 30-minute routine perfectly.
"People sometimes think I'm not paying attention, but I remember
everything they do," he says.
Eighteen years ago, while still a student at BC (majoring in Romance
languages), Zim was introduced to a doctor who rehabilitated injured
patients using infrared photography as a diagnostic tool. Zim began
utilizing infrared techniques to devise efficient workouts for himself
that would reach deep into muscle mass. After graduation he settled
in California, aspiring to act but finding success as a fitness
instructor with the regimen he'd developed. He tagged his approach
"hot point," and eventually wrote a book, Hot Point
Fitness: The Revolutionary New Program for Fast and Total Body Transformation
(2000). For a brief time last year, Zim's book was number three
on the Amazon best-seller list"two ahead of John Grisham,"
Zim notes. He is now a regular guest on NBC's Weekend Today
show, appearing about every six weeks to give workout tips and offer
insights into trends ("step classes are out, ankle and wrist
weights are way out, freestyle rope-jumping is in," he says).
Zim, who grew up in Newton, Massachusetts, started working out as
a teenager, in a dark and stuffy gym tucked within an industrial
neighborhood. Now he spends long hours at A Tighter U, where light
floods in the front windows, and the back door rolls up to reveal
the brilliant Southern California sky. His clientele is a mix of
professional athletes (baseball players, figure skaters), celebrity
actors, and neighborhood folk, and "everyone's treated the same,"
he says. "It's like Cheers, but a gym instead of a bar."
Suzanne Mantell is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.
Photo: Zim (right) and Weekend Today cohost David Bloom outside
NBC's New York studios. By Karjean