Smart Traveler: Where to Sweat Like an Olympian

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Destinations, October 1996

Smart Traveler: Where to Sweat Like an Olympian

A guide to gold-medal workouts in Atlanta
Paul Kvinta

The good news about post-Olympics Atlanta is that you, Joe Public, can actually work out at some of those sparkling facilities you coveted for two weeks on NBC. (The bad news is that some venues have been disassembled or restricted to student or professional use.) So take this list along on your next visit to the New South. It’ll steer you and your gym bag to sites where
medalists once performed–or to equally satisfying substitutes.

The cross-country mountain biking course at the Georgia International Horse Park (770-860-4197) has steep hills, sharp turns, and enough granite outcroppings to virtually guarantee a concussion, so–like the Tinker Juarezes and Alison Sydors who christened this ground for you–wear a helmet. Skate Escape (404-892-1292)
rents mountain bikes for $40 per day. While you’re at it, rent a pair of inline skates ($12 per day) and participate in something very Atlanta: nighttime blading. Some 50 to 100 members and friends of the Peachtree Road Rollers gather every Monday and Wednesday night at the Rio Shopping Center and, with safety lights flashing, proceed to commandeer downtown streets. Call
404-634-9032 for meeting times.

If whizzing down urban concrete isn’t your idea of a tension-reducing workout, try Georgia Stone Mountain Park (770-498-5690 or 770-498-5702), a 2,000-acre natural area that has replaced the Olympic velodrome and archery range. A good thing, considering you’ll need that space for stretching and strolling in preparation for the main event–your
five-mile round-trip, practically vertical trail run up the well-marked path to the top of a monstrous granite outcropping (825 feet high). Lesser souls can bring their rackets to the 16 hard courts at the adjacent Olympic Tennis Center, the finest public tennis facility this side of Flushing Meadows.

Unless you’re attending Georgia Tech, you won’t be swimming laps in the “super fast,” adjustable-depth Olympic pool. Ditto for the Olympic basketball venue at Morehouse College and the Olympic running track, soon to be a baseball diamond for the Atlanta Braves. But you can get mighty close at the Peachtree Center Athletic Club (404-523-3833).
Downtown’s toniest gym has an Olympic-size pool, a full basketball court, and an indoor “floating rubber” track with banked curves. The club has arrangements with five nearby hotels–Marriott Marquis, Hilton, Hyatt Regency, Radisson, and the Suite Hotel at Underground Atlanta–so ask your concierge about passes (about $16 per visit).

Despite Peachtree’s virtues, the 100,000-square-foot Sporting Club at Windy Hill (770-953-1100) is the most comprehensive gym in town. On 22 acres, it’s big enough to have hosted the entire French Olympic Federation, the Japanese judo team, and the Dutch and American team-handball teams. For climber types the biggest attractions are a 50-foot-tall,
tripod-shaped alpine ropes tower and a 50-foot outdoor climbing wall. If you’re staying at an area hotel or have a membership card from the International Health and Racquet Sports Association, you can get a pass good for a day ($11) or a week ($40).

Single-minded climbers should head to Atlanta Rocks (770-242-7625), the city’s only indoor climbing gym. The buzz here is about The Cave, a corner where three arches come together and experienced hands can attempt lead climbs across the ceiling. A seven-day pass ($51) gives you access to 6,000 square feet of climbing surface, 100 routes, and a
separate bouldering area.

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