Monday, October 27, 2008

Riverside City Gym: Even With Age, The Tradition Continues

Oscar Shearer, with a wall of photos and newspaper clippings in the lobby of Riverside City Gym, showing the building's history as the Riverside YMCA.

(RIVERSIDE, Calif.) – Unexpectedly located in the basement of the historic Life Arts Center, Riverside City Gym has answered the health and fitness needs of downtown Riverside since 1998.

The gym serves as a reminder of the building’s heyday, a sixty-year stretch of time from 1909 until 1969, when it housed the city’s YMCA. With its centenary rapidly approaching, the gym’s new owner and proprietor, Oscar J Shearer, has made extensive improvements and renovations, each carefully designed to enhance the experience of the gym’s members as well as remaining true to the building’s unique character.

Most notably, Shearer has updated the air conditioning system to one that can cool the weight-room floor on a 115-degree day; and also he has refurbished the locker rooms with new carpeting and tile-work; has replaced and rebuilt several walls; has painted and cleaned extensively; and has added ceramic tile floors throughout the hallways and restrooms.

On the gym floor itself, Shearer added three new Hammer Strength Machines, bringing the gym’s total number of these machines to 18. Riverside City Gym is the only gym in greater Riverside certified as an official Hammer Strength Training Center.
Hammer Strength Machines, such as this one demonstrated by Oscar Shearer, are considered the Mercedes-Benzes of weight machines. Riverside City Gym is the only gym in or near Riverside that has Hammer Strength Machines.
“Hammer Strength is the Mercedes Benz of fitness machines, and because of their ergonomic and sturdy design they are probably the industry’s most innovative strength-training equipment” Shearer said. “We pride ourselves in being one of only a few fitness centers in the Inland Empire with this selection of quality equipment.”

Several years before he bought the gym, Shearer entered the business as a personal trainer. He was attracted to this particular gym because – as an award-winning Over-50 Body Builder – he believed that the high-quality equipment and no-nonsense work-ethic of the gym’s regulars formed the perfect place to prepare for his competition at the national championships. Shortly afterwards, he began introducing his own clients to the gym that was coming to mean so much to him.

“Before I bought City Gym, it was – in a sense – already my gym,” Shearer said. “But it was getting old; it was becoming run-down and was getting side-lined by the competition. I really wanted to make the gym I love so much become an integral part of downtown Riverside, a place where anyone who is committed to getting in better shape or improving their health can do so comfortably, enjoyably and effectively.”

New members receive one free consultation with a trainer, which provides an orientation to the equipment and services provided by the gym, and how to best use them. The consultation would most likely also include advice on maintaining a healthy diet, or establishing a fitness routine.

New members may also purchase an “assisted training package,” for $150 in which they receive six weekly sessions with a trainer, with “homework” to do during the rest of the week. This is heavily discounted from the regular per hour price. After these six weeks members can design their own routines.

Advanced trainees can choose between several discounted training packages. For those who are comfortably established in a fitness routine, and don’t need regular guidance from a trainer, advice is still free.

Fewer than five percent of City Gym’s membership participates in competitive bodybuilding. One of them is Karl Marshall, who turned 80 on Oct. 28. Six years ago, Shearer began working with him to help him to improve what was already a long successful history in competition. In 2004 Karl competed in what is considered his best shape ever at the Master’s National Championships in Philadelphia with an unprecedented full standing ovation.

“I have trained 14 bodybuilders – 12 men and two women – over the last seven years,” Shearer said. “All of them have received first place in their events, but none of those victories were as sweet as Karl’s standing ovation. In this sport, that was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

Another notable gym member is Eleanora Palagi, a talented sculptress and businesswoman who created Mario’s Place, a five-star restaurant also located in downtown Riverside. Mrs. Palagi has turned the daily operation of the restaurant over to her children, and now spends three mornings a week at the gym, under Shearer’s personal guidance.

Although these notable members are in their 70s, the gym’s patrons span the generations from middle-aged to teenaged. Of course, adults of any age may join, but Riverside City Gym also welcomes teens 16 and older with written parental consent. Shearer has maintained his New Year Special membership prices during the on-going renovations. But make no mistake: This gym is a place for working hard and achieving real and measurable results.

“Riverside City Gym isn’t a place for people to flirt or socialize. Those who do will be strongly encouraged to finish their workouts and move on,” Shearer said. “But if you want results, this is the place to be. We are dedicated to helping people reach their physical goals, and with this ideal in mind, I firmly believe that City Gym’s best years are still to come.”

Shearer has also added services that weren’t previously offered. These are also available without joining the gym, but members receive discounts.

Licensed massage therapists Tom Mishler and Reiki Master Wellington Porter now provide an extensive menu of massage services within the precincts of Riverside City Gym. Among their specialties are the relaxing Swedish-American Massage, Deep Tissue Sports Massage, Hot- and Cold-Stone Work, Energy Work, and Pregnancy Massage. Hour-long sessions are available to members and non-members alike, though members receive deep discounts on a variety of massage packages. Half-hour massages are also available, but the therapists recommend their clients take the full hour.

“Massage is important as part of an overall fitness routine,” Mishler said. “When muscles are tight and knotted, it’s difficult to have effective, productive workouts and overall muscle health.”
Stair climbers are one of many cardio machines at Riverside City Gym.

Especially – and exclusively – for women, there is an unusual class called Pole Fitness available. Pole Fitness is an aerobic-oriented version of the sensual pole dancing seen in some bars and clubs. “The ladies have a blast with this,” Jennifer Hawkins said. “It’s very fun, and no-one has ever walked away not having had a great time.”

Additionally, on Thursday evenings Riverside City Gym hosts a belly-dancing class taught by Marika, a talented and innovative dancer and instructor. Ladies – and men! – of all shapes and sizes can enjoy this unusual physical and cultural activity set to Middle-Eastern influenced music.

Members have full access to the gym from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 5 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday, 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Current special pricing is $99 for a three-month membership or $336 for a one-year membership, with no initiation fee.

For more information, pricing or a tour, call (951) 788-6115 or email Information is also available at

Oscar Shearer outside Riverside City Gym.