Health & Fitness: Putting on the Ritz At the Y

Sleek new centers have private operators hopping mad

The gleaming red brick and glass building on Rhode Island Avenue in Washington is a temple to physical perfection, boasting steam rooms and whirlpool baths, mirrored exercise rooms and an equipment-packed Nautilus center, tanning beds and a pro shop. The most striking feature: a row of street-level windows that floods the pool area with natural light and forms a balcony from which passersby can view the lobbyists, lawyers and other upwardly mobile types who swarm the waters every morning, noon and evening. The capital's toniest private health club? Hardly. This is the National Y -- yes, that's right -- a YMCA.

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