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Senate Staff Get Their Own Gym

Senate staffers looking to break a sweat can now do so without leaving the Capitol grounds, thanks to today’s opening of the chamber’s new fitness center.

The Senate Staff Exercise Facility, located in Room 418 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building, will offer memberships to the chamber’s nearly 6,000 staffers.

The modest facility, managed by the U.S. Public Health Service’s Federal Occupational Health division, includes Cybex strength training equipment and free weights, in addition to a handful of treadmills, elliptical machines and exercise bicycles. Men’s and women’s locker rooms and shower facilities are also located within the fitness center.

Additionally, fitness center employees will be on hand to offer a range of services, including exercise plans, body composition analysis and blood pressure checks, as well as flexibility, muscular strength, endurance and aerobic measurements.

“It provides strength training and aerobic equipment to permanent full-time staff members of the U.S. Senate,” said Eva Malecki, a spokeswoman for the Architect of the Capitol.

In addition to permanent staff, fitness memberships will be available to personnel assigned to the Senate Superintendent’s Office, according to a notice issued on Webster, the chamber’s internal Web site.

The facility, which will operate on a trial basis over a 12-month period, will be open Monday through Friday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Membership fees are set at $20 per month. When joining the gym, staffers must pay a $60 non-refundable fee; however, that amount includes the first three months of membership.

The facility is funded by membership fees as well as through revenues produced by the Senate’s waste recycling program. No estimate on the cost of the facility was available at press time Friday, and the Architect of the Capitol’s office did not return telephone messages seeking additional information.

The fitness center opening comes on the heels of a push by several Senators — including Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) — to encourage visitors and staff to make better use of stairs in the Capitol complex.

In addition, Harkin has also successfully sought to have the Senate restaurants management list nutritional information on its Web site.

“We think this is a really important piece of the whole,” a Harkin spokeswoman said of the fitness center. “Senator Harkin plans to encourage his staff to use the gym during free time in the work day and also after work.”

On the other side of the Capitol, House officials are awaiting the results of study by the Architect of the Capitol examining potential sites for a fitness facility.

“Ultimately the goal is to have something similar for House staffers,” noted House Appropriations Committee spokesman John Scofield.

While House staffers do not have access to the new Senate facility, they are eligible for reduced-rate memberships at area Gold’s Gyms through a three-year contract arranged by the House Administration Committee in April 2003.

Under that agreement House staffers pay $13.95 monthly to use Gold’s Capitol Hill facility, located at 409 Third St. SW, or $15.95 to use other Washington-area Gold’s Gyms. They must also pay a $25 initiation fee.

According to a spokesman for the House Administration panel, 1,570 House staffers were enrolled in the program as of March.

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