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Gym in Spain's Basque region offers naked workouts

By Sarah Rainsford
BBC News, Madrid


A gym in Spain's Basque region has come up with an eye-catching way of battling the recession.

It has begun offering naked workouts, for nudists.

Easy Gym in Arrigorriaga is the first of its kind in Spain, pioneering the peculiar practice of stripping while keeping fit.

"With the crisis we noticed there were fewer people using the gym," owner Merche Laseca explained to the BBC.

"I'm not a nudist myself, though I have no problem with it. But this initiative is about the money."

Naked enthusiasm

The gym did its research before opting to chase the nudist euro.

It discovered that two local swimming pools already offered popular monthly sessions for bathing in your birthday suit.

Every year, in nearby Sopelana, there is a mass naked run along the sands.

There are at least 12 naturist beaches in the Basque region, and many more all over the Spanish coast.

"We're always interested in new activities," explains Maite Vicuna, president of the Basque Naturist Association, who attended a trial run of the naked gym last week.

A poll of the group's members showed 90% support for a facility offering the full range of nude workouts.

"Doing sport without clothes is natural - and much more comfy," Ms Vicuna argues.

Sceptics suggest that running full tilt in the buff might not be entirely enjoyable, though. Sports underwear, they point out, was invented for a reason.

But the gym owner denies her concept is impractical.

"Being a naturist doesn't mean being daft. If a woman needs to, she can put a top on!" says Merche Laseca. "But there's cycling, weightlifting and the Stairmaster: there's lots you can easily do naked."

Easy Gym stresses it does provide towels for comfort and "to prevent slippage" on the equipment.

But some sporting types are clearly unconvinced by the concept.

Exercising question

"Each to his own," the owner of another - traditional - gym in Bilbao told the BBC. "But I think it's the most unhygienic thing in the world."

"It's your clothes that catch the sweat when you work out," said Idoya Echevarria. "So where does all the sweat go, if you're naked? Onto the machines? The floor? Or onto the person next to you?"

And after all that research, Ms Laseca was disappointed by the low show at her inaugural session. Only four naturist fitness fanatics turned up.

"But the people who came really enjoyed themselves," she says, apparently undeterred. From May, the gym will operate every Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday - exclusively for the uninhibited.

A teacher has already been in touch to offer naked yoga classes.

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