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Work out on the Square
A second Pinnacle Health and Fitness will open downtown
Pinnacle's Brian Hale: ‘We did a complete demolition.'
Pinnacle's Brian Hale: ‘We did a complete demolition.'

Looking around the space is enough to make your pulse rate kick up. There is the familiar spiral staircase between the main floor and the lower level. It has been there since this was the home of the Madison Athletic Club. So has the exposed ductwork. These are the last obvious surviving vestiges of that gym and its successor at 44 E. Mifflin St., Capital Fitness, which has consolidated facilities at its expanded Butler Plaza location off East Washington Avenue.

The space is undergoing thorough renovation by Pinnacle Health and Fitness. Mike and Ann McMahon opened Pinnacle's first location 10 years ago in Fitchburg. Now they're about to open a second location here at the Capitol Square's north corner.

At the moment, the site has the look of Athens a few weeks before the 2004 Olympics. Much remains to be done. "We did a complete demolition," explains Brian Hale, manager of the new downtown Pinnacle. "We stripped everything down to the cement floor." Now the contractors are building it back up. As he leads you on a guided tour of the facility, you can see the new Pinnacle taking shape.

On the main floor, the east wall's brick has been exposed, lending the decor a loft-like accent. Electrical conduit channels in the floor outline the locations for the top-of-the-line stair machines, treadmills and Keiser bikes that will furnish the cardio theater. All will face a bank of 42-inch TV monitors. As they perspire, members will be able to tune in broadcasts and listen through their own earphones.

Some of the strength-training equipment will be over there, Hale says, gesturing toward the west wall. Pinnacle will be installing Cybex's state-of-the-art Eagle line of strength-training machines, he notes. "We're the first health club in the state to have these," Hale says.

Down the spiral staircase to the lower level, Hale shows off the dedicated cycling studio, where spinning classes will be offered on yet more Keiser bikes. The room has its own cooling system, to compensate for all the heat a spinning class can generate.

Around the corner, the Madison Athletic Club's old aerobics room has been re-imagined as a group exercise studio, where classes including Fusion (a blend of Pilates and Yoga) and BodyPump (for strength and endurance) will be scheduled on a suspended maple floor where another coat of varnish is now drying. The earliest classes will start at 6 or 6:30 a.m., Hale notes, and lunch-hour classes will be reduced from 60 to 45 minutes each to accommodate the tight schedules of downtown professionals.

Pinnacle is investing over $500,000 in new cardio and strength-training equipment. In the lobby at 44. E. Mifflin St. where Hale is staffing a temporary membership office, a few pieces of equipment hint at what that kind of money can buy.

The Keiser M3bike, for example, has a full-featured cycling computer that can pick up the signal from your heart-rate monitor and crunch your energy output data, pedaling cadence and almost anything else you might consider relevant to your workout. The resistance gearing is straight-forward and is magnet-based for a quieter ride. The seat is comfortable. The bike's geometry can be configured to suit your riding position, and the experience is akin to a road ride without the potholes and traffic. Hale, who brings a cycling-instructor background as well as an MBA to his manager's post at the downtown club, is enthusiastic about these bikes.

The First Degree Fitness Fluid Rower S-500 is also a dream - a smooth, efficient machine that provides a full-body cardio and strength workout. "We're the first health club in the city to have these," Hale says. They use an enclosed wheel-sized water tank to provide resistance. The result: Less noise than older wind-resistance rowers. Pinnacle's cardio theater should prove quieter than others.

"We think of ourselves as Madison's upscale health club," says Hale, who has been with Pinnacle for four years.

Recruitment has been going well. "We're not quite ready to go to a wait list," he says.

Get pumped

Pinnacle Health and Fitness, 44 E. Mifflin St., is scheduled to open Saturday, Oct. 13, but the public will get its first look during an open house from 4-7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11. Base membership rates start at $56/month for a two-year contract. For more information, visit

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