World Recruiting Championships: Scientology Versus Crunch Gym

How hard can it be to tell a health club from a religion?

Pop quiz hotshot: Which has more assertive membership tactics, Crunch Gym or the Church of Scientology? Hmmm, I wonder. So I put Crunch against Scientology in a head-to-head competition.

I know my life is lacking a little something right now. Sure, Crunch Gym offers the possibility of washboard abs. But the Church of Scientology offers the prospect of a clear mind of Tom-Cruise-jumping-on-Oprah's-couch proportions. Whichever can better sell me on joining has my membership.

Which will it be?

The Basics

Crunch Logo: A large hand crunching, so to speak, its own logo, which is the word "CRUNCH."

Scientology Logo: A large volcano spewing lava with the name of its holy book, which is the word "DIANETICS."

Crunch Motto: "No Judgements."

Scientology Motto: "The World's Fastest Growing Religion."

First Stop: Crunch Gym

Crunch prides itself on its diverse clientele and non-competitive environment; men and women of all shapes, sizes, and levels are encouraged to attend our classes and use our facilities.

-- Crunch

On entering, I approach the person behind the reception desk, a fit guy in exercise garb. "I'm interested in talking to someone about joining," I state, giving my best I want to join look.

"That's in case you get injured," explains the front-desk guy, as I'm handed a liability form that says I'm responsible for mishaps, if such were to occur, during my club tour.

The crunch membership rep -- a clean-cut guy in a blue button-down shirt who's overly friendly and incessantly smiling -- appears. The first thing he asks, clearly mistaking me for someone else, "Are you here to infiltrate?"

"No, no I'm not," I reply. (MENTAL NOTE TO SELF: Invest in more elaborate disguises.)

"Are you sure this isn't going to end up in one of your articles?"

"Yes, I'm positive," I confirm.

"Then why does it say on your card that your name is Chad Martin?"

I mumble something about the weather, hoping to divert the focus from the Chad Martin issue, adding, "You know, even people who normally infiltrate have to work out as well."

We're off for our tour of the facility, passing a series of exercise machines and a juice bar situated near the entrance. The-one-who-thinks-I'm-the-Infiltrator tells me about each exercise program and asks which areas I want to work on. "You can create a program with a personal trainer with what you want to accomplish," he elaborates, "and then they can set up a workout schedule based around that."

I'm brought to a special area filled with dozens of stationary bikes.

"Do you like Spinning?"

"No," I respond, and then also decline to indicate enjoyment of yoga, dance, and kickboxing classes as they are mentioned.

"I really only like jumping rope," I say, asking if their high-tech gym-of-tomorrow offers rope-jumping.

I sure hope Scientology doesn't impress, because I can easily see myself becoming a Crunch member, working out every day in really tight bike shorts, making loud grunting noises while lifting weights.

Bring on Scientology!

If a man can dream, if a man can have goals, he can be happy and he can be alive. If he has no goals he doesn't even have a future.

-- L. Ron Hubbard

I approach the person behind the reception desk, a smartly dressed, smiling woman. "I'm interested in talking to someone about joining," I state, giving my best I want to join look.

"This will determine which areas you need the most help in through our classes," she says, handing me a personality test that includes questions such as, "Are you a slow eater?"

"Do you have the book Battlefield Earth?" I ask, picking up a copy of Dianetics. "I think it's by the same author."

Surprisingly (or perhaps not) they do. In fact, this is one of the few religious headquarters that also sells science-fiction books. (The Raelians might; I'm not sure.)

"Did you know that L. Ron Hubbard wrote science-fiction books to fund his research?" I'm told, as she stresses that I should read Dianetics.

"I did read it, but I liked Battlefield Earth much better," I say. "I'm mostly interested in L. Ron Hubbard's science-fiction books."

The Scientology membership rep -- a clean-cut guy in a white button-down shirt who's overly friendly and incessantly smiling -- appears. We're off for our tour of the facility, passing a series of well-placed plaques featuring the marvels of L. Ron Hubbard (the Jesus of Scientology) and a Scientology prayer room featuring a well-placed, enlarged bust of L. Ron Hubbard. Along the way, I'm told about each course offered.

"The personality test will help pinpoint what courses will be best for you from the graph," he explains. "Let me ask you a question. Is there one aspect of your life you would change?"

"No. I'm pretty content."

"Is there anything in your life that is causing you stress?"

"Not really. I'm pretty happy," I respond. "Yup, that's me -- one happy guy! I just want an overall tuneup. Just to kind of keep in shape. Like you would do at a gym. To me, taking Scientology courses would be like doing the Abdominizer, or leg curls."

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