Resolutions Mean Revenue

Fitness club owners brace for new year newbies during “the Black Friday of fitness.”
Photo courtesy of Anytime Fitness
Since Anytime Fitness opened in New Orleans’ Bywater neighborhood last February, they’ve seen a wide range of clientele. The club says last year’s opening rush has prepared them for what this season will bring.

If the new year has you planning to hit the gym – for real this time – you’re not alone.

Fitness clubs are familiar with the “New Year’s Resolution Syndrome,” says Cliff Bergeron, a personal trainer at Downtown Fitness Center who refers to the first week of January as “the Black Friday of fitness.”

Attracting, and Controlling, the Crowds
And just as big box stores battle it out for the Black Friday crowds, fitness clubs work hard to grab the attention of the New Year’s resolution crowds.

Downtown Fitness, for example, will waive the annual fee to join during the first few weeks of the year, while other local clubs package personal training and nutrition sessions.

Gyms also know that an avalanche of newbies can result in a room filled with people dressed in brand-new workout clothes, trying to figure out how to turn on the treadmill.

“We beef up our staff,” says Bergeron. “The new folks need orientation.”

If it’s been awhile since a client has exercised, it’s important to help them begin with small steps while their bodies adapt. When the initial workouts are too punishing, aches and pains will turn new members off.

“It’s equally essential to keep bumping up the program,” Bergeron says, “so clients start seeing improvement in both their energy levels and their appearance.”

It helps, too, if your fitness center is open for enough hours to spread the newcomers around. Mark Segreto, an owner of Anytime Fitness in Bywater along with John and Colin Reilly, says his center can handle the rush because it’s open 24 hours a day.

Segreto opened the gym last February to capitalize on the influx of young workers moving into the Marigny/Bywater area.

“Tattoo artists, doctors and lawyers – we run the gamut,” he says. He and his manager, Kai Keegan, became experienced in handling a rush of new members during the opening, so he’s confident they’ll be fine when another wave arrives in January.

Colin Brunet, a personal trainer at Elmwood Fitness Center in Harahan, says that new exercisers can smooth their introduction to a club by arranging for some one-on-one instruction.

“We start a lot of people in the pool,” he says, which makes for a fairly easy workout. Then they can opt for 30- or 60-minute training sessions that include a consult with a nutritionist.”

 Iron Tribe Fitness has found success in Downtown New Orleans by limiting membership to a dedicated group of 300.


Additional Perks of Personal Training
While personal training comes with an added cost, it can help save money and time in the long run. For instance, if someone uses the wrong equipment, or uses the equipment incorrectly, they won’t benefit from their efforts, and may get hurt.

Making a bond with a trainer can also help with the dreaded “drop out syndrome.” At French Riviera Fitness, for example, Fitness Director and Trainer Levi Bowling, says that trainers place follow-up calls to encourage new members to stick with their programs. (They also continually develop new workouts to help clients stave off exercise boredom.)

The Exclusive Club Model
Iron Tribe Fitness, near Lee Circle, uses a different tool to keep members enthusiastic. The club limits its membership to 300, and accepts only 15 new people each month. When someone joins, they must commit to attending a minimum of three days a week.

“You won’t see treadmills and other machines at Iron Tribe,” says owner Jim Strickland. Instead, his four full-time coaches offer classes and workouts for groups of eight to 20, and each member can track his or her progress online.

“It’s always interesting,” says Strickland. “People absolutely love it.” Iron Tribe also offers its own line of food that follows the popular Paleo diet.

The New Orleans Difference
Like with many things, New Orleans is just a little different when it comes to the highs and lows of fitness participation. While many clubs hit a lull in February – when locals are busy eating king cake and going to parades – the ensuing Mardi Gras pounds tend to inspire a burst of activity in March. However, typically pleasant weather in April, along with activities like the French Quarter Fest and Jazz Fest, tend to draw people away from the gym. A third wave of club activity then predictably hits before bathing suit season.

But club owners know that come December, locals will once again be feasting and partying, pushing their exercise efforts into yet another new year.



U.S. Gym Memberships – By the Numbers

Number of health and fitness clubs: 30,500 (as of Jan. 2013)

Number of health club members: 51.3 million (as of Jan. 2013)

Annual gym and health club industry revenue: $21.8 billion (2012)

International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association



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