Monday, January 5, 2009

Fitness Centers Offer Array Of Amenities

“When Stephanie Dick wants to work out on a treadmill, she heads to the gym. When she wants to hang out by the pool with her kids, she heads to the gym. And when she wants to get a pedicure or eyebrow wax, she heads to the gym. On second thought, perhaps ‘gym’ isn't the right word for the Lifetime Fitness at U.S. 281 and Sonterra Boulevard, a sprawling 110,000-square-foot facility equipped with rock-climbing walls, a full-service salon, café and a gymnasium for kids. ‘It's more of a lifestyle center. There's a lot more to do. It's one-stop shopping,’ says Mark Takach, a Lifetime Fitness senior general manager. Lifetime Fitness, a national chain that has opened two locations in San Antonio since December 2005, is one of a growing number of multisport facilities that offer more than the standard weights and treadmills found at many gyms. These fitness centers boast amenities that appeal to members' desire not only for exercise but for convenience, entertainment and family-friendly facilities as well. At certain Spectrum Athletic Clubs, members can zoom down outdoor water slides into pools, watch their favorite television shows as they pedal exercise bikes and then check their e-mail at the computer station. If they get hungry, they can grab a bite at the full-service café. ‘Our industry is changing. It's not about weight lifting and trying to see how much we can bulk you up,’ says Nicole Jones, national marketing director for Spectrum. ‘All kinds of people seek out health and fitness facilities for all kinds of reasons. It's about wellness. It's about living healthy lifestyles.’ Thirty years ago, most gyms often offered little more than weight training, while others specialized in tennis or racquetball. In the late 1970s, those court sports clubs began incorporating strength training and aerobics classes, which launched the beginning of the modern fitness industry, according to Phil Wendel, owner of the Atlantic Coast Athletic Club and a board member of the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association. Soon the market opened up for such amenities as saunas, indoor tracks, swimming pools, a wide variety of group exercise classes, Pilates and yoga studios and staff that included certified personal trainers and registered dieticians. Health clubs with such diverse offerings ‘generally retain their members more successfully than clubs that just offer bare-bones fitness offerings,’ Wendel explains. And offering such features as cafés, spa services and 24-hour access means members are likely to spend more time (and money) at the club. In 2007, 41.5 million Americans belonged to health clubs, which brought in $18.5 billion in revenue, up from $17.6 billion in 2006. ‘Competition in the health club industry has no doubt intensified in the last 20 years,’ says Kara Thompson, an International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association spokeswoman. Full-service gyms fill ‘a specific niche in the market.’ Lifetime Fitness offers an expanded menu of options because their evolving clientele demands it, according Kent Wipf, a Lifetime spokesman. ‘The consumer is so much smarter than 20 years ago. There's so much more information out there,’ he says. Take the fitness assessments and high-tech metabolic testing that Lifetime offers its members. ‘It's amazing how many people come in and already know about it,’ he says. ‘They've done their research.’ Despite the growing number of health clubs that have it all, no-frills gyms with a lower price survive because they appeal to clientele who don't need facials with their free weights ‘There's definitely a place for every kind of health club in the market,’ Thompson says, ‘and that's healthy because every member has different kinds of needs.’”

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