Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Fitness Club Operators Focus On Latest Trends And Technology To Keep Members Coming Back

“Regular exercise, a healthy diet and singing have helped Marsha Wells-McWhorter, a sales associate at the upscale Rodeo Drive store at Holiday Manor shopping center, stay physically and mentally fit. ‘Being fit and strong by exercising has given me stamina and endurance in my work,’ said Wells-McWhorter, 56, who spends about 35 hours weekly on her feet assisting clients with fashion decisions. ‘If you’re not fit and healthy, you cannot do a full day’s work and feel good.’ A lifelong swimmer, Wells-McWhorter works out three times weekly at Baptist East/Milestone Fitness Center in St. Matthews to stay trim and look good in her clothes. During hour-and-a-half sessions there, she swims laps, walks several miles around the indoor track and firms her muscles on an elliptical-motion trainer machine before relaxing in the steam room. And like most fitness club customers in the $18.5 billion U.S. health club industry, Wells-McWhorter’s particular taste for fitness keeps her coming back to the club. ‘I like that Milestone’s pool has saline water with very little chlorine, which is easy on my skin and on my Speedo swimsuit,’ she said. ‘And I love the steam room.’ Local fitness club operators said investing in the most up-to-date equipment and offering a wide variety of fitness classes is a key strategy to attracting customers. And once they get customers such as Wells-McWhorter, industry data suggests they keep most of those exercise junkies. According to a survey of International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association members, clubs have an average retention rate of 73 percent. Diane Kelton, president of Baptist East/Milestone Wellness Center, said she routinely attends trade shows organized by the IHRSA and seminars to keep abreast of the latest trends in the fitness industry and to learn about new equipment and programs. ‘We are one of a kind in Louisville, and we have grown very fast,’ Kelton said of Milestone, which expanded from 57,000 to 70,000 square feet of space in 2004.”

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