Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Yes, Run From Those Economic Woes

“Brian McGovern has been a member of Strong and Shapely gym in East Rutherford since he was a freshman in high school. That was 1990. At 33 years old and now a police officer, he said nothing is going to slow him down as he begins his leg presses during his daily workout, not even the burdening economy. ‘This is something I would never give up because your health is the most important thing, said McGovern, who said he’s fortunate to have a secure job, but scrutinizes his budget annually. The gym membership is never on the chopping block. ‘Any type of physical activity in the tough economic times is probably even more important because it relieves stress. It’s just not worth it to give up.’ Many fitness experts and die-hards like McGovern, however, say that despite the economy, fitness is an expense that should not be spared and there are alternatives to finding ways to accomplish it cheaper than conventionally thought. Some gyms are offering cutthroat deals on memberships while some trainers are looking outside the box with new programs that won’t break the bank. They say new trends in fitness will prevail and ultimately thrive in the economic recession. ‘People that are members of pricey gyms will probably not renew because most gyms charge between $50 and $60 a month and offer no personal training at all,’ said Nitin Chhoda, a Hackensack physical therapist, fitness trainer and fitness author. Chhoda runs his Jersey Adventure Boot Camp at Memorial Field in Rutherford. Chhoda predicts fitness boot camps will prevail in 2009, due to the conventional and expensive one on one, trainer-client aspect taken away, while multiple clients can be seen at once in a setting that mirrors a personal session. Gyms locally, trying to bolster or in some cases maintain a steady membership stream, are offering specials that in many cases are essentially giving memberships away. For example, Strong and Shapely, female customers who join together get a two for one deal, paying the cost for only one membership. The gym also offers discounted rates for seniors, police and firemen as well as high school and college students. In Rutherford, Female Fitness offered to take $100 off a year’s enrollment fee during the month of January as a New Year’s Special. ‘Of course [we’ve been affected], all things being equal, there is less discretionary money,’ said Bob Bonham, owner of Strong and Shapely, whose gym memberships run from $189 per three months to $524 per year. ‘But on an upside when people are out of work, it’s a great bargain.’ Bonham said the entertainment value the gym offers every day far outweighs the costs associated, with say, a night out in New York City. ‘Prioritize your life to what is important,’ he said. ‘Why would you want to give up your health, self-esteem and live stressed out?’ The economy certainly is not deterring some fitness clubs from even forging ahead with new facilities. Ted Bruny, an East Rutherford resident, jogs around town three times a week and uses free weights at home to offset his fitness regimen from what would be offered by a gym. After leaving a local gym two years ago in which he called the membership price ‘outrageous’, Bruny is skeptical if he will ever return, recession or not. ‘It’s a cheap alternative to getting on the treadmill and having to pay to do it, but when it’s cold, I sometimes wish I would just spend the money on a membership," said Bruny. "I just can’t bring myself to do it now. It’s like going to the car wash when I know I can get the hose out and do it myself.’ The industry Bruny decided to leave two years ago is of incredible popularity, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), and doesn’t seem to be faltering as a whole. As of last year, the IHRSA noted that there were nearly 30,000 health clubs nationwide with 41.5 million people holding memberships at them. The total industry revenues in 2007 were $18.5 billion. The prior year, revenues were more than a billion dollars less.”

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