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Fitness facilities vary ways to keep your fire lit

By Dan Flannery

GREEN BAY – You had good intentions to get fit in January, but you hadn’t been in a gym for 20 or more years.

You didn’t necessarily remember how to correctly work the weight machines. You struggled to keep your training appointment.

Your commitment level … well, let’s say … Friday fish fry and beer.

You got frustrated when you didn’t see immediate results.

So, you quit. And in the first week of May, you’re no better off. Maybe worse.

The people who operate Green Bay-area fitness and training facilities have heard and seen it all, and they want to help.

But, really, you need to help yourself.

“Simply going into a gym and having some $10-an-hour kid run you through machines or whatever pro science you’re doing or hopping on machines, it’s just not going to work,” said Mike Moran, co-owner of Titletown Fitness, 2253 Main St., Green Bay. “That’s why it’s nearly impossible to keep people motivated. Because the time invested is not producing any results worth hanging around for, and people say, ‘Hey, this ain’t working for me. I’m out.’ And that’s the majority of people, unfortunately.”

Mary Thomas, owner/general manager of Western Racquet and Fitness Club, 2500 S. Ashland Ave., has seen early-year surges, too, although not as severe as they are in big-box gyms.

Western uses a financial commitment to make a personal call to action for its members to stay focused.

“Almost all of our memberships are based on a 12- or 24-month commitment,” Thomas said. “Some people might say, ‘That’s kind of crazy in this world of no contracts and no commitment. How does that work?’ But we’ve found that at the point where you’re committing to a membership here, it’s almost like a lifestyle choice.”

Planet Fitness, one of the industry’s biggest chains, relies on providing comfortable, safe, clean and friendly atmospheres in each of its 1,700-plus facilities, including two in Green Bay.

“We try to make sure that we don’t have a typical client,” said Brice Scholz, marketing manager for Black Duck Partners, an Appleton-based firm that operates 70 Planet Fitness facilities in Wisconsin, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, New York, South Carolina, and Canada (two). “We try to be a comfortable and non-intimidating environment for everyone. We have members who are 16 or 17 years old, and members who are 90 years old. We just try to make sure that no matter who it is, that it’s a place where they feel comfortable and we provide them with the service that they need.”

But keeping the fire lit isn’t always about comfort. Sometimes, it’s about saving a buck.

Thomas said Western Racquet and Fitness offers fee discounts for members on the 12-month or 24-month plan who visit the club 10 times a month or more.

“We reward you for coming in to work out,” she said. “And surprisingly, there’s a fair amount of people who do our 20-time checking, who get $15 off your membership each month.”

Still, there is a need to keep goals realistic, said Scholz, and Planet Fitness helps members keep perspective.

“New Year’s resolutions are a big thing,” he said, “but we try to focus on how people can create small goals instead of a big resolution, so that each week, they have something to work toward. They’re not thinking about the ultimate goal, but just the little things that get you through each day.”

Planet Fitness staff honors monthly progress made by its members, and offers a variety of classes and training options.

“At the end of the day, we can’t make someone come into the gym,” Scholz said. “But we can make the gym as comfortable and welcoming and as clean as we can, so they want to be there. … “The No. 1 thing that we want is for people to feel friendly and welcomed, but (members) are never going to be judged for how many times they come in, or how often they come in. We just want to make sure that every time they come in they do feel comfortable.”

Moran’s Titletown Fitness uses the High Intensity Training (HIT) method, not to be confused with High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), which is popular in many facilities.

His clients have just two 20-minute weekly sessions, but they’re called high-intensity for a reason.

“You wouldn’t go to a doctor just because you like the guy,” Moran said. “You’ve got to have evidence behind what you’re doing, not a trend. The bottom line for me is: Am I delivering a safe, efficient and time-efficient workout, where superior results are gotten in the shortest amount of time? That’s what I deliver.”

Western Racquet and Fitness serves approximately 3,800 members, including children, and will celebrate its 45th business anniversary in November.

The fitness staff includes eight full-time trainers and two part-time trainers, plus 40 group exercise instructors.
The facility has many Green Bay-area business partnerships.

Though Western sees a membership bump in January, it’s not the only month for growth.

“October can be as big for us as January,” Thomas said. “Sometimes, we’ll see people who haven’t been as active in the past few months leading up to January. We’ll see a lot of familiar faces back in January.”

Moran’s business started 35 years ago, and some of his clients have been with him almost that long.

He’s also a harsh critic of the fitness industry and its reliance on marketing campaigns and fee structures, and what he sees not enough observance of outcomes.

“Unfortunately, clubs are perpetually trying to find trends to get people in, when in fact, if they were just science-based or evidence-based, and trained people correctly, they wouldn’t have to worry about keeping clients or keeping members happy,” he said. “It’s just an endless stream of crap. People will not be able to get motivated, to stay on it unless they’re seeing spectacular results, and that’s just so far and few in-between, unless a person is trained correctly.”

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