Wide World of Wellness

Conventional health clubs are getting personal with the rest of 'em, but their all-under-one-roof offerings attract busy parents and those who just want to sweat it out alone

Although boutique fitness studios seem to draw more exercisers every day, the robust membership numbers at the largest health club facilities in the city prove that many workout warriors still like bigger the best.

Time-starved exercisers enjoy the flexibility provided by the large complexes, which offer chances to work out anytime day or night and “one-stop-shopping” conveniences geared to people who don’t want to wait in line for a treadmill or elliptical machine—especially at five in the morning or eleven at night.

While most large clubs employ knowledgeable personal trainers and certified instructors to lead fitness classes, many people also use the big facilities as a rare chance to escape busy lives, even for just an hour. With giant TV screens overhead and headphone hook-ins, the setup is ideal for the self-motivated type who relishes the chance to plug in and tune out.

And thanks to perks that include free childcare and amenities such as indoor pools and spacious dressing rooms, these clubs are a big draw for families as well.

Peter Gerry, president of both of the 100,000-square-foot Princeton Clubs, says his business is to keep fitness as convenient as possible, while providing an inviting environment that’s conducive to starting (and maintaining) a routine.

“A specialized training program is great, but many people prefer having the ability and option to do a dozen other things at a place like the Princeton Club,” says Gerry. “We have found that people tend to stick with fitness programs longer when they have the variety, so we offer as much as we can, and they can use that whenever they want.”

Evidence of the variety factor in the success of a club is the growing number of classes. Between its facility and wellness center, for example, Harbor Athletic Club’s roster has grown to 160 classes. Marketing director Faith Morledge says customers like being able to take not only traditional group exercise classes like cycling, kickboxing and aerobics, but also water exercise in any of the facility’s four pools, yoga and Pilates (including reformer classes), and sessions designed for arthritis patients.

Gerry points out the draw of the group dynamic that permeates a larger facility. “Although 5 p.m. on a Monday in January may be the absolute busiest time, there is an element of energy at the club that is created—and people are drawn to that, it keeps them motivated,” he says.

Madison Magazine - January 2008
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