Feature Article - March 2005
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Fresh Fitness Checkup

Fitness equipment and programming: One doesn't work without the other, and both are changing

By Kyle Ryan

Advice for managers

Places like Curves do so well because they offer a non-intimidating—maybe even fun—environment for people who are out of shape. The concept of making fitness fun has reached unique levels, such as at the chain Crunch Fitness, where members can take classes called Cardio Striptease, Cycle Karaoke, dodgeball, even a discipline-heavy group-fitness class led by a faux S&M mistress. The classes definitely succeed in grabbing headlines, but Holland is less sure about their health results.

"I have to figure out a better way to say it, but fitness doesn't have to be fun at the start," he says. "The problem is gym owners, instead of finding good, qualified people to teach a good, hard class, they're constantly trying to entertain. It's like entertaining 13-year-olds."

However, others should imitate the Crunch model to a certain degree because the chain specializes in creative exercise. Exercise may not have to be fun, but it should be creative in some regard. Holland thinks other fitness facilities, particularly those outside of the nation's largest cities, can learn from Crunch and other places.

"Go to the major metropolitan areas, and see what's going on there, you know, because there's where trends are started," Holland says. "I would say some of these gyms are three years behind. You'll have Spin instructors in upstate New Jersey doing push-ups on the Spin bike, which was done three years ago, and we've since found out you shouldn't do that."

Classes may come and go, but the ones with good instructors have formidable staying power. Good instructors are the rock stars of the fitness world, and a really creative one can make anything popular. Equipment is only part of the answer.

"Don't just throw your money into equipment," Catlin says. "Throw your money into continuing education. If you're going to buy anything, make sure everybody knows what to do with it."