This morning, a friend called my attention to yesterday’s New York Times article Full Service Gyms Feel a Bit Flabby. The article bemoans the loss of what it calls “full service gyms,” where people would hang out before and after working out and have more of a connection than today’s “get in and get out” approach to working out. While Carlos said he doesn’t care because he doesn’t want to use the gym as a pickup spot anyway, I had a slightly different reaction to the article.
First of all, I would love to meet a guy at the gym. I want to date someone who shares my commitment to fitness, so the gym would be a great screening ground for that. Plus, after 5 weeks of Rachel Cosgrove’s plan, I look pretty slim, strong, and impressive doing my T-pushups (okay, I looked for a video of these and this was the best I could find – but I think my form looks better. Perhaps I’ll video myself for an upcoming post – seriously, my arms and abs look ripped when I do this move).
But forget the pickup factor – let’s talk motivation. As the NYT article points out, most gyms just don’t think they are in the motivation business anymore. As long as someone is paying the monthly fee, they don’t care if they actually come to use the gym; in fact, the gym management assumes that they can’t do anything to change someone’s habits. I totally disagree with that – gyms can certainly become more exciting and fun, encouraging people to come more often.
Now, is it their job/obligation to do so? Well, no – the individual is responsible for their own motivation, and it’s unfair to pin that on the gym. However, creating a fun environment may also attract more customers – so it does make sense from a business perspective as well. Instead of focusing on getting bodies in to replace all those who are quitting, gyms could focus more on retaining the customers they already have. I know in telecom, it’s cheaper to retain an old customer than to attract a new one – I can’t imagine it would be that different for gyms (though I suppose if only 15% of Americans belong to a gym, there’s a huge market of untapped clients to pursue… pun intended).
Terry Blachek, the president of International Consulting, says that socializing is the key to long-term exercise success – and I totally agree with him. When I was in high school and joined my local YMCA to work out a bit, I loved chatting with the instructor and the other women before my group fitness class. It was great to feel like I was part of a social obligation, and that that group would miss me if I didn’t drag my butt out of bed when the alarm went off in the morning to signify my wake up call to get to the gym. Now, working out on my own, it’s much harder to avoid rolling over and ignoring the call to action – though I will note my motivation for getting in shape is higher as I’m aging. (Speaking of which, I read something the other day that said you should never get above a weight 10 pounds more than your high school weight, which seems absurd to me. Discuss!)
I envy Charlotte and her gym buddies over at The Great Fitness Experiment, for all the fun they seem to have in their group workouts. I’ve tried to convince coworkers to start a fitness challenge with me at our hotel gym, but thus far no one’s been interested. For now, I’m getting motivation just from my spreadsheet of workouts, reps, and weights – it’s great to see the numbers go up. But I definitely think my workouts would be much more fun with a full-service gym that would encourage me to go more often.
But then I think about the busy world we live in, and how much time there is to do other stuff in life. I certainly get why most people just want to get their workout done and then get out, but I suppose that all depends how appealing the hangout spot is. Having a healthy juice bar to hang out and sip a post-workout smoothie could be fun – though maybe it’s just fun in theory but unlikely for me to visit in practice. Would a juice bar ever replace the real bar for me? Doubtful. However, maybe that’s just a matter of the “real bar” being the current hotspot. If everyone else started going to the juice bar instead, I might be pretty darn happy!
What do you think? If given the choice, would you want a full-service gym or a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am kind of place?