How Much Gym is Enough?

A few weeks ago, a reporter from the New York Times interviewed me for a story about whether “full-service” gyms (i.e. a NYSC or Equinox that offers classes, training, etc.) were enough. She’d found me through a comment I left on a post Jess over at Fit Chick in the City did about “exercise ADD.”

Today’s consumers wonder why they should pay more for a so-called big-box gym when they can get the laissez-faire approach for less. Michael Grondahl, the chief executive of Planet Fitness, who recently eliminated personal training at his 406 franchises, does not believe that he is in the motivation business. A staff trainer still offers 30-minute sessions for groups of five, but Mr. Grondahl said he does nothing to keep members coming. “I can’t keep you motivated to do something you don’t want to,” he said.

With everyone plugged into their iPods or a TV, there’s no community, the story argues, and so, people are looking for that community elsewhere, in something like the Bar Method or other classes where the instructors know you by name and you can take specialized classes that push you harder and in different ways than a gym that’s mass-marketing (even an Equinox, which is arguably marketing to a smaller, more devoted/discerning customer).

I think the story’s interesting, and not just because I was quoted. I’ve tried lots of classes, both at gyms I’ve belonged to and at other gyms. Ultimately, I stay a member of a “full-service” gym because of that exact full range of services. I joined Equinox because I thought their classes were a step above NYSC, and I wanted to continue to push myself at the gym.

While Dori says in the same piece, “I was paying a lot for a pretty space,” (she was going to Sports Club/LA), that pretty space is another reason I like Equinox, dumb as it may be. It’s a really inviting place to go to, and if that gets me to the gym, that’s worth paying extra for it. I do enjoy some classes outside of the gym, but ultimately, I feel like it’s an indulgence when I’m already spending a lot at the gym.

The story is trying to make the point that full-service gyms aren’t offering enough. While I think there’s definitely more gyms can be doing to reach out to their members and potential members, I think it ultimately comes down to your own will to work out. If it’s not there, no matter what a gym does, you’re not going to work out.

What do you think? Where do you get your motivation from? Is it internal? If you belong to a gym, does it motivate you? What do you think the role of the gym should be?

(That’s a lot of questions. I’m just really curious what you think about this article and your thoughts on gyms and exercise.)

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