Monster Gym relies on carefully developed and packaged programs, called Signature Programming.

Monster GymGrass Valley, Calif.; 530 272-7676; www.monstergyms.com

WITH MONSTER GYM, the name may be deceiving. "It is not a 'muscle head' gym," says Owner Mike Carville. "When you think 'monster,' think adjective, not noun," he explains. "Monster Gym takes a direct and down-to-Earth approach with how we relate to our members and our business. Its mission is to 'create stronger better people, for a stronger better world.'" So maybe think, "monster idea," as in a great idea or approach.

The Monster approach is "a branded fitness experience that provides people of all ages and abilities with specific programs to achieve their health, fitness, sports and/or activity goals. The idea is to connect our members with their compelling motivation for achieving their goals, and then to use that as the driving force behind getting them to the gym to work out," Carville explains.

This philosophy seems to work, as is evidenced by the "mix of older and deconditioned exercisers working out side by side with high school and pro athletes like skiers, motocross riders, bicycle racers, kayakers and ultra marathoners," says Carville. "It is a unique mix and everyone is welcome."

Monster Gym relies on carefully developed and packaged programs, called Signature Programming. Programs include Living Strong (a complimentary new member orientation to exercise/equipment, plus a 10-week cardio, strength and flexibility program); Body for Life (a 12-week group workout program, $199); Living Lean (group weight-loss, $84 per month); i sport TRAINING (complimentary programs based on sports ranging from golf and basketball to hiking and meditation); Train Your Brain (monthly clinics and lectures) Personalized Training (any of the above programs conducted individually or in private groups, $25 to $55 per session); plus Functional Assessments and KORR metabolic testing ($65 to $90 per session). The Signature Programs, plus the sale of nutritional products and apparel, generate 25 to 30 percent of the facility's gross revenue, says Carville.

All programs are run by employees, as opposed to independent contractors. Says Carville, "One of the key components that makes Monster Gym successful are highly structured operating polices and procedures that enable the club to provide a professional, high-quality and consistent member experience." This includes staff training. The fitness center uses specific internal operating and sales procedures, training its own staff. "When hiring employees, ... we look more for certain behavior qualities, and screen applicants for those qualities, rather than hiring solely based on experience or certifications," Carville explains. However, all personal trainers are required to hold a national certification and complete an internal 30-day training, which includes a practical and written exam.

The fitness center has a well-thought-out plan for everything, including its marketing strategy. "We use a 12-month marketing plan, which runs from September through August of the following year. ... Externally, we focus on promoting our brand through programs and positive member experiences to a target market in an eight- to 10-minute radius of the gym with direct mail supplemented by newspaper and radio. We also figure prominently in community events, organizations and schools. Internally, we host events and promotions that relate to whichever external campaign we are running at the time, with the overriding goal of developing referrals from our membership base," Carville explains.

The success of Monster Gym, says Carville, came about by focusing on what he does best: "Recognize your strengths and hire good people who possess skills in areas where you are weak. ... Rely on your creativity, but run your business by the numbers. Stay attuned to your marketplace and your member's needs." And then you can be a "monster" success, too.

Facility Stats

Date fitness facility opened: March 2005
Facility size: 7,000 square feet
Number of members: 476 members as of September 2005
Strength equipment: Life Fitness and FreeMotion selectorized; Hammer Strength plateloaded and free weight equipment; Intek weight plates, dumbbells and barbells
Cardio equipment: Life Fitness, Precor and Nordic Track treadmills and ellipticals; StairMaster steppers/Step Mill; Versa Climbers; Concept2 rowers; Schwinn and Star Trac group cycling bikes
Group exercise classes: Heart Rate Spinning, Basic Training (1.5 mile outdoor obstacle course), Throwing Steel (team weight training), Hardcore Happy Hour (Friday night strength and cardio contests), Ski Conditioning, Rock Climb Bouldering Nights, Super Saturday Workouts (group cycling and weight training), Spin Pilates, seasonal outdoor activities Extras/amenitites: Indoor climbing; nine 32-inch flat screen TVs and one 52-inch plasma TV (five TVs receive a dedicated signal from a DVD player)

Management/fitness assessment software: Aphelion I-4 ASP (Internet platform)