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The Columbus Dispatch (Ohio)
Even without changing her diet, Paula Katz has gone from a size 14 to a size 2 within 21/2 years.
She's done it working out alongside people training for marathons, world championships and collegiate sports -- and most important, none of them has been training alone.
The Spot Athletics is neither a chain-style gym nor a center for elite athletes but one of a handful of fitness centers in the area that require -- well, encourage -- clients to work with a trainer, either one-on-one or in group settings.
Katz, who owns Layer, a Columbus bakery, said having a variety of people using such a facility is beneficial.
"They train so many athletes, professional athletes, high-school athletes, college athletes. It's kind of crazy," she said. "It's really fantastic to be here in the environment with all those different people. You kind of feed off of each other."
This category of fitness center is an emerging one, said Graham Melstrand, a vice president of the American Council on Exercise. It's one that in some ways replicates collegiate or professional training facilities.
"There's an intimacy and an authenticity associated with the smaller footprint that they have," Melstrand said. "People want that authenticity and that expertise so they can get the most out of the time they're investing in their recreational pursuits."
Working with a trainer helps avoid monotony, he said. In addition, trainers can provide guidance on what fitness activities to take part in outside the gym.
And if clients are part of a group, accountability becomes part of the equation.
"There is a competitive element when you're working with other people because you want to put forth your best effort," Melstrand said.
The Spot capitalizes on its differences, said J.L. Holdsworth, owner and head strength coach.
"People are like, 'What kind of gym do you have?' and it's like, 'Well, we're not a gym, we're a training facility,' " Holdsworth said. "We don't want people paying $30 a month to just come walk on a treadmill. That's not who we are."
To be sure, the Spot isn't as cheap month-to-month as a chain-gym membership. Prices start at about $79 a month for large group classes and at about $399 a month for personal training, Holdsworth said, though they vary based on what kinds of services a customer wants.
Meanwhile, a gym such as LA Fitness, which has eight locations in Columbus, has an initiation fee of $99 and costs about $30 a month, according to its website, but the price might vary from location to location. Group fitness classes are included in a membership, though there could be additional fees for personal training.
The Spot Athletics is joined in Columbus by a handful of other training facilities cut from the same mold.
Similar centers include D1 Sports Training in Worthington, which offers group and personal training services; Donskov Strength & Conditioning in Worthington, which requires members to work with a training program; and 11Athletics on the South Side, which offers space for people to train on their own in addition to working with groups or personal trainers.
Anthony Donskov, owner of Donskov Strength & Conditioning, said Olympic-level athletes, professional athletes and adults looking to lose weight occasionally train in the same groups at Donskov, though each person has an individualized program.
He thinks the training-facility model is growing, albeit slowly.
"As more and more people learn about gyms like this, I think they're going to grow faster and faster in the community," he said. "It's going to be slowly shifted toward smaller gyms with an emphasis more on personal programs with a personal atmosphere."
Todd Johnson, co-owner of 11Athletics, said his center is different because it offers space for clients to work out without a trainer in addition to its personal and group training services.
"I don't necessarily think that you always need to be working with a trainer," Johnson said. "I think that that does help, but it's also beneficial, I think, to some people to be able to learn how they need to train, how they need to work their body."
He added that he, too, sees gyms moving away from traditional gym equipment.
"When you go to more generic gyms, it's kind of, put your headphones in, do your own thing," Johnson said. "(But) when you come in (to 11Athletics), everybody kind of knows each other. ... It's building a community."
Bridget Schodorf, an incoming Ohio State University freshman who was recruited to row on the women's rowing team, said she's been going to the Spot Athletics for roughly two months and has been impressed by the training.
"I feel a lot stronger," she said. "I've had past injuries from rowing, and so I've always been kind of worried to lift really heavy things and try that stuff, but they really know what they're doing and make sure I don't hurt myself anymore."
Holdsworth said the Spot has about 200 clients and sees about 50 of them on a typical day.
There are eight strength coaches -- a term Holdsworth prefers to the more common personal trainer -- who are independently contracted but all trained through one system to ensure consistency.
The Spot recently moved to an 8,000-square-foot facility at 1515 Delashmut Ave. from its previous location on Steelwood Road, which covered 3,000 square feet, Holdsworth said. The additional space gives the business the opportunity to accommodate about 100 more clients, he said, though he added that wanting a higher-quality facility was more important than finding a larger one when deciding where to move.
Katz said she likes the new place because it emphasizes the community feel.
"It feels a little bit more cohesive and a little bit tighter, but I don't mean tighter in like a small way," she said. "It just feels like we're all together. We're not spread out as much."
She said she likes working out in a group at the Spot versus working out on cardio machines.
"You don't get bored," Katz said. "It's not repetitive."