National Reputation, Local Focus

The National Training Center in Clermont, Fla., is known nationally and internationally for its Olympic training programs.


Clermont, Fla.; 352 241-7144;

While most fitness centers have a local "reputation," whether good or bad, the National Training Center (NTC) in Clermont, Fla., is known nationally and internationally for its Olympic training programs. But, that doesn't keep the facility from serving its "regular" members. Says Services Manager Cindy Schooler, "Our older adult population makes up more than 45 percent of our total membership. So, even though we have a strong athlete base, our seniors and their needs are very important to us."

Schooler says that customer service and health and fitness expertise is the priority of the facility's staff. "Because we're owned by a hospital system [South Lake Hospital], we know our members expect a higher degree of knowledge and professionalism compared to most local gyms. We bring a level of confidence, due to our high standards for education and certifications [for staff members]," she says.

What makes NTC most unique, however, is its international and national sports affiliations. "You never know who you might be training next to in the fitness center," says Schooler. More than 2,500 collegiate, national, international and professional athletes have trained at the NTC since it opened its doors. It has served as the official fitness/training facility for current and future Olympians in a variety of sports, including three-time Olympian Shelia Taormina who made NTC her home base in 2003 when she trained for her third Olympic tryouts in triathlon. She made the team and went on to compete in the 2004 Athens Games. Dr. Dot Richardson, two-time Olympic Gold Medalist (softball), and co-chair for the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, is NTC's campus director.

In addition to athletic training, the fitness center offers programs for those less athletically inclined. Its FIRE UP! weight-management program generates about $45,000 per year, says Schooler. This six-week program consists of two 30-minute workout sessions with a trainer per week, one one-hour nutrition lecture/counseling group session per week, body measurements (pre and post), and complete fitness assessment and metabolic testing. "We serve more than 150 members per year in this program, and it is very successful," Schooler says.

To keep programs and equipment current, NTC has "an extensive process" it goes through before ordering anything new, says Schooler. "We usually ... have a demo piece on our floor for at least 60 days prior to ordering, and we take our member comments very seriously when purchasing new equipment. Since we have a large senior population, accessibility onto our cardiovascular equipment is critical," she says.

The facility has an average daily usage of 1,500, with more than 100 children a day in the childcare areas. But the fitness center never feels crowded. "We have a nice balance between our morning participants ... and our evening group. ... Most of that is due to our programming strategies, such as offering swim teams, track clubs and sports programming in the late afternoon and evening," says Schooler.

To keep all members happy, NTC has a "primary focus" of customer service and retention, explains Schooler. "Our focus is to keep our members for a very long time. More than three-quarters of our members have been with us since we opened in 2001." To show appreciation for these members, the facility offers member appreciation programs throughout the year. Says Schooler, "Our members really appreciate that we know they are the reason this facility exists."

Facility Stats

Date fitness facility opened: August 2001
Facility size: 37,000 square feet
Number of members: 3,550
Strength equipment: Cybex, Hammer Strength, FreeMotion, free weights
Cardio equipment: 13 Cybex treadmills, three Life Fitness treadmills, 10 Precor elliptical trainers, three Cybex Crosstrainers, three rowing machines, eight Star Trac recumbent cycles, eight Life Fitness upright cycles, eight Cybex stairclimbers
Group exercise classes: 55 classes weekly: step, low-impact, Pilates, boot camp, Muscle Force, yoga, Senior Fit, Yogalites, semi-private yoga, aquatic classes, group cycling
Other programs/services: Personal training, sports performance training (recreation and professional athletes), weight-management program (FIRE UP!), massage therapy, free childcare, human performance testing, youth swim lessons, swim teams
Management/fitness assessment software: Healthcalc
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