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Serving God While Serving Members

One fitness center has found a niche market with its local Christian community.

You can't please everyone. No one knows this better than fitness center managers, who hear complaints and suggestions every day from members on how to better run their facility. Knowing this, many facility owners opt to cater to a specific market, so they can focus on what this population wants and needs. Gil Yurly, owner of Holy Spirit Gym in Costa Mesa, Calif., did just that when he opened his fitness center last year. "The facility is a Christian-friendly place where those of faith can work out and honor the glory of God," he says. The fitness center's motto is, "Work out in an uplifting, wholesome, less-intimidating environment." Yurly, a lifelong Catholic and former Mr. Natural California bodybuilding champ, saw the need for a facility such as his when he heard so many complaints about traditional fitness centers, especially national chains. "The typical large chain environment is, to be blunt, a meat market, with bad music [and] scantily clad people running around. So it's not a real wholesome, positive environment .... I just wanted to provide an alternative," he says.

Holy Spirit Gym

Costa Mesa, Calif. 949 645-6110 Date facility opened: June 2006 Facility size: 5,200 square feet Number of members: 180 Unique features/offerings: Christian music, nutrition counseling, modest attire rule
The environment at Holy Spirit Gym includes Christian music and walls adorned with appropriate passages from scripture. One popular passage is from Philippians 4:13: "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me." A large screen TV features contemporary Christian concerts. Yurly tries to create "an uplifting and less-intimidating environment" for exercisers. Along those lines, the facility advocates modest attire. "You won't find this atmosphere anywhere around," says Yurly. Holy Spirit Gym is Orange County's only full-service Christian-themed fitness center. Its mission statement is "to provide a safe, clean and faith-inspired workout environment. To allow members to deepen their faith while furthering their fitness goals with the glory to almighty God." Says Yurly, "The Bible says our bodies are temples, and protecting that temple is one way to bring glory to God." To keep members' "temples" strong and healthy, Holy Spirit Gym offers your typical cardio and strength equipment, which was selected to suit a wide range of users, Yurly says. And, because of Yurly's background in bodybuilding, thought went into what type of equipment to offer, and how much. "Duplicates were selected of the more popular machines, such as the Smith, hamstring, cables and bench press," he says. Amenities at the facility include towel service, and group classes currently include Pilates, yoga and Women's Body Fat Meltdown. There are also exercise classes offered through Secured Horizon's Silver Sneakers program for older adults. Profit centers include personal training and Body Wise nutritional products. A member incentive referral program rewards members who refer someone with a free month of membership. In addition, plans for a weekly Bible study are in the works. Holy Spirit Gym is staffed with several part time employees, and its trainers are degreed and have "plenty of experience," says Yurly. Independent trainers are also welcome, and C.P.R. and personal trainer seminars are held frequently. The facility is marketed primarily to the local residential and working communities, and special emphasis is directed toward Christian organizations. Says Yurly, "As time passes, more and more people are becoming aware of the gym, and people are talking and sharing with others. I'll let God work in his time, [but] I believe there is a big market [for this type of facility]."
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