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Blog: Health Club Owners Must Overcome Bad Publicity

Here's something we love about this time of year: We do our marketing to welcome new members to our gyms. We try to put new exercisers at ease. We tell them how we're here to help them and that our members are so nice. All of which is true.

And then we have to overcome publicity like this - a front-page Wall Street Journal story titled "New Year's Resolutions Have Gym-Goers Getting Pretty Exercised." While most of the quotes and self-important attitude were from gym members, you can read between the lines to see that the culture and practices of the facilities do not help.

To be clear, we have unreasonable, self-absorbed and difficult members, too. Every club does. But when an article like this appears in the popular press, it demonstrates to us that as an industry we still do a lousy job of protecting and encouraging our newest and most easily intimidated members.

Here are some of the people we met in the WSJ article:

• The trainer who said, "All we could do was shake our heads" over the new member who was blaring his own music while lifting. Really? That's all you could do? You couldn't nicely ask the fellow to use headphones?

• The 26-year-old who observed that new members in yoga class "wobble everywhere, throwing off my balance." You poor thing. We're sure that when you first started taking yoga you were perfect.

• The new member who "meanders the floor aimlessly" or "stands there for five minutes trying to figure out where my machines are." Ugh. We're not perfect about helping new members, but we provide free orientations and keep trainers on the floor precisely to avoid this problem. We hope this new member finds a new gym.

This member's experience was used to bolster the author's claim that new members generally only have "osmosis" as a means to learn gym etiquette. Uh, no - not if we're doing our jobs.

One regular summed it all up, saying that new members "think they're doing the right thing, but they're really just getting in the way of the rest of us."

You know, that's just the welcoming, warm attitude that most new members are looking for when they put themselves in a foreign environment to do something they're already nervous about doing. Thanks!

While we can't stop members from feeling or acting this way, we can sure as heck do our best to counteract this attitude with our culture, staff and business practices. If our facilities had been mentioned in this article, we'd have been horrified.

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