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The Moving Crew

Gym Managers Tune In to Health Club Beefs

Tuesday, August 17, 2004; Page HE03

Gym members gave us an earful last week after we asked readers to tell us their biggest gripes about their health clubs. With comments still pouring in, we offered a sampling of the biggest vote-getters, including calls for expanded class schedules, more-varied classes and more cardio machines. This week, gym managers have the floor.

Answering readers' top beef -- that gyms should offer exercise classes in more time slots -- Kevin Powell, assistant manager at Bally's Total Fitness in Falls Church, said that when gym managers posted sign-up sheets for early morning (6 a.m. to 8 a.m.) classes, "only one or two people would sign up. You can't really hold a class with one person." A member of that Bally's location complained to The Moving Crew about the light class schedule.

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Powell, like most gym managers contacted, said Bally's responds to customer suggestions. He noted that the facility is completing a two-year renovation and will soon open its outdoor pool. "People have been asking for that," he said.

Washington Sports Club (WSC), fingered by numerous readers for having what they described as an anemic class schedule, expressed interest in that feedback. WSC spokeswoman Susan Gerson said she could not commit to adding class times but added that the club surveys its members annually and makes improvements based on responses.

She cited as an example the "Express Line" of exercise stations, introduced last year in all WSC locations. "People asked for a quicker workout, and we introduced that," she said.

Chris Kopp, general manager of Gold's Gym in Fairfax, agreed with several readers' criticism about the need for updated treadmills at his gym. He also concurred with at least one member who asked management to add cardio machines to reduce wait times during busy hours.

"One of the reasons I was brought here is because the old GM let [complaints] fall on deaf ears," said Kopp, who took over the job Aug. 1. "We have about 15 to 20 brand-new treadmills on order, and all the elliptical machines are new." Kopp says he is working to improve the air circulation in the gym as well.

On the question of child care -- the lack of which at many gyms, including the Thomas Circle Sports Club in the District, brought a few impassioned complaints -- movement appears less imminent. Tom Iannone, group exercise director at the club, said "there has not been an overwhelming demand" and thus the club has no plans to add it.

But, Iannone noted, in direct response to member suggestions, the club is expanding its spin cycling class schedule, starting in September, and adding a Sunday hip-hop class because the Wednesday and Thursday sessions are so popular. The club is also adding a belly dance class and an African dance class, and in the past three months has added new treadmills, bikes and elliptical machines -- all in response to feedback the gym receives through quarterly member surveys.

Our take-away from these comments? Strength in numbers. If you want gym management to react to your suggestions, find other members who share your angst and pool your proposals and complaints to management.

The subject is still wide open for comments from gym goers and gym managers. We've only just tapped the surface here, we suspect.

We'll be online this Thursday for the Moving Crew chat, 11 a.m. to noon, at www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/liveonline/health/movingcrew. Join us or drop us a line at move@washpost.com.

-- John Briley


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