Health kick: Southwest Florida fitness centers prepared for annual membership spike

William DeShazer/Staff
Elias Viamonte, of Naples, goes through his arm exercises at Planet Fitness in East Naples on Tuesday Jan 1, 2013. Viamonte has been a member at Planet Fitness for five months and works out about four times a week.

Photo by WILLIAM DESHAZER // Buy this photo

William DeShazer/Staff Elias Viamonte, of Naples, goes through his arm exercises at Planet Fitness in East Naples on Tuesday Jan 1, 2013. Viamonte has been a member at Planet Fitness for five months and works out about four times a week.

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As visions of sugar plum fairies give way to dreams of six-pack abs, Southwest Florida fitness centers are reaping the benefits of the common New Year's resolution to get in shape.

And the best time of year for gyms around the country is made twice as busy for Southwest Florida locations, which also see an influx of seasonal residents returning to the area and using their memberships again.

At Planet Fitness in East Naples, about 200 new members are expected to join this week, adding to 4,000 existing members, said manager Ken Small. They were open on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day, unlike many businesses, to accommodate people who wanted to start their resolutions on the first day of 2013.

"Every year, it's always a mad rush," Small said. "The whole beginning of the month, we're busy. They come in excited and work out for a week, maybe take a week off, come back again."

To retain members who burn out in the first month, Small said they suggest taking advantage of free training sessions and dieting advice. Mailers go out to members who haven't been in for a while or who canceled their memberships with promotions to upgrade their package at a discount.

"I can't drag them here, but we give them everything they need to be successful," Small said.

Bill Joyce, 70, has been a Planet Fitness member for 10 years. This time each year, the Naples resident said he sees new faces at the gym.

"You'll see it get crowded, and people will come in three to four times, but you'll never see them again," he said.

At LA Fitness on Vanderbilt Beach Road, business is expected to increase about 20 percent this time of year, General Manager Juan Payano said.

The average member maintains membership for 29 months, Payano said. But some new members only use theirs for three or four months, then peter out.

"They stop after that or freeze or cancel (their memberships)," he said.

To maintain those people, calls are made after 30 days of inactivity on an account.

Beth Jameson, director of the NCH Wellness Center, said the center has about 6,000 members year round. That number spikes to as high as 8,000 this time of year as new members join and seasonal residents return.

"We're usually busy the week after Christmas," she said. "People are calling or coming in, the website gets more visitors and we get a lot of tours. People give memberships as gifts."

By February, the new faces taper off. The real drop comes in June when seasonal residents head home again, she said.

"The New Year's resolution folks who've given up by then are the people who want to see results over night or in two weeks," Jameson said. "Or they're starting to balance other things that are important to them."

Jameson's advice for maintaining that drive all year is to find what kind of workout works for you and keeps you interested.

"You need to find what you like and go with it," she said.

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