Originally created 12/30/04

Health clubs prepare for surge in members

Katie Scarborough is getting a jump on the new year, and so are area health clubs. The 15-year-old Augusta girl has already started working out at Health Central in Augusta as it and other clubs get ready for the flood of new members determined to honor a New Year's vow to get back in shape.

"January, February is a very busy season for the health clubs because it's a time of year filled with resolutions," said Fabio Comana, an exercise physiologist at the American Council on Exercise.

"From a business standpoint, in terms of the club itself, they will obviously be gearing up to handle increased enrollment numbers, so their membership services department will be gearing up for some busy days."

Omni Fitness West is hiring more staff and sprucing up the place with new carpet in the locker rooms, adding "a really nice lounge" and other amenities including a plasma-screen television, General Manager Austin Tashakori said.

"We're doing our renovations right now," he said.

Health Central is also renovating and adding some new programs geared to accommodate those just starting out, such as Body Pump, working out with weights to music, and soon Body Step, a cardiovascular workout to music, said Cindy Stephens, a marketing/group fitness manager.

"We want everyone to be successful, so we try to make things user-friendly to people that are beginners," Mrs. Stephens said. That means having less intense exercises and avoiding complicated dance moves, she said.

In fact, the trend for next year will likely be more people focusing on core training to strengthen the abdomen and back, more balance training and more fusion with relaxation techniques such as yoga, Mr. Comana said.

"What we're trying to do is get the mind-body balance," he said.

People are looking for more functional results from the health club, Mrs. Stephens said.

"People are looking for something that is a little easier on the body," she said. "We're learning that the strength comes from the core. And if we've got a strong core, then everything we do is going to be safer and more effective."

Katie is taking Body Pump with her sister, Emily, and her mother, Michelle, who has been going to the gym for three years and has lost between 60 and 65 pounds while adding on muscle. That is part of Katie's motivation as well.

"I just don't want to wake up one day and find I'm actually obese and not healthy," she said. "Hopefully, going to the gym will make me want to do more activities and get me away from the computer."

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tom.corwin@augustachronicle.com.

Know Your Rights

Georgia's Fair Business Practices Act outlines specific rights for health club members. Among them:

 •  You have a right to a written contract with the club that clearly spells out the club's rules and regulations and its cancellation policy. The terms cannot exceed 36 months.

 •  You have the right to cancel the contract within seven business days by giving written notice in person or mailing it before midnight of the seventh business day. The member must return all contracts, membership cards and other documents with the notice. Any payments must be refunded except for fees for services provided, which cannot exceed $100. Refunds should be made within 30 days.

 •  If the club substantially changes services, or goes from single-sex to co-ed or vice versa, you can seek a prorated refund within 30 days by written notice.

 •  In the event you are totally and permanently disabled, or die during the term of the contract, you or your family can seek a prorated refund of the remainder of the contract. The club is entitled to a reasonable predetermined fee.

 •  You are not required to make further payments if a club goes out of business or closes and fails to offer a similar alternative within 10 miles.

Source: Governor's Office of Consumer Affairs Fair Business Practices Act Web page for health spas: www2.state.ga.us/GaOCA/FBPA.html

Up and Coming

The American Council on Exercise surveyed 3,000 fitness professionals and compiled the top 10 trends for 2005.

1. Growing popularity of balance training and exercises.

2. Combining mind-body programs such as yoga with more traditional exercise.

3. Quicker workouts.

4. Emphasis on wellness and nutrition counseling.

5. Clubs and trainers offering more hours.

6. Employer incentives for healthy lifestyles.

7. Emphasis on functional fitness and core training.

8. Group instructors sharing clients with personal trainers.

9. Families doing outdoor recreation.

10. Emphasis on the social aspects of training together.

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