Things Aren't Always As They Appear

One last thought about things that aren't always what they say they are. At the end of a tour of 24 Hour Fitness a few years ago, a friend of mine asked the sales manager what the club's hours were. Breaking into a smile and pointing at the club's logo on the wall, the sales manager said, “We're open 24 hours.” The question may seem foolish considering the chain's name, but 30 percent of 24 Hour Fitness facilities actually are not open 24 hours every day of the week because of lease agreements or lack of demand for it.

Add to that category of clubs the name Anytime Fitness, franchised facilities that members can access “anytime” using a key card. However, issues with a city ordinance in St. Paul, MN, requiring staff to be on duty whenever a fitness facility is open (as detailed in the article “Limited Access” in the June 2008 issue of this magazine or online at have led three Anytime Fitness facilities in that city to limit their hours.

Do the limited hours mean these clubs should change their names? Not necessarily. After all, how catchy are the names “Almost Anytime Fitness” or “24 Hour Fitness Except in Certain Locations Where Demand Is Lacking or Lease Agreements Don't Allow It?”

Club names aren't the only things that can lead to a little confusion. Take your club's lap pool. You think it means a pool in which members swim laps. However, how many of your club members think it's a place to stand and chat with friends or, worse yet, cool down after a sweaty 30 minutes in the sauna? Imagine the surprise of my friend when he was swimming laps at his club and a person who had obviously been sweating profusely in the club's sauna jumped into the lap pool to cool off. Perhaps the club should offer a definition of lap pool at the bottom of the sign where it clearly states to shower before using the lap pool.

Speaking of definitions, I often wondered why some free weights are called dumbbells when they are in fact neither dumb (as in an ignorant or foolish person) nor bells. So I looked it up. I found varying origins for the word, but several online encyclopedias said the word came from the apparatus used by church bell ringers to build their muscles. They swung metal or wood bars with a rounded knob at each end to build strength and skill. One definition says that the apparatus used was actually bells with the clackers removed, so they would be noiseless (or dumb). The dumbbells provided such a great workout that their use spread as exercise for others.

Another misnomer in the industry can be member appreciation nights. Sometimes those nights come and go without all the members knowing they are occurring. If that happens, it's really a member-appreciation-for-people-who've-been-in-the-club-during-the-past-two-weeks-and-paid-attention-to-the-signs night. If official invitations haven't gone out by mail or e-mail, then a large number of your members will never realize that you appreciated them with their own special night.

What about your pro shop? How many pros or average Joes actually shop in your pro shop? At my health club, I've only seen one person in the pro shop in all the time I've been there — and that person was an employee replacing old merchandise with new. Even when they move the clothing out to the front desk on clearance racks, I seem to be the only person who ever bothers to take a look. Perhaps if more clubs sold shirts with their more accurate names on them, the clothing would fly off the racks. After all, who wouldn't want a shirt emblazed with the name “24 Hour Fitness Except in Certain Locations Where Demand Is Lacking or Lease Agreements Don't Allow It?”

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