An estimated 800 people, including 24 Hour Fitness CEO Chris Roussos, participated in a BodyCombat workout on June 30 on the USS Midway in San Diego, according to 24 Hour Fitness, San Ramon, California. The class was held in part to raise awareness about 24 Hour’s Boots24 program, which provides employment opportunities for active duty military members, veterans, military spouses and family.
The workout was hosted by 24 Hour Fitness and Les Mills, and occurred during the IDEA World Convention, which was held next to the USS Midway at the San Diego Convention Center.
Michael “Nacho” Ricacho, a group exercise instructor who teaches BodyCombat and other Les Mills classes at a 24 Hour Fitness club in San Diego, participated in the 7:30 a.m. class.
“You can never go wrong doing a BodyCombat class on an aircraft carrier combat ship,” Ricacho said. “The atmosphere and energy doing a world-class exercise program with like-minded people in that type of environment is definitely a memory that will last a lifetime.”
The excitement generated by the class on the weekend before the Fourth of July was just one reason the 24 Hour Fitness team chose to host it on the USS Midway.
“We felt it would be a great environment for us to celebrate fitness and BodyCombat and 24’s commitment to the veteran community,” Roussos told Club Industry.
That commitment includes the Boots24 program, which started about three years ago to recruit and hire 2,400 members of the military. Last year, the company surpassed that hiring goal, but it continues to recruit military members, veterans and their families.
Roussos served in the Army for 11 years, so he said he understands the benefits of having members of the military on staff, especially for a company such as 24 Hour Fitness that has a focus on fitness and needs leaders as it continues to expand beyond its current 430 clubs.
“When you are hiring a veteran, you are hiring someone that has a different level of understanding around organizational chain of command, around teamwork, communication, responsibility, accountability because those are all things they have lived with while they were serving, and there are not many positions in any of the branches of service where your responsibility isn’t at the very highest level, which means people are counting on you, and veterans get that point,” Roussos said.
Military veterans also understand the chain of command, including not just how to lead but also how to follow, he said.
“That’s why we love having them on the team, and we are going to continue to accelerate our recruiting efforts in that area,” he said.
The experience and the sense of purpose, communication, teamwork and responsibility that military veterans have after three to four years of military service often puts them ahead of non-military candidates, he said.
In fact, the company’s fitness manager in its Mesquite, Texas, club, Elise Longley, was one of the first female F18 Navy fighter pilots, Roussos said.
“I could tell she was a veteran because of her demeanor and how she was carrying herself,” Roussos said about the first time he met her. “The bearing of those veterans is different than someone [without military experience] at a similar place in their professional career because every year in the military is worth several years in civilian experience.”
Since the company’s inception, 24 Hour Fitness has supported the military through participation in career workshops, job fairs and events that support all military branches, according to a media release from the company. It holds recruitment relationships with Blue Star Families, Hiring For Heroes, Wounded Warrior, San Diego County Veterans Service Office and CalVet, MCB-Camp Pendleton Wounded Warrior Battalion, Edd.gov/CA-Veteran Employment Program, among others.
Through the years, 24 Hour Fitness has been named to the Top 100 Military-Friendly Employers List, Top 20 Military Spouse-Friendly Employers List and was a 2012 Finalist for the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award, the Department of Defense’s highest recognition to employers for exceptional support of employees serving in the Guard and Reserve.