Springfield Gyms see Membership Spike Beyond New Year

Feb 9, 2016

Paden Stringer, owner of Royal Barbell, in downtown Springfield spots gym member Grant Ruckman during their warm up session.
Credit Emily McTavish / KSMU

One of the most common New Year’s Resolutions is going to the gym and getting in shape. However, how often do those resolutions stick?

Jessica Storm and Madison Chilton joined Genesis Health Clubs in Springfield three weeks ago, and their goal to get in shape and be healthier seems to be working. The pair goes to work out at Genesis six days a week.

“We put it off long enough so we figured now was the best time,” Chilton says.

“It’s time. It’s time to make that commitment,” Storm says.

Local gyms and fitness centers do see a spike in new memberships at this time of the year, and some are offering discounted rates or special deals to get new people in the door.

For example, Genesis Health Clubs is currently offering 10 percent off monthly dues for a limited time. They are also now offering a Valentine’s Day special encouraging current members bring in their friends.

From left: Madison Chilton, Marques Rodgers and Jessica Storm. Chilton and Storm say one of the first things they do when they get to Genesis Health is to find Rodgers, the assistant club manager, to say hello.
Credit Emily McTavish / KSMU

Marques Rodgers, assistant club manager at Genesis Health Club on North Glenstone Avenue, says there usually are more new people joining in the first few months of the year to “fight the battle of the bulge.”

“Typically a beginning-of-the-year person lasts maybe two weeks, tops, and then they fall off,” Rodgers says. “At Genesis Health Clubs, we’re looking for retention so we’ll follow up with them.”

Chilton and Storm both attribute Rodgers to their success in staying with their routines.

“We get in here and we say, ‘Where’s Marques at?’ That’s the first thing: ‘Where’s Marques?’” Storm says.

“We have to talk to him everyday,” Chilton says.

Genesis will also call members if they haven’t been to the gym in a while, and frequency of gym use is tracked through their computer systems, Rodgers says.

Chilton says that philosophy works for her.

“Being held accountable makes me feel like I need to be in here more,” Chilton says.

In addition, there is a beginners training class called G60 Boot Camp offered to new members, which both Chilton and Storm attend once a week.

Steve Webb, Community Recreation coordinator for the Doling Family Center, says this is the busiest time of year for its facility.

“About 15 percent, or a little over that, of all of our memberships, both new sales and renewals are done during the month of January so that’s a big chunk of our revenue,” Webb says. “The vast majority of those people will stick with it long-term.”

One of the Doling center’s long-term members is Robin Bybee, a retired Springfield fireman, who joined four years ago.

“The big thing is the discipline, that’s it,” Bybee says. “You’ve got to get yourself in the door, and get yourself moving. This is the way it works for me, and then you can do it everyday,” Bybee says.

Bybee says he remembers visiting Doling when he was looking for a new gym and being impressed by its cleanliness.

“I like cleanliness, and I like shiny floors and that’s what this place has got,” Bybee says. “I’ll give 100 percent to the janitor. He does a good job.”

A single, adult membership at any Springfield-Greene County Park Board gym, including Doling, costs either $320 for a one-time annual fee or $32 per month for a one-year contract. A family membership is either $495 for the one-time fee or $49.50 per month. Membership at one family center also includes access to any of the Park Board’s other centers in town.

Paden Stringer is owner of Royal Barbell in downtown Springfield. He also says there is a push for new people at the beginning of each year, but sees more people coming through the door in February and March.

“People are tired of being cooped up and cold, and they want to get out and do stuff,” Stringer says. “That being said, the first thing that comes to mind is, ‘Hey let’s go do something active,’ which is usually the gym or running, any type of physical work.”

What makes Royal Barbell, formerly called Strong Gym, unique, says Stringer, is how their barbell and body weight training impacts everyday activities.

“The new trend of fitness is not getting on the treadmill anymore,” Stringer says. “It’s moving toward a barbell, functional-type based training. Maybe not crossfit so much, but people are utilizing lifting and they’re benefiting tremendously from it.”

Some of the benefits, Stringer says, are increasing bone density, longevity of life and increased heart rate endurance.

The Mayo Clinic reports strength training can also help to manage chronic conditions such as back pain, arthritis, heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

Royal Barbell is $39 per month for a regular membership or $35 per month for students.

Stringer says his gym has been attracting more middle-aged businessmen, but there are also women, seniors and college students who belong to the gym.

“It’s so broad in a sense because of our functional training we have here, it benefits everyone,” Stringer says. “So there’s not one big demographic.”

College students, though, are a challenging demographic for fitness centers to reach in Springfield because of the campus recreation centers. Students at Drury and Missouri State pay for the maintenance of the rec centers through student fees and then get free access.

Marques Rodgers with Genesis Health Clubs says students from Drury, MSU and Ozarks Technical Community College have joined his gym as an alternative to the campus facilities. Jessica Storm, an OTC student, says Genesis’ hours and less crowded facility works better for her than at school.

“OTC’s fitness center opens at 6 in the morning and closes at 7 at night, and I don’t really like going when there’s a lot of people,” Storm says.

In the three weeks since joining Genesis, both Storm and Madison Chilton agree they’ve noticed a difference in how they feel, and plan to stick to their new routine.

“You think that three weeks isn’t that big of a deal, but we feel different, we feel better, we have a lot more energy,” Chilton says.