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Outdoor workouts not all sweet-smelling flowers and fresh air

For gym owners and managers, it is a story they never want to see. Even though they know it is not 100% accurate, and there is another side, it always comes up during the summer months.

We are talking about the summer tale of how it is wise – both financially and physically – to take your workouts outside, and, thus, cancel your gym membership. 

The writers and their sources will often look at being able to run along the lake or buy a couple kettlebells , in order to feel the cool breeze and smell the fresh grass as great alternatives to a stuffy gym (their words, not mine).

We all know that is not the case.

Sure, it is great to be out in the fresh air. But, with every clean, crisp breath of fresh air comes the immense heat, allergies and, in many areas of the world, the summer downpours.

“I understand the thought process on why people think it is better to save money (and cancel your membership in the summer),” said Beth Chapman, director, Genesis Lifestyle & Fitness in Zanesville, Ohio. “But, often, it can be counter-productive to your overall healthy lifestyle.”

Chapman pointed out that not everyone who opts to go outside takes preventive measures like sunscreen, allergy medicine and taking extreme heat into consideration.

“Often it can be detrimental to work out outside and we encourage our members to stay inside. They can get a good workout in an air conditioned-controlled environment that is not counter-intuitive to what the body needs.”

One way El Gancho Fitness, Swim & Racquet Club offsets the possible loss of members during the summer is by actually adding programming. Karen Lankford, front office manager and member coordinator, said they actually see a spike in membership – equal to the New Year’s resolution rush – due to the offerings.

By opening the outdoor pool only in the summer months, scheduling more cycling classes, and, having air conditioning in a climate that gets pretty steamy, even diehard road cyclists – there are many in the capital of New Mexico – keep their memberships.

And add in the norm for clubs in the summer, like tennis leagues and lessons, swim lessons and camps, and it certainly is not a ghost town.

“I think, based on membership, the summer is a peak for us. We offer services and programs that are only available during the summer,” Lankford said. “By having something that people know they can only get in the summer, they want to stay. If we didn’t do this then we would certainly be one of those place that sees a drop.”

David Creech, president of Operations at the three Desoto Athletic Clubs in Tennessee and Mississippi, noted that the pool in the Southhaven, Miss., location is always a draw. He even sees members from the nearby Tennessee locations hopping in their cars and utilizing the facility.

For those members who don’t have a pool at their location have another option afforded by Desoto. Creech said they can freeze their membership for three months.

“I don’t think you see a lot of clubs freezing memberships. I’ll do it because I know they are coming back,” Creech said. “This way if they cancel they would have to pay enrollment fees and other stuff when they come back.”

Lankford has similar options at El Gancho with month-to-month membership options and transferring a membership. She said often a family will go on vacation for a month and they are allowed to transfer it to the dog sitter or their neighbor. It is a wonderful alternative to cancelling a membership which results in a year wait until they can re-up.

“Month-to-month or ‘leasing’ it is good for us, too. It equalizes the revenue stream and is more predictable, instead of memberships going up and down,” Lankford said.

Creech noted that the daycare – before talking on a Tuesday morning for this story he said there were 40 children in attendance – as an area that certainly doesn’t slow down once the temperature rises. 

Chapman, whose facility is affiliated with a local hospital, said for many of Genesis’s members, working outside would be harmful to their health. With pulmonary and cardiac rehabilitation patients, skipping out on their memberships could be 

“For many people it can be detrimental to be outside and exercising,” said Chapman. “You can do yard work, or walk on a trail, to get fresh air.”


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