Getting in shape is often high on people's lists of New Year's resolutions, and it's therefore a time of year when health clubs expect to welcome new members.
Phyllis Madanian, owner of the Peabody Athletic Club at 119 Rear Foster St., is leading her business into its second year. Running a health club is the fulfillment of one of Madanian's dreams, and she recently spoke to The Salem News about the business of helping other people realize their dreams of shedding unwanted pounds.
Is New Year's a busy time for health clubs?
It's generally the most membership-driven time of the year. Basically everyone makes their New Year's resolution — health is one of the biggest New Year's resolutions out there, health improvement.
How did you get interested in fitness?
It's been my dream for 30 years. I loved sports, I was very athletic as a kid. I always wanted to do something involved with fitness, and it was something I thought I could do no matter where I went.
Is this your first job at a health club?
This is different for me because I didn't grow up in this, I grew up in retail. I had not worked at a health club before. I came from owning a pharmacy that belonged to my parents. It was in Harvard Square, and at 22 I became the owner. I had to keep it going.
You have lots of competitors — how do you differentiate yourself from them?
It is competitive; however, we see ourselves as extremely different. We're a midsized gym, not small, not huge. We have 6,000 square feet for a very personal gym. We encourage a family atmosphere, a camaraderie. Smaller places don't have the range of equipment we have.
Except for a pool, we have everything that a full gym would have. ... We have programs that people can join, but everybody gets attention.
What times of day do people like to train?
The busiest times are morning and evening; those are the most popular classes.
What's your approach to getting people in shape?
We believe heavily in not getting into a routine where boredom sets in. Even the layout changes. Our biggest thing is cross-training, not just to show muscle, but to have overall conditioning. Sam (head trainer Sam Martin) has a saying, "Big gun, no bullets." Training is not just lifting weights so you look good. You have to be able to move and feel good. We have a program, Full Force Training, devised by Sam. People who work as trainers will take it and say, "I can't believe I wasn't in shape."
That sounds intimidating. How do you handle someone who is middle-aged, out of shape, and is beginning to get touches of arthritis?
People who have never exercised we treat with kid gloves. Everybody starts with a consultation, and we work with you whatever level you're at. We had a gal, 300 pounds, and she came in to support a friend who was getting married. She came in and said, "I don't want to be here." She came in at the beginning of August, the wedding was in September, and she ran a 5K in November. She got hooked.
What keeps people involved?
Most people tend to want to be part of something, so classes and programs are important. Most people on their own don't stay committed.
Why do people drop out of the club?
The handful we lose are because family doesn't support them. We're not weight-loss specialists, but people will say, "My doctor said I better lose weight, but my family loves me the way I am." It really is a common problem.