Pump it Uptown

Three new health clubs will soon add to the area’s already diverse offerings for staying fit

Uptown residents who made a new year’s pledge to get in shape should have no trouble finding a place to sweat in 2010.  

Three new fitness options are coming to the area, at least two of them this year. LA Fitness is scheduled to move this spring into a new facility in Calhoun Square and a neighborhood gym called Lyn-Lake Fitness is opening this month at Lake Street and Lyndale Avenue. The third newcomer is a spa and yoga boutique that Lifetime Fitness has planned for the former Walker Library building near Lagoon and Hennepin avenues, but the franchise hasn’t set an opening date yet.

The centers are the latest additions to the area’s growing fitness scene, fueled largely by Uptown’s health conscious young professionals and affluent baby boomers. In only a few years, the area’s workout options have grown from little more than the YWCA to a diverse collection of niche facilities including Snap Fitness, Fitness Together, CorePower Yoga, Align Pilates and others.  

“They’re all different and the good news is that in this health and fitness industry that we’re playing in, about 15 percent of us have some kind of a health-club membership and the rest of us don’t,” said Lifetime Fitness spokesman Jason Thunstrom. “So the good news for operators is they can bring their different concepts in and have the opportunity to win because there are still the majority of us that don’t take accountability for our health and wellness and that’s really who the industry is going after.”

A fit city

Statewide, Thunstrom’s 15-percent club membership figure is just about right on the mark, according to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA), a trade association for the health and fitness club industry.

In Minneapolis, though, the percentage is nearly double that, the highest among all of the country’s major cities, according to the IHRSA. That type of demand spawns diverse competition: large 24-hour gyms, one-on-one facilities, yoga studios, smaller neighborhood centers and so on. There’s room for all of them as long as they can each find a niche and pay attention to their customers’ changing needs, said IHRSA spokeswoman Kara Thompson.

“No matter which type of club, to sustain their competitiveness in today’s market, they must reinvest in their facility,” she said. “As new trends, equipment and programs arise every year, clubs need to stay abreast of them and be proactive by reinvesting in their facilities, their equipment, their programs and even their club design.”

In Uptown, each of the facilities that has opened or will soon open has found a way to make their operation distinct while still targeting largely the same demographic.

Filling a niche

Desiree Ahrens, who owns Lyn-Lake Fitness and another center at 48th Street and Nicollet Avenue with her husband Joe, said her new facility is meant to appeal to people looking to workout in a smaller, more private, neighborhood setting. The gym features a room for weight lifting, a room for cardio workouts and two private rooms for one-on-one exercise with a personal trainer.  

“We felt that most of the clients we work with now really wouldn’t be comfortable working out in a big gym,” she said. “And so we saw there were some smaller gyms around, but not those that offer all the amenities that we want to offer.”

The Lyn-Lake center’s visibility and the area’s high foot traffic were additional reasons for choosing the location, Ahrens said.

LA Fitness membership counselors said Uptown’s vibrancy and diversity and their center’s offerings of an array of equipment and programs will help make it a new hotspot. So far they’ve been signing up mostly young professionals between 22 and 33 years old. The 32,000-square-foot site was initially planned to be an upscale  “signature” club, but the franchise later decided to change that so no one would be excluded.

The Lifetime Fitness just to the north is planned to be a new spa and boutique concept the company is testing at several select locations in Minnesota and beyond. Whether the facility will feature any exercise equipment and how much of the former library building it will occupy has yet to be announced, but Thunstrom said more details would emerge in coming weeks.

“I would highlight that just as different and unique as Lifetime has been since its launch back in ‘92 with the health club model, I would suggest the same will be here,” he said.

Randy Zarecki, owner of three Fitness Together centers including one at 1221 Lake St. in Uptown, said Uptown’s trendy, fashionable and upbeat environment make it a great place for workout centers. The new competition doesn’t surprise or scare him.

“I’ve found in my 25-plus years in this industry that what works for some people just doesn’t work real well for others,” he said. “Some people like the noise and the commotion and the activities of a large gym, but other people kind of shun that environment and will do much better in a private environment.”

His facilities focus solely on private, personal training and he’s had no trouble finding clients during his Uptown location’s two years in business, even with Snap Fitness across the street and the YWCA a few blocks away.

Bonnie Resig, 63, said she’s been going to the Uptown Fitness Together for over a year because she likes having a custom-designed workout plan and having paid for and scheduled her workouts in advance, so she’s held accountable.

Anthony Baquero, 27, would rather workout at a place where he can be on his own and come and go as he pleases. That’s why he’s a member of Snap Fitness, which is open to members 24 hours a day.  

But, depending on what changes in his life, he might be open to a switch eventually.

“I’d like to stay for at least a few more years,” he said. “But those other places might draw me in the future.”