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Saturday, June 9, 2012

| BreaKInG neWS: VanCOuVerSun.COM

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Physiotherapist Drew Teskey (left) battles ropes at Studeo55s new location in downtown Vancouver as owner and head trainer Nathan Mellalieu looks on.

photos: Glenn BaGlo/pnG files

weekend extra

Vancouvers sweat equity

Facilities vie for their share of citys multi-million-dollar fitness business
BY TracY Sherlock
VancouVer Sun

t the new Studeo55 in downtown Vancouver, its fairly quiet on a Friday morning, but thats the way they like it. The gym is a boutique gym, a facility that offers a full range of classes, personal training and other services, but that has fewer members than a large gym. Upstairs, there are a couple of members receiving personal training advice on the fitness machines, while downstairs physiotherapist Drew Teskey is working out with a set of ropes. Head trainer Nathan Mellalieu said the fitness industry is a tough one, although fitness and recreational sports centres are a $2-billion industry in Canada, and much of that business is conducted in B.C., one of the fittest provinces in the country. Between 2006 and 2010, operating revenue increased by 30 per cent in the sector, according to Statistics Canada industry reports. For consumers, the choice in gyms runs from community centres at one end, through large fitness centre chains to private personal training centres at the other end of the spectrum. Mellalieu is striving to fill a particular niche with his gym that is designed like a high-end hotel or nightclub. The gym recently moved to new premises on Hornby Street after 10 years in the business, growing from a single personal trainer to a business with more than 50 employees today. There are pink and red lights, one-way mirrors and even a chandelier in the womens washroom. There is a reception and concierge service, as well as a vitality clinic complete with dietitian, chiropractor, registered massage therapist, naturopath and physiotherapist.

The reason exercise and our job is so exciting is because when people make a change like that, it is so impossible for it not to transcend into the rest of their life.
TraIner, reP 1 FITneSS

Studeo55 owner Nathan Mellalieu says his gym may be fancy, but dont mistake that for a lack of seriousness. Fitness is first. Were still results-oriented, he says.
On the world stage, were super stylish and progressive, but were very athletic and were also very wholesome, Mellalieu said. [The gym is] fancy, but were still resultsoriented. Members pay a $300 initiation fee to join, and then monthly fees that range from $119 to thousands, depending on the services, Mellalieu said. The club requires a one-year commitment from its members, of which the gym has about 300, and could accommodate a maximum of about 400 members. He said that in New York, Los Angeles or London, his gym would have plenty of competition, but that in Vancouver, Studeo55 is the only boutique gym. You can either go really big, and build a $5-million club and hope to get thousands of members. That economic works, but its really capital intensive, Mellalieu said. Or you can borrow $100,000 from mom and dad for a 2,000-square-foot gym with cheap overhead that offers just personal training. There are two big chain clubs in Metro Vancouver associated with big-name athletes: the Steve Nash Fitness World chain and the Club 16 Trevor Linden chain. The Steve Nash Fitness World website advertises a membership for $19 a month, but no details are provided as to how long the commitment is, or if there is an initiation fee. Club 16 Trevor Linden gyms website has one deal for a $69 enrolment fee, plus a $20 dues insurance fee (to lock in the monthly rate), plus a $14.99 monthly fee charged on a month-to-month basis for the Coquitlam and Burnaby locations. A big-name celebrity can help market a gym, but it comes with risk, said Simon Fraser University marketing professor Lindsey Meredith. You tag your wagon to their wagon, but celebrity can turn very quickly and things can go sideways, Meredith said, citing the high-profile example of Tiger Woods. At the other end of the fitness spectrum is the small, personal training studio. One example of this is Rep One Fitness on Broadway near Blenheim, recently opened by Mike Veinot, one of the trainers for the CBC Village on a Diet reality TV series filmed last year, and his two partners. At Rep 1 Fitness the fees begin at $75 per hour if someone comes in once a week; from there the hourly fees drop, depending on frequency of visits, Veinot said. There are no members or contracts at Rep 1 Fitness, and each customer is attached to a particular personal trainer.

Veinot said some personal trainers make more than $200,000 a year. As an independent trainer, you can make as much or as little as you want, Veinot said. All customers are trained based on their own goals, with a personal program. Its really geared to what they want and what they want to do, Veinot said. Most people cant do it on their own and this gives you accountability. If your budget wont allow for personal training at this level, public facilities also offer a full range of fitness activities from classes, to exercise machines to weight rooms. For example, in Vancouver at the Hillcrest community centre fitness centre, people choose from many payment options, ranging from a single drop-in for $5.94 for a single visit or $47.50 for a 10-visit card, or a one-month membership for $43.75 or an annual membership for $357.14. The Richmond Olympic Oval offers a 23,000-square-foot fitness centre with more than 100 pieces of strength and cardio equipment and more than 50 complimentary drop-in fitness classes per week as well as free drop-in time on sport courts, running tracks and ice rinks. The cost of a membership there ranges from a one-day pass for $16.50 to a monthly continuous pass for $61 a month.

On the private side, five or six gyms in the downtown core have gone bankrupt in recent years, including Elevation on Robson, Body Co. in Yaletown and Beyond Fitness, Mellalieu said. Its a tough industry. Its a grind, Mellalieu said. We could all be making more money doing something else, but I do this to try to to help people. Veinot said he also loves what he does. Its an amazing job, Veinot said. Ive been doing this for 20-plus years, and every day Im thankful for what I do. Im helping people achieve their goals and putting smiles on their faces. Mellalieu said he and his staff have helped several people lose more than 100 pounds each, and it feels great. The reason exercise and our job is so exciting is because when people make a change like that, it is so impossible for it not to transcend into the rest of their life, Mellalieu said. People get out of shape emotionally. Typically, the people I work with who are really unhealthy are not that emotionally healthy. They have other things that are bugging them, and these are pretty big things. We give them tools to fix this and they redefine how they see themselves. He said once people learn to see themselves differently their confidence increases and it changes their lives. They no longer see themselves as the big girl, or the underachiever or a failure. They think, I can do this, and as a result, they get a glow about them and they start letting better relationships in their lives and become so much happier, Mellalieu said. They have come so far, not just with their weight, but with everything. Blog: