Exercise businesses powering through recession

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Though unemployment numbers remain high and incomes levels have fallen, most gyms and fitness facilities are still doing well.

The International Health, Racquet & Sportclub Association says U.S. health club membership was 50.2 million in 2010, up 10.8 percent from 2009. Industry revenues also rose 4 percent.

Trevor Poling owns a Gold’s Gym franchise in Colorado Springs and opened up a second location at the end of 2010.

“The first two years of the recession the industry as a whole flattened out,” said Poling. But now he has more staff than his mid-priced gyms have ever had.

People just haven’t given up on their fitness.

However, the nonprofit YMCA has had to step up its financial assistance, said Carrie Bair-Norwood, director of financial development.

Depending on a person or family’s current salary and economic situation, the YMCA will pitch in what is needed, up to 75 percent of membership fees. This not only goes for gym usage, but for its day and resident camps as well.

Helpful to those who need it, but Bair-Norwood stresses that the 130-year-old organization is always in need of donations.

“We strive to keep our programs accessible to all…not just for those financially stable,” said Bair-Norwood.

Even with the arrival of new establishments, such as the recent arrival of Lifetime Fitness, the YMCA isn’t sweating it.

“We’ve been here for 130 years, we’re kind of going to stay here,” said the YMCA’s Wendy Brez Dahl.

Gyms that cater to everyone’s economic situation are likely to remain popular.

Accolade Fitness, tiny in comparison to other various local gyms, has its share of loyal patrons — it’s a smaller gym that seems to fill in a gap for outdoor enthusiasts as well.

Located near the Garden of the Gods, it fills a particular niche. It’s located near the city’s many parks, where a small gym membership is often all a person needs, as other exercise needs can be met outdoors.

In fact, Fernando Garza, one of the owners of Accolade Fitness, says it’s not unusual for gym patrons to go for a bike ride to the Garden of the Gods after a workout.

“We have such a friendly gym — it’s not a meat market. It’ s a family oriented gym,” said Garza. Each member has individual needs, be it daycare, an onsite spa, or other amenities — and more-often-than-not, there’s a local gym to meet those needs.

The economic hit may also be making one of the fittest states even fitter. As gas prices remain at a steady high, more people are looking to non gas-guzzling alternatives.

“Gas prices are getting to a point where I may think about riding my bike more [to work],” said Scott Wilson, a bicyclist affected by the local recession. “When it takes 40-45 bucks to fill up a tank once a week, that adds up.”

Of course, depending on type of vehicle and gallon capacity, that amount can be even greater.

But sometimes just a few miles makes a difference, and for some, that means cutting back.

Nathan Hogan, who currently works part-time due to the economy and lives near the Powers Blvd. area, has had to cut back on mountain biking, one of his favorite hobbies.

“I need to rebuild the rear shock of my bike, I’m not able to do that right now…Finding the gas to get out and go, I’m actually having to stay real close to home — I’m not able to get out and explore as much as I’d like to…It’s been quite a hard time… My exercising for this has probably gone down 50 percent,” he said.

But as one of the fittest states in the nation, Coloradans are finding ways to work out their problems.