Videos beef up fitness business
Walk into the Exclusive Athletic Club in Glenwood Springs and check in with the friendly desk attendant, Tyson Watson. Swipe your card or pay for a day pass, and you’re ready to work out.
But look again — Watson isn’t really there. He’s in Rifle, in another branch of the gym, and his likeness is beamed digitally into the gym so he can operate the front desk via a computer video camera and microphone.
The digital front desk is part of what owner John Romero, from Glenwood Springs, calls “Exclusive Systems.” This system, originally built to streamline the management of two Exclusive Athletic Club locations at once, also allows gym members to take live, interactive video classes from all over the country from any location — as long as they have a computer and an Internet connection.
“I was ready to close all the classes,” Romero says, before he created Exclusive Systems. Attendance was down, and it seemed to make more sense to become a simple exercise room. But since developing the proprietary video software last year, membership has boomed from fewer than 80 to more than 1,000 members. Now most of the classes are sold out, and some are booked until March. For a business that Romero bought as an afterthought, he’s impressed at how well it’s done.
Romero, a trained mental health therapist, originally bought the fitness facility next to the Ramada in Glenwood Springs to give his therapy clients a place to exercise. He soon purchased The Gym in the Hotel Colorado as well. As he began feeling burned out on practicing mental health counseling, Romero started managing the gym full-time.
Last year, Romero saw an opportunity to purchase the fitness center in Rifle, and he jumped. The Exclusive Athletic Club of Rifle officially opened on Jan. 1, 2014. Both gyms are 24-hour facilities that allow access with the swipe of a key card.
But managing two gyms was difficult. “I needed to be in two places at once,” says Romero. So he dreamed up and installed the digital front desk. At first, members were slightly taken aback by the interactive screen, but they adapted quickly.
“Then I had a brain wave,” Romero says. “Since people are so used to looking at screens these days, I thought we should apply that technology to all of our classes.”
The live video classes were glitchy at first, but Romero and his team ironed out the program to limit music feedback and allow instructors to interact in real time with people taking their classes online.
Tara Harris, 44, teaches a class called Crazy Healthy Fit, which is video-broadcast from Rifle. One of her students is a woman living in Florida for the winter, who takes the class every week via her home computer. Harris has been teaching at the gym for about eight years, and she’s enjoyed being part of the evolution toward a more technologically advanced fitness club.
The video system “opens the door for people who might have a hard time getting to class,” says Harris, who used to wake up at 4 in the morning to go to fitness classes when her children were young. “Now parents don’t have to go through the hassle of putting their kids in day care or waking up at crazy hours just to get their workout in.”
Connecting with instructors from other parts of the country gives residents of the Roaring Fork Valley a chance to take classes that aren’t offered here. A spinning instructor from California regularly connects with students in Rifle and Glenwood, and the Exclusive Athletic Club reciprocates by sending some of its classes to a remote town in northern California.
In addition to the 1,500-square-foot fitness class room, members also have access to a 2,100-square-foot weight room with cardio equipment, which they can access at any time of the day or night.
Erika Delgado, an 18-year-old from New Castle, has been coming to the Exclusive Athletic Club for six months. “Everyone here is really friendly, and I really like Eduardo’s Zumba class,” she says with a laugh. “My dance moves have definitely improved a bit.”
The Exclusive Athletic Club offers a variety of fitness classes, including Hula Fit, Booty Barre (a ballet-based core workout), Muay Thai martial arts, salsa dancing, Tabata and Yoga Fit. It also provides personal training sessions and wellness packages. Romero has plans to open centers in Silt and New Castle soon.
Contact Romero and his team online at exclusive-athletic-club.com.
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