New year, new you: Los Banos gyms rise in membership

By Thaddeus Miller / tmiller@losbanosenterprise.comJanuary 10, 2013 

Some local gyms are reporting a boon in new membership in the first week of the year, and officials attribute the rise to new year's resolutions.

Gabbi Mendieta, 33, of Los Banos pedaled a stationary bike Monday in an effort to get a jump on her resolution. She said she joined In-Shape City about a month ago.

"(It was) just to look good, I guess," she said.

The list of popular resolutions can include health-related changes like weight loss, body sculpting or an increase in one's overall well-being. Those resolutions can pay off for fitness clubs too.

"January always increases membership sales for us," said Tonyia Broderick, manager of Los Banos Fitness & Racquet Club.

The end-of-the-year holidays are good for the gym business, she said, because some will try to prepare for the new year and others will give a membership as a holiday gift.

Broderick estimated less than half of the new members will stick around long-term, though, but "everybody starts out with the right idea," she said.

Broderick, who described her gym as family-oriented, said the club will periodically change what it offers to keep its members around longer.

Obesity is an issue across the country, including Merced County. A 2010 study found 34.3 percent of Merced County residents are obese, making it the second-highest rate of obesity in the state, topped only by Imperial County.

A 2012 study found 44.5 percent of children in Los Banos are obese or overweight. That's 52nd highest out of 250 cities.

Donna Mendes' Positive Changes instructor Grace Clarke said her facility has not seen an uptick in new membership. Positive Changes caters to a specific demographic, as only women are allowed. The facility's limited hours, Clarke said, tend to attract women who don't work or are retired.

New memberships around the new year have declined in the last five years, Clarke said.

"It's hard to pinpoint if it's the economy or people don't want to exercise," she said.

At the same time, Clarke said, the size of the club is what many of her clients want. In past years, members who joined after a resolution didn't stick around, she said.

In-Shape City General Manager Ed Manriquez said that despite the cutbacks families make in a struggling economy, his gym does well in the first quarter of the year.

"We haven't really seen (the economy) hurt us too badly," Manriquez said. "People are starting to realize it's not a luxury."

The traffic is up in 2013's first two weeks, he said. Manriquez's club is also running a promotion that allows guests to use the facility during National Football League playoff games for free, as long as they sign a waiver.

David Hernandez of Los Banos, who curled dumbbells Tuesday morning, isn't new to the gym but he has a health-related resolution nonetheless. The 21-year-old volunteer firefighter wants to be ready to join the department full-time.

"I want to stay at the same body weight," Hernandez said, "but get a huge increase in strength."

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanosenterprise.com.

Enterprise reporter Thaddeus Miller can be reached at (209) 388-6562 or by email at tmiller@losbanos enterprise.com.

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