Free Enterprise Staff  | January 12, 2015

How a Boston Gym Chain Handles New Year’s Resolutions

If you vowed to start getting into shape come January 1, then you’re not alone. With the start of the New Year come resolutions, which often involve a renewed commitment to working out—and a new gym membership. How do health clubs, then, handle the jump in new memberships they see at the start of the year? A lot of planning, for starters.

“We do see a surge in membership at the beginning of each year,” says Tara Wislocki, the director of marketing at Healthworks. “We’re really in tune with the fact that it’s going to be busy, and we want to make the experience as positive for our members and new-joins as possible. We anticipate, and we definitely plan for it since it’s our busiest time of the year for new membership sales as well as club usage and traffic. So, we’ll have more front desk staff and more housekeeping staff, and we will add free workshops and other things to help members who are new or hadn’t been coming very frequently.”

Founded in 1977, Healthworks is a family-owned and –operated business based in Boston, Massachusetts. The regional chain of fitness centers currently has a handful of locations in and around Boston, including outposts in the city’s Back Bay neighborhood as well as Cambridge and Chestnut Hill. Its gyms are and have always been women-only, says Wislocki, who sat down with us to talk about the company and how it has managed to remain one of the most popular and innovative fitness clubs in Beantown.


Tell us about Healthworks and its history.

Well, Healthworks has been around since 1977. We now have four locations, over 15,000 members, and about 500 employees, and we also have two nonprofits. We’re a premium, women-only brand owned by the Harringtons, the same family that founded the company almost 40 years ago and has been running it ever since. We really pride ourselves on being a locally owned, community-based company and, in keeping with that, we really strive to give back to our community.


How does Healthworks give back?

In part, we do that through our two nonprofits, which are called Healthworks Community Fitness. They’re in Dorchester, which is an urban area in Boston, and they really support that community—women and children in low-income neighborhoods—by helping prevent and treat chronic diseases that can be improved with health and fitness.

We have really low dues for those clubs, and some of our members actually don’t pay anything. They can bring in an exercise prescription from their doctor, and we will give them membership to help them live a healthier lifestyle that’s affordable for them in an area where there wouldn’t normally be services like this. It’s for all ages, and actually we have so many members there that there’s a range from kids programming—like karate—to classes for senior citizens. Like Healthworks, it is a women-only club, except for the kids.

How many new members typically join at the start of the year?

There’s definitely a spike at the beginning of the year, but it’s certainly not more than half of our overall membership total. We are consistent throughout the year, and actually in September we have another spike. September is another busy time for us—even though it’s not as busy as January. Since it’s Boston, we have a lot of students, and then people who decide that the summer is over and they’re going to get into fitness routines again. With kids heading back to school, parents have a little more time and are therefore able to recommit to physical activity throughout the fall and winter.

How do you stay competitive against other gyms and boutique fitness centers, which have become increasingly trendy lately?

We are always looking out for industry trends and potential competitors. The way that we go about combatting that or thinking about how we’re going to continue to hit our goals and have positive revenue is that we’re always trying to think of how we can incorporate the latest trends and be an innovative fitness company.

Our group fitness director and corporate fitness directors have a pulse on what’s happening in the industry, so we can adapt our group fitness and personal training offerings to be the trend-setters—we never want to be behind what other companies are doing. That way, consumers come to us and see they can get the same offerings at our club as they can get at other studios.

Name some of the ways you’ve adapted your fitness classes because of a trend.

Well, for example, we adapted a number of our group classes to have a TRX in them because we noticed that suspension training was becoming a buzzword in the industry. We’ve also put ballet barres in our studios.

One of the trends that we’re focusing on now is small group training and high-intensity classes. We’ve had those on our schedule for a while, but we’re always looking for how we can change or alter them. We’re also seeing that using certain elements like Kettlebells is something that people are looking for right now.

Have you had to contend with any surprising local rules and regulations?

Since we’ve been around as a company for so long, we have a really good understanding of the market. We have locations across the metropolitan area, so we understand the different regulations that each city has. We feel like we have a good pulse on those different demographics.

Is Healthworks your only brand?

Healthworks is actually one brand within our group, so we actually do have fitness centers that are co-ed. We have two GymIt budget clubs that are co-ed, and we’re also opening a new location called Republic Fitness, which will be a co-ed, premium club in Boston’s Financial District.