EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


April 26, 2008

A tale of two health clubs trends: Fitness for kids, high-tech workouts


The club's "biggest loser" contest is gaining popularity, whether done in-house or in competition with other local health clubs.

"Overall, the training aspect is leaning toward group training because it's more cost effective," Scuderi said. "But group training isn't just more popular because it's cost effective. It's because of the socialization aspect, too, the friendships that develop within the group."

Some of the smaller clubs — like Curves — have carved out a niche for themselves by offering more personalized training.

In Texas, the company pioneered the computerized, personal coaching system called CurvesSmart, which finally made its way here this month.

"Out of the 10,000 Curves worldwide, there's only 1,300 that have them right now — and we're one of them," said Laura McKellar, a Bradford resident who has been co-owner of the North Andover franchise for six years.

"That's a huge trend for us. We call it 'the success coach' — a little computer attached to all of the equipment. CurvesSmart ensures that members maintain an exertion level that is safe and guarantees maximum benefit based on their heart rate, speed of movement, repetition and resistance," McKellar said.

"The clubs that have been using them have seen a 15 percent increase in inches lost," she said.

CurvesSmart provides electronic progress reports on a woman's personal training program, and also helps to improve progress of individual workouts, which involve hydraulic resistance machines that combine strength training and sustained cardiovascular activity, McKellar said.

There's a built-in incentive to inspire the women to reach for their maximum potential fitness. The box that measures the progress of a workout also takes on different colors.

"Yellow means you need to kick it up," McKellar said.

"Green means you're in you're range. If you get a blinking green, it means you overshot your range. If it blinks too much, it will move you up a level," she said.

"When you're working toward your maximum potential, it keeps you motivated. So, the green is the best. Green is where you want to be."

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