CENTRAL OKANAGAN - Newcomers to the Okanagan, once they get past the wineries and beaches, often remark on the fitness culture here and how everyone seems to be doing some kind of workout.
That’s reflected in the many gyms that serve the Central Okanagan, from huge commercial facilities with lots of equipment to small boutique gyms that cater to specific types of fitness. Between them, they offer a dizzying array of spin classes, Pilates, dance, yoga, CrossFit, TRX, boot camp, MMA, cardio and weight lifting.
With Steve Nash Fitness Clubs recently announcing it will be opening a 20,000-square-foot gym plus a 7,000-square-foot UFC mixed martial arts facility, as well as the soon-to-be-opened Get Air Kelowna, a new trampoline park and gym, the burgeoning supply of fitness outlets in the Central Okanagan continues to grow.
It also adds uncertainty as to how many gyms are too much, in a retail sector that is known for its volatility.
But Peter Jaklic, owner of CrossFit Glenmore, says he doesn’t give the big commercial gyms like Steve Nash much thought in his marketing plans.
“I’m much more focused on what the other CrossFit gyms are doing. Those big gyms don’t offer the same kind of experience as we offer. They draw a different crowd.”
Jaklic has worked at franchise gyms before and says their primary draw is cheap, convenient fitness for people who don’t want to wait in line for a treadmill or a weight machine.
“They’ve got their headphones on and they don’t want to be disturbed,” he adds. “Then there’s the people who want feedback, who need more direct coaching, who need to be pushed a little and like the group motivation. They don’t usually last long at those places."
Boutique gyms such as his own are more likely to draw someone who’s already been through a big gym membership or two and found they wanted more out of the experience.
“You will never get the sense of community that you will get out of a place like this, the shared experience and, sometimes, the shared suffering,” Jaklic says of the notoriously difficult CrossFit workouts.
It doesn’t hurt the entire gym membership are regularly invited to movie nights, parties and other social gatherings.
“You make friends in smaller gyms like you rarely do elsewhere."
Jaklic says he’s not sure if Kelowna has reached a saturation point for fitness facilities but feels it will ulltimately do him more good than harm by delivering more unsatisfied customers from the big gyms into his downtown location.
Stacy Zeman, owner of New Wave Fitness, is a lot more certain and says the big box gyms in Kelowna like Global, World and Goodlife are chasing the same piece of the fitness pie and not all of them will necessarily survive.
“Some of us little guys have been talking about it,” Zeman says. “I don’t think there’s room for so many big facilities in Kelowna. I don’t know if we have the population to support another Steve Nash-sized gym, although that doesn’t mean it’s the one that will go under. ”
Her 2,000-square-foot downtown gym also caters to a boutique crowd interested in small classes and an emphasis on the personal touch.
“People who go to those big gyms are self-motivated and they want to work out on their own, they don’t want to work out in a group environment, which is all right, but it’s not what we’re about."
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