WNiF publisher Craig Mac chats with Warrnambool 24/7 Gym & Fitness owner Stuart Roe about the decision to install a simulated altitude training room into his facility and 12 months on, whether it was worth the investment?
Warrnambool is a regional centre and former port city on the south-western coast of Victoria with a population of approximately 35,000. Warrnambool 24/7 Gym & Fitness is located just off the Princes Highway on the outskirts of the town centre.
Facilities include a large cardio, strength and conditioning area, separate ladies only gym, 4 group training studios, dedicated functional training space and a timetable with over 40 classes per week including HIIT, Gold Club (over 60’s), boxing, Pilates floor and Pilates reformer classes.
A competitive community, there are up to 12 fitness facilities within a 5km radius, including Council run, mainstream 24 hour gyms, boxing, boutique and personal training studios. The gym is closing in on the 1000 member mark.
WNiF: Purchasing any new equipment for your business is a decision never taken lightly. What were the contributing factors in deciding to move ahead with the purchase and installation of the altitude training room?
SR: When the altitude room was suggested to me, I was looking for a training facility or equipment that would give us a point of difference, maximise the use of the space we had, attract new members and increase the value of existing members.
The altitude room has ticked all those boxes and has proven to be much more than I had imagined, a real game changer.
I also have to admit that myself and my wife Katie enjoy our training and saw it as an opportunity to get super fit ourselves, so at worst it would make an expensive toy, ha ha!
WNiF: In your opinion, is there a misunderstanding between altitude training and those who it should appeal to, or be used by?
SR: Yes, people in general believe that altitude training is more for athletes, when I would say that the benefits are just as great if not greater for the average person in the street. The other misconception that people have is that you have to be fit to train in the altitude room, where here at Warrnambool 24/7 Gym & Fitness we promote the room as the ultimate starting point for your weight loss health and fitness journey, it’s common sense, just go at your own pace when first starting.
WNiF: Your altitude room is a supplementary service you offer in your gym. How did you market the extra cost to your existing members, how was it received and what percentage signed up?
SR: We simply offered a membership upgrade according to their preferred use of the room. The Altitude membership options range from ‘unlimited’ classes or just per class, to PT or individual sessions. We also run 4-week boot camps, so it’s very flexible.
We emphasise that combining altitude training with your current training can increase results.
Uptake from our initial group was quick and met with excitement. We then had a bit of a lull, which then followed with a steady rate of upgrades due to the results from those members using the altitude room. After 12 months, 20% of our members have upgraded to an Altitude membership. We also have revenue from local sporting groups who use the room on a casual basis.
WNiF: Do you run structured classes in your altitude training room?
SR: Not as such, we plan our classes based on high intensity interval training and they have proven to be very popular, especially with the great results the members are getting in a much shorter period of time, compared to training at sea level.
WNiF: Do you see your altitude training room as a membership retention protocol?
SR: I think the altitude room demonstrates to our members that we are actively improving the gym by investing in such a high quality training solution.
We have a point of difference, demonstrating extreme confidence in the gym’s future.
That all goes well in boosting their confidence and decision to be a member with us, which undoubtedly helps us retain our members.
WNiF: How many ‘new members’ take up the use of the altitude training room?
SR: It seems to be consistent with that figure of around 20%.
WNiF: Your altitude training room installation was by Australian company XTREME International. Did they play a role in how to best utilise the space?
SR: I relied on Xtreme International for their advice and expertise with the engineering side of the room and the room has proved to be very efficient and reliable. Xtreme International have been great with support. In terms of setting up the functional equipment, I used my own ideas developed from training programs used prior to installing the room.
WNiF: What was the financial commitment for the installation of the altitude training room and would you say it was a worthwhile investment?
SR: Without saying straight out what the costs were, I will say from a business prospective it will have paid for itself in two years. So yes, I’m very happy with the decision to introduce altitude training and the work and effort from the our team have made it a worthwhile investment.
Obviously, return on investment will vary from gym to gym, based on their current membership, surrounding population and how active the operator is prepared to be in promoting the room.
WNiF: What are your approximate running costs of your altitude room?
SR: The costs I allocate, which consist of servicing, power and depreciation or future replacement of equipment comes it around $150 per week.
WNiF: Would you recommend other gym or studio owners to consider the introduction of an altitude training room to their business?
SR: I definitely would, but like any major business decision, it pays to do your homework. Talk to other business owners who have invested in altitude training and work out a marketing strategy that would suit your customer base.