Mom-and-pop Redmond gyms offer service on first-name basis

Anyone that has ever walked into their favorite restaurant or bar and been greeted on a first-name basis knows how great it feels to be part of a family. Anyone that has ever walked into their favorite restaurant or bar and been greeted on a first-name basis knows how great it feels to be part of a family. Many larger, national-chain gyms, however, operate by key card, where clients simply scan themselves into a system before beginning their workout. Very little interaction, with the gym staff is required, if at all, which may pose problems should an issue arise.

Jeff Roberts pumps some iron at Eastside Gym

Jeff Roberts pumps some iron at Eastside Gym

Anyone that has ever walked into their favorite restaurant or bar and been greeted on a first-name basis knows how great it feels to be part of a family.

Many larger, national-chain gyms, however, operate by key card, where clients simply scan themselves into a system before beginning their workout. Very little interaction, with the gym staff is required, if at all, which may pose problems should an issue arise.

For those wanting a more personalized training experience, Redmond has two independently-owned gyms that pride themselves on excellent service and making sure their customers have the best experience possible.

Though they look very different on the inside, both of these facilities have plenty to offer, regardless of one’s personal fitness goals.

RAC IT UP

The Redmond Athletic Club (RAC) is a state-of-the-art gym located on 161st Avenue across from Bella Bottega Shopping Center. Opened in the fall of 1997, the club was bought out approximately two months ago by current general manager Chris Doran and two business partners. They are in the planning stages of a $100,000 upgrade to the facility.

Fitness buffs will have a difficult time getting bored of things to do at the RAC. In addition to a wide variety of weights, cardio equipment, and the second largest cycle room of any Seattle-area gym featuring 28 bicycles, the club also offers basketball, indoor rock climbing, racquetball and over 40 group fitness classes.

“We have corporate challenges, VIP fit camps, standard kickboxing, body sculpting, yoga … you name it we have it as far as classes,” Doran said. “Our programs are geared towards active adults… shut your brain off, get in here, get your butt kicked a little bit and have fun.”

For the more adventurous, unique to RAC is what they call “Boot Camp” taught by Army Sgt. Mike Lawson. The former recon commando and all-Army basketball player combines old school gym class with real military basic training to create an experience designed to push individual limits to achieve greater success in fitness and in life.

Doran calls his club “convenient and very, very high energy” and feels that the strength of the RAC is the high level of personal attention that each member receives when they walk in the door.

“Our motto is ‘where you belong.’ Everybody that walks in here has their name known, it’s not just a scan card checking in with a computer,” said the three-year RAC manager. “We have 19 personal trainers all highly certified, members get a free week of personal training when they join, and all your classes are free. It’s just very functional.”

For families looking to exercise together but not leave the kids with a babysitter, the RAC also has a day care facility from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Grade-school children can also get in on the fun during Tot Sports, where kids ages 4-11 learn basic sports skills and have fun interacting with other children. The program runs Monday, Wednesday and Friday all summer through August.

One astounding statistic Doran noted was that out of the RAC’s 1400 active members, 83 percent of them use the gym at least twice a week, which he says is “well above the industry average.”

What is it that keeps his customers coming back?

“Honest to God … you walk in the door, and it’s ‘Hi Jane,’ ‘Hi Bob, how’s your day going?’ there’s that instant welcoming, and just knowing … they’re safe, they’re having a good time, and if they need anything at all they can ask anybody here for anything they need,” Doran said. “I want people to know about being happy, healthy and strong. I want everybody that walks in here to have that feeling.”

An EASTSIDE GEM

While RAC is in a more prominent location, chances are, unless you work in one of the business parks on 95th Avenue, you’ve never come across Eastside Gym. Located in a renovated office building, this gym won’t have the racquetball courts or the posh locker room of larger facilities, but if you want the best equipment, the most knowledgeable staff, and a tight-knit fitness family, it might be the gym for you.

Owner Lonnie Haywood has been manning Eastside Gym for the past 10 years and has been in the industry for over 20. He is committed to keeping his prices low for those that may not be able to afford other gyms. Membership rates are $199 for a one-year membership. And if you ever get the urge to lift weights at 3 a.m., the annual deal includes a key that members can use to come in and workout after-hours.

“You’re getting a low rate, and you’re not dealing with a large amount of people in the facility so you can actually get on equipment,” Haywood said. “A lot of the big athletic clubs you can’t get on because there’s so many people in there at once.”

Like RAC, Haywood feels his facility has a “first-name basis type atmosphere” and multiple lines of the newest and highest-tech equipment which he has personally hand-chosen from his experience in the fitness industry.

“We have everything. What a lot of clubs don’t have anymore is free weights… we have 8,000 pounds of them,” Haywood said. “Eastside Gym basically has everything everyone else has, at a lesser price.”

Eastside also features independent personal trainers that work one-on-one with guests to help them achieve their fitness goals. One of them is Mike Magruder, who teaches at Franklin High School in Seattle and once held national and world records in powerlifting.

“We have all walks of life, all age groups in here,” said Magruder, 58. “Our membership is about 60 percent women … we pride ourselves on being a ‘cheers’ gym where everyone knows your name.”

Members of Eastside Gym also get an opportunity that is all but impossible to find in other gyms, to work out with the owner himself.

“Most clubs will charge for it or have other personal trainers, but here a lot of times it’s just me doing it,” Haywood said. “I’m always helping people out… I offer sessions to get them going and I’m always around to help give them a spot, or answers to questions.

“Basically our goal is to get them healthy, moving and active so they can go out and enjoy the nice weather.”

Redmond Athletic Club is located at 8709 161st Ave. NE in Redmond. For more information call (425) 883-4449 or visit www.therac.net

Eastside Gym is located at 15040 NE 95th Street in Redmond. For more information call (425) 882-7764 or visit www.eastsidegym.com


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