Fitness: Did you hear?…

Fitcorp named "Best of Boston," German sporting goods smiles at uptick in sales, Life Fitness employees walk millions of steps for fitness, New Balance kicks up kid's sportsmanship program, and much more…
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For the week of Dec. 7-13
>> For the second year in a row, Boston Magazine has awarded Fitcorp Fitness Centers as the "Best of Boston," paying tribute to its contributions to the Boston market. Fitcorp in its 25th year operates 10 fitness centers in and around Boston, and manages 22 private corporate centers in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. It also owns and operates the Boston Racquet Club, a limited membership executive level squash and fitness club located in the heart of Boston’s financial district. The company won the award first in 2003 following a significant company expansion that saw a number of new centers added.

>> GERMANY – According to a monthly survey of sporting goods retailers in Germany, sales there turned upward sharply November, hitting an average of 8.7 percent up over last year. That still leaves the industry for the first 11 months of this year down 0.1 percent over the first 11 months of last year. For November 2004, some regions of the country did significantly better than others, hitting double-digit growth as high as 18.7 percent. The survey is done monthly by sport+mode trade news magazine and compiles answers from nearly 100 retailers from around the country.

>> Life Fitness' parent company Brunswick Corp. challenged its employees to get moving and get fit by walking 10,000 steps a day for nine weeks. The ultimate goal was for each employee to take 3 million steps -- roughly the number of strides it would take to walk the 1,190 miles that connect the 17 states where Brunswick has operating companies. Close to 1,000 five-person teams, including 350 Life Fitness employees, used pedometers supplied by Life Fitness (the LS 2500 from Walk4Life based in Plainfield, Ill.) to measure every step they took. Life Fitness' Alex Dy walked more steps than any other Life Fitness participant, placing 11th overall with 3,130,902 -- on average that's 49,696 steps a day (Man, that's about 24-25 miles a DAY!). The ultimate individual winner, though, was from all places, the bowling segment. Ted Bogumil walked 4,982,830 steps (maybe he bowled some of them too or was busy testing bowling balls) -- about 79,092 per day. The No. 1 team was from Sea Ray in Vonore, Tenn., with 13,391,337 steps, and the top Life Fitness team was from Delavan, Wis., finishing in 33rd place with 8,411,798 steps.

>> CANADA -- GoodLife Fitness Clubs' David Patchell-Evans has been inducted into the Junior Achievement's Business Hall of Fame in London, Ontario, the home of GoodLife's corporate head office. He was nominated and selected for this award by members of the London business community in recognition of his contribution and outstanding ethics in business, according to the organization. Junior Achievement is an international not-for-profit organization that provides economic and business education to students. GoodLife has 92 clubs serving over 250,000 members in Canada. It will open its 100th club in January 2005 with 50 additional facilities in the next two years.

>> New Balance is looking to launch a multi-faceted kid's sportsmanship program in January 2005. The program will include an in-school curriculum, a back-to-school retail promotion, and a contest challenging students to submit their definition of sportsman-like habits. Throughout the New Balance Sportsmanship program, students will learn habits of good sportsmanship as defined by Darrell Burnett, author of the article, "Teaching Youngsters How to Be Good Sports." Burnett's 10 habits of a "good sport" are: I play by the rules of the game; I never fight; I am a team player; I give everyone a chance to play; I always play fair, I never cheat; I listen to the coach; I am nice to the other team; I encourage and support my teammates; I respect the decisions of the referee or umpire; Win or lose -- I play it cool at the end of the game. New Balance will launch a contest challenging students to define an 11th habit and give reasons to support its inclusion. Entries will be accepted January to August 2005, and the 40 winners will receive a cruise. New Balance's Sportsmanship Initiative will include in-school curriculum including teacher-led classroom activities and student-geared newsletters that address concepts such as fairness, encouragement and respect. In a back-to-school promotion, consumers who buy a pair of New Balance kids shoes at participating retailers will receive an issue of Sports Illustrated for Kids that will include information about sportsmanship, fair play and the New Balance Sportsmanship Award. To highlight the initiative, New Balance has created a specific New Balance Sportsmanship Award logo that will appear on all collateral with the tag line "Good game. Good fun. Good friends." New Balance also plans to integrate the sportsmanship program into other existing sponsorships.

>> UNITED KINGDOM -- 2004 has been a good year financially for the UK's LA Fitness -- a year in which it is proposing a "lose the weight or get your money back" guarantee. On the financial side, LA Fitness' 66 clubs posted total sales up 20 percent for the year to GBP 79.6 million (USD $153.2 million) -- about USD $2.3 million per club -- with same-store sales up 4 percent. Total membership topped 200,000 (3,030 per club), and non-dues revenue, which represents 10.2 percent of total revenue, rose by 11percent. The potential new source of income for the company is a weight loss center concept to launch in Bedford, described by CEO Fred Turok as "Weight Watchers meets LA Fitness." The smaller centers will be designed to entice customers who might feel ill at ease in the intimidating atmosphere of a more traditional gym. Members will sign up for short courses costing about GBP 125 (USD $240) for 12 weeks, rather than paying annual subscriptions, and offered workout classes, nutritional advice and a money-back guarantee if they do not lose weight. Turok said the concept was designed to appeal to the 30 percent of gym members who quit within their first month because "they don't know how to use the equipment." If successful, the concept will be rolled out across the UK. The centers will cost between GBP 75,000 (USD $144,368) to GBP 150,000 (USD $288,735) to develop -- a fraction of the GBP 1.75m (USD $3.4 million) it costs to equip a new gym. The chain opened four new gyms this year and said it can "comfortably open between six and eight clubs each year from operating cash flow."

>> A fitness equipment supplier has become one of the first companies in Turkey to enter the facility management business. Center Dis Ticaret ve Pazarlama, a supplier of Nautilus equipment, recently signed a contract to manage a corporate health club. Located in the headquarters of IBM in Istanbul, the facility includes a 200-square-meter (2,150-square-foot) gym, aerobics studio and café/bar. The gym has been equipped with Nautilus equipment and currently has 73 members, but the aim is to attract 30 percent to 40 percent of the 300 employees.

>> UNITED KINGDOM -- According to a study by Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, many British parents are failing to recognize obesity in their children. Researchers surveyed the parents of 227 children and found that only a quarter could see that their offspring were overweight. More than half of the fathers and one in three of the mothers insisted their children were "about right," when they were actually classified as obese. However, misjudging weight problems was not confined to their children. The researchers found that 40 percent of mothers and 45 percent of fathers who were overweight themselves, also judged their own weight also to be "about right." SNEWS® View: The researchers didn't ask the parents to define "about right." Maybe they like 'em a bit pudgy and round-cheeked.

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