WAUKESHA – The journey to a healthier you can begin through many new doors in the city in 2020.
As Jan. 1 rolls around, it’s not unusual to see local gyms filled with patrons carrying out New Year’s resolutions, but seldom in Waukesha’s history has there been so many new places to make it all possible.
Fitness hopefuls who made a promise to themselves have a notably denser concentrations of gyms in the city. With the opening of Planet Fitness on Dec. 5, three fitness facilities, all much larger than the strip-mall variety, were ready to capture the crowds, though each caters to a slightly different target audience.
Amber Crider, club manager of the Waukesha Planet Fitness at Main Street and Manhattan Drive near Woodman’s Food Market, has already seen an influx of new members and expects to see more in the new year.
“We had a lot of people inquiring about the flyers going out (by mail in October and November). We’ve really had good feedback,” Crider said, acknowledging that she wasn’t at liberty to specify how many have signed up for the new 20,000-square-foot center.
Based on her four years of experience with Planet Fitness, including a similarly sized location in Springfield, Illinois, she said the franchised chain does tend to draw others who are either dissatisfied with their current fitness centers or simply want to try a new facility.
“We had a ton of members (in Springfield),” Crider said. “They considered building a second location there. We had competitors — like the Fit Club, which is really comparable to Xperience (Fitness). We had Anytime Fitness and a handful of mom-and-pop, privately owned kind of gyms. And we did really well.”
Planet Fitness may be the latest to open its doors in 2019, but it isn’t alone as the new year begins.
MetroFlex, which opened in October, also has been drawing patrons from existing gyms, seeking out those looking for a more focused gym experience.
“It’s for people who want to just come in and train, not watch TV, not chat, but they’re focused on their goals,” owner Jake Perkins said in a previous interview.
Total Flex Gym, which converted long-vacant space in the former Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles building on West Avenue south of Newhall Avenue, opened quietly, allowing word-of-mouth publicity and social media posts to promote its open-gym format.
Though it tends to draw some advanced-fitness enthusiasts, the gym markets itself toward the beginner, as well.
“We welcome any and everyone who is serious about working out, offering an open gym concept,” the gym said on its Facebook page.
The additions are still outnumbered by the incumbent fitness centers, including one that fills part of a big-box discount department store that was redeveloped in the past decade.
Xperience Fitness, which occupies the western end of the old Kmart at East Avenue and Sunset Drive, celebrated its fourth anniversary in that location this fall. (Xperience technically took over the Cardinal Fitness location further West on Sunset before that time and operated there.)
Like Planet Fitness, it’s a large-format gym — about 35,000 square feet of space — that offers an extraordinary amount of aerobic and weight machines, plus specialized fitness classes at an additional cost. It also houses a salt-water pool and a sizable free-weight area.
Xperience Fitness corporate offices did not respond to a request for additional information.
ProHealth Westwood Health and Fitness Center, another large-format gym, is the only one associated with the medical facility.
The city is also home to two CrossFit facilities, which cater toward more intense and competitive workout: CrossFit 262 on Paramount Drive north of Main Street and Crossfit Waukesha on Travis Lane off Les Paul Parkway.
Anytime Fitness, a smaller-format fitness center that helped introduce the 24-hour gym concept to Waukesha, also has two locations: on Meadowbrook Road north of Summit Avenue and in the Westbrook Shopping Center off Springdale Road and Moreland Boulevard.
Then there is the venerable Waukesha YMCA, a landmark on East Broadway for generations. While its aerobic and weight-lifting areas are limited in comparison to its for-profit counterparts, the YMCA boasts a basketball gym and recreational swimming pool.
Plus, recent enhancements by its parent organization, the YMCA of Greater Waukesha County, has extended fitness opportunities for members of the city’s oldest fitness facility, albeit at branch locations elsewhere, including its New Berlin Wellness Center and its speciality services for older adults.
Collectively, these fitness centers represent a far cry from Waukesha’s gym scene as recently as two decades ago, when the YMCA was challenged almost solely by the Wisconsin Athletic Club.
But, if recent examples are taken into consideration, there are perhaps limits to how much fitness Waukesha can take.
In 2018, Gold’s Gym ended a 10-year run in Waukesha, sending loyal users, their ranks thinned by other gyms such as Xperience Fitness, looking for alternative venues.
Some time earlier, the Wisconsin Athletic Club closed its Waukesha location off Manhattan Drive and Moreland Boulevard before opening a Brookfield branch.
Some gym users, loyal to their venues, prefer not to be quoted on their choices. Privately, however, several expressed concerns about their current gyms, with one longtime patron at Xperience acknowledging he is also joining MetroFlex to begin a more focused regimen of weight lifting.
Others acknowledge they’re not sure whether all the gyms will stay fit in a competitive environment.
But, even during the planning stages last spring, officials for Planet Fitness said Waukesha offers plenty of opportunities for gym operators catering to different users.
Of which there will be many in January.