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Fitness buffs have a new one-stop sweat shop
Bodyplex builds customer base at new Gainesville location
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Chelsea Schuster lifts weights at Bodyplex, a new fitness center on Thompson Bridge Road. - photo by Tom Reed

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Bodyplex Gainesville, 1435 Thompson Bridge Road, 770-297-0014.
For information about other Bodyplex locations in the area, go online to www.bodyplex.com.

You could hardly blame Hall County residents for being fed up with fitness centers. Over the past couple of years, several gyms have closed with little or no warning, leaving members with no place to exercise and no way to recoup their money.

But when Bodyplex Gainesville opened on Jan. 1 at 1435 Thompson Bridge Road, there was no shortage of fitness buffs who wanted to sign up.

"People in Hall had gotten a bad taste in their mouths from some of the fitness centers that have closed, but we want them to know we're not like that," said owner Jennifer Loggins. "We plan on being here for a long time."

The Gainesville center is part of the Atlanta-based Bodyplex chain, which now has 17 locations in North Georgia, including Oakwood, Buford, Dawsonville, Commerce and Cumming. Individual owners license their facilities through the company but are free to personalize their site.

The Gainesville center occupies a 25,000-square-foot space that formerly housed Oak Lover's Furniture.

"We were very excited that this place was available," said Loggins, who lives in Gainesville and has worked in the fitness industry for 15 years. "It was always my dream to have a space of my own."

The ample square footage allows her to offer a "one-stop shop" for people who are trying to get healthy. There's a section for circuit equipment and free weights, a cardio deck filled with machines for running and walking, three rooms for group classes, shower facilities, a "KidsPlex" offering supervised child care, and a "shake shop" serving protein drinks and other high-energy goodies.

Because many people regard exercise as a chore rather than an enjoyable activity, Bodyplex focuses on making the experience so pleasant that people will want to come back again and again.

"Each piece of cardio equipment has its own TV as well as an iPod dock," said Loggins. "The KidsPlex has security cameras, so parents can watch their children while they exercise. The yoga room has candles lit all the time, and soft music. The studio for high-impact cardio classes has a ‘floating floor' on springs, so it protects your knees."

The emphasis is on both fun and safety. All of the instructors and trainers have academic degrees in exercise-related fields, and each new member gets an assessment to design the workout program that's best for them.

Loggins said her center employs 15 instructors, eight personal trainers and 14 other employees who handle the front desk and child care duties.

"Our industry is not affected by the economy as much as you'd think," she said. "Our members see it as a lifestyle, not a luxury. We do have people who are unemployed and they say they can't afford a 12-month agreement, so they pay us month to month."

The monthly rate is typically $36, but there are discounts for teachers, police, senior citizens, students, and city and county employees.

Some members apparently become so devoted to Bodyplex that they'll do without other things in their lives so they can continue paying the gym fee.

"We're about to celebrate our 10th anniversary in this location, and we've had people who've been here since we opened," said Marissa Stewart, manager of the Oakwood Bodyplex.

Her center is located in the College Square shopping center off Mundy Mill Road, near Gainesville State College. "I don't think the (Thompson Bridge) location will compete with us at all," said Stewart. "They draw from the north side of the county."

A key reason people chose a fitness center, Stewart said, is that it's close to their home. She said many of the members who take the group classes are friends and neighbors, and coming to the gym is as much about socializing as it is about exercise.

"This is a gathering place for them," she said. "And a lot of mothers say they stay with us because of the free child care. Not all fitness centers offer that."

Loggins said the same sense of community is developing at Bodyplex Gainesville.

"We're signing up people every day," she said. "We're so happy about the response from Hall County."

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