American Fitness Magazine
January/February 2010 Issue
Smart Workout - Innovative programs and personal attention make the difference
"Everybody was trying to throw a more original party than the next (person), and I decided to have a fitness party," said Platt. With the trainers hired from a local gym the guests switched exercise stations every 30 minutes. "The group would break up into smaller groups," she explained. "Everyone sort of mixed and mingles and had a wonderful time. There was a lot of laughing, and a lot of personal attention." Platt said a light bulb went on during her party when she thought the concept of small group workouts might be a great niche to explore within the fitness industry.
Platt did not have a fitness background and was working for a major law firm when ruminating over the possibility of opening a gym. While she frequently visited some of the most popular New York City gyms, Platt said she never felt compfortable while she was working out. She did not like the impersonal, large group classes. "It's very anonymous. I'm a stranger in a big crowd," she said.
As a result of these experiences, Platt did her research, left the law firm and formed Smart Workout in January 2007, in New York City. In addition to offering private fitness parties, prenatal and children's fitness programs, Smart Workout boasts a general program that includes 140, 45-minute classes per week with 30 types of classes that range from Spinning™, belly dancing, kickboxing, trampoline and Zumba™, to original creations like "Ballet Burn" and "Cheerleader Workout." Pilates Reformer classes, a perk that usually costs extra at most gyms, are also available to all members. In addition, all Smart Workout classes are limited to a maximum of five people. So, members get more attention from "fitness assistants"that are not only nationally certified in group fitness and personaly training, but also certified by Platt herself after they undergo a rigorous Smart Workout training program. "We have very strict standards," said Platt. "Only 50 percent of the people who start the program get through the program."
Three times a year six qualified candidates begin the Smart Workout fitness certification program. The first step is 20 Pilates Reformer classes followed by a reading assignment from an anatomy textbook and anatomy exam. "It's very long and detailed. There's no way to fudge it,"said Sandi Partyka, a fitness assistant who has created classes like the "Cheerleader Workout." The candidates are required to take 46 hours of training, a practical exam for Pilates Reformer, an apprenticeship to develop customer service and professionalism, and finally, a three-hour written exam. "It they're late once, they're out," Platt stated. "The material is so demanding." The result is fitness assistants who are schooled in all aspects of Smart Workout small-group classes and procedures, who are also certified in one-on-one personal training.
Members can partake in the benefits of personal training with intimate class settings and a customer service system that encourages accountability. "Everybody gets to know each other, everybody knows your name. Someone's going to notice if you're not there. You have a sort of oblication to come, and if you're not going to come, you have to say those words," said Platt. Fitness assistants call members 48 hours before class to remind them. All members are asked to let the assistans know if they will not be in class so another person can fill the space, a practice that consequently puts pressure on members to stick to their commitments. Platt jokingly calls it the "guilt and nagging" method. "It's the idea that somebody really knows and really cares if you're going to come or not," she said. Many members find the reminder calls helpful. "We have a lot of members that are super busy at work, so they need that call," Partyka said, noting that it helps when the calls come from those who teach the classes. "You go to a big corporate style gym, they have specific people for membership and specific people to teach classes. We actually encompass all of it," said Partyka, adding that Platt emphasizes the importance of personal, specialized attention for each member.
Platt not only wants members to fell like they are individually known and cared about, but she also wants them to feel at home in the Smart Workout sym. The gym has a comfortable, studio-apartment-like feel with couches and personal areas to change and shower. The gym provides clean towels, hair ties and free tea during the winter to members, as well as snacks and beverages for purchase. The atmosphere invites members to stay well beyond the end of their workouts. "They sit on the couch, they have some tea. That's what we encourage," Platt said. "I wanted (to create) a sense of camaraderie. It's a real comfortable place to be. We put the club back in sports club."
Katie O'Connell is a recent graduate of Rutgers University. Formerly with North Jersey Media Group, she now freelances and works primarily in magazine publishing. Also a born-again runner and fitness buff, O'Connell has signed up to compete in a handful of 5K races with the ultimate goal of one day running the New York City Marathon.
published in American Fitness Magazine January/February 2010 Issue