On a recent weekday afternoon, lime and cantaloupe infused waters awaited members at the entrance of Club Fit in Briarcliff, and the fruit’s colorful cheer was echoed by the motivational sayings lining the walls. “Do something your future self will thank you for,” urged one.
But while Club Fit Briarcliff certainly offers many opportunities for the individual, what sets it apart from many gyms and fitness facilities is a focus on serving the entire family. Now celebrating its 45th year, the club, and its sister location in Jefferson Valley, offers a family-friendly experience with a special focus on giving back to the community, while offering a wide range of standard and modern fitness offerings.
From areas for children that are divided by age to special times for basketball for ages 40 and up, Club Fit supplies things to do for all ages. And with a focus on offering fun, age-appropriate childcare, parents can take advantage of all the club has to offer.
“One thing we’ve really expanded in the last 15 years is our childcare,” Ellen Koelsch, an owner of the club with her brother, Bill Beck, said recently. “We have enough space to dedicate to kids under five and kids five to 12. As a working mom myself, I know you can’t just leave the 6-year-old home alone.” The space for older kids has a small basketball court, air hockey, plus video games, with a catch–they’re played standing. “They’re getting used to a fitness environment early,” Koelsch said.
Childcare manager and party coordinator Melissa Lawrence, a longtime Club Fit employee, agreed. “I’ve been here 22 years and it’s great to see these kids grow up and see them return as adults–it’s pretty cool.”
After school, some kids come to Club Fit by bus. They can unwind, then take a swim or tennis lesson and “you can get out of work, do 20 minutes of cardio and grab your kid,” Koelsch said.
At Club Fit, the fitness center is flooded with natural light; and off to the side is something a little unusual–a space reserved for women only.
The club also has nine tennis courts, physical therapy on-site, and a huge pool area with spaces for lap swimming, lessons, swim team practice and a large hot tub. Parents with little ones can utilize the zero-entry area. There’s a spin area with more than 60 seats and racquetball as well.
There are also many spaces for group exercise classes–and Club Fit keeps up with the trends, offering the types of classes often found in small boutique gyms. Currently, members can take CFX classes, which are “our version of a functional fitness class, using your own body weight,” Koelsch said. “We’re kind of blending going to a studio for small-group attention with a full-service experience with childcare. We know family is important and time is valuable, so we make that kind of class available to the community. Exercise is important–people know that, they know it has to be a part of their lives, but what’s hard is to keep it interesting.” Besides CFX, the club offers TRX classes as well as more standard classes such as Zumba, which tend to be larger. The goal is to offer smaller studio-like classes within the club. “So your ‘neighborhood’ can stay the same, but you’re always on the cutting edge of fitness,” Koelsch said.
Club representative Wendy Courtney is another of many long-term employees. “When I started with the club, Ellen was little,” Courtney said. “The club was born and raised for the community and that’s how we developed – everything here was born for this community.” The club is constantly sending surveys to members and uses the responses to direct growth and change and improvement, Courtney and Koelsch said.
“It’s great to hear the good news but we learn from the bad news. Our members are our eyes and our ears,” Courtney said. “Our membership knows we want to hear from them.”
Personal trainer Beth Kear said at Club Fit, “the owners are very involved and supportive of the staff. Anywhere you go, you’ll see it – everything, from the minute you walk in the door has that family feel–friendly, welcoming, non-intimidating. Member integration is a big priority.”
That’s why newcomers to the club are given not just a session with a trainer, but are walked through every aspect of using a club–from how to use a membership card to how to use the machines. “You should feel comfortable from when you walk in the door,” Koelsch said.
Because some people who need to start exercising are very unaccustomed to the health club environment, Club Fit has a special program called Help RX. It’s a short-term, discounted program with “a lot more hand-holding,” Koelsch said. That way, prospective members who have been told by their doctors that they need to start exercising can try the club out.
Club Fit also offers a senior discount and half off membership fees to active duty police, firefighters, EMTs and military. And if there are area power failures–well, Beck said, they’ll open their doors to those who need hot showers, as they have before.
“We’ve been in our community a very long time,” Koelsch said. “And we love giving back.”