Rival Fitness in Capitol Hill, a town in Seattle, Wash., has one question for its members — “Are you ready to Rival?” Since opening its doors in January, 2013, many locals have already come back, and answered, “yes.”
Jim Mahan, the owner of Rival Fitness, believes the club will be well received by the community due to its local feel and focus on customer service. According to Mahan, customer service has been exactly what big box clubs have missed when connecting with members.
“There are big box gyms with just rows and rows of equipment — that’s the extreme — and then on the other side of the spectrum, there are the CrossFit-type facilities,” said Mahan. “It seems to me that customer service is a big part of what’s missing from those two formats … people go into those facilities and just go through the motions. I wanted to create a mix of those two. Rival is the culmination of both.”
Mahan explained that as a small business owner, he has the ability to be nimble, and quickly implement changes that meet the needs of Rival’s clientele. “We don’t have a large organization with multiple layers of personnel, all with discrete tasks,” said Mahan. “As a result, I get the opportunity to interact and really get to know our members.”
During a few interactions with members, Mahan discovered that some clients were extremely frustrated when they were unable to get into a group fitness class that was full to capacity. According to Mahan, his ability to meet with members on a day-to-day basis, led to a quick and easy solution.
“In the relatively short time that we’ve been open, I’ve chatted with many members who want and need the ability to manage their workout schedule on a weekly basis,” explained Mahan. “Understanding this need, we have implemented a system whereby members can reserve their space in classes a week in advance; therefore, eliminating the frustration of not being able to get into classes that they want, as well as providing them with the level of commitment and accountability that they need, to achieve their goals.”
Mahan also believes big box facilities can’t compete with the camaraderie that comes with being located in a tight-knit community. “It’s nice to have people around you that know your name and care about your specific needs,” said Mahan. “Rival and other smaller clubs are better able to provide closer attention and care to form and safety. It’s more of a home-away-from-home atmosphere.”
Before he took a dive into the health and fitness industry, Mahan craved a similar experience. “I come from the corporate world, but had always considered making a transition into the fitness industry,” recalled Mahan. “Six years ago, I did some personal training, and through that experience, saw what I thought worked, and didn’t work, in the fitness industry.”
Mahan took the knowledge he garnered from personal training, and crafted the idea behind Rival Fitness — a place where he said members could come together and “put the fun back into fitness.”
Rival combined fun and fitness by offering a variety of interesting and unique group fitness classes, such as Indo-Row, a group fitness rowing class, and “playground-type” classes, such as “Recess!” and “Field Day.” In Recess! Rival members use monkey bars, hold races with one another, and “leave the doldrums of the office behind.” Similar, to Recess!, Field Day puts members through obstacle courses and relays, with the objective of fostering fun and friendly team competition.
“We wanted to make Rival unique and appeal to everyone,” explained Mahan. “Recess was something most of us looked forward to as kids, and it’s a great way to bring that back to the end of our hectic work weeks. In addition, it’s a great community builder.”
Although the facility just opened, Mahan believes the club will be successful. “Capitol Hill is an active and thriving community,” said Mahan. “People are interested in new things to get themselves involved, and [fitness is] a great venue. Our club is exciting because it incorporates all important aspects of fitness in a new and interesting way.”
By Rachel Zabonick