While Sheila Kalas was earning her master’s in exercise physiology she worked at a health club and was privy to a vital lesson: “I learned that to make money in the health and fitness industry, you had to be okay with people not getting healthier,” she said.
Kalas saw that many health clubs were selling tons of memberships and hoping those members didn’t use the club much, if at all. “That bothered me,” she said. “My mind just didn’t work that way. I wanted people to get better.”
As a result, after Kalas graduated she decided to open up her own fitness business with a unique philosophy centered on client success and retention. Fitness Plus in Lexington, Kentucky is the culmination of that dream.
A personal training studio, Fitness Plus is unique in that clients don’t purchase training packages up front. Instead, clients workout with their personal trainer as much or as little as they like, and receive a bill at the end of the month that’s dependent on how many sessions they received. Each session costs $55, and doesn’t have a time limit. “You’re not paying for the trainer’s time, you’re paying for their mind,” said Kalas.
According to Kalas, many fitness professionals scoffed at her payment model when it was first introduced, speculating that Kalas would never get money from clients operating that way. Twenty years later, she has proved those skeptics wrong. In fact, in those 20 years, only five clients haven’t paid their bills. “My goal has been to increase the quality of personal training and to work at changing the model and how personal training is perceived,” said Kalas. “I want to show clients I respect them and their checkbook.”
In addition to an out-of-the-norm payment model, Fitness Plus also places an emphasis on the education of its trainers. According to Kalas, possessing educated and professional trainers is an important aspect of her business. “Because we have strong trainers, we can look at a person and understand what preventative health is for that person,” she said. “Our trainers can do that.”
Education is so important to Kalas that she partnered with the Lexington Healing Arts Academy to launch a personal training certification program. Kalas developed the program and works as its director. “In my mind, personal training has become a vocation, like cutting hair,” she said. Now, fitness professionals in Lexington have a place where they learn personal training in a vocational environment.
By respecting her clients and being focused on personal training, Kalas has created a unique personal training model that has found success in its community.
“As far as personal training studios go, personal training is really all we do,” said Kalas. “We just do personal training, and we do it really well.”
By Rachel Zabonick