June 2022 Club of the Month, presented by ABC Fitness Solutions:
Rainier Health & Fitness, est. 2005
Rainier Health & Fitness is all about making fitness accessible and inclusive. Based in South Seattle, Washington, the non-profit’s goal is to help anyone reach their goals, no matter their background.
Here, Alicia Haskins, the director of Rainier Health & Fitness, talks about the club’s unique mission, how technology supports that mission, tips for creating a welcoming environment, and more.
Tell me a little bit about the mission of Rainier Health & Fitness and why it was founded:
Rainier Health & Fitness is a non-profit health organization creating a meaningful difference in the South Seattle community by making exercise fun, accessible and affordable to our neighborhood, which didn’t have any fitness centers when we were founded in 2005. Our mission is to encourage healthy lifestyles, strong bodies and authentic community through an accessible, high-quality fitness center.
Our vision is to be a model of the healthiest neighborhood, a place where reconciliation is facilitated as barriers between people are diminished through exercise. We’re dedicated to providing access to a high-quality, affordable fitness center that’s especially welcoming to the most vulnerable of our society. Rainier Health & Fitness is a program of Seattle’s Urban Impact and specifically contributes to the non-profit’s bigger vision of undoing the cycle of poverty by addressing health disparities.
What role does technology play in helping you focus on your mission to make exercise fun, affordable and accessible?
Technology in its multiple forms — our custom Rainier Health & Fitness app, Technogym machines with the most up to date technology, etc. — allows us to connect directly to members through personalized messaging within the app and provide at-home workouts for members to stay connected to us — even if they can’t physically come to the gym. It also allows us to be competitive with other fitness centers that have moved into the neighborhood recently. We are able to express who we are, what our mission is and how we are different from the “traditional gym” — and also share members’ stories as inspiration for other members or prospective members who can relate to them.
Members from our community have access to high-quality equipment for a low cost compared to many other “high-end” exclusive clubs or fitness centers, and our staff are able to individually spend time with them to ensure they are comfortable using all of the machines.
Part of your story references that gyms can be intimidating to inexperienced individuals. How does Rainier Health & Fitness create a judgment-free atmosphere and help newcomers feel comfortable?
Our staff and volunteers are the biggest component to creating this welcoming environment. The majority of them are from the community originally, they all live within the South Seattle neighborhood currently, and care deeply about our community and building relationships with members. We’ve also made intentional decisions about the types of machines we have. Having very few mirrors in the facility, posting pictures of our members and community on one of the main walls of the gym, and other small things help maintain an inclusive environment for everyone to feel welcome.
What is next for Rainier Health and Fitness?
We just recently completed a covered outdoor exercise platform with lights, heat and curtains to block some of the wind, and a sound system, which was constructed during the COVID pandemic as a way to provide a safe place for our members to continue to move and stay healthy when it wasn’t safe or allowed to do so indoors. We are excited to continue to utilize this space, specifically for children and youth exercise programs as the summer months approach. We are also in the process of renovating another building on our property to provide a space exclusively for members wanting to focus on weightlifting and powerlifting. We plan to continue to partner with other organizations within the neighborhood in efforts to provide a holistic health approach to the wellness of our community.
If you could give one piece of advice to other gym operators, what would it be?
Be willing to take risks and try new things. If a program within your gym isn’t working out don’t just keep doing it because that’s the easiest way forward. Step out into the unknown and try a different method and see if it changes anything. Make sure to track metrics as well. This helps so much to know what is working and keep your whole team on the same page with the vision, mission and goals you’ve set. Something will stick and the whole community will benefit.
Created in partnership with ABC Fitness Solutions. Visit abcfitness.com for more information on how they can help your fitness business.