No Surprise; It’s Been Closing For Years Now

Until yesterday, I worked at two health clubs. One of them is a large club, with thousands of members. One of them is a small club, with–nowadays–only a couple hundred members. I wrote a little bit about the differences a while back.

I put in nearly fourteen (!!!) years at the small club. I worked in several different departments there. The club has had a colorful history, and I’ve always said that if I were the type of writer who wanted to write a great work of fiction, (I’m not) I would use some of the many stories from this club as a springboard. Believe me, they’re there. I’ve seen it all (almost) at this club. I’ve got stories that would make you smile, cry, and shriek. On second thought, I won’t totally eliminate the idea of a health club novel from my life’s plan, I guess. It might be fun.

The club started out as a very elite sort of place. It was the only “real” health club in town; it was built before all of the super-clubs and other chains laid claim to my slice of suburbia. Our dues were on the high side, but the club experience matched it. The employees knew all of the members’ names, and the trainers and instructors were SUPERB. It was highly professional, and just a great place to be. All of the employees hung out together, and it really was like a family. Back then our membership numbers were booming. Over time (and I have to cut a lot of details out here because I would probably bore you to death, and, well, nobody wants that), the super-clubs moved in, our management changed over (and then again!), and membership numbers started to drop. Employees started to leave. Things started going downhill quickly. This made me sad. But I stayed. I’m loyal like that. I felt like I (and the few other OG employees) could really make a difference, and pull our club up by its bootstraps. I remember those of us who stuck around had regular conversations about the changes we needed to make, and declaring that “we’ll be another one of those great success stories!”

But the last two management companies didn’t listen, and didn’t care. It wasn’t to be.

Over the past two years specifically, it’s been really hard for me to believe that the club is still even open. There are only two of us OG employees left (well, I guess now there is only one!), just me and another instructor who has been a great mentor–and friend–to me. We decided amongst ourselves that we would hang onto this sinking ship for dear life; after all, we were getting paid to exercise. Why give that up? We decided to stay for the few members who wanted us there. But it’s been getting harder and harder.

In our heyday, we had to have two people working at the front desk because one was checking members in and handing out towels and locker keys and the other one was ringing up vast amounts of retail. Nowadays, club members swipe their card in the front door to get into the club and then walk past the mostly unmanned front desk to the locker room, where they get their own towel and grab one of the lockers which is available, denoted by a key in the lock.

In our heyday, we had a booming nursery. Nowadays, the nursery is a yoga studio. Got kids? Better make other arrangements for them.

In our heyday, our group fitness studio was packed. To the gills. (If a studio had gills, that is.) It was not unheard of for a class number–now and then–to hit 40-50 people. Nowadays, a “big” class is five. People. Just five. That’s huge, these days.

Although I expected that one of my two classes would be cut, I didn’t expect it to be my weekend spin class when it happened in May. My numbers, though small in reality, were big for the current state of the club. (That is, I had four to five people, sometimes reaching EIGHT, on any given Saturday)

I ended up with one sad and sorry class, my Wednesday morning resistance class. I took the class over last summer, when my good friend had some knee surgery and couldn’t teach it. She never took it back. She has also always taught a spin class in the slot before mine. The ladies who did the spin with her, though they are friendly to me, never stayed for my class like they used to when my friend taught both. It was hard to take at first but after a bit, it didn’t bother me anymore. I built up a teeny, tiny following. For a while. Then the bottom dropped out and over the last couple of months I’ve had no more than two people in there, and often I’ve had nobody show up at all. But still, I stayed. I got paid whether anyone came or not, and I would have been dumb to quit. I knew they’d cut the class eventually.

So it was no surprise when I got the call yesterday. I was told that, effective immediately, I was not on the schedule anymore but they’d like for me to sub when possible.

The news was a little bittersweet, but a relief at the same time. The bittersweet comes in because I have never worked anywhere for longer. I have some wonderful memories of the first eight or nine years. I made some great friends there. I learned alot about lots of different things there. It was the club where I taught my first class. It was the club where my kids used to go to work with me.

I was relieved, though. Mentally, it’s really tough to get psyched up to go teach when you know it’s highly possible that nobody will be there, or, worse, there will be Just. One. Person. Ugh. Those days were tough. I was also happy to let one part of my busy life drop off of my personal schedule. It IS for the best, after all. I always said that I would hang out there until I was told I couldn’t anymore, and that has happened.

So, I’m fine. Really. And although that door has been closing for ages, I’m ready to see where another door might open.

21 Comments

  • NYC Girl

    I'd love to read a book of health clubs stories…i'm such you have some good stuff in those stories.

    Enjoy the free time and be proud of your loyalty you did what you said you would so its a WIN WIN for you.

  • Dea

    I agree with your sister – more writing time! 😀

    And it's so sad about that club….it WAS such a great place. 🙁 My mother is seriously just hanging on till it closes, then she's packing it in and buying more equipment for her house…at least, that's what she says 😉

  • Tara R.

    Think of all the time you can now devote to Suburban WoW. I know how hard it is to leave a job like that. I hope your new door opens soon.

  • Michelle

    So sad… at least you weren't taken totally by surprise though. And I DEFINITELY want that drinks and dinner treat. 🙂 We'll figure out something soon?

  • Melissa

    What a great way to look at something that might not seem so great but has the possibility to be even better than you hoped for.

    Like Jules said, more time for your book!! 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Yes, another door or two or three will open for you. You are an outstanding person and life has many thing in store for you.

    I know it is hard but keep your chin up and know people who love you will be there for you.

    As Jules says now more room for your book writing.

    When life gives you lemons you need to make lemonade.

    Love
    Grandma W

  • WeaselMomma

    On a positive note, you no longer have to wonder about when this was going to happen. You knew it was coming and now it has. Yeah, it is bittersweet.

  • Baby News

    That sucks. Sometimes, I think, you have to be pushed to give something up that you once loved. I think that about a lot of things, though.

  • PJ Mullen

    Definitely sad to see the place close, sounds like you have a lot of fun memories there. But I love your attitude about how another door will open and I'm sure it will for you.

  • Sue

    I think I would like a job where I still got paid if noone showed up. No wonder you are so sad! (just kidding)

    Jules is a smart one, more time for the writing. Just sit on an exercise ball while you are typing away….

  • Tom

    That stinks. I've been in similar situations, working hard, trying to make positive changes and keep service superior for the customer… and then management changes and takes the whole thing down the toilet. What can you do. Hang in there – and look for those new opportunities.

  • The Devoted Dad

    It is so hard to see a chapter close, but in your book of life this last chapter just led up to the next one, and I canyou'd your book being filled with many climaxes. It continues to be a fun read and I can't wait to read the real book! -Jason

  • The Devoted Dad

    Error with the last post. It was suppose to say "and I can see your book being filled with many climaxes"- sorry Melisa, it was lost in translation thanks to the iphone spell checker. -Jason

  • Mr. Man

    That does kinda suck, but you have so many other talents. Maybe this will free you up for the break out moment in your life.

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