An alternative to franchised fitness clubs, PACE provides equipment, training and support to individuals seeking to own and operate circuit training programs without the fees and restrictions of a franchise.
Rande LaDue is owner of Hydraulic Fitness Products, the worldwide exclusive distributor for the PACE and Kids PACE Express Circuit Training programs. PACE, originally called Hydra Fitness and dating back to the 1970’s, is the world’s first hydraulic exercise equipment. Some fitness franchises have used PACE equipment (the first Curves club in Harlingen, TX used PACE equipment) over the years, but PACE also provides equipment, training & support to those seeking to open or maintain independent, non-franchised clubs.
As the recession has created increased pressure on club owners, Rande is seeing increased interest from people wanting to open independent fitness programs in markets that could not support franchised express fitness clubs like Curves. For information and pricing on PACE and PACE for Kids, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
FranBest: Tell us about Hydraulic Fitness Products? How long have you been in business?
Rande: I’ve been in the fitness industry 30 years opening my first health club in Upstate New York in 1980. I started selling PACE equipment in the early 90’s when I was hired by Henley Healthcare (the medical company that bought Hydra Fitness) to head up its fitness division. I started distributing PACE myself about 10 years ago as Henley got out of the fitness business.
FranBest: What types of customers does Hydraulic Fitness Products serve? At what point do they begin working with you?
Rande: Over the years, we have sold PACE to thousands of facilities ranging from women’s clubs, coed clubs, weight loss centers, senior facilities, schools, colleges, physical therapy/rehab centers, community centers, the US military, and even professional sports teams. PACE was originally marketed to larger coed clubs as a means of attracting those people who were too intimidated to join (seniors, women, the overweight, etc.) and as a fun, new program for existing members.
The very first Curves club based in Harlingen, TX had our PACE equipment. As the Curves phenomena grew in the late 90’s, our market shifted to independent mom & pop startups who wanted to open a small studio but did not want to get locked into a franchise. There are many happy people out there who did their homework before jumping into a franchise and saw that not only did we offer superior quality adjustable equipment, but we provided the marketing and training tools necessary to be successful without any franchise fees. As Curves saturated the country, more coed clubs added our program as a means of competing against them. Since we are not a franchise, our customers were free to add additional profit centers, services or equipment to offer their members much more than the competition.
FranBest: Explain the nature of the Pace Fitness Equipment product line. How does hydraulic equipment differ from typical exercise machines?
Rande: Hydraulic resistance basically accommodates to the effort of the user; the faster/harder one pushes, the more resistance they encounter. PACE hydraulic machines provide concentric only resistance; there is no eccentric (or negative) resistance which allows each hydraulic machine to work opposing muscle groups in a “double-positive” fashion. The fact that there is no “fixed load” with hydraulic resistance allows for safe “fast anaerobic” exercising.
Note that every weight stack company recommends to use their equipment in a “smooth, controlled manner” while we recommend to use our machines as quickly as you can at your own “pace”. This type of fast exercising cannot be done safely with typical weight stack machines; you will either tear a muscle if the weight is too heavy or if it is too light, you will be throwing the weight in the air and catching it on the way down. Hydraulic resistance provides a combination of a safe muscle toning workout with a high calorie burn cardiovascular workout in a time efficient 30 minute program.
How does Pace Hydraulic Fitness Equipment differ from other hydraulic machines? What are the advantages to the fitness club member? How about to the owner?
Rande: What sets PACE equipment apart from its franchise competition is the fact that our hydraulic cylinders are adjustable and feature a dial that controls the amount of hydraulic fluid to be able to increase or decrease the resistance as needed. This allows our equipment to accommodate a wide range of fitness levels at the same time and also prevents members from hitting a plateau. These are huge advantages to the club owner as well as their members.
Member retention is one of the biggest problems club owners face. If a member hits a plateau and has stopped enjoying results, she will get frustrated, bored and eventually drop out. With PACE equipment, once a member has maxed out on setting #1, they just click the dial to #2 and it takes them to a whole new fitness level. Small clubs are successful long-term only if their members continue to get results and become walking testimonials- and bring in their friends.
Another huge advantage for the club owner of using adjustable PACE equipment is to be able to attract new members. Some of our customers offer a combination of women only hours during the day, then coed hours in the evening. Let’s face it, there are just as many out of shape men out there as women and many of them are just as intimidated to go into a hardcore club. It makes sense, especially in a small town, to try to appeal to as much of the population as possible. Again, since we are not a franchise, our customers are not locked into a cookie-cutter formula only; they have a huge advantage of being free to appeal to their unique markets by offering additional services, products, equipment, etc.
We provide a preferred vendor list as part of our marketing package to help customers find key suppliers (without getting any kick-backs).
FranBest: What are some of the fitness clubs that are using Pace Fitness Equipment products in their clubs?
Rande: One of our biggest areas of growth right now is selling into markets where a Curves club has just gone out of business. There may have been 50-60 loyal members who loved working out but have been left high and dry; maybe this was not enough members cover the high franchise fees, but usually more than enough to cover basic expenses.
One such customer, Kimberly Ellingsen, from New Image Fitness in WI had over 50 former Curves members signed up before she opened her PACE club, then recently had her grand opening and signed up dozens of new people. As a former Curves member, what she values most about our equipment is the superior quality over what she was used to. She told me “There is a difference of night and day in the quality of PACE equipment over Curves. Every one of my members who was a former Curves member loves it! Showing them how they can change the resistance quickly and easily is one of our best selling points”.
FranBest: Tell me about the service philosophy of Hydraulic Fitness Products. What kind of service and support do you provide? Do you provide value other than supplying equipment?
Rande: My philosophy in business is borrowed from Zig Zigler, who said “You can get anything you want in life if you help others achieve their goals”. If I help my customers become successful, then I will ultimately become successful. They will buy from me again when they open their 2nd and 3rd clubs and they will tell others about PACE.
I used this same philosophy in my own clubs- if I help a member achieve their fitness goals, then I will keep them as a member and they will bring their friends in. I encourage my customers to adapt the same philosophy in their clubs.
Another one of my favorite sayings is that “there is no monopoly on brains.” Running a successful club is not rocket science, but there are industry-proven tools and steps that should be taken to ensure success. My job is to provide these tools and training to my customers; their job is to utilize the tools that they feel will work best for their markets.
I also encourage my customers to network together on our PACE Facebook Group page to share ideas, success stories, etc. I can’t see paying a high franchise fee for years when we provide the same type of fitness industry tools. Kimberly from New Image Fitness also said “The marketing tools in the PACE package gave me everything I needed for a successful grand opening.”
She also appreciates the personal attention she received. “Being able to call the owner of the company if I have any questions is incredible customer service!”
FranBest: What differentiates your company from other equipment suppliers in the industry?
Rande: Quite frankly, there have been several knock-off companies who jumped on the hydraulic equipment bandwagon in the last few years to try to capture some of the Curves business; some of these companies did not even exist 2-3 years ago but they profess to be experts in this industry.
What separates PACE from these suppliers is our track record, knowledge, quality and personal-touch customer service. The personal touch is one of the key factors that separates small circuit clubs from large health clubs; I’ve tried to apply the same philosophy in my business. We may be a few hundred dollars more in cost, but there are no hidden surprises with PACE (no assembly needed on machines, cylinders that work, etc). And whenever one of the club owners has a problem or a question, they can feel free to call me, the President, directly. How many of the big franchise chains can make that claim?
FranBest: How can club owners and prospective club owners find out more about Hydraulic Fitness Products and PACE equipment and support programs.
Rande: The best way is to email me, in confidence, at PaceEquipment@gmail.com. Include your phone number and a little bit about your plans, such as whether you’re looking to start a new club or add on to an existing program. I’ll email you information confidentially and with no obligation.
FranBest: Thanks, Rande
Rande: Thank you.
To learn more about PACE and PACE For Kids exercise equipment, email Rande at PaceEquipment@gmail.com. Also, visit the PACE website at http://www.pacegroupexercise.com/.