Little things can add up into something big pretty quickly when you’re trying to carve out a niche in the fitness world. They also add up pretty quickly when you’re trying to build community.
These seem to be what helped a Fircrest gym grow from a tiny 1,800-square-foot startup in 2005 to a thriving health club that’s about to expand into a 13,000-square-foot facility.
Figures Women’s Fitness Center is the South Sound’s largest women’s gym – actually, it’s the largest north of Los Angeles, according to the gym’s marketing material – with a 1,000-person membership that stretches from Olympia to King County.
As owners Bruce and Debbie Bodine, manager Kathy Hadman and marketing director Jill Overfield led a tour of the facility on Oct. 8, it quickly became clear that this isn’t a typical gym. It’s not even a typical women’s gym. And that’s precisely the idea.
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“We started it because we wanted to promote women’s health,” said Hadman, who started the company and sold it to the Bodines in 2009.
From disco balls in the workout rooms to lighting that can be turned down low enough that the women around you won’t notice if your Zumba moves out of sync, the gym has made it a priority to make sure its members are comfortable and having fun.
Figures is open 24 hours per day, offers body fat testing, workout competitions, instruction and 65 different classes each week.
It offers private showers and changing areas and when the expansion is complete, it will unveil additional showers and a palatial “makeup bar” for those who are dashing off to work.
The gym has online registration or the fitness classes and other amenities such as its personal trainers, the infrared sauna and the massage therapist.
And there are no men. Not even on staff. Even Bruce Bodine says his role as owner rarely takes him past the front desk.
Nothing against men, they say, it’s just that so many women feel more comfortable having a place where they exercise away from men. Hadman says she hears this feedback regularly from members. So they’re giving them that place.
Bruce Bodine says the term “women’s gym” typically conjures up images of Curves, the world’s largest women’s fitness chain.
“But that’s a fallacy because this isn’t Curves,” he said. “Not even close.”
While Curves gyms focus on circuit training, Figures is more a mashup of specialty studios, a regular gym and a spa. Still want circuit training, there’s a room for that too.
“There’s a women’s spin on everything that goes on here,” said Debbie Bodine.
Classes include barre, suspension training, kick boxing, yoga, Zumba, hip hop dance – 20 in all. Boot camp classes sometimes spill into the parking lot on warm days. And when expansion is complete in November, they’ll add spin classes. Classes are $10 each, but a most are included free with a $41-per-month membership.
While there are areas for women to work out on their own, it’s the classes, friendly workout challenges and 25 experienced fitness instructors that add up to one of the gym’s most important attributes: Community.
“It’s like that old thing that women have to go to the bathroom together,” Debbie Bodine said. “Women love to do things together.”
Hayfa Dallal, a medical interpreter from University Place, has been working out at Figures for a year and has lost 16 pounds. She left a large, impersonal chain box gym and credits the Figures community for her success.
“Some people, like me, need that little push and we get that here,” she said. “If she can do it, I can do it. I like that. I don’t like the open gym and just exercise on my own because when I get tired, I’m leaving.”
Overfield, the Bodine’s daughter, says the community that’s grown around Figures exudes a positive vibe. “We share a transformation story (on the website or its motivation wall) and people just explode with encouragement,” she said. “It’s just a positive place to work out. … It’s so much more than a gym.”
Perhaps that’s why she says she doesn’t believe the club has ever had a member leave for a traditional gym, although some are members of both.
“The one thing we hear over and over again is that people look forward to coming here,” Hadman said. “It’s not a chore to workout. It’s the best part of their day.”