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You Won't Believe What Goes on Behind the Scenes at Your Local Gym

From the Show: Train Your Body
Summary: From theft of towels to stealing time on machines, you won't believe some of the things that go on at the gym.
Air Date: 3/10/15
Duration: 10
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guest Bio: Neal Pire & Grace Desimone
Neal Pier better resized-horzNeal Pire is a nationally noted expert on fitness and personal training. He is a Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine and has served on the Executive Council of ACSM's credentialing arm, the Committee on Certification and Registry Boards. Neal served as vice president of a leading national health management company and now serves as an Exercise Physiologist at HNH Fitness, a medical fitness center in Oradell, NJ. He is widely sought after as a consultant for athlete training programs, performance enhancement centers and fitness industry management. As a 35-year veteran with deep understanding of the subject matter, he is often asked for background, commentary or analysis by media covering wellness, fitness, and personal training.

Grace DeSimone has been in the fitness industry for over 30 years and brings a variety of experiences in commercial, corporate and community settings. She is the editor of ACSMs Resources for Group Exercise Instructors (LWW, 2011) and is an ACSM certified personal trainer and group exercise instructor. Grace is the National Director of Group Fitness for Plus One Health Management, an Optum Company.
You Won't Believe What Goes on Behind the Scenes at Your Local Gym
Not having cameras in the locker room at your fitness facility can result in people stealing just about anything.

From toilet paper to shower curtains, it would seem nothing is safe.

Some trainers even steal business from other trainers.

In this "He Said, She Said" segment, Neal Pire and Grace Desimone discuss what really happens behind the scenes at your local gym.

RadioMD Presents: Train Your Body | Original Air Date: March 10, 2015
Host: Melanie Cole, MS
Guests: Neal Pire & Grace DeSimone Train Your Body. Here's exercise physiologist, Melanie Cole, MS.

MELANIE: What do you think really goes on at the gyms? In today's He Said, She Said segment, we are talking about "What Goes on Behind the Scenes?" What goes on with the members? What goes on with the employees? You know, when I was working at a fitness center, I remember there were all kinds of things going on that I was not willing to share, but we are willing to share today.

Of course, I've got Neil Pire with me today. He is an exercise physiologist with H & H Fitness, a medical fitness center in Oradell , New Jersey, and Grace Desimone, who is the national director of group fitness for Plus One Health Management, an Optum company. Welcome to the show, guys.

So, Grace, I'm starting with you. When people say you won't believe what members do and, then, we're going to get with the employees, too, but let's start with the members because you do classes. You're all involved with all the ladies standing around. What goes on? Gives us your favorite thing.

GRACE: Okay. My favorite? I mean, I have tons and tons of stories, but the category is theft. Things that people steal. My favorite thing that someone stole from the health club is the shower curtain from the shower. Now, you have hung a shower curtain. You know how long it takes to hang a shower curtain. Just imagine trying to do this without being seen. Shower curtain. Toilet tissue. We actually had somebody come in and stuff a duffel bag full of toilet tissue. Now, keep in mind there are now cameras around. Back in the days, our early days, all of us when we were in the clubs, there were no cameras, but now there are cameras everywhere in the club except the locker room. So, the locker room is a big place to rip things off. People bring in their own bottles and if the club has amenities, and I'm sure this goes on in hotels, too, the nicer the amenity like soap and shampoo in the shower, people bring their own bottles and pump them up and take the stuff home. They take the towels. You know, you have the blow dryers so, the clubs thought, "Oh, we have this one handled." They cable tied them to the counter. People come in with scissors, cut the cable ties, take the blow dryers. It's utterly amazing.

MELANIE: Oh, that is unbelievable. Okay. Go on.

GRACE: And, the other thing that goes on is they steal other things from others. So, if you are in a locker room, please lock up your things with the knowledge that number one, there are no cameras to protect you and number two, everyone's not as honest as you. If there are digital locks. This is sort of the new technology where you don't have to bring your own padlocks. There are digital lockers. Anybody who is going to steal something will use the most obvious code which is 1-2-3-4. So, try not to choose 1-2-3-4 because we've had many, many people who've had things stolen because somebody went 1-2-3-4 and the thing opens and they take what's in there.

MELANIE: Wow. That's incredible because, and I hear you say, they fill up their own little bottles, and at the nicer places, the nicer hotel fitness centers, boy, they have some beautiful amenities. Are some of the amenities like the wrapped hair brushes, the combs, the little pads, the moist toilettes, all those things that are wrapped up and in a nice little bucket. Are you allowed to take those or do you assume that they're strictly for use there. Can you take a few and shove them in your purse or is that really not cool?

GRACE: Well, in the club, they're intended for your use while you are there. It is not "take your duffel bag and dump the container in your bag". That is not the intention.

MELANIE: That is so funny. So, stealing. Number one thing. Great advice about digital lockers. Don't pick 1-2-3-4.

Now, Neil, because you work with trainers, you work, you see the desk people, you see all of the employees and things like that. Besides just the hooking up stuff, what else is going on? I mean, we don't want to say they're talking bad about members, but, of course, there's always the members that you do talk about a little bit. You can't help it.

NEIL: One of my pet peeves isn't as nefarious, perhaps, as stealing, but it is in some ways, stealing, because it's the "wanna be" trainers. It's the members that are so into fitness and they're so… It's all about what they've last read in Muscle and Fitness and Shape or whatever it is and they want to share that information. The end up actually writing training and diet programs for members.


NEIL: So, they actually train people on the side. Sort of a little side gig, which is not cool in just about every club, but most clubs for sure, it's not something you want in your club and you're looking at the most ineffective, the most unsafe training, spotting. It's just wrong. I see that almost in every club. There's always somebody who, you know, is jacked out of their minds or looks really fit and everybody's like, "Oh, he must be an expert," and what he's doing is sharing the latest Mr. Olympia workout with people that really have no business trying that particular workout. So, that's really one of my pet peeves.

MELANIE: Okay, now I'm going to add in one of my own. When you have staff that works the floor at your fitness rooms or in your hotel and they're supposed to be walking around helping people, making sure, but they're secretly training some clients and you see them kind of going off with somebody and kind of looking around, making sure nobody…and then, they end up getting paid for that session while they're on club hours. I think that that probably happens more often than people would even realize. Am I right?

GRACE: Oh, yeah.

NEIL: That happens especially in clubs where you don't have active management or you don't have a floor manager, personal training manager, that kind of thing. If you have someone on the ground level managing their people and directing and tracking activities, then that usually doesn't happen too often. But, in the independent clubs where pretty much everything goes and training is not one of the things that they're driving for revenue, it's really more membership and that's about it, I do see it. I've seen it almost everywhere for that matter.

MELANIE: Now, Grace. What about in classes? Do aerobics instructors…Aerobic instructors. I'm sorry. Class instructors.

GRACE: That's okay.

MELANIE: Do they try and take classes from each other? Do they try and say, "Well, I want that most popular time at 5:00 because that's when most of the people come in for boot camp?" What happens with the instructors?

GRACE: Well, again, it depends on how well the program is managed and how the folks are selected for hire. There can be that competition for the prime time slot and the class does…This is one of my big, big pet peeves everyone who knows me knows this is part of my orientation. Do not rally the members. It really upsets me.

MELANIE: Okay. I was going to ask you about rallying the members.

GRACE: Oh, that makes me crazy.

MELANIE: I know it makes you crazy. It used to make me crazy. So, when they rally the members, the members go to the management and say, "I want this teacher teaching at 5:00 because her class is the best."

GRACE: Yes. Because this is what the employees do. They do this when they're trying to take advantage of the members in some way and that's why I dislike it so much. It's not genuine. If you're really good, let your class, let your training session speak for itself. You don't need to put people up to that. "Oh, go tell so and so how great my class was." Oh, really? You know what? When people are satisfied, they leave with a smile on their face. They don't go run over and tell 10 people. It just happens organically by itself. So, when the instructors are doing that and they're trying to sort of one-up each other and like trip each other down the stairs to get the prime time spots, you know, generally talent and good manners and good teamwork speaks for itself. I mean, that works in some gyms for a little while, but at the end of the day, the folks that are really talented will move up and the cream rises to the top.

MELANIE: You know, you two are two of my very favorite guests.

GRACE: Thank you.

MELANIE: We could talk about this subject for a very long time. But, Neil, I'm giving the last word, baby. One minute to talk about the things that go on in the club that people just wouldn't believe.

NEIL: One of the crazy discretely done things is when you have sign-up sheets for cardio equipment, because you were talking about competition for prime timeslots. You know, Mary comes in, she wants to get on the treadmill. She wants to use it for an hour, but there are 20 minute intervals and limits during the busy times, so people can get on the treadmill and Mary signs up her friend, Jean, who's not in the club and Joe hasn't been to the club in months and then, she's the first one. So, she gets on for 3 time intervals and, you know, Jean who is not there is the next one, so she's on for an hour.

MELANIE: That's a weasely move, signing up your friends.

NEIL: Isn't it, though?

MELANIE: That is such a weasely move, especially if they're not coming. Okay, guys. So, that's it for He Said, She Said. This segment: "You Won't Believe What People do in the Gyms." Absolutely true.

You know, I love this show. Train Your Body: Motivate and Perform with the American College of Sports Medicine. Right here on RadioMD.

I'm Melanie Cole. Stay well.