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Fitness Around the Clock

Spring Hardee from North Myrtle Beach is a fitness buff, but like many locals who work in the service industry here, finding time to hit the gym was a challenge - until recently when a spate of 24-hour and extended-session fitness centers sprouted up along the beach.

“People who work in Myrtle Beach work odd schedules. I am addicted to working out. I love how working out makes me feel. Taking the time to work out actually gives me more time with my friends and family because if I was not physically fit, I would be too tired to spend time with them,” says Hardee, a service industry employee and fitness aficionado.

Fitness is something that many people strive for. It is all over television, movies, and magazine covers. When you go to the checkout aisle in the supermarket you see fit, beautiful people looking back at you.

There are many ways that we can exercise. We can go running on the road or the beach. We can put in a DVD and follow a program. We can go for walks. We can lift weights at home. For many people though, the best way to stay motivated is to have a gym to go to. If you can go to a gym you do not have to buy expensive equipment or do TV workouts that seem to get repetitive. Some people need a gym. Some people even need a trainer to help them stay motivated. Until recently on the Grand Strand this is only something that was available to people who worked conventional day shift jobs. Now with the opening of 24-hour fitness centers along the Grand Strand all people have access to gyms and trainers whenever it is convenient to them.

In addition to service industry folks, and graveyard shift employees, people who work your standard 9-to-5 jobs are now able to go to the gym at early hours, and still have time to clean up and be at work on time. The gyms have seen a niche and are filling it. Since 2009 more than ten 24-hour access gyms have opened in our area.

The explosion of 24-hour gyms along the Grand Strand is serving a niche for fitness buffs who work second or third shift jobs - as well as providing a boon for folks in the industry, such as personal trainers - and could possibly mark another evolution in our around-the-clock culture.

Now your after-hours activities don’t have to only include shutting down the bar, eating at Denny’s or shopping at Walmart.

But why do local people choose to work out after-hours while others are sleeping?

Blake Givens is a personal trainer who has worked in Myrtle Beach for six years and is completely on board with the mushrooming of local 24-hour gyms. “I think the explosion of 24 hour gyms in the area is great. You need at least 30 minutes of fitness training five days a week at the minimum. With all of these new openings everyone has access to full facilities that are so vital for health and fitness,” Givens says.

There have been a number of new gyms in the area to open that are 24 hours or are adding 24-hour features. Some of them are old names that have been open for years that are evolving to meet the 24-hour fitness craze. Others are opened as 24-hour fitness facilities from the get-go.

The doctor is in

One of the most recent gyms to open its doors 24-7 is an old name in local fitness. You may remember Sports Doctors Inc. from its old location off of U.S. 501. It opened for business in 2005. It recently moved to an updated facility at 404 George Bishop Parkway in January. Cheryl Bell, the High Performance Center Director at Sports Doctors Inc., likes that her gym sets a cap on membership. “We limit our general gym membership so it is never crowded at Sports Doctors, Inc. We not only have therapeutic equipment for rehabilitative exercise and equipment for beginners but we also have a high-performance center in which elite athletes are able to train. We are one of the few gyms in the area that have power lifting platforms. We also have three on-site chiropractors with extended and weekend hours and we have massage therapists on-site.

Sports Doctors Inc. does not require members to sign binding contracts. For its 24-hour gym membership, which is called the Key Club, the price is $25 per month. Sports Doctors also boasts a wellness program that includes: 24-hour gym access, unlimited chiropractor visits, therapies, modalities, and therapeutic massages. That is not all. Sports Doctors Inc. uses, “computerized body analysis with a personalized workout plan and two one-on-one sessions with one of our highly qualified personal trainers. Our trainers will continually track your progress and update your program every six weeks. Every six weeks wellness members will be re-evaluated and have two more one-on-one sessions with their trainer,” says Bell.

Bell says Sports Doctors also has Crossfit trainers onsite for those of you Crossfit fanatics out there; and the gym also employs a kickboxing trainer, and a former Olympian on staff.

The Sky is the limit

Will Renke of Sky Fitness 24/7 believes in the 24-hour business model. “Sky Fitness is a family gym,” says Renke, who opened Sky Fitness near the Backgate in April 2010. “We are on a first name basis with our clients,” says Renke. Sky Fitness touts the diversity of its membership, which includes athletes that are as young as 17 to the oldest member, who is working out at the ripe old age of 91, according to Renke.

Sky Fitness is not just about lifting weights. “Fitness is not a destination. It is a journey,” says Renke. Staff will teach you everything from proper form to nutrition. Safety is also paramount at Sky Fitness. There’s something called the Doors Always Open policy (this is what they call their 24 hour a day, 7-days-a-week policy). “We provide everything from nutrition to just day-to-day conversations. To us, fitness is not only physical it is also mental. We can build a custom work out program to suit each and every person’s different needs or teach them the importance of healthy eating,” says Renke.

“The biggest thing about our trainers is that they just do not teach fitness, they also live fitness,” says Renke. “At Sky Fitness we believe that if you are going to show someone something you must also be able to do it yourself.” At Sky Fitness they also do not think that fitness can only be attained inside a gym. There are classes called Beach Boot Camp where they take clients to the beach to add a little sand to the regimen. For patrons that are going to use the late night features, Renke will create a custom workout plan just for you so that you do not have to hire a trainer. “Sky Fitness is where fitness and family come together. At Sky Fitness there are no sign up fees, no contracts, and no nonsense,” says Renke. For tourists, Sky Fitness also offers $5 day passes so visitors do not have to take days off from the gym while they are on vacation.

In transition

Conway Wellness and Fitness Center is located just off of S.C. 544 near Conway Hospital. It is actually a branch of the Medical Center, and Kelli Mellick, membership coordinator, says the gym certainly taps these resources. “We are a department of Conway Medical Center and with that distinction we feel we are held to higher standards. We often have medical professionals in our facility as well as an emergency response team that comes from the hospital during emergency situations. We have worked closely with physicians to develop programs specific to weight loss, joint replacement and other common physical challenges,” says Mellick.

But the wellness and fitness center is not a 24-hour gym yet. Rather, work is underway converting it to a 24-hour facility. It is on pace to open its 24-hour feature this month.

But why? “We’ve had several requests for extended hours recently and wanted to accommodate the needs of the people in our community,” says Mellick. The Conway Wellness and Fitness Center has been open since 1997. While it is a part of the hospital, anyone can be a member. “Many people think you have to have a physician referral to come to the Wellness & Fitness Center. We are open to the community. We are not the lowest priced facility but feel that the investment in your health is well worth the cost. First visit is free with a local identification,” says Mellick. As you can see, even hospital-affiliated facilities are seeing the trend of people wanting to use facilities on their terms and are retooling their places to meet the demand.

On the edge

Another recent addition to the 24-hour gym community is a well-known name in fitness on the Grand Strand. Fitness Edge opened its first location in Carolina Forest a decade ago. “We are fully staffed morning and night all throughout the week for the convenience and safety of all our members,” says Adam Crawford of Fitness Edge.

Rebecca DeCaussin has been a member of Fitness Edge and loves that there is always a staff member in the building. “As a woman who sometimes works out late, for my safety I love that there is always a staff member there. If something happened I know they would be there to help.” If you want to go during conventional hours there are many features available to you. Fitness Edge offers a wide variety of classes for different skill and fitness levels. Upon joining Fitness Edge you immediately gain access to all Fitness Edge facilities, which offer more than traditional gym services. “We offer additional services such as personal training, tanning, massage therapy, nutritional counseling, and childcare,” says Crawford.

When you are a Fitness Edge member you get access to the Carolina Forest location, the Murrells Inlet location, and the MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) location in Conway but only the Carolina Forest facility, located at 3881 Renee Drive off of Carolina Forest Blvd., is operating as a 24-hour facility.

American made

American 24/7 Fitness has gone through a few makeovers in the 30 years it has been in business but it is still one of the most visible fitness brands on the Grand Strand. As the new name implies, the company has four locations up and down the Strand and all four of them are 24-hour facilities. American 24/7 has locations in Murrells Inlet, Myrtle Beach, the Socastee/Surfside Beach area, and the newest location open in Carolina Forest.

The gyms offer massages, personal training, classes, and a cardio theater where you can watch a movie while you run on that treadmill.

Susanna Metallo, who has been a member of American 24/7 Fitness for six years says, “I like their equipment. There were always nice looking guys to look at, but I never felt crowded.” American 24/7 also offers child care but only at the Murrells Inlet location.

Around the horn

Anytime Fitness is a gym at 201 Graduate Drive in the Atlantic Center, right across from Horry-Georgetown Technical College. It is part of a national chain of 24-7 gyms that is now operating a branch in Conway. Among many things, Anytime offers a Hero membership which is a discounted rate for active military, police, fire, EMS, and teachers. Will Floster of Anytime Fitness thinks his gym has something special going at its location. “Anytime Fitness has a great atmosphere. Most of our members are new to fitness. Our 24-hour policy lets members have fitness on their schedule. We are results driven and we want all of our members to reach their goals,” says Floster.

Meanwhile, One Punch Fitness in Carolina Forest is a gym that has been open since 2009. It is a 24-hour facility that allows you to work at combat sports on a 24-hour schedule, with a full-sized ring, a full array of punching bags, and all the equipment available for any serious fighter. Professional and amateurs fighters train at this gym. One Punch offers more than just fighting, though, with a full set of Crossfit equipment and regular gym equipment all for 24-hour use.

And one of the newest players on the beach’s 24-hour fitness scene recently celebrated its grand opening in the old Barnes and Noble building off of Seaboard St. in Myrtle Beach. Planet Fitness is a nationwide chain, and the local franchise is housed in a 24,000-square-foot building. According to its mission statement, “We at Planet Fitness are here to provide a unique environment in which anyone – and we mean anyone – can be comfortable.”

As you can surmise, there are many 24-hour fitness facilities in our area, so not being able to make it to the gym before it closes is no longer a valid excuse for not joining. And you have plenty of options, from Little River to Murrells Inlet, to Carolina Forest to Conway. Think of it as fitness-on-demand.