In tough times, 123 Fit expands - The Explorer: Business

In tough times, 123 Fit expands

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Posted: Tuesday, August 11, 2009 11:00 pm | Updated: 1:25 pm, Mon Apr 18, 2011.

When many businesses have downsized to weather a stormy economy, one Oro Valley fitness business has expanded.

In late July, 123 Fit officially opened an additional 1,200-square-foot workout space, adding to the 1,600 square feet it has occupied along La Cañada in Oro Valley for the past year.

Energetic proprietor Keri Ruffell said her customers — most of whom worked out on 123 Fit's cardiovascular machines and resistance training stations — expressed a desire for group exercise. But there was not space.

There are no other tenants in Ruffell's building, so she approached her landlords —Beztak, Americanada LLC, Don Trefrey and Brett Fielding — with an idea about the adjacent empty space. They embraced it.

"They absorbed most of the cost of doing this, and amended my lease," a grateful Ruffell said. "They made this possible." The expansion cost about $60,000.

Now, 123 Fit has room for classes, in yoga, Pilates, tai chi, golf conditioning, body sculpting and strength training. For cardios, the gym has recumbent cycles, treadmills and elliptical machines. The circuit-training enthusiast can still find resistance machines.

And there is always help. 123 Fit has four trainers who can provide personal training, and three group exercise instructors.

"It's a bigger, better living room workout, but with people who know fitness and can support you, and watch you," Ruffell said.

Trainer Randy Brown is opening a summer boot camp, pushing people hard to improve their lifestyles through nutrition and exercise. He focuses on the four pillars of fitness —strength, cardiovascular conditioning, flexibility and nutrition.

"People have had amazing results," Ruffell said. "It's a full 30 days to change some habits."

In "To Goal and Beyond," Salle Yawitz helps people lose weight, learn how to eat and shop for food, and keep their weight where they want it. "I believe that everyone, with simple changes, can get to and stay at their goal weight," Yawitz said. "You will get to your goal and regain belief in yourself."

It's all part of the 123 Fit message — "Move your body, eat properly and stay active," Ruffell said. "Don't let the aches and pains of aging get you down."

The gym is a "non-intimidating environment. There are no wall-to-wall mirrors. There's always a coach on deck. They can see you, and give that coaching, talk about body positions, and encourage you."

Guests can choose their music, and when they're done, there's a bell on the wall they can ring in celebration.

123 Fit doesn't have the overhead of a larger gym, and it offers flexibility of workouts and programs to meet a budget.

"I look at this as an extension of their health care," Ruffell said of a client roster that nears 400.

"We want to be a foundation, on which people can build, and a support system to which people can come. We're kind of a hybrid. It's fitness the way you want it. Real results for real people."

123 Fit held its grand re-opening July 24-25. "We had a good, steady flow" of people, Ruffell said.

Ruffell's gym for busy folks needing workout

Keri Ruffell has worked with the homebound, and people in the end stage of life. In those interactions, she was struck by the health problems caused by obesity, heart disease, diabetes and other prevalent ailments.

"I thought it would be fun to be on the front end, and maybe keep people a little healthier before they got sick," she said.

Ruffell, a group fitness teacher for the past five years, bought a 123 Fit franchise in the summer of 2007, and opened the business along La Cañada at Lambert in Oro Valley a year later. 123 Fit is "a neighborhood fitness center," with the idea of "effective exercise for busy adults.

"I saw a need for busy people, who didn't want to spend time in the gym," she said. The audience is people interested in "active aging. We're trying to make them feel better, and live longer."

123 Fit is Ruffell's first retail business. As a franchisee, Ruffell has been able to "avoid some of the pitfalls" of opening a busness, yet she's had the flexibility to "shape the gym into what really matched my vision."

This first full year of operation has held "a lot of ups and downs," she allows. "The last six months, we've seen some of the economic impact." Compounding the slowdown — Ruffell has no neighbors in her new building at La Cañada and Lambert. And the Town of Oro Valley has been restrictive about her sign displays, part of the "marketing challenges that come with this community," she said.

"I've learned to be patient," Ruffell said. "And there's one thing in life that is constant, and that is change. Things do not always go Keri's way. I have a lot of ideas. I have to pick and focus on some at a time."

Oro Valley is Ruffell's town. She grew up in Oro Valley as Keri Theis, attended Canyon Del Oro High School and now lives just outside the town limits.

It's personal for Ruffell, and so is the transition from the corporate environment, working with larger employers, into a sole proprietorship with four part-time employees. "It's a culture shift I've had to go through," she said. "There are days I've thought this is the hardest job I've ever had, and loved."

123 Fit

10370 N. La Cañada, #170

Oro Valley

5 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Friday.

6 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday

Sunday by appointment

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