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A More Personalized Approach

The YMCA's program is the only one of its kind right now, but some other fitness facilities are also trying a more personalized approach.

24 Hour Fitness facilities across the country sell workout and nutrition packages based on short- and long-term goals, ranging from five sessions for $289 to 20 sessions for $999. Computers measure body fat and circumference, test metabolic rates, and design workouts and meal plans to help clients meet their goals.

"I've seen unbelievable changes in people," says Sandy DeBarbieri, fitness manager of a 24 Hour Fitness center in Austin, Texas. "I've seen people that go from zero knowledge to [being able to] train themselves."

Curves International, with its famed 30-minute workout, has based its business on a friendly, personal coaching style.

"The most important thing we do is build relationships with our members," says Cassie Findley, Curves' director of continuing education and research. "We know who our members are, we know who their grandkids are, and we know what they're making for Thanksgiving dinner."

In the center of each Curves' circuit of machines stands a fitness coach, evaluating members' form on the equipment, and offering help when needed. But the $29-a-month membership (higher in major cities) doesn't stop at the door.

"We ask members to work out three times per week," says Findley. "If we don't see them, we call, we send notes, we ask where they've been."

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