Quoth the Raven
Some ramblings on my experiences with public relations

H.I.T. or miss?

There’s a new gym in town, and they’re selling what scads of couch potatoes and fitness buffs alike have been searching for: the same results in less time.

H.I.T. Fit, with two Toronto locations (the TD Centre and Yonge St and Eglinton Ave), promises to deliver a workout equivalent to 45 minutes of resistance training, 30 minutes of running and 20 minutes of stretching – all in four minutes. The club relies on a somewhat bizarre-looking contraption called the ROM – The 4-Minute CrossTrainer, which is based on the concept of High Intensity Training. By working your whole body for a short but intense period, H.I.T. Fit claims, you can be in and out of the gym in record time while still getting the results you want; their motto is “Gone to work out. Back in 5 minutes!”

I first learned of the gym in a Toronto Star article I read a couple of days ago. I was immediately sceptical, as I’ve always been taught there’s no “quick fix” when you’re trying to get in shape, but I was soon beginning to buy into the idea that this High Intensity Training thing could work.

The article contained many elements of a convincing news story:

  • human interest (one woman testified that she lost 35 pounds and four pant sizes within a year);
  • expert testimony (a McMaster University professor indicated that his research supports the efficiency of high-intensity workouts);
  • local appeal (the gyms are just downtown!); and
  • timeliness (the Yonge and Eglinton location just opened and a third is in the works).

Basically, the article made me want to sign up then and there. If the journalist, Dana Flavelle, picked up this idea from a news release, definite kudos should go out to Aerial Communications Group – they did their job, and did it really well. It would have sold me 100 per cent except for one, tiny little word: “declined.”

Flavelle interviewed the club’s president, Morry Patoka, for the article. There weren’t many quotes from him included, which led me to believe that he didn’t give her much to work with in the first place; however, there where two paragraphs that gave me pause:

“Patoka describes the fees at the high end of the mid-range. He declined to say whether the concept is turning a profit yet.”

And, in speaking about the club’s attendance:

“‘A certain percentage don’t come out, but our percentage is a lot smaller than the industry average,’ he said, declining to be more specific.”

I’ve had some bad experiences with gyms – most recently, I tried to cancel a membership with Extreme Fitness a few days after I joined and met with resistance, and I still haven’t received my initial deposit back. I’ve heard similar stories from many other people, and have read several articles claiming that gyms can be horrible to deal with. My perception of fitness facilities is that they are shifty. And in this article, Patoka sounds REALLY shifty.

It’s possible that he didn’t have the numbers in front of him, or that his PR agency told him not to reveal this information – or that he needs media training. But no matter the cause, the result is the same: I’m not sure I trust this gym 100 per cent anymore. Even though the statistics he’s hiding probably would not affect my gym experience, I don’t like to think that people I’m giving money to are in the habit of not being up front.

Maybe I’m being overly critical, and H.I.T. Fit will be different than other gyms. But I’m not joining until I get my money from Extreme back.


8 Responses to “H.I.T. or miss?”

  1. WOW! I am just as skeptical about that place as you are. It’s funny that you wrote a whole post about a gym since some time last week we got into a whole discussion about Extreme Fitness and corporate gyms etc.

    This H.I.T. Fit gym cannot be healthy. I’m sorry, but getting the same benefits as you would in 45 minutes in 4 minutes IS NOT HEALTHY! Same thing as all those diet pills. Eat what you want, be a couch potatoe, but mess up your insides.
    These scams really are amazing, aren’t they.
    And it is rather impressive that the article you read made you want to sign up…you put it correctly – good PR. Quite impressive.

  2. I definitely think this is a case of ‘too good to be true’ for sure. Wouldn’t it be nice if this four-minute work-out were true!

    I certainly agree with you in that the PR for this was top notch, and was starting to get sucked in – however, the reluctance to comment was something that got my radar up as well.

    This speaks to the need of one thing and one thing only – MEDIA TRAINING. Poor guy, he probably could have made a killing.

  3. I remember seeing that same article and thinking, Wow! Five minute workout, same results, how great! Of course this is after spending the last month out on the road at 6am jogging 5-6km in the frigid cold. Then, ditching the cold for Frog’s across from the college and lugging an extra 8 lbs twice a week on a 1hr hike to and from.

    Basically, I don’t think I’m alone here when I say working out is called that for a reason. It’s ‘work’, hard work! You can be getting into your routine and doing well all week, and it just take a friend’s birthday dinner here, and girl’s night in pig out session there, and it was all for nothing.

    So, when people like me come across quick fixes like this it’s almost too good to be true and you want to jump at the opportunity like white on rice. The only problem is, like you said, it probably is too good to be true.

    Gym’s, like most other fly-by-night gimmicks, know when to hit the public and what to hit them with. It’s no secret that many gyms will throw all their money into advertising at this time of year more so than any other time. Because this is the time when everyone and their mother is sick of sugar cookies, pot roasts, and chocolates from the holiday and is in a mad rush to strip themselves of the extra pounds. And in this desperation they fall prey to such gimmicks as these. Next thing you know they are spending the next six months trying get out of their contract while the gym keeps charging every month.

    I feel your pain Kate. I know what it’s like to get sucked into a gym membership that proves to be something different then what they advertised and being trapped due to some fine print they failed to draw your attention to. You’re right to wait to get you’re money back first before getting into bed with anywhere else. As for the five minute club, they will probably see some profit because there are many who will jump at the immediate gratification. After all that’s how most of the consumer industry operates.

    On the bright side, the weather will warm up and you can always join me on my outdoor runs! It’s (hard) work, and more than five minutes, but it’s FREE!
    A =)

  4. What a super analysis of a media relations effort that netted some obvious results via the Toronto Star. And, most thoughtful of you to send kudos to the agency involved.

  5. Extreme Fitness is a good example of the best PR machine out there when it comes to generating new memberships. I won’t lie I have a membership at Extreme so I am very aware of their tactics. They’re good at what they do and if you try to leave them or deny a service – they make it seem like it’s the end of your world. They put you through fitness assessments and make you think you’re really unfit and unhealthy. It is unfortunate gyms have to resort to these actions because they ruin the whole gym experience for people like you. Just like you, I have a friend that had to wait more than four months to get her money back when she cancelled her membership. It was a different gym, but this practice appears common in the gym industry. Gyms should focus on making people healthier rather than trying to convince an 80 year old senior to sign up for 40 personal training sessions.

  6. You’re right to be skeptical of a radical claim such as the four minute workout. As someone who has personally achieved fitness success ( I lost nearly 60 pounds) through hard work, dedication and adherence to tried and tested scientific principles, I too am skeptical. Even if such a workout were to exist, getting fit is far different from staying fit. The mind undergoes changes in the body of a person who has achieved fitness success. These changes include proper diet and maintanence of the body. That four-minute workout better include one hell of a psychology component, or proponents of the H.I.T FIT system may find themselves back up fat avenue.

    There is no magic pill.

  7. Thanks for picking up on the H.I.T article. My name is Morry Patoka, president of H.I.T. Your analysis was pretty good, as well as comments from others on your blog. I could definitely use some media training. It’s always a little weird being interviewed. I would like to clarify some things so you and your readers have the correct information. Dana’s article was not part of a PR effort. I met Dana when she interviewed me for another company I invested in. Dana called me in January to see if I was interested in being interviewed for H.I.T. Of course I said yes. My reluctance to share business details for the article was not to suggest that the workout wasn’t real. It’s just that there are many competitors in the marketplace and it’s not usually good business practice to tell them anything that relates to dollars. As for the workout and the results members are getting, I’m more than happy to share those stories. I’ve been working out at H.I.T myself since we opened the Eglinton location which is near my office. My pants are looser. My endurance is way up (having tested it numerous times shoveling our driveway this winter). And some of my shirts are getting tighter around the chest and shoulders instead of the stomach, which is a nice change. But that’s my story. All of the testimonials on http://www.hitfit.ca are real. Great stories of people who have experienced results from working out at H.I.T. As for the workout itself, it is very safe because the ROM machine is powered by you. Its unique design means the stronger you get, the harder the workout gets. We have everyone from people in their 70’s to professional athletes using the same machine. As one of your contributors mentioned, there is no magic pill. You actually have to still workout and do it at least 3 times a week to get results. The only difference is that you can spend a lot less time doing it than traditional workout methods. I can’t help you get your money back from Extreme Fitness but I can invite you and your readers to come into H.I.T for a free workout with a personal coach. That will give you a chance to really understand how it works, why it works and if it’s something that you would be interested in doing. I hope you’ll drop in.

  8. Thanks so much for the response, Morry, and for providing some more information and insight into how H.I.T. works. I think one thing my PR program does is teaches us to be critical of what we read in the media, and to take the new with a grain of salt. I’m definitely willing to try anything once though, so I just might take you up on that invitation. Thanks for extending it!

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