New Ardmore Gyms: Breaking A Sweat Without Breaking The Bank

We review Ardmore's two 24/7 fitness clubs.

At a glance, all gyms seem pretty much the same. Free weights, machines, loud music—and that stink you can’t seem to get rid of. Getting motivated to work out is hard enough. Finding the right gym for your needs (and budget) may seem daunting, but gym rats and novices alike can fit in among the Ardmore fitness club scene.

and both opened their doors in 2010, are located within about one mile from each other, and are both open 24/7. These businesses have attracted many customers from , which was the only truly commercial gym in town for a while (let’s not forget about the in Ardmore, though)—but did not offer the same unlimited accessibility or lower costs as its competitors.

Marina Muncan, an Ardmore resident who left Philadelphia Sports Clubs to join Planet Fitness last year, did so because “it is cheap, has everything I need plus I can always bring a guest for free.” Muncan also felt PSC had gotten “too snobby.”

“We’re not really a 9 to 5 culture anymore.”—John Craig, Planet Fitness

Snap Fitness opened in March 2010, posing an immediate threat to PSC due to its unlimited accessibility and low monthly membership cost: $39.99, plus a $49 to $149 start-up fee. The gym is located in South Ardmore, bordering with Havertown on Haverford Road.

Being able to walk into a gym at any hour of the day is attractive, especially for people who hold jobs with off hours and still want to work out in a gym. Snap is staffed only during typical business hours.

“It’s all about convenience,” said Chris Dowd, owner of Ardmore’s Snap Fitness. “Because we’re smaller in size, we can tuck them into neighborhoods, which means less travel time to our gyms.”

Snap does not have classes, but does offer access to personal trainers as well (as a free consultation for a customer’s first visit; relatively standard in the industry).  However, Dowd mentioned that he is considering renting the space above the gym to allow for Snap’s “Fitness On Demand” service, offered at other Snap gyms around the country. It’s a service that plays instructional fitness videos on a large screen or projector, at any time.

According to Dowd, the typical customer is looking for privacy, not necessarily the cheapest gym. Snap Fitness customers tend to be middle-aged, and are not particularly looking for the social aspect of working out in a gym. Instead, most customers thrive on the attention they get from personal trainers and the freedom of working out privately. Dowd explained, “We’re not going to try to out-price our competitors around here. It’s not our niche. Our niche is to provide the best service and add a personal touch.”

Planet Fitness arrived in Ardmore early December of 2010, just in time for the New Year. A low monthly rate of $10, a low startup cost of $59 and 24/7 staffed access makes Planet Fitness a tough competitor for Snap Fitness.

“The idea springs from our desire to provide as much convenience to people as possible,” said John Craig, who works on brand development at Planet Fitness’ corporate offices. “With so many people working different shifts, it makes sense to give people the opportunity to work out at all hours. We’re not really a 9 to 5 culture anymore.”

Still, many fitness enthusiasts want classes, and can find them at the Main Line Y or at PSC. At PSC in downtown Ardmore (in the old movie theater), there’s also babysitting and other benefits, but it’s the yoga, zumba, spinning, “boot camp” and “total body conditioning” sessions that draw certain customers.

Planet Fitness is located on Greenfield Avenue in Ardmore, across from the ., directly above the . Craig talked about how Planet Fitness has benefitted from the poor economy—there have been great deals in commercial real estate, and the space in that shopping center is no exception. Planet Fitness locations have cropped up in major retail spaces because “to draw in [customers], you need to be really visible. We want to be in places where people are running errands and shopping. We don’t want to make people work hard to find us.”

As far as the gym’s culture is concerned, Craig says that, “We’re not really the gym for the hardcore workout people, although [they have] a presence. ... We’re geared more towards the general fitness crowd. A lot of our members are first-time users.”

Planet Fitness does not offer classes, either, but the club provides personal training sessions that are included in the membership price.

“The people who come in to join usually already know there are no classes,” Craig said. “We’ve never found that to be much of an impediment. It’s what we do have that blows people away.”

The bottom line? Snap Fitness has the privacy, and Planet Fitness has the lowest prices. If customer service is your top priority, or if you’re looking for a ton of treadmills to choose from, each of these relatively new locations encourages the development and maintenance of a healthier lifestyle, for a person with any ability level.  

For more details, visit these local web sites:



Dave Goldberg November 14, 2011 at 11:22 PM
I got a used treadmill and a secondhand iPod off Craig's List, and started doing old-fashioned pushups and situp -- then quit my gym. It's saved me a lot of money since then and I'm in better shape. Use less gas too.


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