By Scott Scanlon – Refresh Editor
Three high-profile fitness instructors with the Buffalo Athletic Club have decided to stay with the chain in its clubs for women.
Ellen Coleman, the BAC regional aerobics director, and veteran group fitness instructors Robbie Raugh and Mary Anne Cappellino each have opted to stay with the BAC ownership group after the owners sold the coed clubs last week to LA Fitness.
Coleman and Raugh made their decisions in the days before Christmas while Cappellino finalized her decision on Monday afternoon.
“I’m excited about it,” Cappellino told me during a phone interview shortly after making her decision. “I think it’s a perfect fit. The BAC was the right decision for me based on the respect I have for all the BAC did in Western New York over the past years and all the BAC for Women will do for women in Western New York.”
Coleman played a similar role in both BAC coed and women-only clubs, and now will handle the women-only club duties.
Raugh and Cappellino – who both taught classes at BAC coed and women’s clubs – will now teach a greater number of fitness classes at the women-only clubs, primarily the Evans branch.
Raugh told me during an interview Friday at the BAC for Women at Evans Street and Sheridan Drive in Williamsville that all the female-only sites will be improved in the coming months and the Colvin site will undergo a $2 million renovation and expansion. She and Cappellino also said the clubs will place an even greater focus on nutrition and wellness, areas of great interest to the two instructors who each have gained a large following during the last two-plus decades in the Western New York fitness community.
LA Fitness already had clubs on Niagara Falls Boulevard in Niagara Falls, Transit Road in Clarence and Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo before it last week bought the BAC coed clubs in downtown Buffalo on Delaware Avenue, on Union Road in Orchard Park, the Eastern Hills location on Transit Road in Clarence, and at the Boulevard Mall on Niagara Falls Boulevard in Amherst.
“It took me about 10 seconds” to choose to stay with the BAC, Raugh told me. She’s already worked for a big chain and prefers the coziness of a locally-owned gym setting.
“I know what I’m getting at the BAC,” she said. “The owners are walking through these clubs. They are reachable and approachable. That means a lot.”
Cappellino said she’s excited to still be working with Coleman and Raugh.
Raugh, one-time national director for Bally’s Total Fitness, has developed a brand, the Raugh Truth. She has a Saturday morning radio show on WDCX 99.5 FM, appears frequently on local television, has a string of home exercise videos, and also specializes in nutrition. She teaches kickboxing, body sculpting and yoga.
Cappellino, a 22-year veteran of the BAC and the chain’s former wellness director, was based at the Eastern Hills branch, where she taught Zumba, Zumba toning and body sculpting. She also is in the midst of writing a children’s wellness book series and teaches corporate wellness classes, and owns her own small business, Creatively Fit.
The vast majority of participants in both their classes have been women.
When it comes to Raugh, there’s been one notable exception: her husband, Jeff, a University at Buffalo alumnus. He plans to do his weight training at the UB gym and his cardio work at home, using his wife’s videos.
Raugh had to say goodbye last week to about a dozen men who have been taking her classes for a couple of decades, men who followed her to the BAC from Bally’s in recent years. She’s encouraged them to “shop around” for a new club.
Meanwhile Monday, more than two dozen students who take aerobic jazz classes in the Eastern Hills branch heard about pitches that have been made from the BAC for Women and LA Fitness to keep them. Both chains vowed to keep their classes, but four instructors appear to have split in terms of where they will teach: two at the BAC and two at LA Fitness. That means class members – some of whom have worked out together for more than 20 years – likely will split, too.
Male instructors don’t have the same latitude as their female counterparts. That includes Cappellino’s brother, Tom Couch, a spinning instructor at the BAC Boulevard Mall location who’s decided to take a similar job with LA Fitness at the same location.
Cappellino and other local gym experts urged male BAC members – as well as BAC member women struggling with what to do – take their time with any decision to change clubs.
“(BAC/LA Fitness) members have until January 31 to decide what’s the best fit for them,” Cappellino told me.
That’s advice I plan to take. I renewed my BAC membership for a year on Dec. 18, the night before BAC staffers were notified by email that the chain’s coed branches would be sold. Staff did not know about the pending sale at the time.
I’ve already decided to take my time choosing my next fitness club option.
I plan to attend an open house at the Northtowns YMCA on New Year’s Day (find out more here) and to check out at least two or three more fitness centers before making a final decision.
That’s how I ended up at the BAC in the first place when I moved back to Western New York in 2004.
I look to ask lots of questions – and pay a lot of attention – while testing out these clubs.
If you want to weigh in on some of the questions I should ask, or the things I should consider, drop me a message at the email address below, or leave a comment at the end of the blog.
And find out Saturday in the print and online editions of WNY Refresh what fitness club experts suggest you should ask when choosing a gym.