SOUTH BEACH ACTIVE
1400 Alton Road
Miami Beach, Florida
December 28, 2011
There is a new cat in town, in the form of a jaguar leaping across an orange sun, as depicted on South Beach Active’s signature health fitness club on the corner of Alton Road and 14th Street.
The new brand and related operation is the brain child of the health fitness club’s president, Drew Chesler, and Ellen Chesler, his wife, who directs several of the club’s key functions. Although Ellen is the very picture of health and beauty, she prefers to keep a low profile, as does the jaguar in her native Brazil.
South Beach Active’s totem certainly fits its fitness business. The natives called this apex animal “yaguara,” which means “wild beast overcomes prey in single bound.” The jaguar is not as bold as the other cats but beware when she is hungry, for she is the most powerful cat in the Americas, known by early settlers as “the tigress of the New World.” The jaguar is a crepuscular animal, meaning she prefers to work out in the twilight, at dusk and dawn. She is famous for her solitariness, and for her affinity with water, having learned to swim over the ages, as well as for her overall agility and strength, including crushing jaws with teeth that go right to the seat of intelligence.
Drew is a local boy with family roots in Florida going back four generations. He graduated from Everglades High School in Coconut Grove, studied economics at the University of Colorado, built up an environmental services company from 2 to 1,000 employees and took it public before getting keen on the health fitness industry, which he served initially as a consultant, and then owned and operated a club for a decade. He is a high-technology enthusiast and inventor. His latest invention, iDESK SOLUTIONS, a front desk, paperless system for health clubs, is now up and running at dozens of clubs, and deals with major international clubs are in the works.
Drew is an easy-going, likeable entrepreneur. He also means business. He is devoted to the continuous improvement of the members’ health and fitness whatever that might take. He refers to his staff and the members as “the Committed Tribe.” He demands that his staff be fully committed to the tribe and proud of it.
“We don’t care if the members are young or old, able-bodied or disabled, fat or slim, or what color they are. We only care that they are committed to their fitness and we are committed to them,” he said.
No doubt South Beach Active will help bring the health club industry out of its big-box, transaction-oriented, churn-and-burn dark ages. Ironically, really caring about members as individuals is a niche business today.
I came to South Beach Active from another South Beach club where I had been a member for several years. South Beach Active supports the Silver & Fit program for seniors as a way of giving back to the community, and my insurance entitled me to a Silver & Fit membership at South Beach Active. I continued to pay dues and work out at the other club until I mentioned my situation to its manager and asked him if he could make some sort of accommodation in view of my longstanding membership. He simply pulled out a termination form: he was not interested in keeping me as a member, nor did he say goodbye.
Of course South Beach Active took some getting used to, but it did not take me long to like it. The machines are closer together, but there is a full array of old and new machines; I really like the older machines the older I get. The proximity of the machines on two floors makes working out feel more intimate, or “tribal” if you will. I picked a very slow time to work out, in the early afternoon. The club is open 24-hours—my neighbor, a personal fitness trainer who manages another gym, likes to come at dawn, but that is when I get most of my writing done. Of course there is a spin room, and a studio with all sorts of group classes included in the membership.
Drew bought several Woodway treadmills for us. Woodways are very expensive but well worth it, as walking and running on the slatted, tank-tread-like belts is very easy on the joints; the moving parts last practically forever, unlike the belts drawn over waxed hard particle boards on other treadmills.
Most importantly, South Beach Active offers individualized personal training with proven empirical results, and is currently adding more highly qualified personal trainers to its staff to keep up with demand.
As for the members I meet during the day, some are old, some young, some rich, some not so rich. There are celebs to be seen if you recognize them in gym attire, but members are careful not to gawk when they do; for example, Calvin Klein, Anna Kournikova, Jeremy Shockey, and Shakira. Amateur and professional body builders, male and female, come around from time to time. So does Hulk Hogan. Everyone is committed to working out, so there is not lot of parading around, showing off, and the chitchatting one finds at some gyms. Staff always some time for pleasantries and to whip up a tasty shake after your workout. It really is a “tribal” thing.
Last but not least is the Biotonic Vibe Studio with the vibrating Power Plates for “acceleration training,” which started out as a European thing. Doing various exercises on the vibrating plates allegedly “recruits” 85% of muscle fiber; the results claimed are amazing; including, for starters, getting rid of cellulite and varicose veins, and offsetting osteoporosis. I have not tried the Power Plates so I cannot vouch for them, but plenty of people have, including wealthy persons who have purchased the machines for home use. The packages for small group training on these machines can be expensive wherever you find them, but South Beach Active plans on offering unlimited small-group sessions for a very modest addition to its monthly dues. Other small-group training activities throughout the gym, such as “super-setting” muscle training workouts, are also planned for inclusion as an ‘extra’ in the future.
David Arthur Walters is an independent journalist. Other than being a member, he is not related to South Beach Active or its principals in any away, nor has he been compensated for writing this True Reflections review. He has also written True Reflections reviews of his experiences at Crunch Fitness and Equinox Fitness.