*EDITOR’S NOTE: The Daily Independent will launch a new weekly section of the newspaper dedicated solely to health-related topics on Tuesday.

Cassie Sasser is a 36-weeks-pregnant mother of a 3-year-old, but she continues to work out and teach classes every day at CrossFit Countdown.

The health club’s co-owner is displaying, by example, the unwavering importance of exercise and a healthy lifestyle.

It’s a new year, and a new decade. But for Sasser, Dec. 31, 2019, was no different than Jan. 1, 2020. That’s the kind of mindset she and her husband, Gerald, want to instill into those who step inside the Countdown doors.

The predictable rise of gym memberships is assuredly occurring across the nation, as it has every January since the inception of fitness centers.

As is smart business practice, many of these establishments will offer membership specials in January in order to attract all folks who embrace the common New Year’s resolution of getting in shape.

By March, are those people still there? Or does it become a failed resolution?

Sasser has pegged three months as sort of the magic mark.

“If we can keep somebody for three months, we can keep them for a year,” Sasser said.

December 2019 produced a nice present as it was the first December since Countdown opened in 2012 in which no members dropped off.

“We’ve lost people over Christmas, usually,” she said.

Gym memberships have been steadily climbing across the country over the last 20 years. According to statista.com, memberships increased from 32.8 million in 2000 to 60.8 million in 2017 at fitness centers/health clubs. 

The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, in 2016, discovered that 10.8% of all gym membership sales took place in January. The next closest month was June (8.9%) — the prime time for people to attempt to get fit for summer months.

Ryan Arnett, the manager at Firm Fitness in the Bellefonte Pavilion, said newer places will see more substantial spikes. Firm Fitness opened in 2010.

Missy Griffith, on the other hand, said the Ashland Area YMCA sees a considerable boost in activity level every year. The Y’s membership and marketing director is a 25-year YMCA employee.

“We usually start our rise slowly about the beginning of December,” Griffith said. “Then, of course, Jan. 1 is full-blown. No, it’s more than that. It’s crazy, it’s huge, it’s hectic, it’s chaos In January, typically we rise probably about 300 new memberships.

Griffith said the viral meme depicting the differences in the gym on Jan. 1 compared to a couple months later that has circulated across social media over the last few New Year’s Days is spot-on.

Griffith said membership numbers begin a slow rise in December before spiking in January.

By March, a considerable chunk of those memberships are no more.

Why the drop-off?

Said Arnett: “Everybody has great intentions out of the gate, but they really don’t know where to start. They don’t know what direction to go. A huge part of what we do is help people start their journey.”

Griffith said all of her staff log extra hours during the winter. The Ashland Y typically hires a handful of employees this time of year to handle all the desk traffic.

The YMCA offers various membership options, including a popular monthly bank draft choice.

It has expanded its fitness classes, offering about 60 different classes a week now. A new kids dance fitness class is featured, and swim lessons have expanded. Griffith said there are games throughout the facility that cater to kids and will hopefully help retain members with children. A family membership is $39 a month. Visit ashlandareaymca.org for more information.

The YMCA, Firm Fitness, CrossFit Countdown and so many other health centers all have their own personalities, as Arnett has assessed.

“It’s just about whatever fits you, fits your needs and fits your goals,” he said.

Firm Fitness is hospital-based — it is affiliated with Our Lady of Bellefonte — and is “big on the wellness side, preventive health activities,” Arnett said. It features a hair salon (The Room Hair & Design) and massage therapy (L Massage) as well as a slew of classes, such as Zumba, pilates and others.

Both the Ashland Area YMCA and Firm Fitness have a wide age range of members.

As Sasser pointed out, so does CrossFit Countdown.

“Our oldest member is 72,” she said. “We also have a lady with MS (multiple sclerosis) and foot drop. … My husband does personal training, and his youngest is probably sixth grade.”

So, basically the Sassers’ message is, “no excuses.” Also, CrossFit can be for everybody.

They conduct classes, the first of which is free, at scheduled times beginning as early at 5:45 a.m. from Monday-Friday. There are also open gym times available, including on Saturdays, for patrons with experience. The Sassers conduct cardiovascular-centered workouts on Sundays.

Mike Miller and Cindy Sullivan assist the Sassers in instructing classes, which feature as many as 25 members during busy hours. Several of Countdown’s members participate in competitions, too.

Other CrossFit places have opened in the area — and there are several fitness center options throughout northeastern Kentucky. That’s just fine with the Sassers.

“We just want to get people moving,” Cassie Sasser said. “I know I feel better when I work out.”

(606) 326-2664 |


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