Poponi looks to revitalize Curves
Lealyn Poponi takes pride in resurrecting Curves International fitness franchises that have bottomed out.
"I like to call myself a ‘Curves Revival Specialist,’" Poponi said. "I have an interest in taking over clubs that are not doing well."
Her passion has led her to Curves from Florida to Colorado. Curves is a fitness club for women exclusively.
"I love the challenge, the adventure and to move all around the country doing this," she said.
Her journey has taken her to Park City where she took over the Park City Curves nearly a month ago.
"There is huge potential here. This club was about to close and that would be a shame. Clubs close in small towns, but there would be no reason for this to close," Poponi said.
Based on a formula from Curves, the Park City fitness center should have around 300 members, according to Poponi. She hopes to build on the success she’s had in other states and bring the membership up. She was 26 when she started her first club in Florida.
"After my first year, I was recognized as Franchisee of the Year by Curves International. That club rose to triple its membership after I took ownership."
With the success of her first venture, she looked elsewhere and took over a "struggling club in Colorado."
"I doubled that club’s membership in two months," she said. "Despite the club’s bad reputation in the small community of 5,000 before we took over, we were recognized a year later as the Chamber’s Business of the Year."
Curves called Poponi when the owner of Park City Curves gave notice that she was closing her club.
"They knew my track record and that I could probably work some magic over here, so they asked me if I would step in," Poponi said.
Poponi says there had to be something wrong with Park City Curves’ numbers and she was confidant she could build it back up. Also, she wanted to be associated with the Park City community.
"That’s why I wanted to come over here," she said. "The area is growing so fast. I love that it’s a connection to Park City. It’s beautiful here."
Poponi says each club is individually owned, but she’s working with Curves here because of a dedication the company has to keeping its clubs alive.
"It shows what a special company they are when they would rather a club stay open than close," Poponi said. "If it closed, they would be able to sell it again as an unopened territory for $40,000. They really care about the members."
Poponi says the secret to her success is she follows the recommendations by Curves "100 percent."
"The founders, Gary and Diane Heavin, are brilliant people and I have never been let down when I follow their advice for running a successful business," Poponi said. "They don’t really enforce the rules, they just tell their franchisees, ‘if you want to succeed, this is what you’ve got to do.’"
Many of the owners haven’t followed the steps closely, and that, she says, is why they have failed. In the short time she’s been here, she’s already seen improvement.
"This one is already increasing membership in the three weeks I’ve been here," Poponi said.
Currently she is looking for a staff to operate the club and a part-owner from Park City. She will eventually run both clubs in Gunnison, Colo. and Park City.
Poponi got involved with Curves and remains dedicated to the franchise because of her previous membership in the club.
"The interest came from being a member and realizing what a great idea it was and wanting to be a part of the company," Poponi said.
Most gyms and fitness centers are designed for men, Poponi says, and many women feel more comfortable in a place designed specifically for women.
"Women feel uncomfortable working out in front of men," she said. "They don’t like to be compared to men when it comes to fitness and it also gives an opportunity to (work on equipment) that is designed for women."
The founders of Curves, Poponi says, designed the club because women are typically forgotten.
"It allows us to design it very girly, rather than for both sexes," Poponi said.
Curves focuses on 30-minute workouts that combine strength training and sustained cardiovascular activity.
"Strength training uses hydraulic machines where the resistance adjusts to your fitness level," Poponi said. "The faster you go, the harder it works."
Curves also emphasizes that building muscle is key to losing unwanted pounds.
"When you gain more muscle, the more calories you burn at rest," Poponi said. "If a woman gains three pounds of muscle, she burns 150 calories at rest more than they did before."
Typically, women mostly just run and work on cardiovascular fitness, according to Poponi. While it’s healthy, people don’t gain the muscle needed without strength training.
"That’s one of the reasons people gain weight back, because they lost muscle," Poponi said.
Poponi said the hydraulic resistance machines are safer than lifting with free weights or other machines.
"It’s designed for safety and effectiveness," she said. You push or pull harder to increase weight rather then adding weights. It’s the second safest next to water aerobics."
Curves also offers weight loss classes and develops healthy diet plans incorporating high-protein foods and complex carbohydrates.
"We incorporate some of the Curves culture, giving away prizes and T-shirts for attending classes. We try to be very supportive and encourage them and reward them," she said.
Poponi has already made a few changes to the club in Park City. Previously customers had to purchase water but Poponi installed a free water dispenser.
"I’ve started a foot club," Poponi said. "If you’ve lost over 12-inches, you’re in the one-foot club. If you’ve lost 24-inches you’re in the two-foot club.
"I’m teaching more weight loss classes than before. We’ve got more games and more prizes; we’ll be doing a lot of fundraising events for non profits. The club has a lot more energy," she said.
Anyone interested in a membership can come in for a free tour.
"We try to get people to come in and explain the machines; it’s a lot different than what people expect," Poponi said.
Curves International of Park City is located at 1776 Park Ave. For more information, call 658-2811.
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