Interviews

INTERVIEW: ONE ON ONE WITH PLANET FITNESS CEO MANNY RIVERA

As Sandton continues to grow, so to is the health and fitness space, with Planet Fitness about to complete their latest gym at The Marc (former Village Walk) on Maude Street whilst Morningside welcomes a new Planet Fitness at The Wedge Shopping Centre. The Sandton Times caught up with Manny Rivera, founder and CEO of Planet Fitness, to discuss this milestone and more.

Manny, thanks for taking the time out of your schedule for this interview – first off, how is business?

Business at Planet Fitness is great, we are growing from strength to strength. We are definitely the fastest growing health club in South Africa right now. We are opening approximately 15 new clubs this year alone and plan to open 1 a month for the next 5 years so the brand is doing exceptionally well.

Planet Fitness has been a major player in South Africa’s gym industry for many years. Now we see quite a few new gym chains popping up. How has the business changed from when you first started?

When we first started there was 1 major player and we became the second and now there are many new players which is great, competition is always a good thing – it helps you to keep on top of your game and keep improving.



There seems to be a growing appetite for outdoor mass participation fitness events – any plans for Planet Fitness to stage more events like the one hosted at Nelson Mandela Square?

We are definitely going to be a permanent feature at Nelson Mandela Square, as well as other prime sites across the country. The event was an incredible success and the participation was more than we could have hoped for and that proves that these types of events are imperative.

Planet Fitness will be opening over a dozen new clubs this year – what are the plans for Sandton in-terms of existing and new clubs?

We are opening a state-of-the-art Signature club at the new The Marc (previously Village Walk) as well as Morningside at The Wedge Shopping Centre which will be our first club to have the full Life Fitness equipment range – the number 1 rate fitness equipment brand worldwide.

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Planet Fitness championed the Les Mills program in South Africa before discontinuing it – any plans to bring this back again?

The partnership we had with Les Mills was fruitful but we decided to take our group exercise programs in-house so that we could be in control of what we put out to our members. We have brilliant people internally at Planet Fitness, especially Charmaine Giani, our Group Exercise Manager who has vast, international experience to develop programs to keep us innovative and abreast of the industry trends.

What are some of the major trends impacting gyms globally that are now also appearing in South Africa?

Budget gyms are popping up all over and seem to be a global trend but we have already brought in our own budget gym, JustGym which is doing tremendously well.



From your experience, how is technology impacting the way a gym operates and the role of a personal trainer?

Technology is always evolving at a rapid rate and we need to stay on top of the technology revolution and in saying that with regards to Personal Trainers we are already starting to bring in virtual training which involves workouts and meal plans to make it more accessible for our members as well as giving our Personal Trainers the platforms to offer better intel and accessibility to clients. Face-to-face Personal Training will always be a need for different types of people and so we will always strive to stay in touch with technology as well as our PT’s to ensure improvements to our members.

How have changes in Discovery Vitality, a major partner to Planet Fitness, impacted the way people use your gyms?

Discovery Vitality have been an amazing partner to us and they are a great brand who drive wellness through their Vitality programs which of course increases retention and wellness as a whole which adds value to both brands.

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Being the head of a major South African fitness group, what does your workout regime look like?

I used to be a Baseball player when I was younger and started training when I was around 15 years old but now that I am more mature, I do a lot of cardio-vascular training and cross training to reduce any excess weight. I train about 3-5 times a week to keep my workout routine in check.

What’s on your business bucket list for 2018?

To continue to ensure the culture of the business is at its best and focus on the 2 pillars of the business, staff and our members. You can never lose touch with that – we need to always remember that people are the foundation and success of any business and so we need to further connect with them. Another one for the bucket list is the school we are launching, to give people the opportunity to build their careers in this industry.


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