Burn­ing the fat

Checks out four of Le­banon’s top fit­ness cen­ters

Executive Magazine - - Hospitality & Tourism - By Na­bila Rah­hal

The com­mer­cial fit­ness in­dus­try in Le­banon is wit­ness­ing a growth both in the num­ber of gyms and in the va­ri­ety of fit­ness op­tions inspired by global trends. Ex­ec­u­tive pro­filed four dif­fer­ent gyms to learn more about their unique busi­ness strate­gies and their take on the Le­banese mar­ket.


Spread over 4,000 me­ter squares is Ashour Hold­ing’s first ven­ture into the health and fit­ness in­dus­try, fol­low­ing his other hos­pi­tal­ity projects such as the Lan­caster ho­tels and the restau­rants in Ver­dun.

180 De­grees, which opened al­most a year ago, is lo­cated on Unesco Street to­wards the be­gin­ning of the Jnah high­way and is housed in the three floor un­der­ground ware­house of Ashour Hold­ing’s Park Tower Build­ing. Ac­cord­ing to Sa­mar Ham­dan, the pro­ject’s di­rec­tor, a fit­ness and spa cen­ter was one of the few con­cepts that would be suc­cess­ful in a such large un­der­ground space.

In ad­di­tion to the gym it­self, which has 18 car­dio­vas­cu­lar ma­chines, around 34 strength train­ing ones, an in­door pool and two squash courts, the out­let also in­cludes a health food cafe­te­ria, a cloth­ing store and a beauty and mas­sage spa. “We want peo­ple to come to our cen­ter and be able to spend the day,” ex­plains Ham­dan.

Ham­dan ex­plains that they use 180 De­grees Fit­ness and Spa’s large space to its full ad­van­tage and have five stu­dios for classes with plans to open a new stu­dio in their garage that would have a ca­pac­ity of 80 clients per class. Be­cause of the num­ber of stu­dios, 180 De­grees is able to of­fer a va­ri­ety of classes at the same time, of­ten hav­ing four classes run­ning si­mul­ta­ne­ously. “We of­fer Les Mills, Rad­i­cal Fit­ness, Freestyle and yoga classes so ev­ery­one can find a class that suits them,” ex­plains Ha­madan.

Ham­dan does not feel that hav­ing a large num­ber of mem­bers in one class would de­ter from the ex­pe­ri­ence and says that it is up to the trainer to make sure all mem­bers are do­ing the moves cor­rectly. Be­cause of the high energy classes of­fered and the vi­brant decor, Ham­dan says the gym at­tracts a lot of stu­dents from the neigh­bour­ing univer­si­ties such as LAU and AUB. Mem­ber­ship fees vary be­tween cor­po­rate, stu­dents, an­nual cash pay­ment and semi an­nual pay­ment but the av­er­age is $125 per month paid over a full year.

Ham­dan says a lot of their mem­bers sign up for per­sonal train­ing although the in­struc­tors on the floor mon­i­tor all clients re­gard­less of whether they took PT ses­sions or not, and change their pro­grams on a bi­monthly ba­sis as they de­velop strength. “Clients still sign up for per­sonal train­ing be­cause they see bet­ter and faster re­sults, some­times in only three months,” says Ha­madan.

When they first opened the gym, Ham­dan says the main chal­lenge was pro­mot­ing their name amidst the com­pe­ti­tion in the area. “We were able to dis­tin­guish our­selves with our con­sis­tent high qual­ity ser­vice,” ex­plains Ha­madan.

To­day, 180 De­grees has around a 1,000 mem­bers with plans to con­tinue grow­ing.


Just off the Ra­bieh high­way is a phys­io­ther­apy and sports bou­tique cen­ter called Evolve which opened in 2012.

Its owner, Elias Azar, is a phys­io­ther­a­pist. Af­ter earn­ing a Bach­e­lor’s in Bi­ol­ogy, Azar had hoped to be­come a chi­ro­prac­tor but was forced to change plans when the July 2006 war pre­vented him from con­tin­u­ing his ed­u­ca­tion abroad.

In­stead, Azar chose to ma­jor in phys­io­ther­apy at Le­banon’s An­to­nine Univer­sity which had just launched the course in English. Along­side his stud­ies, Azar, who had al­ways prac­ticed a wide va­ri­ety of sports, was work­ing part time as a trainer at one of the neigh­bor­hood gyms. “I was ap­ply­ing what I was learn­ing at univer­sity; the late stage of phys­io­ther­apy is the strength­en­ing and pro­pri­o­cep­tive phase, or the early stage of sports,” ex­plains Azar.

As Azar learnt more about the re­la­tion­ship be­tween phys­io­ther­apy and work­ing out, he be­gan to re­late his knowl­edge to his clients. Word of mouth from sat­is­fied clients helped Azar ex­pand his list of gym clients who were re­cov­er­ing from in­jury. “I started us­ing the gym to strengthen



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