Michelle Brannon is the general manager and fitness director at Sunset Family Fitness. Brannon has over 20 years experience in a variety of fitness disciplines including indoor cycling, cross training, circuit training and senior and youth fitness.

What advice would you give someone joining a gym for the first time?

“Do your research and find out what kind of memberships are available: contract or no contract, are short-term memberships or punch cards available?

You should do a short-term — one week, or one month trial membership to see if the gym provides an atmosphere that fits you; is it too busy during the times you want to work-out; do you prefer classes, if so, what kind of classes are provided, and do the class times fit your schedule?

Is the location of the facility convenient? If you are new to working out, you will be less likely to stick to it if getting to the gym becomes an obstacle. If you are a morning person, or are better right after work, choose a facility close to work, or on your way to work or home. If you choose a facility close to home, and you think that you will “just stop by home to change before going to the gym” after work, you will never make it.”

Are there any common misconceptions about exercise that you encounter?

“Exercise will help me lose weight. In the short-term: yes, exercise will help you lose some weight (depending on how overweight you are). The purpose of exercise is to improve your overall health — building muscle, losing fat, increasing flexibility and range of motion, and improving heart and lung function (circulation).


Sunset Family Fitness is located at 840 24th Ave. in Seaside.

I’m too old to do that. Almost anyone can do some sort of exercise to improve their current health situation. Being “old” or having some sort of disability is no excuse. It may just be that your current health situation does not require you to use a gym to improve your health, but having someone to monitor your exercise may be warranted.”

What’s the biggest mistake people make when they’re looking to get back in shape?

“Overdoing it. But also, these days with a lot of exercise enthusiasts posting their “programs” on social media, I see people new to exercise coming to the gym and trying these programs with little success or ending in injury.”

As a family fitness center, how do you appeal to all ages?

“We provide classes for all ages and fitness levels. We are part of several Medicare programs that subsidize senior memberships and we offer senior appropriate classes five days a week, including yoga, pilates, circuit classes for strength and cardio training. We provide classes for children as young a 2 years old — Tumble Tykes and circuit classes for children 5 to 12 years old; and a free student program available to all Clatsop County middle and high school students (ages 13 to 18 years old).”

How can a personal trainer help a person achieve their goals?

“A personal trainer will create a program specific to the client’s goals, which can include meal/nutrition advise depending on the trainer’s expertise. For the most part, a certified personal trainer is a great option for those new to exercise to put them on the right track to make sure they do not injure themselves; and is a valuable source of varied training methods for those more experienced with exercise. A personal trainer is also a good check on how realistic ones goals are.”

What are some of the most popular instructor-led classes?

“Indoor Cycling (popularly known as Spinning — licensed term), Yoga, and Dance ( or Zumba — licensed term), and group strength training.”

What factors do you feel influence membership the most?

“Gym atmosphere, friendliness and professionalism of staff and instructors.”

Are there any fitness fads that make you cringe?

“Cross-fit. Don’t get me wrong — it is great for athletes, or those who have had an athletic background. But unless you are highly supervised, I don’t recommend Cross-fit to those new to exercise.”

What inspired you to open a fitness center (in 2007)?

“I worked for the previous owners and they had the facility for sale, and it was just floundering and had so much potential, so we decided to buy it — not the best timing considering the economic climate, but it worked out.”

What impact did the 2008 recession have on your business?

“It was tough. We initially lowered the rates from what the previous owners charged, which helped us get up and running; then as the economy started to recover, around 2011, we slowly started adjusting the visitor rates, and adding services. Finally, in 2018, we raised our membership rates for the first time since 2007; and we did so by using two fee schedules. We used the new rates for new members for 2018, but gave our loyal members a one-year reprieve; they will not begin to pay the new rates until 2019. We never went for the lower rate incentives employed by most gyms, or cable or wireless companies, which usually make current members feeling left out; instead, we decided that loyal members deserved to use the old fee schedule and new members should use the new fee schedule.”

How has the business changed in the past 10 years?

“On the gym floor, you see a lot more people carrying around their phones following a online program; earbuds in and in their own world. As for classes, other than the evolution of classes, there are not many changes other than the vastly increased choices of music.”

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned as a business owner?

“Trends come and go, stick with what you are good at; and if you are in a service industry, relationships are everything!”

What part of your job gives you the greatest satisfaction?

“Anytime a member tells me about their improved numbers from their latest physical; or surprise and praise from their physician; or any other diet or physical breakthrough or achievement.”

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