Leesha Mckenny May 14, 2012
Come any time ... the rise in 24-hour gyms comes at a time when slower growth for the industry is predicted. Photo: Wolter Peeters
WHILE you were likely sleeping, Tomas Bystron edged a little closer to his toughest goal yet, a six-pack.
''The only things I do, I work, I study, then I go to the gym,'' the 20-year-old hospitality worker from the Czech Republic said as the clock inside Jetts, a new 24-hour gym in Haymarket, neared midnight.
The convenient gym hours, cost and easy access fuelling Mr Bystron's rapid development is doing the same for the 24-hour fitness sector, at a time when analysts foresee slower growth for the broader industry.
After five years of operation, Jetts has 165 gyms - 65 more than Fitness First - and was named Australia's fastest growing franchise by BRW magazine this year.
Its Queensland-based founder, Brendon Levenson, aims to place a gym ''within eight minutes of 80 per cent of the Australian population'' as part of a planned network of 350 across Australia and New Zealand.
Its main competitor, the US-based Anytime Fitness, opens about two gyms across the country each week. Also run under a franchise model, Anytime has sold 170 gym ''territories'' across Australia, in addition to the 150 gyms that are already open.
If Fitness First is the Coles or Woolworths of the industry, these businesses aim to be its local convenience stores - few frills and smaller premises mean they can turn a profit with fewer customers.
These 24-hour gyms pull people who do not like exercising around other people.
''Which is a lot of people,'' said Anytime's Australian master franchisor, Justin McDonell.
John Gibson, 28, a CityRail guard who has lost almost 10 kilograms since matching all-hour workouts at Jetts to his all-hours roster, said it was a gym he felt comfortable joining.
''The good thing about this hour of the day … you can do what you want how you want, and you don't have to feel so self-conscious,'' he told the Herald an hour before his 2.30am Central Station shift.
He joins the other shift workers, time-poor parents and - at Haymarket - international students who make up about 10 per cent of the 24-hour market who are active between 11pm and 5am.
Records at Haymarket show about five people have consistently accessed the central city gym between midnight and 4am since it opened five weeks ago. All are already identified as highly active users, far outnumbered by the security cameras.
Mr Levenson and Mr McDonell have found that measures such as video surveillance and panic buttons keep insurance premiums lower than conventional gyms, despite periods of no supervision.
Mr Levenson warned that with several other operators also opening clubs, the market would probably become over saturated. It would be a case of survival of the fittest, he said.
By 2am in Haymarket, Naseer Mohammed, 24, an assistant night manager for Novotel, had outstayed all. He said he relied on Jetts to work out when Fitness First was closed. The ''love of bodybuilding'' would keep him there until 3.30am.