'Pay as you row' gym club develops extra cash muscle

FOR all those people who indulged over Christmas, but can't afford a year's gym membership, comes a new concept – "a pay as you go" gym venture which secured £260,000 in funding from private investors yesterday.

PayasUgym promises to revolutionise the health club market. The concept will be launched in London and the South-East on January 21 and there are plans to roll it out in Leeds, Sheffield, Manchester and Birmingham by autumn 2011.

The funding comes from investment group Braveheart, which also owns the Yorkshire-based Viking Fund.

PayasUgym will offer casual gym users access to a network of gyms on a pay as you go basis with no membership ties. The company has signed up a number of chains with gyms across the country, but these will not be unveiled until the launch next month.

The new concept allows customers to "load" cash on to an online account which can be used at a wide range of fitness centres, from luxury spas to leisure centre gyms.

PayasUgym co-founder Jamie Ward said: "Consumers are increasingly demanding more choice and flexibility with their gym memberships. PayasUgym will address these existing market restrictions and provide affordability and convenience for casual gym users."

PayasUgym was thought up by work colleagues Mr Ward and Neil Harmsworth, who came up with the idea when travelling back from a customer meeting discussing the difficulties in finding a gym you can visit on a one-off basis.

Braveheart's subsidiary Envestors said payasUgym had a "great business model that serves a real need". The investment firm specialises in matching high-net worth private investors with fast-growing start-ups.

Each gym and health club will offer customers a range of workout options which vary by price, facility type, style and location.

"With this innovative programme, keeping fit is made more affordable without any membership fee to pay or a standard monthly charge – customers can spend as little or as much as they want only paying for what gym time they use," said Mr Ward.

The cost of each visit varies from 5 to 35 depending on the individual gym and the services it offers, as well as the time of visit which could be at peak or off-peak times. The cheaper visits would cover practical gyms for on-the-hop functional visits while the more expensive visits would involve top-end luxury health clubs where users can spend several hours relaxing.

Members can go as often or little as they like.

Mr Ward said: "The affordability and flexibility of payasUgym means the traditional barriers that prevent people from exercising are broken down and the opportunity for people to visit the gym is increased".

PayasUgym could face competition next year when serial entrepreneur Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou launches a budget fitness club.

Sir Stelios is gearing up to launch easyGym in the first half of 2011, allowing users to sign up for monthly-only contacts costing as little as 15 a month.

While not targeting the pay as you go market, the easyGroup initiative is aimed at those looking for a more affordable way to get fit.