WALNUT CREEK, CA — News that 21 Minute Convenience Fitness was franchising may have caused many people to yawn — after all, what's so new about an express club franchising these days? Well, a closer look at 21 Minute Convenience Fitness shows that this coed express model, which founder and CEO Greg Thurman refers to as a convenience model, is different from many others, and that has to do with the personal touch involved in the workouts more than anything else.

No one can be on the equipment unless supervised by a coach. Most clubs can accommodate five clients at a time, and no coach can supervise more than two clients at a time. While clients work out on the 13 pieces of equipment, the coaches use CoachTech, a hand-held wireless computer created by the company, to enter information about the workout. The computer maintains the appointment schedule, the members' health profile and assists the franchisee in operating the studio.

“The coaches are not personal trainers,” Thurman said, “because the knowledge and expertise necessary to be a coach in this model are not as great as most personal trainers possess. The CoachTech technology means that someone with a basic understanding of and passion for fitness could be a coach.”

The coaches must have two-year equivalents of kinesiology, physiology and physical education related course work as prequalifications. Once hired, the coaches must complete an online training program and then an in-studio certification program developed by the company.

To ensure enough coaches are available for individual attention, workouts are scheduled online.

Workouts are done on selectorized, medical-grade equipment often found in clinics and physical therapy settings, said Thurman. Members perform their workouts using an adaptation of Nautilus founder Arthur Jones' method of slow, controlled movement.

“Because of the slow, controlled nature of our technique and the medical quality of our equipment, it's the safest it can be,” said Thurman.

Beyond the individual attention and controlled movement of weight, the club offers the convenience of being able to work out in street clothes and not work up a sweat.

“We are taking away every reason we can find to keep people from working out, Thurman said. If you don't have time to take a shower afterwards, you don't need to. You don't sweat. There are stockbrokers who work across the street who take off their tie and come over at lunch and work out.”

Membership costs vary from $99 to $179 a month depending on whether it is a corporate, individual or family membership and whether it is month to month or yearly. But Thurman doesn't think that is too high a price to pay for the individual attention that members get.

“While our program is for everyone, it is a great first step for someone having a tremendous difficulty getting into or staying into fitness,” he said.

Franchises run $29,500 for a startup fee. The franchise fee is comparable to others, Thurman said while declining to be more specific. However, he said that franchisees don't need a fitness background, just a passion for fitness and a lack of fear of technology since much of the facility is technology driven.

“Express clubs are a great trend, and we are a sub sector of that industry, but we are taking that much higher in terms of its convenience and accessibility,” said Thurman. “We are making it available to people who it wasn't convenient for before. You can step inside and in 20 to 25 minutes get a total body workout, and when you have to do that just twice a week, that's convenient.”