Welcome Charles Catt, New General Manager of the Health Club! (Interview)
Welcome to Waterside! Please tell us a bit about yourself …
I’m a born and raised New Yorker: I was actually born in the hallway of our apartment on West 87th Street.
That’s unique – how’d that happen?
My mom woke up, her water broke, she said, “I’m having baby right now.” My dad said, “I’ll go out and get a cab.” She said,
The only way that could be a more New York story is if everyone broke into song.
They’re both in theater arts, so that would have been very apropos.
So you not only have a fitness and management background, you also have a fitness club management background?
I fell into fitness when I needed a job while I was going to school. I started as a personal trainer. I put myself through college personal training. And then immediately afterwards, I decided I wanted to stay in fitness and got a job working at Equinox as a manager.
I ran three Equinoxes in various departments, as a department head for them for three different clubs.
Those are huge places, sometimes those run a bit like machines.
And from a client perspective, sometimes that experience can become impersonal.
Sure, there’s only so much attention you can give a single person when you have 1400 people coming in every day.
And having my office right by the pool, you get to see all of the kids from schools come in, you get to know the different instructors.
Do you have any particular thoughts about Health Clubs in general?
I feel the key is to approach the Health Club like it’s a third space: It’s not work, it’s not home, but people should feel 100% comfortable here, so they want to bring their whole family here.
That it’s a place, it’s a community center, and it’s a gym.
That’s the third space that I want to get to.
As with everything here at Waterside, the staff and team are solid.
Yes, I’ve inherited a great team. I’m really impressed. What’s been done especially well here is that we have lifeguards who start out as a receptionists, and then they move on to being a lifeguard, then they move onto being a swim instructor.
We want a path for members too: A child starts here with swim instruction, then they become a teenager and since they live on site, they join the fitness center, then they start taking group fitness classes, they bring their friends and family here for birthday parties, and we’re a natural part of their life.
Same with employees, an all-in attitude.
It’s strikingly different when people feel genuinely passionate about their job and the environment.
When I spoke with the Tango instructors, one of the things that excited them about Tango is that it’s an exercise where people socialize as well as workout.
And fitness, I feel, in its best form, is a social thing. Sometimes, in New York, it ends up being very individual. You go and work out, lift weights, take spin class, and it can be very inwardly focused.
Or you go and you jog up and down the various paths in the city and you have your head phones on and you’re in public, but you’re not socializing.
This has the potential to have a resort type atmosphere – events on site and fitness becoming a type of social experience if people want that in their Club.
That can help with exercise too since you can love the way it feels, or being in shape, but exercise itself can be a grind.
That’s fair, that’s what a lot of people face as a barrier. They want to be healthy – but it’s hard sometimes for them to motivate themselves to do reps or whatever.
But if you’re hanging out with a friend, it’s so much easier, because it becomes a social experience.
Much more enjoyable!
You get together with a friend for a walk, or a class and you have a really good time doing it.
And that makes sense with Waterside, because obviously with every aspect it’s community. People have friends in the buildings, which doesn’t always happen in other complexes. So you can easily get together for a class.
What would you say to people who live in the building or nearby and haven’t yet explored the club: What’s the appeal?
Just look at it!
I spy a big pool.
Right. In New York City, there are a lot of high rises and blank office buildings – but where else can you find basically a greenhouse with an eight-lane pool and really friendly staff?
It’s not something that any place around here has. The equipment, the size, the view, and the community feeling.
You’ve been a personal trainer yourself. Why do you feel fitness is so important?
It’s especially critical for your state of mind. Besides all the other health benefits, the benefits to your overall mental well being is something that you can’t replace. You can’t replace it with medicine, you can’t replace it with diet. The natural endorphins and the confidence that it gives you, it’s so important. It sets your mood at such a high state every time you work out.
Yeah, it feels like someone sweeps out all the debris from your brain and it really helps to stabilize you.
Absolutely. And especially here, if ever you’re having a stressful day, after you work out you just go outside and it looks like you’re on a ship. You’re on a cruise ship. Just passing through the bay.