It’s that time of year again when many people start a health kick, which also means many of the more than 40 gyms around the Big Island will see spikes in membership.

UFC Gym BJ Penn assistant fitness manager and personal training coach Adam Palochik works with gym member Duryn Izumo of Hilo on the cable row machine the afternoon of Jan. 4 at the gym in Hilo. (Photo by Nathan Christophel/Big Island Now)

Chris Matchniff, general manager of UFC Gym BJ Penn in Hilo, said the New Year’s surge in their memberships correlates with people making New Year’s resolutions about getting more fit, losing weight and improving overall physical health.

“Typically what you see is an increase where the total memberships that we’re going to sell for the year in the month of January, that makes up anywhere between 12 to 15 percent of the memberships that we’ll do for the entire year,” Matchniff said.

A new Forbes Health/OnePoll surveyed 1,000 U.S. adults in October last year and found 48% planned to make a New Year’s resolution for 2024 to improve their fitness (the top choice) and 34% said their main goal this year is to lose weight.

Results from last week’s Big Island Now poll asking “What is your New Year’s resolution for 2024?” showed 14% of voters made their resolution this year to improve their physical health and 8% wanted to lose weight.

But many people fail to keep these resolutions — or any resolutions — for more than a few months. Kaiser Permanente says there are three main reasons why: having unrealistic goals, lack of planning and no tracking process.


“What happens to people is they try to boil the ocean,” said cardiologist Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, who is chairman of the preventive medicine department at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, in a Dec. 21 story from the American Heart Association.

“They try to fix all their health problems at the same time, and they get discouraged and give up. … Let’s do what’s achievable and get to that plateau and then shoot for a higher plateau.”

People of all types and ages join gyms, each with different goals based on specific needs. Yet sometimes those goals overlap and members find like-minded people who support each other.

“Now, they’ve got a partner to work out with, to spot them, to give them motivation,” said Shelby Hoota, manager of Spencer Health & Fitness Center in downtown Hilo. “You know, like, ‘Ring, ring. Hey, get up, let’s go.’”

Pacific Island Fitness is located in Suite B9 at 74-5583 Luhia St. in Kailua-Kona. (Photo from the Pacific Island Fitness website)

Gyms also offer a level or accountability — whether from staff or other members — to keep people on track for reaching their goals.


Spencer’s, Pacific Island Fitness in Kailua-Kona and UFC Gym BJ Penn all offer traditional free weights and other exercise equipment such as stair machines, treadmills, ellipticals and stationary bicycles. They also all have knowledgeable staffs that can answer questions and provide help.

Pacific Island offers a variety of group classes such as indoor cycling, different forms of yoga, higher-intensity workouts, as well as some tailored to seniors that help with strength, cardio and stretching.

Matchniff said UFC Gym BJ Penn, with about 4,300 members through the end of 2023, offers much more than the usual gym amenities. They include youth classes, mixed martial arts including Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, wrestling for adults and keiki, private Muay Thai sessions, group fitness classes, Zumba and kickboxing.

It also offers personal training coaches, Olympic lift platforms, a punching bag room, an upcoming weight loss challenge, a Recovery program and even an octagon fighting ring.

This also is the time of year when many gyms have deals to attract new members.


Spencer Health & Fitness Center, which has about 1,000 members, is offering a 3-month membership special for $100. The gym’s regular monthly membership fee is $45. It does not charge an initiation fee.

Pacific Island Fitness, which had 2,386 members by the end of 2023, is offering a 2024 New Year special of $142 for 3 months for new members only. The gym’s normal monthly kamaʻāina rate is $79. There’s also no sign-up fee and no contract.

UFC Gym BJ Penn is offering a discounted enrollment fee of $24 in January. The fee is normally $99. The gym is also waiving the enrollment fee for a second family member membership through the deal.

Memberships range from $59 a month for “fitness” to $123.44 a month for “champion.” While it’s not specifically a New Year’s promotion, the gym will work with people who need some help paying over time for their membership.

Venus Rodin, a 22 year old from Hilo who has been a member of Spencer Health & Fitness Center for a year and a half, lifts weights the afternoon of Jan. 2 at the gym in downtown Hilo. (Photo by Nathan Christophel/Big Island Now)

Venus Rodin, a 22-year-old from Hilo, said she chose to join Spencer Health & Fitness Center a year and a half ago for several reasons, including amenities such as a sauna and the gym’s hours. But she also enjoys the friendly and supportive atmosphere.

“The entire crowd is really diverse and I think that really helps people feel more comfortable if they’re starting out or just whatever level they’re on; all levels are here,” she said. “So I think that definitely is helpful.”

Gyms are communities. Kahanu Akiona, with member services at Pacific Island Fitness, said many longtime members go out of their way to reach out and offer help if it looks like somebody needs it.

“Everyone comes from all walks of life, but somehow they find common ground here because everyone has something to accomplish here whether it’s physical fitness or something a little deeper,” she said. “People tend to bond over their journey and how they grow and how they improve.”

UFC Gym BJ Penn’s main tenants are empowering the fighting spirit in its staff and members to revolutionize the world to train different. That includes working with the community and building community inside among members and staff.

“This gym is built on community. That’s just the reality of it,” Quinajon said.

She added that when people get to know each other in a goal-driven fitness environment, they can find inspiration and support. She thinks that’s why gyms and personal training remain so valid in people’s fitness and physical health journeys.

“People go to gyms and they go because they do enjoy seeing other people working at their goals,” Quinajon said. “And people stay at gyms because they enjoy the certain flavor of the community at the gym.”

For more information about Spencer Health & Fitness Center, call 808-969-1511 or stop in at the gym located at 197 Keawe St. in Hilo.

To learn more about Pacific Island Fitness, visit the gym’s website, call 808-498-0681 or stop in at its location in Suite B9 at 74-5583 Luhia St. in Kailua-Kona.

You can find more about UFC Gym BJ Penn on its website, by calling 808-825-4878 or visiting the gym at 777 Kino‘ole St. in Hilo.

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