When Anytime Fitness reached an agreement last year to open several clubs in Morocco, co-founders Chuck Runyon and Dave Mortensen didn’t spend long celebrating their arrival on a sixth continent. “Right away,” says Runyon, “we were like, we have to get to seven.”
Ten other franchise chains have been on six continents. Now, with the opening of a club on a new cruise ship in Antarctica, Woodbury-based Anytime Fitness becomes the first franchise company that can boast a presence on all seven.
They had to “get a little clever” to pull it off, admits Runyon, CEO of Anytime Fitness. The new gym is located on the Magellan Explorer, a new boutique adventure expedition ship built for Antarctic cruises. The ship, which holds 69 passengers, will spend about six months of the year in Antarctica. No membership is required for passengers to use the gym.
Photo courtesy of Antarctica21 and Tom Arban Photography
A vanity project? “Absolutely,” Runyon says. But also, an important milestone in the company’s lofty mission to “improve the self-esteem of the world.’” “People used to think our mission was unrealistic,” Runyon says. “But we’re very serious about it.”
Anytime Fitness, the world’s largest and fastest growing fitness club chain currently has 4,500 gyms serving 4 million members in nearly 40 countries. Anytime Fitness parent company Self Esteem Brands, formed by Runyon and Mortensen, also includes Base Camp Fitness, the Bar Method and Waxing in the City. Runyon and Mortensen were awarded Entrepreneur of the Year by EY in 2018.
Anytime Fitness club aboard the Magellan Explorer ship in Antarctica. Photo courtesy of Antarctica21 and Tom Arban Photography
The Magellan Explorer departed from Punta Arenas, Chile on its first Antarctic expedition and Runyon and Mortensen traveled to Antarctica’s South Shetland Islands last week to meet it. (Antarctica might actually be a bit warmer than Minnesota right now, with highs this week in the mid 20s.) They brought with them Tony Mitchell, director of international development, and Eric Keller, senior director of international franchise support, who opened Anytime’s very first franchise in Cambridge, Minnesota in 2002.
“I’ll admit it now: Opening the very first Anytime Fitness gym in Cambridge was a little scary,” Keller says. “To think that the 5,000th Anytime Fitness gym will be opening soon is simply mind-boggling.”
With their penchant for setting high goals, the Anytime co-founders now have a new one: “We’re going to have to do something really special for the first Anytime Fitness member who works out at one of our gyms on all seven continents,” says Mortensen, president of Anytime Fitness. “I’ll definitely want to shake that person’s hand – and buy him or her a very fine bottle of champagne.”