Unlimited potential

Published 12:47 am Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Austin Thomas, co-owner of Fitness Unlimited in Washington, stands alongside the gym’s front desk Tuesday. (WDN Photo/Jonathan Clayborne)

BizLine is a weekly feature highlighting local businesses serving Washington and Beaufort County. This week’s BizLine works out with Fitness Unlimited, a Washington gym.


Austin Thomas went from banks to barbells.

Thomas, who co-owns Washington’s Fitness Unlimited with his wife, Amy, started out financing gyms at BB&T.

Then, the banker decided to strike out on his own, starting Fitness Unlimited 11-and-a-half years ago.

Today, the gym has around 2,100 members, including its senior-citizens Silver Sneakers population, part of a national program.

“Silver Sneakers is about 250 members,” Thomas said. “It’s 65 and older. It’s paid for by insurance companies. It’s actually very different than our traditional member base where John Doe walks in and pays for his year or after his year, that kind of thing.”

Fitness Unlimited also boasts its Total Solution weight-loss program, which has yielded results for people like Jerry Woolard of Washington, who was recently profiled on WITN-TV.

“That has kind of changed the face of our club,” Thomas said of the initiative, adding that within this one program are 29 different programs, all tailored to the client’s weight goals, metabolic rates and other factors.

In other words, Fitness Unlimited is more than just free weights and treadmills — although the building sports those items in abundance.

“The image that people have of our gym most of the time is wrong,” Thomas said.

And he sees the gym evolving even more to fit into a new fitness model.

“I see the industry going much more to wellness, I see us going much more to wellness and the overall picture of someone’s health versus traditional gym life,” he said.

Thomas’ No. 1 goal is to ensure his customers aren’t intimidated by the experience of walking through the front doors for the first time.

“We want to get the intimidation factor out of people’s mind because most people have this image before they ever walk in the doors of what this place is like, and most of the time it’s wrong,” he said.

Fitness Unlimited houses a smoothie bar, tanning bed, child-care room, sauna, full basketball court and, coming by Dec. 27, added high-tech cardio equipment outfitted with TV and Internet access.

The facility also accommodates early risers — very early risers.

The place comes with an early access option for members to swipe club-issued cards and gain entry to the building as early as 4 a.m.

“The goal is to expand that to 24 hours, but we’re waiting until the market demands it,” Thomas said.

Regular hours are 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 5:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays.

For more information, call 252-975-7400, visit www.fitnessunlimitednc.com or see the gym’s page on Facebook.

“We feel like we change lives — I think that’s really what we do,” Thomas said. “That’s what our mission is, is how can we impact one’s life in a positive manner.”

Located at 622 W. 15th St., the gym has about 26 employees, eight of them full-time.

Six years ago, the place had five employees total.

“So we’ve grown a lot in this location,” Thomas pointed out.