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As a health club, your goal is to ultimately stand out from other gyms in your area. And one amenity which is integral to differentiation is aquatics. Water-based programs offer members of all shapes, sizes and fitness levels unique exercising options to help them achieve their fitness goals.
Just like other programming offered in the health club industry, aquatics goes through its own seasons of change, with new trends constantly emerging.
At Franco’s Athletic Club in New Orleans, a recent aquatics trend involves offering programming that appeals to the needs of niche audiences. Building programs around specific needs or age groups allows participants to bond over similar goals and makes it a more comfortable environment.
A great example is Franco’s Athletic Club’s Glide Swimming program, which teaches adults how to improve their swimming skills. “I think there are a lot more adults trying to get better at swimming,” said Robby Fritscher, the aquatics director at Franco’s Athletic Club.
This includes older adults and seniors. “I think you’ve got to do stuff for your senior population,” continued Fritscher. “Water walking classes are great, but every now and then, have fun with them. Get a volleyball net out, let them hit the volleyball — I think they get more engaged with their swimming [that way].”
Laurie Warner, the programming manager for Wisconsin Athletic Club, agreed adult-based classes are becoming increasingly popular. Currently, two of the most popular programs include Fit Swim, a lap swimming workout led by a trained coach, and Adult Learn to Swim, designed to teach basic swim stroke techniques, while also building endurance.
“We notice classes that offer a mix of cardio and strength seem to fill our pools,” continued Warner. “In 2017, we saw an increase in one-on-one aquatics personal training as well.”
Another trend in aquatics is taking programs traditionally done on land and transitioning them into water. At Baptist Health/Milestone Wellness Center in Louisville, Kentucky, examples include mind-body programs like barre and yoga.
“Barre-inspired aquatic classes let the members experience the latest trends in the safe environment of aquatics,” said Mary Duke Connell, the aquatics director at Baptist Health/Milestone Wellness Center. “Aqua yoga is also popular — participants get to experience a traditional yoga class without the fear of falling.”
Of course, with any aquatic trend you’re considering, an emphasis should be placed on member engagement and fun.
At Wisconsin Athletic Club, an example of an aquatics program that both engages members and gets them talking is GlideFit. According to Warner, “GlideFit was embraced with huge excitement by our members. We currently have mostly repeat participants filling our classes each session.”
Similar to a paddleboard, the GlideFit board allows participants to improve their core strength and stability. Wisconsin Athletic Club offers two GlideFit classes: GlideFit HIIT, which combines plyometric training and strength training; and GlideFit Yoga, which adds a mind-body twist, while improving participants’ balance.
Because of the results and entertainment GlideFit has produced at Wisconsin Athletic Club, it has become one of the gym’s most popular programs.
“GlideFit has been successful at our location as so many individuals are looking for a workout that doesn’t seem like a workout,” said Warner. “GlideFit is fun and a great way for participants to cross-train their bodies in an entirely different manner than any other program we have previously offered.”
An increasingly popular activity is log rolling, which is exactly what it sounds like. Participants stand on a log floating in the water and attempt to stay aboard by walking forward or backward and making the log spin.
Franco’s Athletic Club features Key Log Rolling, a synthetic log weighing about 65 pounds, to create the aforementioned challenge. And it provides quite the workout.
“It is very popular, but we use it more as an amusement thing — entertainment rather than a class,” explained Fritscher.
For example, on Friday nights during the summer, the club hosts a movie night at the pool. About an hour and a half before the movie starts, club staff take a stab at Key Log Rolling while members watch — and often laugh. “We’ll have one of the guards DJ while we see who can do it the longest,” said Fritscher.
It’s worth noting with any aquatics amenity, including Key Log Rolling, some safety precautions have to be taken. “It’s not something you can leave in the pool unsupervised,” said Fritscher. “People are going to swim near it and could hurt themselves, so it’s something that needs to be monitored. We use regular lifeguards and our coaches to supervise it.”
With the proper precautions, the fun exercises make Key Log Rolling a creative program option and retention tool. “Members love it,” said Fritscher. “The more fun things we’re able to do with the membership, the more value we put back into the club.”
Baptist Health/Milestone Wellness Center’s H20 Cycling program puts cyclists in the water. Pumping the pedals underwater adds an extra layer of resistance to the workout, working members’ leg muscles even harder.
“H20 Cycling is extremely popular at most facilities,” said Connell. “It’s a lot of fun and different than other classes. We have H20 Cycling classes five times a week.”
Because aqua-cycling is in water, that might make it seem more intimidating than regular cycling classes. But at Baptist Health/Milestone Wellness Center, the intensity of these classes is adjustable.
“Our classes tend to be lower intensity due to the participants,” said Connell. “But don’t let that stop you — the workouts can be extremely high intensity, using upper body strength and certain equipment.”
Underwater bikes can also be put to other uses. “We also use the bikes for personal training, physical therapy and circuit training,” explained Connell. “The cycling classes at our club are so dynamic, they continue to dominate those who embrace cycling as their selected form of exercise.”
If you’re looking to add something extra to your aquatics programming, consider a program that will add excitement to the schedule. Just be sure to keep the needs of your members in mind when making your decision.