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Members seek out a club for a variety of reasons, but usually all they really want is to have their fitness goals met. Personal training not only helps members achieve their goal — it also boosts revenue and is a retention tool for your club.

“Our entire focus from the time someone comes into the club, to meeting with a trainer and beyond is all about the member getting results,” said John Voskamp, the director of personal training for Snap Fitness. “We ask about their goals and then show them how we will then help to achieve them.”

The Trainers

Motivating, enthusiastic, passionate — these are adjectives that should describe a good trainer. A successful personal training department must start with well-trained trainers that can build relationships with members and work with them to achieve results.

During an interview, Rob Rettmann, the vice president of education for the The Rush Fitness Complex, looks for personality in a trainer rather than what skills they have. “It’s much easier to teach with skills,” he said. “You can’t really do that with personality. We’re looking for the personality that we feel can work with anybody.” Rettmann said he calls it the “Mom test,” anyone that would treat his mother well and make her feel at ease and welcomed is probably a good fit.

Voskamp thinks its enthusiasm that sells. “This to me is far more important than any piece of paper they can show me that tells me how smart they are,” he said. Motivation separates the good from the great, added Josh Bowen, the quality control director of personal training for Urban Active. “The great trainers can motivate and keep motivating their clients to success. The reason people stop working is because they have no support system. The great trainers are their support system, motivating them along the way,” he said.

Jesse Harper, the director of sales, education and health clubs for Polar Electro agreed that motivation is an important step in reaching members’ goals. “Polar products help motivate members and provide guidance and data along the way, showing progression from one week to the next. This provides constant positive reinforcement,” he said. With Polar, workouts can be customized around the specific needs of every client.

Trainers must also be confident individuals that can gain the trust of their clients. For a personal trainer to be successful they must gain the confidence of the member, said Stan Kaplan, the CEO of Myoguage, whose system offers personal trainers a muscle assessment tool. “The Myoguage system [gains members’ confidence] by utilizing computerization which itemizes the strength and endurance of the member. This information is then programmed into a tailor-made workout agenda for the member. The trainer now becomes a sought after professional,” he said.


Once hired, it’s the clubs job to ensure their trainers are properly trained and able to handle real-life situations with clients.The Rush Fitness has a six-step process for new Fitness Coaches (their preferred name for trainers) that Rettman and Tony Gray, the vice president of fitness, worked to implement. It includes a three-day course lecture with hands-on experience, written exam, practical “hands-on” exam, an in-house checklist of different competencies and CPR and automated external defibrillator (AED) certification.

It’s in the best interest of the club to get a feel for what kind of trainer someone will be. Potential hires for Snap Fitness take a staff member through a potential workout in order to get a feel for what kind of trainer they would be. Then, new employees attend “Snap University” a four-day school with one day focused entirely on personal training.

Continuing education for trainers is equally important. Urban Active holds weekly company-wide conference calls to discuss specific training protocol for different populations and look at what’s new and different in the industry for trainers. All head trainers are required to sit in on the call and to encourage their trainers to sit in. For those trainers that don’t, there is a recap of what was said. Each club also has a Quality Control Specialist (head trainer) who is responsible for educating new and existing trainers. “Their main function is to improve the quality of our trainers and make them more effective and better personal trainers from all aspects,” Bowen said.

Fitness coaches for The Rush Fitness have several opportunities to continue their education. There are minimally two opportunities a month. There are workshops at the club, district and corporate levels and are free for all employees.

Additionally, clubs may want to look into certification programs for trainers. Successful personal training departments should really be looked at as its own separate business with its own set of rules, explained Angie Pattengale, the director of certification for the National Federation of Personal Trainers (NFPT). “NFPT and other certification agencies can help [the business side] by providing a standard for certification credentialing, but ultimately, personal training certification becomes the pre-requisite to employment, or sustained employment,” she said.

Reaching the Member

Asking for help isn’t always easy, and members, new and old, might feel uncomfortable signing up for personal training on their own. Personal training must be marketed in a manner that is not intimidating and show members that it’s a solution to their fitness needs.

All new members at Snap Fitness go through a series of tests to determine their current fitness level process and learn their “fit score.” From there, a specific program is designed for the individual. “I think that if a trainer approaches this process with the mindset that they are here to help, they will come off as sincere and this will eliminate the intimidation factor,” Voskamp said. “When teaching trainers, I always have them picture Richard Simmons as an example of the level of passion, sincerity and enthusiasm they should try to have.”

The Rush Fitness shows members, within their new member presentation, three keys to success for weight loss: increasing energy expenditure, watching energy (food) intake, proper programming and coaching. This way personal training presents itself as a benefit to the member, Rettmann explained.

Even new members who don’t immediately sign up for personal training are given a taste of it at The Rush Fitness. Members are given a complimentary “Rush Hour” workout, a personalized one-hour session to take them through the gym and a sample workout. This allows members to get a feel for the experience of exercising with a trainer — a marketing tool that changes minds.

To show the benefits of personal training Urban Active uses testimonials to market training inside the club. “This shows the real life examples of what a personal trainer can do, making it less intimidating,” Bowen said. Testimonials are placed in a variety of places. They’re most prominent by client check-in and the front of the building. Urban Active also uses testimonial videos that play over the club TV channel throughout the gym.

The additional cost of personal training, on top of a membership fee, can be a hard sell to members. There will certainly be clients that will questionably pay top dollar to achieve their weight-loss goals, but for many it’s not in their budget. Having several program options for your members is the best way to ensure that personal training can reach everyone.

“Member retention is why we do what we do,” Rettmann said. The Rush Fitness offers several program options for personal training typically charging less than the national average per session. “We could charge a lot more if we wanted to, but then that’s a small percentage [of members] we could affect,” he said. Training options include one-on-one training, training with a friend or even a small group of four to six to help with cost.

Just like The Rush Fitness, Snap also perceives personal training as a retention tool. “We are less concerned with total personal dollars than we are with how many people are doing personal training,” Voskamp said. They shoot for 20-30 percent of their membership base to be involved with personal training on some level.

Aside from aesthetic benefits, personal training can permanently change and alter people’s lives. “It’s much deeper than losing 50 pounds or gaining 10 pounds of muscle. It impacts mind, body and soul,” Bowen said. Helping members realize this by establishing a different lifestyle and way of life will help personal training seem like an obvious solution. -CS

By Ali Cicerchi


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