Group X: Taking Social Interaction from the Internet, to the Classroom
A study by the Council for Research Excellence found that the average American adult stares at a screen — such as a TV, phone or computer — for 8.5 hours a day. Unfortunately, most people aren’t working out while they’re staring. So, how do you get your members off their butts and into your gym? According to Donna Cyrus, the senior vice president of programming for Crunch Fitness, the best way to tear members away from reality shows and Farmville applications is through Group X. “The most important thing is retention, and in our day in age where people are very strapped for time and people are living on their phones and computers — [group fitness] is important because it’s a good place for people to interact in a fun setting,” said Cyrus. “The need to expand and interact with other people is growing. Group settings are becoming more and more important in clubs.”
Part of that importance is derived from the sense of accountability and community that Group X fosters, said Jodi Sussner, the program director for Kosama, the group fitness franchise that was recently acquired by Snap Fitness. “The sense of community you get from [group fitness] is incredibly valuable, as that camaraderie between members creates more accountability,” said Sussner. Members encourage other members to come back, and may suggest other classes that they have enjoyed to current members, and/or to their friends at home, who have the potential to become future clients. Because Group X is a social activity, it can be used as a great tool to get members into your gym, and get new members enrolled. “Sharing that connection and encouraging members to help grow that community is incredibly important,” continued Sussner.
Over the years, this sense of accountability and community has contributed to Group X becoming a staple in most health clubs across the country. So, how does your club separate itself from other health clubs in terms of Group X? Lori Lowell, the president of Group Fitness, LLC and an owner of multiple Gold’s Gyms, said the delivery of class instruction is key.
“There are a lot of other clubs in the area that offer the same or similar classes. We look at the class and say: what’s going to make our delivery better? There’s a lot of competition,” said Lowell.
In order to ensure her clubs stand well and above the competition, Lowell focuses on getting the best quality instructors who execute the best delivery to teach her Group X classes. According to Lowell, quality instructors can be found in a multitude of places, but she suggested searching for them in an obvious place — at the very front of the class. Looking for members who are engaged and excited about Group X allowed Lowell to pull from within the members at her club when looking for new instructors. She has encouraged gym owners to think outside of the box when it comes to finding instructors, and to even go so far as to search for instructors at karate and dance studios. Lowell asked, “What could be greater than having a karate instructor teach a kickboxing class?”
Executing a similar technique, Cyrus gets creative by finding instructors through dance casting directors. “I find that it’s much easier to train a dancer to teach than to teach someone how to have rhythm,” she said.
Led by good instructors, your club can differentiate itself in group fitness further by offering not only the latest trends in Group X programming, but by providing classes that appeal to a wide array of age and fitness levels. Genesis Health Clubs offers a variety of Group X classes at different levels, such as “Intro to Pilates Mat” for beginners to Pilates, Zumba for the average member, and Bikram Yoga for those who want a more intense workout experience. “We look for quality, variety and consistency,” said Angie Kendall, the regional group fitness director for Genesis Health Clubs. “We want classes that are ‘user friendly’ as well as those classes that appeal to our advanced members. We want something fun and motivating that keeps them coming back for more.”
Sometimes offering a challenge can incentivize members to take more Group X classes. Genesis Health Clubs offers a “16 in 60 program,” where members are required to take 16 group classes within the first two months of their membership. Upon completion, they receive rewards and recognition, said Kendall, with hopes that the habit of exercise will be established.
Once you get members inside the classroom, it’s important to set a schedule structured around your members’ needs. “Members vote with their feet,” said Lowell. When changing the schedule, Lowell keeps the time slot and instructor in mind, and contemplates how she could move things around in order to get better attendance, she said.
When changing the schedule, make sure to give your members at least a month’s notice by posting the announcement on the door, announcing changes at the beginning of each class and using social media as a tool, said Lowell. In addition, Lowell’s Gold’s Gyms have a social media director who is dedicated to distributing information to members — such as changes in class schedule, said Lowell.
Genesis Health Clubs uses multiple avenues to promote group fitness classes, inside and outside of the club, said Kendall, promoting with radio and television ads and social networking. However, according to Kendall the greatest promotion tool has been her staff. “This is such an all club team effort, from the front desk to the sales team, everyone is involved,” she said. By educating your staff on the latest in your group fitness programming, you’re upping your chances of delivering information about your Group X classes to the majority of your club. “There is no better way to promote a class than while working the front desk, or during a personal training session,” continued Kendall.
By properly promoting your group fitness classes, you can effectively use Group X as a way to bring in new members, and introduce them to other aspects of your club. “We want group fitness to help our members ‘funnel’ into other areas of the club, whether it’s to personal training or any of our other programs,” said Kendall.
Utilizing group fitness to the greatest extent can reap positive benefits for your club, such as member retention, increased revenue and more members — all wrapped up in a 60-minute class. With the increasing use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter, Group X has become a fun and exciting way to take social experiences from the Internet, to the outside world.
Hot New Group X Classes
Group X classes are now challenging members and preparing them for exciting activities they can do outside of the classroom. Offering unique classes such as group rowing, spinning and even surfing, Group X is teaching members how to take part in outdoor activities — all within the confines of the club. Here are profiles on new and interesting classes that are in some cases, literally “rocking” the Group X world.
Crunch: POUND – Rockout. Workout.
POUND – Rockout. Workout.™, developed by two former female drummers (Kirsten Potenza and Cristina Peerenboom), is a unique way members can tackle their core by holding lightly weighted exercise drumsticks — Ripstix™ — when doing exercises choreographed to music. “It’s huge for us right now. It’s sold out in every class,” said Cyrus. The class is perfect for members who want to practice being a “rock star,” while working towards their fitness goals.
PowerTap, a group fitness cycling class offered at some Gold’s Gym locations, gives members the capabilities to track their progress, while they’re cycling. “I love things where I have someone telling me how I did,” said Lowell. PowerTap measures members’ RPM and watts, and “teaches people how to ride on the road,” said Lowell. After the workout, instructors send members their results and let them know what areas they can improve upon via e-mail. The program is perfect for members training for a triathlon, said Lowell.
Chelsea Piers: SurfSET
Want to try surfing this summer? Chelsea Piers currently offers a group class that simulates surfing. Using the RipSurferX, participants learn surfing moves such as “the pop up,” in order to stand on the board, while virtual waves are projected on the walls. “It’s the full experience in our studio,” said Sarah Ponn, the fitness director at SurfSET Fitness. According to Ponn, the class is great for those preparing to surf, and for those who just want a good workout. Extremely popular, “The majority of people who sign up once, end up signing up again,” said Ponn.
Gold’s Gym: Indo-Row
Designed by WaterRower to simulate the motions one would experience if powering a boat, Indo-Row gives members the ability to row in a group setting. “I think the rowing programs are becoming more mainstream,” said Lowell. “[Indo-Row is] a great product to mix up training.” Providing for a great leg, core and arm-toning workout, Indo-Row allows participants to work together as a team — while also getting a great workout.
Crunch: Red Velvet
Red Velvet is an aerial dance class that uses a red velvet drape to execute dance and yoga movements. “Many of the programs we offer — I look to find innovation in. We like to have things that nobody else has,” said Donna Cyrus. Red Velvet is one of those classes, and is a great way for members to sculpt their bodies without the use of weights
Mountainside Fitness: Piloxing
Piloxing, created by Viveca Jensen, combines boxing, Pilates and dance moves to create a fun, calorie burning and body-sculpting workout, said Amy Larkin, the athletic director at Mountainside Fitness. “It’s a great workout if you’re tired of the same old routine,” she said. Participants wear half pound weighted gloves in order to increase intensity, and the class has been extremely popular at Mountainside Fitness. “When we first brought it to Mountainside in August we couldn’t even keep the Piloxing gloves on the shelves,” said Larkin.-CS
By Rachel Zabonick