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Don’t Break the Bank


When looking at the cost to run a group fitness program it is many times difficult to understand the value as it pertains to dollars in, versus dollars out. Personal training is much easier to measure, right? Little old-school theory, but I get it. We need to keep in mind that group fitness is a big piece of a full-service facility and a retention tool. Happy group fitness members do not leave — case closed. In my mind this equates to dollars in my pocket.

In comparison, when we buy equipment for our facilities, do we measure the cost of equipment, versus the usage of it? Probably not as much as we should, and we are not obsessed about it either. Equipment is the expense of doing business and right now my equipment packages are running me about $700,000 or more for a new club. I don’t think to myself, “Lori, the usage on that equipment is poor therefore I’m losing money,” but the minute we look at the cost of Group X and payout to instructors we freak out. Group fitness is also part of doing business and a line-item expense.

So, how much should you be spending on group fitness? We obviously see the value because in a full-service facility we have 3,000 or more square feet allocated to group fitness, so now we have to pay someone to run the room. Where is the disconnect here? I get a lot of people asking me about the cost of group fitness and how to keep it under control. I get a lot of complaints from people stating that they are paying out too much.

In a study that I did that included 75 national clubs, here is the formula outcome: 11 percent of your payroll should be attributed towards group fitness. This is a healthy number and keeps expenses in alignment. If you have a lot of space allocated to group fitness, i.e. a pool, cycle, mind/body, then the percentage may go up to 13-14 percent, but shouldn’t be more than 15 percent. If you are paying out more than that of your total payroll then the red flag should come up and an assessment should occur.

Not breaking the bank is really about cost per head. Get rid of your low attendance classes —  it can be that simple. Group fitness people are emotional and that tends to get in the way of smart decision making. If attendance is low, well then, say goodbye to that class. You may upset two or three members but they will find another class, especially if it is presented to them properly and ample notice of the cancellation is given. Keeping low-usage classes on the schedule is how we break the bank. Stop doing it. Take the “less is more” approach. Filling your room should now become the focus as opposed to having way too many classes on the schedule.

More Tips:

  • Half-hour classes are huge — use them to your advantage and pay half rate.
  • Whether it be a 45-minute, 1-hour or 1-and-a-half-hour class, pay by the class and not by the time so the payout will be the same.
  • Consolidate classes. If you have two yoga classes back to back that are so-so in attendance, turn it into one class and move the start time down a half hour.
  • Look into some fee for service classes to offset the expense of your Group X program.
  • I can’t say this enough — use Facebook to promote your classes.

Want to toss some ideas around? Contact Lori at lori@groupfitnesssolutions.com. Lori Lowell is the President of Group Fitness Solutions, LLC, and owns eight fitness facilities in Virginia and Wisconsin.

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko

Rachel Zabonick-Chonko is the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at rachel@peakemedia.com.

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