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Group X: Should Group Fitness be Free?


Should group fitness be free? Well, that’s a loaded question. So, I own clubs and I’m a group exercise freak. And, in fact, anywhere between 25 percent and 38 percent of our members use group fitness. That’s a fairly decent percentage, when you think about it. The majority of our members that use group fitness come to us for just that purpose. The group fitness setting is their home, and we have worked hard to create a great “group fitness culture” — an environment that the 25 to 35 percent of our members do not want to miss.

So, should it be free?

Well, traditionally, we club owners have collectively set up our fitness businesses where group fitness is included in the membership cost. Personal training is extra and any other amenities, such as massages, childcare, smoothies, tanning, etc. have an extra cost associated with them — but, not group fitness. Great group fitness makes for happy members, and happy members don’t leave. I like retention – who doesn’t? – and retention has value. Retention increases with great group fitness — it’s a proven fact.

I can’t change the traditional aspects of what our fitness population expects to receive with their membership. After all, how hard would it be to change that expectation? We have ruined our industry by devaluing our product with $10.00-per-month clubs opening on every corner. And, now we’re going to change tradition by charging for protocol group fitness? I don’t think so.

Instead, find your key differentiators — the things that separate you from your competition. Only charge for memberships, the value of which should be based on what you feel it is worth, and include the cost of group fitness in that rate. Case closed. Continue to charge for personal training, and try to incorporate some small group training as well. Drive your members to purchase items that they need to enhance their fitness experience, generating extra revenue through these venues. If you have classes that are in great demand, you may also want to consider charging a fee to secure a space in that class; otherwise it should be on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Creative measures, like those mentioned above, can be implemented to generate a little extra revenue through group fitness, but we should instead be focusing on giving our members a fantastic experience, by charging what we feel is fair and making our members happy. If we all come together as an industry and raise our rates by $10.00 per month, we could increase our revenue and all live happily ever after! Group fitness should be included in the membership rate, but, should not be free. Because we all know, “free” is an ugly four-letter word.


Lori Lowell is the president of Group Fitness Solutions, LLC, and owns 8 Fitness Facilities in Virginia and Wisconsin. Contact her at lori@groupfitnesssolutions.com.


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