“The mind-body component [of Pilates and yoga] is extremely important to members,” said Sheila Gardner, the group fitness director for Gainesville Health & Fitness in Gainesville, Fla. “I believe this has a lot to do with the times that we are now living in. Everyone’s lives are so full, with multiple stress factors such as family, work, aging parents and financial issues.”
Profiting from Pilates
According to Sara Talbert, the director of Pilates for Greenwood Athletic and Tennis Club in Denver, Colo., Greenwood was one of the first clubs in the nation to build its own, private Pilates studio. In 1998, Greenwood Athletic and Tennis Club constructed a Pilates studio that boasted popular Pilates accessories and equipment, such as a Pilates Cadillac, a Pilates chair and six Reformers.
Greenwood Athletic and Tennis Club now boasts two Pilates studios — one for private, one-on-one lessons, and one for mat-based, group classes. It now also has two Cadillacs, six chairs and nine Reformers from Peak Pilates and Balanced Body at its disposal. Last year, Greenwood Athletic and Tennis Club generated around $600,000 in gross revenue from Pilates.
According to Talbert, Pilates is a valuable profit center because members see the value in its extra cost. When asked what incentivizes the members to pay more, Talbert cited how practicing Pilates makes them feel. “If they have pain, they don’t have pain when they’re done,” explained Talbert.
At Greenwood Athletic and Tennis Club, members have the option of taking free mat-based classes, 9-10 of which are offered each week. Or, they can pay more for private, or small-group lessons with one of Greenwood’s instructors.
Private lessons range from $65-$90 per one-hour session, and are open to non-members as well, for a greater fee. To introduce members to private, fee-based lessons, members are given one complimentary session when they join. According to Talbert, this has been a great way to introduce members to the club’s Pilates program.
Additionally, Greenwood’s program has been profitable due to three main factors; its instructors’ skill set, a fully-equipped studio and dedicated Pilates director. “Part of our success is due to the fact that we have a director (Talbert) dedicated to the success of the department,” she explained.
In addition, the club doesn’t discount private lessons, even when purchased in bulk. “We do have an intro package that offers members three lessons at 25 percent off, which they can buy only one time,” said Talbert. “But besides that, we don’t offer bulk discounts.”
Gainesville Health and Fitness (GHF) began offering mat-based Pilates classes in 2005. In 2007, it built a private Pilates studio to offer one-on-one lessons. According to Robin Zukowski, the Pilates director for GHF, the club built the private studio due to Pilates’ profit-generating potential, and its popularity. “People want to do personal training,” said Zukowski. “They need to do Pilates, due to the health benefits.”
However, when GHF first opened its private Pilates studio, Zukowski said the club made one key mistake. “It’s a beautiful studio, but we kept it very private,” said Zukowski. “The glass windows were frosted and you couldn’t see inside. Many people didn’t even know we had a private Pilates studio. So we decided to take the frosting off one of the windows so that during open house and sales tours, people could see inside. We also added a Pilates ‘sign’ on the wall beneath our studio … as well as adding track lighting outside of our studio doors to attract attention that way.”
Now, the studio is no longer “out of sight, out of mind.” When members or prospects on sales tours walk by, they may see participants practicing Pilates on one of GHF’s Pilates accessories — GHF has 10 chairs and eight Reformers from Balanced Body. In order to further draw attention to the studio, each new member that joins GHF is given a complimentary, private session with one of GHF’s 10 Pilates instructors.
GHF saw just how appealing Pilates could be during “Free Pilates Week,” which it hosted in February 2013. According to Zukowski, a few days before Free Pilates Week, GHF sent out an e-mail blast to all members, asking them to sign up for a fee-based Pilates lesson, free of charge. Over the course of the next three days, over 500 members responded, requesting to take a class.
“It was great, because it showed us how much interest there really is in Pilates,” said Zukowski. Zukowski explained that some insurance companies have even begun covering partial costs of private Pilates lessons.
“The insurance coverage is new for us this year, and I am still working on seeing which companies will and will not cover Pilates Reformer classes,” explained Zukowski. “I am under the impression that if you have a ‘Pre-hab’ policy with your insurance company, Pilates Reformer classes are included as a form of pre-hab and [are] therefore covered by your insurance.
“People are using [Pilates] to work on body awareness, spinal adjustment, breathing and strength,” continued Zukowski. “They’re using it to not only heal injuries, but to prevent them.”
Yoga — a Membership Incentive?
According to Maryann Donner, the group fitness director for New York Health and Racquet Club (NYHRC) in New York City, NYHRC’s yoga classes are an integral component of the club’s appeal. “Our yoga classes have great value,” said Donner. “Members of NYHRC can go from club to club and take yoga classes, and it’s like they have nine studios to choose from for the price of one membership.”
NYHRC has 54 yoga instructors that teach about 97 classes each week. Classes cover a range of styles, including Vinyasa, Hatha, core yoga and more. “People are realizing that yoga can really change your body and make you stronger,” said Donner. “There’s something for everyone.”
However, one of the biggest challenges to offering yoga in health clubs is finding the right space. Mike McArdle, a yoga instructor at NYHRC, has taught yoga at both private studios and clubs, and said space and environment are a club’s key challenges.
“One of the bad [reputations] concerning yoga in gyms, is that they don’t offer a tranquil environment,” explained McArdle. Yoga can require mental, spiritual and physical discipline, and outside noises from personal training sessions or other group exercise classes can be sources of distraction.
As a solution, McArdle suggested clubs place yoga areas as far away from the fray as possible. “Try to place your yoga space away from Spinning® classes especially,” he said. “Have them scuttled away from anything loud.”
Greenwood Athletic and Tennis Club took note of the importance of providing its instructors with a separate space to instruct yoga. Greenwood’s yoga studios were built a little over a year ago. One studio is for fee-based, private lessons, and the other is for group exercise.
Marda Zechiel, the yoga manager for Greenwood Athletic and Tennis Club, described the biggest yoga studio — the one used for group yoga classes only — as the more impressive of the two. Equipped with state-of-the-art sound systems and lighting, this particular studio boasts a heated floor. “It’s beautiful,” said Zechiel. “If you’re going to offer yoga, you need to have a dedicated space.”
According to Zechiel, the keys to yoga’s success at Greenwood resulted from the setting, the ability for members to take fee-based private lessons, and class variety. Members of Greenwood can choose from many different styles of yoga, such as Power Vinyasa — a more intense Vinyasa class — and even Thermal Yoga, which is conducted in a 105-degree room.
According to Gardner, many of GHF’s members would not have joined GHF if the club hadn’t offered a variety of yoga classes. Fifteen instructors teach around 25 classes at GHF per week. “Many prospects have come in and asked, ‘what type of yoga classes do you offer?,’” said Gardner. “That’s always a big question. It’s just a very popular form of Group X these days.”
Gardner reiterated the fact that mind-body exercise is an important component to living a healthy lifestyle. “The idea of relaxation techniques, stress-reducing activities and finding time for yourself, is now more popular than ever,” she said.
According to Gardner, both Pilates and yoga are great activities that can be a tremendous source of relaxation, stress reduction and can provide an escape from members’ normal, everyday routines.
By Rachel Zabonick