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Group X: How Great is Your Group Fitness Department?


Important notice! The days of empty classes and poor group fitness programs are over. 

Let’s face it, we spend all day waiting to find out where we are in membership sales.  I wait anxiously for the 2 p.m. update and final update of our sales for that day, both in personal training and in member sales. It’s all about the numbers, and that is how we make our money.

You can determine a good sales team from a bad one and a good personal training team from a bad one, but how do you know a good group fitness team from a bad one? Duh…. The same way. The numbers don’t lie! Look at your usage numbers, look at your capacity of your room and determine how many people you can fit in that real estate and what the percentage of that is. Are your classes full?

By the way, the formula to determine your capacity is the square footage of the room divided by 40. (You can fit one person for group fitness in 40 square feet of space.) Let’s not leave group fitness behind.

Tips For Greatness:

Do yourself a favor — please get rid of the 80-year-old woman that has been teaching the same step class for the past 28 years. It’s over. Accept it.

Cancel all your ill-attended classes, today. Why should you pay $10 per head? There is a reason why that class is not popular; it’s usually because the class sucks. Your members vote with their feet. Poorly attended classes are contagious; no one comes. It’s a disease. Put it on some antibiotics and make it go away.

Determine the difference between your “actively engaged” instructors and “actively disengaged.” The “actively engaged” instructor is one who is positive about the club operation, staff and group fitness program. They are usually popular instructors with a great energy. The “actively disengaged” instructor is the one to beware of. Although many times this instructor may be popular, this is also the instructor that carries a negative energy with them, is a troublemaker, speaks poorly about the club and isn’t a team player. This instructor never shows up for meetings and when they do, it’s a total “Negative Nancy” experience for the rest of the team. They are your poison.

Constantly look to see what is hot on the market right now. Let’s face it — there are many people that are paying $199-$299 per month for CrossFit, barre classes and independent cycle studios. Let’s not be naïve — your director should be able to do the research and put some spice into the program with classes that are similar to these kinds of classes. HIIT/CrossFit-type training is a no-brainer. Go take a barre class and an independent cycle studio class, see what’s up and make some changes to your program to add those kinds of concepts. This will give your program a “shot in the arm,” and show the community that you are fresh in your programming. Shoot me an e mail — I can give you great ideas on how to go about implementing these types of classes. Most of the aforementioned are franchised or corporate-owned, so let’s get creative.

Make sure your director is not afraid to make changes for the better. Take a pro-active approach and meet with them and assess your program. I mean, it’s your success, right? You spend a lot of money on your group fitness real estate. Fear is a huge issue when it comes to group exercise. Fear of management, managements’ fear of the department, fear of angry members when you make change, fear of letting go of an instructor that is not up to par, yada, yada, yada. Free yourself and make sound decisions that will enhance your department and differentiate you from your competition.

If 25 percent of your members are not using group fitness, than I suggest you hit the drawing board and really assess your group fitness department. Look at your schedule, the number of classes you have on it, the classes that are poorly attended and look at your director — is she great? Oh yeah, are you paying her a legit salary? Trust me, as a business person, you know if her salary is legit or not.

Group fitness is constantly evolving — evolve with it. Keep it fresh. Some of my clubs do “Friday Night Madness” where we bring in a new type of class for that night, and we get feedback from the participants. This helps us determine what kinds of classes we want to add. It’s also fun and keeps the members engaged in the implementation of classes.


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.

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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  1. Lori Moody April 8, 2014

    I’m an LMT opening a wellness center in a very small community that specializes in massage therapy, Spinning, TRX and group fitness classes (which I teach myself) It’s not a “gym” since I don’t have the traditional equipment. Other competitors (teaching in church basements, ymca) are offering $5 per class with no membership fees. My community loves the no membership idea, which I’d like to implement as well since I’m not a traditional gym. My question is should Spinning and TRX be more than the $5 we charge for the other group classes (Zumba, bootcamp, aerobics, etc.) since those classes involve expensive equipment ? I want our group fitness dept. to be amazing since its all we do. Thank you for your thoughts and feedback.

  2. Tyler Montgomery April 8, 2014

    Hi Lori,

    Going fee-based is always an option, and if the vast majority of your membership is pushing for that, then maybe you can make that happen. In terms of whether or not you should charge for Spinning and TRX, I’d say yes without a doubt. However, what you should charge would depend on your location and the local economy. In our city we have seen TRX classes for $15 a session, $10 express session (30 min.) or higher for multiple class bundles. People should pay more to go to you because you have a unique atmosphere for them, and you’re not in a basement.


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