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Ask an Expert: Maryann Donner


Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 1.42.09 PMYou have questions, we have answers. We took some time this month to speak with Maryann Donner, the group fitness director for New York Health & Racquet Club (NYHRC), about cultivating a successful mind-body space in a multi-purpose club.

What elements are necessary to create a top-of-the-line mind-body space?

MD: The primary element needed to provide a mind-body space is calm amidst chaos — sectioned spaces that can be “converted” for the moment into a restorative space and an oasis of calm work for NYHRC. Expert trainers and instructors are also essential. They can teach the mind-body disciplines and provide the wellness services through their awareness, focus and motivation, despite 360 degrees of action around them.

How can clubs best introduce members to the mind-body facility?

MD: We inform our members of our mind-body offerings through both traditional and contemporary communication methods: in-club signage and schedules, employee training and outreach, outbound e-mail to opt-in lists, standard PR placements and social media, via posts on Facebook, tweets to followers, Instagram shares and Pinterest boards.

What should mind-body directors remember when hiring?

MD: Full-service clubs need mind-body experts who can create the mind-body aura within a busy gym setting. Our instructors have that specific talent. They are successful in staying present and leading our members in meditation, or invigorating them with fire yoga — your hires need this level of focus and concentration.

What are some common struggles of a mind-body facility, and how are they overcome?

MD: The primary challenge of creating a mind-body facility within a full-service club is that distractions abound! Therefore, it’s more about instructors who can facilitate the mind-body focus among participants than it is the facilities that management puts in place. We ask our expert mind-body yogis and Pilates instructors to enable the mind-body experience within a multi-use club through engagement, motivation, focus and concentration.

Should every club have a mind-body facility?

MD: In order to be a full-service club for our members, we need to go beyond physical fitness and also deliver mental wellness and serenity. At NYHRC, we do this through our yoga, Pilates, meditation, massage, aromatherapy, eucalyptus environments, nutritional counseling and wellness seminars. We think in terms of integrative fitness, as that is what the public is looking for and what contemporary fitness research dictates.

What are your top 5 hiring tips for mind-body personnel?

1. Complete expertise
in their subject area. 

2. Belief in their practice.

3. Customer engagement.

4. Calm demeanor.

5. Flexible attitude.

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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