You have questions, we have answers. We took some time this August to speak with Mike Leve, the fitness director at Fitness Formula Clubs in Chicago, on how best to implement small group training (SGT).
Why has SGT become more popular in health clubs?
ML: We saw an increasing number of members become aware of and start to experiment with the fitness studio culture in which small group training was such a critical component. Small group training responds perfectly to our club’s attempts to engage members on multiple levels.
Why is SGT beneficial for members and trainers alike?
ML: From a member’s perspective, small group training leverages the Kohler effect, in which participants will workout harder so as to avoid being the weakest link in the group. Members walk away with the feeling that they worked harder than they would have worked alone.
For our trainers, they are challenged to use a different skill set than what they might use in a one-on-one training session. Small group training instruction is very much a performance. I liken it to being the conductor of an orchestra. Their ability to motivate and cue effectively becomes stronger.
What are some evolving aspects of SGT that clubs should know about?
ML: I think we’ve just scratched the surface of small group training. It is rich with data. We use Performance IQ to track heart rate and calories burned, and use this information to show how members are improving. As a club and as an industry, I think we will be making further strides to make this data relevant.
How can SGT boost a club’s revenue?
ML: What we’ve found is that the largest impact on revenue isn’t coming directly from small group programs. Instead, it’s coming indirectly from the higher member retention rate of members who participate in the programs, thus adding to the club’s overall bottom line. We have been able to attract a new segment of users that previously weren’t involved in personal training or group exercise.
How can health clubs establish successful SGT programs?
ML: Successful small group training begins with creating community. To do so, involve and excite your spokespeople. We held multiple brainstorming sessions and group workouts to ensure our instruction team was passionate about the program.
Be open to feedback. We sought feedback on many levels from the members who tried classes during our formative trial period. The result is that they feel the program is theirs.
Also, be sure to nurture your community. Plan social events, create a platform for members to engage with each other using social media and encourage coaches to play games in classes. When the members begin making friendships, they will stay engaged.
Five Must-Haves In Developing a Great SGT Area:
1. Create a community.
2. Focus on safety.
3. Dedicate space with unique flooring.
4. Clear program design.