Imagine eating the same menu for dinner each and every week, day after day. As you could guess, that would likely get boring.
The same goes for your club’s Group X schedule. Without a bit of spice, your members could easily lose interest and begin looking for excitement elsewhere. So how can you keep your group exercise programing exciting and fresh?
According to Devon Dohony, the regional group fitness director for Merritt Athletic Clubs in Maryland, the key is to watch your members. “Members speak with their feet,” she said. “When they don’t show, you know something needs to be fixed.”
In order to track its members’ group exercise habits, Merritt Athletic Clubs uses an online member engagement software called MotionVibe.com. “We can see what classes our members take on a weekly basis, how many times they attend each class, if they cross-pollinate — take multiple classes or programs — or stick to one program,” explained Dohony. “It allows us to recommend classes, programs and events they would be interested in and keep them engaged in the club.”
According to Dohony, this information is vital to keeping classes on the schedule that members stay excited about. “For example, if we see a class is not getting traction and not performing, we can change the class instantly to a class and instructor we know will pack a room,” she explained. “It has become very easy now to make changes because we have true data, and not get wrapped up in the group fitness drama that can happen when you take a class off the schedule.”
Even if all of your classes are consistently packed, it’s still best to change up your schedule every so often, in order to stave off member boredom.
Genesis Health Clubs, which has clubs in Kansas and Missouri, assesses its Group X schedule every quarter. “We watch class attendance and evaluate time frames,” said Angie Kendall, the director of group fitness for Genesis. “We’re not so solid that we’re afraid to add something our members request.”
However, where should Group X directors look for new programming? According to Kendall, partnering with a licensed Group X program, such as TRX or Les Mills, has been helpful in this endeavor. The club currently features MOSSA’s Group Power, Group Ride, Group Centergy and Group Kick exercise classes, and will be launching Group Blast in November 2014. “I have found that MOSSA keeps adding programs like Group Blast that stay current with the market trends,” she said. “We have also found that their trainings are so much more professional and organized than many, and their quality control is awesome.”
Directors may also wish to look to trade shows, such as IDEA World, for ideas on new programming. And of course, thanks to social media, your club’s instructors may have some suggestions as well. “We’re in the Midwest, so we sometimes don’t hear about things as quickly as on the West Coast,” said Kendall. “Now that everyone’s on Facebook, it seems like our instructors start hearing about new things a lot faster.”
When evaluating a potential new class, Erin Carson, the general manager and fitness director of RallySport Health and Fitness Club in Boulder, Colorado, looks at one key factor: cost. “For us to have a successful Group X class, I’m looking to have 30 to 50 people in a class,” she said. “So some of the Group X trends that have gone through we haven’t participated in. For example, a BOSU ball can cost around $100 per ball. If my expectation is to have 30 to 50 in a class, that’s a big spend.”
As a result, Carson may evaluate that trend for small group training programming instead. “By design, our large group schedule really does feed our small group schedule,” she said.
Of course, despite a program’s cost, it’s important to also evaluate whether a program is a true trend, or just a quickly-passing fad. “I try to research a new program or class before I bring it to the club,” said Dohony. “A lot of the time I go with my gut, and I talk to my members and team to get their feedback.”
According to Dohony, doing research on a new class is extremely important. “Talk to other clubs that may be doing [a new class] already and demo,” she said. “We have multiple clubs with different personalities, so what works in my city clubs may not work in my country clubs. We will always make a point to demo a new class at multiple locations before we make a commitment.”
In order to conduct a demo, Merritt schedules a master trainer to come to each club and host a class. “We will invite the members and staff to experience the class and give us feedback,” explained Dohony. “We use MotionVibe.com to communicate the demo class to our members and staff, and [allow] them to pre-register on the site. This allows us to see how many people to expect and prepare for.”
Of course, a vital key to boasting a successful Group X schedule doesn’t just involve changing up your schedule every quarter. Your instructors play an important role to any class’ success. “You can have the best instructor in the world, but if they don’t work the art of getting people to come back, then they’re not going to be successful,” said Carson. “At the end of class, the fond farewell, the really welcoming hello, the intangibles beyond the science of the class — instructors need to be doing that in every single class.”
By Rachel Zabonick