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Group X: The Emotional Attachment


To cancel a class or not to cancel a class — THAT is the question.

We’ve ALL faced this question from time to time. Whether you are a small club owner trying to keep Group X profitable, or you are a group fitness manager that is part of a larger corporate gym that requires each class meet certain criteria, we have all had those times when we have to take a long hard look at the Group X schedule and decide if a class is hanging on only because of the emotional attachment to its time slot, instructor or format.

What do we do? What do we do when there are five members who take that one problematic class day in and day out, and are emotionally attached to the class in some way or another? It’s a tough question. The business side of me alone struggles with the potential loss of those five members — while coping with the reality that the cost to run a class with five people clearly outweighs the value. It’s truly a struggle.

As a result, I’m going to take you through the three major stages of canceling a class in my experience, and hopefully it can provide others with some insight into how exactly to approach this very delicate subject with employees and members alike.

First, talk to the instructor. Could a class name change or slight format change help to build interest among members? Maybe it is time to change it up. Sometimes the instructor has great ideas to build interest. Ask them to market it themselves. Maybe bring some guests to the club with them to take a class. Maybe a time slot change is what is needed. There are many ways to keep the current instructor and try to get more participants. If the instructor is not on board, it might be time for an instructor change (GASP!) — something else to consider when looking at a class with low attendance.

Next, talk to the participants. There is a saying that if you fill someone’s basket with kindness and understanding, when the time comes they will understand YOU better. Fill their basket with empathy. They will be loyal in the long run. Let them know you are looking to make their class more successful FOR them. They will thank you for taking the time to understand the challenges. This is easier said than done of course. After all, their emotions tell them that it is THEIR class, not yours, for the canceling. Put the success of the class in their hands — offer them guest passes to give to their friends who will of course enjoy the class as much as they do. Tell them to talk the class up to members. Class participants who are in complete love with a class could sell that class to anyone. Time to put your fans to work. Get them out there to sell it!

Finally, but most importantly, track the class. Is it seasonal? Maybe it’s something that can come off of the schedule during the winter months when its participants fly somewhere warm. Or does it pick up in winter when more people aren’t at the pool or beach? Let’s not forget that the data is the final vote. Does the data say it should come off the schedule? Then most likely it should. Try not to be swayed by the vocal minority (if in fact they are the minority).

In the end, 70 percent of your schedule should match your target market and be inclusive — meaning that those classes can fit MOST people’s abilities. That it can include people just starting out on their fitness journey, as well as those members who have been exercising for quite some time. The other 30 percent of your schedule should be your “niche” classes. These are generally considered exclusive classes. They cater to one type of person — these are your senior classes, arthritis classes or on the other end of the spectrum, classes that cater to athletes or the very fit. Take a long hard look at your schedule, talk to members and instructors, and attempt to make changes that will benefit all in the long run.

Kerri Miano

Kerri Miano has been working in the fitness industry for over 10 years. She is currently the group exercise director at Meridian Fitness & Wellness in Hazlet, New Jersey.

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