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Ask an Expert In Print

Ask an Expert: Industry Outlook


You have questions, we have answers. This month we spoke with Ed Trainor, a 30-year veteran of the health and fitness industry, on his reflection of this year and outlook for 2016.

What fitness trends did you pay the most attention to in 2015? 

ET: We’re starting to see members of all ages coming in with the goal of not only sports-specific training, but building an eclectic base for strength, cardio and agility as it relates to Spartan races and mud runs. It appears these fun recreational challenges are capturing large numbers. Another featured trend is a hybrid form of CrossFit training, as clubs are now incorporating lifting platforms and power cages so that they can offer members safe stations for traditional Olympic lifting.

Have you ever thought a certain exercise would be a fad, and then it turned out to be a long-lasting trend? 

ET: Yes, I have to admit even though I was a triathlete and cyclist myself, when cycling first showed up at industry trade shows, I wasn’t sure if clubs would be willing to invest in the space and cost of a room full of bikes. Within a two-year cycle it gained traction and became as significant as step classes, even though the ROI was initially questionable. Look where we are today: Stand-alone boutique studios, with sustainability. Today the bikes, along with the tracking technology, are at a multiple of four times the original investment and the programming speaks for itself. 

Over the past 10 years, what fitness trend do you think has been the most revolutionary? 

ET: Functional training. As significant as selectorized Nautilus machine-based exercise was to launching the new era of strength training 30 years ago, I believe functional training will be viewed similarly 30 years from now. Having said that, let me make it clear that one doesn’t replace the other. There’s room for both in our clubs. Smart trainers recognize that members need to walk before they run, and need to perform stable strength exercises before they are introduced to less stable dynamic movements.

Sometimes members clamor for a fad. How do you find a balance between pleasing members and not investing too much in a fad? 

ET: For me, this is a tough one to answer as I love innovation in both equipment and programming. So the short answer is to not be afraid to try new things. Fads however, can be micro or macro and it does take experience to figure out what has sustainability. A timeline for a pilot program, a budget and early review of ROI can guide you in trying new fads, before getting in too deep.  

Do you have any predictions on what 2016 could bring for the health club industry? 

ET: I believe this will be the break-out year for technology. As an industry we’ll need to jump on this and embrace wearables and mobile devices, since our members are already walking into our gyms wearing one or more devices. For the first time in history members’ data can be collected and used to motivate and reward their efforts in pursuing an active healthy lifestyle. This could be the biggest retention tool we’ve ever seen.

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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