Developing a healthy lifestyle is like a complex math problem. There are numerous variables that contribute to good health. Exercise is of course one, but another that is sometimes overlooked by gym owners and operators is nutrition.
Many of your members walk into the gym with specific health goals, such as losing weight or gaining muscle mass. While exercise is key, developing a smart nutritional plan is also an essential factor in their success. In order to incorporate a holistic health approach for members, many clubs have launched various nutrition programs.
Newtown Athletic Club in Newtown, Pennsylvania, implemented Nutrition Group Educational Services just over a year ago. The unique program is included in every membership. “We run several sessions each week that cover about six different general topics of interest such as, ‘Fuel to Lose,’ ‘Fuel to Gain’ and ‘Truth about Carbs,’” said Linda Mitchell, the director of public relations and community partners at Newtown Athletic Club. “These programs are taught by our in-house registered dietitian who designs the curriculum based on member needs. We also offer private and semi-private sessions for a fee.”
With more than 80 percent of members indicating weight loss goals, Mitchell explained nutrition education is crucial to helping members meet their goals. And members seem to appreciate the service. “The group sessions are very popular with the members and are consistently 75 to 80 percent full,” she added. “The private and semi-private sessions are also popular and are very effective for those who have serious dietary goals or issues.”
Mitchell credits the success of the program to having a strong leader. For years, the club did not have a registered dietitian. But when they decided to hire one, they made sure to hire the perfect fit. “Find a strong educator to run your program. Often, dietitians operate from a clinical perspective, which is not a good fit for a health club program,” explained Mitchell. “Our professional has a double major, both in nutrition and exercise science. That is indeed rare, but very helpful. Your entire program hinges on the talent of this individual, so finding the right one is worth the time and effort it takes to find them.”
A few other suggestions include keeping group sessions free and individual counseling fee-based. Design a consistent marketing strategy and stick to it, using social media and testimonials. Finally, Mitchell recommended allowing the community to participate in some of your educational offerings to drive new participation and membership.
Pura Vida in Denver, Colorado has also incorporated nutritional programming in order to provide members with an all-encompassing health approach. “Pura Vida embodies the belief that a healthy life is based on being part of a community that supports healthy changes,” said Katie Kuiter, Pura Vida’s holistic nutrition therapist. “And because optimal health can only be achieved when all aspects of our lives are in balance, we provide on-going support to our members through our programs, events and workshops that focus on all aspects of good health, including athletic performance, recovery, nutrition, stress management and self care.”
Besides one-on-one nutrition coaching, the club also emphasizes food education and hands-on learning via grocery store visits, in-home pantry cleanouts, private cooking lessons and cooking classes. Each month the club also hosts cooking events and nutrition workshops. “In the month of November, we offered a crockpot demonstration class, a pre-holiday cleanse, as well as a seminar on portion control strategies during the holidays,” said Kuiter.
With hundreds of different diets out there, it can be hard for your members to know what to eat and what to avoid. And of course, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to eating. Therefore, Kuiter suggested working with each member to create the perfect plan. “Our approach to nutrition is not to dwell on calories, carbs, fats and proteins,” added Kuiter. “Instead, we work with our members to co-create an individualized approach to nutrition that is both sustainable and satisfying. For Pura Vida, the success of our nutrition department has been based on having consistent and diverse offerings so that we can appeal to and engage a larger percentage of our membership.”