A House in Order

fitness department

Overseeing a fitness department is no easy task. From managing schedules to hiring trainers and instructors to implementing new programming, the list of responsibilities for a fitness director is expansive. Chances are you will find yourself having to supervise differing personalities, scheduling demands and feedback, all while staying cool, calm and collected.

To help you manage these challenges, Lisa Groft, the fitness co-director at Baptist Health Milestone Wellness Center in Louisville, Kentucky, shared advice on some of the issues you may be facing within your fitness department.

» Foster Good Relationships Between Instructors and Trainers. It should never be a competition between personal trainers and Group X instructors. If it is, members will likely feel the animosity. To help, encourage instructors and trainers to try out both roles. “At Baptist Health Milestone Wellness Center, we have a number of instructors who are also personal trainers, so that helps bridge that gap,” said Groft. “We also have a strong teamwork atmosphere and when we do continuing education opportunities on sight, we invite trainers and instructors to attend.”

» Require and Provide Extensive Training. It’s all about education. Your members want trainers and instructors who are knowledgeable and credible. Require initial certification upon hiring and provide continuing education opportunities once hired. “I require our trainers to have a degree in an exercise-related field as well as a nationally recognized certification,” explained Groft. “Once they are hired, I do our own training and development, which is a 13-week curriculum called Trainer University. I teach them everything they didn’t learn in school, such as marketing, sales and promoting themselves.”

» Create a Positive Work Environment. Your trainers and instructors will be more engaged and excited to come to work every day if they enjoy the atmosphere. Try to create an upbeat work environment, where employees are encouraged to share ideas, communicate and have fun. “We do team building activities on a regular basis,” added Groft. “For instance, this summer we are doing a trainer challenge where we are all on teams competing against each other in fitness-related events. It has created a buzz around the facility that is exciting and fun.”

» Don’t Take Things Personally. When managing a large group of employees and members, you are bound to get negative feedback or have to deal with conflict at some point. Groft suggested maintaining a tough skin. “Personal trainers are very outgoing and outspoken and tend to speak their minds often,” she said. “As the leader of 58 personal trainers at Milestone, it is important that I have tough skin and an ability to lead personalities as such.”

» Multi-Tasking is Essential. Having to manage various responsibilities, people and programs can present its challenges. Therefore, developing the ability to multi-task is crucial. “Multi-tasking is an important skill set,” added Groft. “I have an open-door policy so people are in and out of my office all day long. If I didn’t have the ability to multi-task, I would get nothing done.”

» Develop Trainers and Instructors into Leaders. If you constantly have to micromanage all your trainers and instructors, your job will be a lot harder. It is essential to develop employees into leaders. “As the leader of an efficient fitness department, you must teach all of your employees to be leaders,” explained Groft. “You cannot have all of the control — over schedules, quotas, etc. Our personal trainers set their own schedules at Milestone. Because we have 58 of them, we always have people with at least some availability to take on new clients. Teach your trainers how to build their own business and your job will be much easier.”

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