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102 Health Club Industry Tips, Tricks & Ideas

102 Health Club Industry Tips, Tricks & Ideas

Welcome to Club Solutions Magazine’s 102 Health Club Industry Tips, Tricks and Ideas issue! Inside, you’ll find literally 102 profiles, facts, takeaways, pieces of advice and more spanning 26 categories.

Our hope is that this issue provides you with plenty of “tips, tricks and ideas” you can use immediately, or in the near future. We chose categories based off of the key areas that affect health clubs every single day, whether it’s risk management, operations, cleaning, aquatics and much, much more. Enjoy!

Trending in Aquatics

What trends should you be paying attention to in aquatics? Newtown Athletic Club’s (NAC) aquatics manager, Leah Alcott, shares the trends and ideas making a splash in the fitness industry.

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Learn-to-swim lessons.

“Swim lessons are essential to any successful aquatic facility. NAC facilitates the NAC Swim School to meet this demand. Lessons range from parent and child classes, preschool classes, learn-to-swim classes and even adult classes. As we head into warmer weather, this instructional trend is especially pertinent to success for our members.”

Image courtesy of Newtown Athletic Club.

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Master swim lessons.

“Newly added to our aquatic facility is a master swim program. Post-collegiate programs are on the rise, as adults not only want to stay in shape and participate in a camaraderie-focused program, but this also gives the ability to train for events such as triathlons.”

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Youth summer swim leagues.

“Turning to the youth side of the spectrum, swim team is a fun, competitive and revenue producing program. The ability to now offer the program year-round is a priority here at the NAC — the competitive world has recently become much more rigorous and skilled. Children are now stepping into the competitive world much younger and expect more skills-based practice. This trend is something that the NAC has seen and is now implementing.”

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“Life expectancy is on the rise along with the importance of aging and wellness. To accommodate this societal trend, NAC’s aquatic and fitness departments work together to offer a variety of fitness and therapy classes ranging from Aqua Zumba to aqua arthritis classes. We are also proud to announce the soon-to-be aqua therapy program here at NAC. Aquahab is an aquatic-based physical therapy program that focuses on the wellness and rehabilitation of our members.”

Architecture: Go with the Flow

How your club is laid out architecturally and design wise can have a huge impact on your success. With this in mind, Bryan Dunkelberger of S3 Design provided tips on club flow, where to focus your renovation funds and more.

Image courtesy of S3 Design.

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“Club flow is important. Have a clear circulation path that allows members to circulate through the club and see everything the club has to offer. This encourages members to try things they normally wouldn’t, while making it easier for your sales team to present the club.”

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“Spend money in areas where members experience it every day and will appreciate it. For example, the tile at sinks or showers, the reception desk, or in Group X studios.”

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“You can never have enough storage — don’t cut it during the design process. This is especially true with group exercise studios. Props around the perimeter make the space look cluttered and can be dangerous. Give props and fitness accessories a home and your members more space to workout in.”

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“People find it uncomfortable to have lots of people walking behind them — therefore don’t put the main circulation space behind the cardio equipment. Rather, put it in front of the cardio equipment so that those using it can watch the people circulating around the club.”

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“Being able to see the reception desk in front of you when you enter the club is good. Keeping it clean and orderly is great. Having a smiling face behind it is perfect.”

The Dirty Business of Cleaning

Bruce A. Sherman, Ph.D., the president of GymValet/B & D Specialty Concepts, Inc., shares his top cleaning advice.

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Equipment Cleaning in the HIIT Setting. “With the recent emergence of boutique and small studio fitness facilities that offer the full-spectrum of functional training — from CrossFit to boot camp to HIIT — the “tools of the trade” have changed from machines (cardio and strength) to functional (non-machine) training equipment. What seems to be overlooked in the shift to functional-based training is the ongoing need to clean and sanitize the functional training equipment surfaces — bars, handles, bags, balls, mats — before or after each use. Higher intensity training specifically leads to higher energy expenditure and higher sweat rates, and the continuous switching or swapping-out of equipment increases the chance of user-to-user transmission of germs and viruses, more so than ever. This is necessitating quick and convenient access — within arm’s reach — to equipment sanitizing supplies, so each piece of functional training equipment can be cleaned between each use, without disrupting the flow of the exerciser and group.”

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Convenience, Effectiveness and Cost — And the Winner is… “The three most important things to consider when installing a member-driven equipment cleaning/sanitizing system are convenience, effectiveness and cost. The most effective way to achieve consistent and effective user-to-user equipment cleaning/sanitizing is to place the sanitizing supplies as close to the exerciser as possible, preferably on every — or at least every other — machine. Once you’ve achieved “closeness,” consider the cost of the cleaning supplies that are provided; spray bottle and towel cleaning will be the convenience, effectiveness and cost winner every time — guaranteed.”

Bonus cleaning tips:

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Retention Killer.  One of the most common causes of attrition in health clubs is uncleanliness. Therefore, if you’re finding members are running out the door at a faster rate than you’re comfortable with, take some time to evaluate if your gym’s cleanliness (or lack thereof) is playing a factor. Hire someone with fresh eyes to do a walk-through of your gym and report back the areas they noticed could use some sprucing-up.

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Attack of the Germs.  FitRated.com conducted a study examining gym cleanliness, and found alarming results surrounding certain pieces of gym cardio and strength equipment. “We compared the bacteria levels we found on various gym equipment with the number of germs typically found on everyday items. The average exercise bike harbors 39 times more bacteria than a cafeteria tray. Typical free weights have 362 times more germs than a toilet seat. And the treadmill … averages 74 times more bacteria than a typical public bathroom faucet.” This stresses the importance of enforcing the policy that members wipe down equipment after each use.

Community: It Takes a Village

Stephanie Coulon, the member services and marketing manager at Stone Creek Club & Spa, provides three ways their team fosters community within the club. 

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Reach Out. “Be visible in your community. Get involved with schools and neighborhood associations and sponsor their events — donate some promotional items with your logo, a great gift basket, or sponsor the coffee or water. Getting bottled water with your logo on it isn’t expensive, but it does have an impact. Whenever possible, have a presence at community events to greet people face-to-face. For example, our childcare staff hosts a face-painting tent for kids at a local neighborhood fall fest. Visit nearby companies often, keeping them in the loop on what’s happening at your club.”

Image courtesy of Stone Creek Club & Spa.

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Build from Within. “Create smaller ‘clubs’ within your club. Offer a variety of events and options to appeal to members with varied interests. Organize a small group of members to hike or bike at a local park, or hire a charter bus to transport a ‘team’ of your members to a nearby race. Host a wine tasting or themed tennis mixer with festive food and drinks. Even something as simple as creating comfortable seating areas in your club invites members to stay and socialize.”

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Give Back. “Nothing builds the spirit of community like contributing to a good cause. To maximize impact, make it more than just a fundraiser. Create an event or some sort of visual display that reminds members to get involved, and make it an annual tradition. Two examples from Stone Creek are the annual ‘Salute Our Soldiers’ campaign and our holiday toy drive.”

On Higher Education

Having highly educated staff can be the lifeblood of a business. Pay attention to these education-focused tips and tricks.

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TRX’s Newest Education Opportunities.

TRX Advanced Group Training Course — Certification. This two-day, TRX Certification course represents the pinnacle of the TRX Education Journey. Through the application of TRX’s Group Coaching System, trainers will master coaching techniques and learn how to effectively program and deliver elite, customizable, TRX Group workouts. Prerequisites include the Suspension Training Course (STC), in addition to the Functional Training Course (FTC) and/or the Group Training Course (GTC). The TRX Education Journey is a movement-based training curriculum that provides fitness professionals with a progressive approach to learning a system of foundational movement coaching. TRX courses progress from practicing foundational movement standards with the TRX Suspension Trainer, to developing skills and integrating multiple training tools with individuals and/or groups. Courses in the TRX Education Journey include the TRX Suspension Training Course (level 1), the TRX Functional Training Course and the TRX Group Training Course. For more information on either educational opportunities, email sales@trxtraining.com or call 888.878.5348.

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STRONG by Zumba.

Zumba’s newest program offering — and first non-dance program — is STRONG by Zumba, which is the company’s introduction to music-led high intensity interval training. Zumba’s website describes the program as combining, “high intensity interval training with the science of Synced Music Motivation. In every class, music and moves sync in a way that pushes you past your perceived limits, to reach your fitness goals faster.”

Zumba begins offering trainings on STRONG by Zumba after June 1st, 2017.

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Certifying Body to Keep on Your Radar: NCEP.

About NCEP: The National College of Exercise Professionals, a pioneer of teaching functional training for health club personal trainers, has been regarded as an elite certification for over two decades. Developed from the original Sports Club/LA Company, NCEP provides a qualifying personal training certification for Equinox, 24 Hour Fitness, Crunch, Retro Fitness, Gold’s Gym and many others. NCEP is renowned for teaching its certifications live and in-person at health clubs across the country. For more information on NCEP, visit their website: ncepfitness.com.

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It’s safe to say functional training is no longer a trend — it’s a certified movement in fitness. Here, Adam James, the vice president and director of development for NCEP, explained trainers looking to boost their functional training knowledge should seek live trainings/certifications.

“For personal training certification and continuing education courses, focus on functional training and live, in-person classes,” said James. “The entire fitness industry is moving toward the functional training method, and it’s the cutting-edge approach for athletes, rehab and overall fitness. The best way to learn functional training — and any exercise science — is through live, in-person classes.”


The Importance of Continuing Education.

Here, Nick Clayton, MBA, MS, a personal training program manager for NSCA, discusses how to make continuing education a priority at your gym:

Establish a continuing education calendar. Just like writing a fitness program for a client, start with the end in mind. What do you want your staff to look like year after year, what fundamentals do you want all of your personal trainers to know, what specializations do your trainers need to match the demands of your members? Having a highly qualified and trained staff not only increases client retention, but it reduces staff turnover. One simple, yet effective way to do this: Select a group of trainers to present research articles from NSCA’s Strength and Conditioning Journal or Personal Trainers Quarterly to the rest of the training team each month.

Pay for continuing education opportunities for your top personal trainers. This is a great motivator, shows your trainers that you care, and helps them develop as professionals. Start by determining your budget, then offer to cover the registration and expenses for conferences/clinics or advanced certifications/trainings. Add the caveat that they must come back and share their newfound skills with the rest of the training staff.”

Engaging Employees: Earning Buy-In

Joe Cirulli

Joe Cirulli

Boasting employees that are engaged in your facility and its mission will ensure long-lasting success for your club. Here, Joe Cirulli shares three ways he engages employees at Gainesville Health and Fitness.


Go to Lunch. “The owner and/or general manager should take three to five employees to lunch each week. Learn about their lives and dreams. Let them know you care about them more than just as employees. Let them know you appreciate them. Include interns, housekeepers, floor staff and beyond.”


Fly with the Eagles (GHF Staff Recognition Program). “Set up ways both in the club and online where members can tell you when they see employees going above and beyond the call of duty. Review them regularly. When you have a group of people who have received true ‘eagle’ comments, set up a night to take them to a nice restaurant and read the comments out loud. Thank them for what they’ve done.”


Tell them a Story. “If your company has a powerful story to tell about how it began and how it got to where it is today, tell it during the initial training period. You can build a powerful sense of pride in new employees if they truly understand what they are a part of.”

The Latest Equipment

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Brewer Fitness: Laddermill

The Laddermill allows both experienced and new users the benefits of a total-body workout. It exercises your cardiovascular system while building lean muscle mass, core strength and balance.


Keiser: M3i

Built around you the rider, you the gym owner and you the service technician. Fits all body shapes and sizes and achieves a quiet ­– but true – road-bike experience inside your gym or home, doing it all with the simplest of engineering designs.


Matrix Fitness: 7xi

Discover a brilliant display with an intuitive app interface that connects members to entertainment, social media favorites and brand-building communication. Matrix is continually improving its platform with refined software and new feature sets.


Octane Fitness: Zero Runner®

A hybrid of a treadmill and elliptical. Replicates real running, but without any stressful impact. With independent hip and knee joints, the ZR8000 offers customized movement that mimics human biomechanics, with strides up to 58 inches.


Cybex: Arc Trainer

Commercial high-end crosstrainer designed for a total-body workout. Load dependent and burns up to 16 percent more calories than competing equipment, reduces knee strain by 83 percent and improves muscular endurance by 38 percent.


Life Fitness: Integrity Series Treadmill

Features a Flexdeck shock absorption system that reduces knee and joint stress, a swing-free area near the console for enhanced comfort, and an increased running surface spanning 22-inches wide.


NuStep: Recumbent cross trainer

Attract more members with the NuStep recumbent cross trainer. The NuStep features an inclusive design and a low impact, full-body cardio and strength workout ideal for users of virtually all fitness levels.


Precor: Spinner® Chrono™ Power by Precor

Offers direct power measurement at the source. Equipped with a strain gauge power sensor to measure wattage. Provides high accuracy and durability without the need to replace batteries.


SCIFIT: SXT7000e2 (Easy Entry Elliptical)

Uses a natural, total-body movement that creates a true-to-life walking cadence. The medical handrails and step-up platform provide easy entry while the Bio-Flex™ foot beds improve foot and ankle circulation.


Total Gym: Elevate Row™

Rowing on an incline emulates a traditional rowing movement and now with seven levels of adjustment, the strength component of working against gravity with more resistance provides a full-body cardio workout.


SportsArt: G510 ECO-POWR Indoor Cycle

Part of SportsArt’s green technology line of cardio equipment which incorporates built-in micro-inverters. It’s the first of its kind to harness the power generated throughout a workout and put it back into the grid.


TRUE Fitness: Alpine Runner Incline Trainer

Intensifies workouts like never before. Features like TRUE’s new Monument Workouts and patent-pending incline system make the Alpine Runner the ultimate training tool for both user and facility.


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Brewer Fitness: Treadwall

The ultimate piece of cross-training equipment designed for serious training and fun. It has adjustable angle and speed mechanisms, allowing for customizable workouts that incorporate a wide range of abilities.


Life Fitness: PowerMill

Combines superior biomechanics and thoughtful design, making it an optimal climbing addition to any fitness floor. The trainer’s SureStepSystem Technology uses an AC motor for a wider speed range from 12-185 steps per minute.


Jacobs Ladder: Jacobs Ladder and Stairway

Jacobs Ladder LLC produces Jacobs Ladder, Jacobs Ladder 2 and Stairway. All three products are self-paced and designed for commercial use. Backed by a 4-year parts, 1-year labor warranty.


Matrix Fitness: C7xi ClimbMill

Offers an exercise-friendly touch screen that delivers easy access to social media and web content. Locking steps and step-positioning software ensure a stable workout. Sweat Management System prolongs operating life.


SCIFIT: TC1000 Climber

Provides quiet and smooth movement, and independent step action. Each step platform features a 36-centimeter step range and large, cushioned foot beds with safety edges. Has ergonomic handlebars, allowing multiple hand positions for free climbing.



Offers a unique arm and leg pushing/pulling action. Offers a versatile step and arm height of 1 to 20 inches. Great for high-intensity interval training and full-body stretching. Alternate from upper and lower body training, all with zero impact.

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Comprised of 27 stations for optimal storage, efficient space utilization and in-demand fitness appeal. Combines traditional cable-based training options with functional/bodyweight-based configured stations and storage solutions.


Matrix Fitness: Versa Functional Trainer

Provides a range of exercise options in a smart, space-saving footprint. Incremental adjustment and a 1:2 pulley ratio make it easy to control intensity and create progressions.


Life Fitness: SYNRGY360

Pioneering concept. Creates a transformational fitness experience through modular customizations. Multiple sizes and an expanding offering make this product possible for any facility with SGT, personal training and individual exercisers.


Octane Fitness: AirdyneX™

Capitalizes on unlimited wind resistance. Highly-durable workhorse that combines a 26-blade performance fan with a responsive single-stage belt drive that leverages one’s effort to generate more watt power for maximum intensity.


Total Gym: ELEVATE™ 

Functional bodyweight resistance circuit that works against gravity on an incline. Consisting of five single station, fully adjustable units that focus on different muscle groups, ELEVATE is ideal as a self-serve circuit or for personal and SGT.


Precor: Queenax Functional Training from Precor

Space-efficient modular system. The streamlined and configurable design allows operators to maximize valuable gym floor space and provide versatile training options.


TRUE Fitness: Full Body Press Composite Strength Machine

Activate more skeletal musculature than other machines to strengthen muscles and burn calories faster. Replaces numerous upper and lower body exercises in one, fluid movement.


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Life Fitness: Row HX Trainer

Perfect for a low-impact, total-body workout for both large and boutique facilities. Fluid Technology resistance delivers a smooth and natural feel that’s easy to adjust for different users. Beautifully designed with a wood and steel finish.


Technogym: SKILLROW

First indoor rowing equipment designed to improve anaerobic power, aerobic capacity and neuromuscular abilities in one solution. Designed to provide an unparalleled feeling that simulates the actual act of rowing on water: AQUAFEEL.


Cybex: Hydro Rower

Features four resistance levels that can be adjusted on the fly, eliminating the need to add or siphon water to change its workout level. The rower comes with a console that is compatible with heart rate monitors.


Matrix Fitness: Matrix Rower

For quiet operation by rowing enthusiasts, this workhorse offers a poly-V belt drive system. The aluminum guide rail mimics a real rowing feel, while the fan-wheel technology provides smooth, natural movement. Boasts battery-powered LCD display.


Total Gym: Row Trainer™

Take group rowing to the next level. Workouts can include multi-planar movement such as bicep curls and side-to-side rows which are not only fun, but effective calorie expending solutions.


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Life Fitness: Hammer Strength: HD Athletic Perimeter

With a depth of just 32 inches, this rig and rack system fits unobtrusively along a wall, providing a large training area in the center of the facility.


Cybex: SPARC Trainer

HIIT-focused product that’s biomechanically refined, providing exceptional results with low impact. Has sprint-like mechanics in a non-impact environment. Manually controlled incline offers three positions to focus on different muscle groups.


Matrix Fitness: Versa Duals

The expanded versatility of Matrix’s dual stations makes it easy to create a weight-training collection just right for your space, budget and members. Mix and match a range of two-in-one stations and make the most of your floor space.


SCIFIT: Latitude Lateral Stability Trainer

The first recumbent lateral trainer. This wheelchair-accessible trainer makes focusing on new muscle groups possible for older adults and rehabilitation exercisers who need to improve balance and stability.


TRUE Fitness: FUSE XL Chest Press

Features unilateral converging and diverging movement. The Chest Press is from TRUE’s FUSE XL Paramount Series, a modern and comprehensive 16-piece strength conditioning system designed to meet space, budget and performance demands.


Precor: Discovery™ Series Strength Squat Machine

Unique design provides an experience that most closely mimics the muscular demands and stabilization required in a barbell squat, while providing the control needed to master the squat movement.


Total Gym: GRAVITY®

Introduces total-body transformation through dynamic, high intensity training for mind and body. Movement variables change regularly so clients are always motivated, challenged and surprised as they achieve more agility, balance and strength.


Franchises: Race to the Top

The fitness industry is awash with a number of excellent franchises, ranging from boutique-style concepts to mid-tier facilities. This year, two fitness franchises in particular are standing out as forces to be reckoned with.

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Image courtesy of Anytime Fitness.

Anytime Fitness.

Ranked No. 1 on Entrepreneur’s “Top Global Franchise” list for two consecutive years, Anytime Fitness is one of the fastest-growing gym franchises in the world, with more than 3,200 gyms serving nearly 2,700,000 members on five continents.

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Orangetheory Fitness.

Orangetheory Fitness is a scientifically designed, one-of-a-kind, group personal training workout broken into intervals of cardiovascular and strength training. The company was ranked #415 in Inc. magazine’s “Fastest Growing Private Companies List” and #255 in Entrepreneur’s “2016 Franchise 500” list of the top franchises in the world.

Up Next in Group X

Jeffrey Howard, manager of group programming and promotions at Baptist Health/Milestone Wellness Center, shares his thoughts on how Group X is evolving.

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How do you think group fitness has evolved over the last few years?

“Fitness has changed — the mindset is that people need to workout as a part of their checklist. Our parents felt it was a luxury. That being said, the members want what they want when they want it, so the norm is the members will have multiple memberships at numerous clubs to fit their lifestyle. They are also doing multiple workouts during their day. And so the industry is changing to meet these needs.”

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What have you been seeing as the trends for Group X in 2017?

“Wearable technology such as Fitbit and MYZONE: The masses want to see what they are doing and are tracking their progress.  HIIT training, Tabata and timed interval workouts are huge. Members are athletes now and they realize how effective interval training is for results. Bodyweight workouts: Getting back to just using the body and less equipment. Yoga is coming back huge, both the hot yoga practice and traditional. Foam roller classes, stretch classes: The members are more active and they know they need to take care of their bodies by stretching and working out fatigued muscles. People realize that myofascial release is very important to overall health and athletic performance. 45-minute and 30-minute classes: Members want to get in and get out, or mix in more than one element. Boot camps geared toward sport specific: Boot camps are always huge, but by gearing it toward sports, the member comes away with a learned activity. Meditation classes: Basically unplugging from the world and getting centered.”

Lori Lowell, a Gold’s Gym franchisee owner, discusses the top trends she’s witnessing in the realm of group exercise, and how club owners should respond.

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FOMO. “I’m finding that with the increase of group fitness programming facilities, we as club owners have tons of members that will never leave — but they also have FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). Keep your eyes open and notice all new types of programming and have a slot on the schedule called ‘Try It Out,’ giving members an opportunity to stay current with what types of classes boutique facilities and clubs are offering. Avoid staying stale in your program offerings. Let members vote with their voices and feet.”

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Trend 1: “Variety, variety, variety. Schedules need to have options and color. Schedules need to be easy to read and fun. Keep everything fun, friendly, warm, inviting, informational. Spend some money on your schedule, add tips, events, and ‘call to action’ classes and activities to do and take. Everything needs to feel like a party.”

Trend 2: “Get your cycle room in shape. The cycle real estate needs to be used more and instructors can’t do it alone. Focus on the varied types of cycle classes that are new, fun and available in the industry. Sprint, Moi Cycle, Moi Party, The Trip, etc. It’s so important that you bring in as much variety to this arena.”

Trend 3: “Yoga, yoga, yoga — and more yoga. Make your room so zen that people don’t want to miss out on being in that space. Put fabric and hang Asian-style lighting and fixtures, etc. Find fabulous instructors who know how to teach great yoga.”

Trend 4: “Is your group fitness director current, on top of the industry, creative and business minded? Make sure you have the right person driving the bus for this super important position. Quality instructors and directors are super key right now.”

Room for Growth


Growing Pains.

Growing your business can come in many forms, whether it’s increasing your number of locations, growing your staff or seeing your revenue up-tick year after year. Although growth is great, it can come with challenges. What can you do to avoid growing pains?

  • Don’t lose sight of your core values, focus and mission. Use them to keep yourself grounded.
  • Don’t sacrifice quality for quantity.
  • Constantly check-in on your business’ pulse, ensuring issues aren’t getting swept under the rug for the sake of growth. Otherwise, things will start to unravel.
  • Staff appropriately. As you grow, the importance of quality staff will be more important than ever.

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And the Growth Award Goes to: Genesis Health Clubs.

In 2016, Genesis saw substantial growth, doubling in size between April and June. On March 31st, the company announced its latest acquisition of HealthRidge Fitness Center in Olathe, Kansas.

Rodney Steven II, the owner of Genesis Health Clubs, commented, “We are so excited to continue to grow in Kansas City, our largest market. With 13 locations in the greater metro area, we truly have something for everyone in Kansas City. We are a locally owned and operated business, and we aren’t going anywhere. We plan on focusing heavily on this and all our Kansas City clubs to bring in the Genesis brand and give our members an unforgettable fitness experience.”

Today, Genesis Health Clubs has 41 clubs in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Nebraska.

Insurance & Risk Management

TIP 038: The Cincinnati Insurance Company

Through your independent agent representing Cincinnati, receive exceptional service and insurance from those who understand your fitness business. Experience Everything Insurance Should Be® from a carrier rated A+ (Superior) by A.M. Best Co. and one of the 25 largest property casualty insurer groups based on net written premium. Learn more at cinfin.com/fitness-sports.

513.603.5461 + brian_rawlings@cinfin.com + cinfin.com/fitness-sports


TIP 039: FitnessEMS

In fitness equipment slip and fall cases the first order of business should be to gather data to prove proper repair and maintenance whether your equipment is under warranty or not. The question is, do you have this info available? Demo FitnessEMS to see how it can help dial in the people and processes associated with your equipment.

770.807.3026 + rhosea@fitnessems.com + fitnessems.com


TIP 040: K&K Insurance

As a leading provider of sports and recreation insurance, K&K offers a variety of coverage options for fitness facilities of all sizes. Ask your agent for a quote from K&K or visit the website for information.

877.355.0315 + kandkinsurance.com + kk.recreation@kandkinsurance.com


TIP 041: Markel Health Club Solutions

Markel health club solutions is designed to meet the needs of your fitness club. Whether you operate a yoga studio, personal training group, or a full-service health club, it’s a program designed with a full range of competitive insurance coverages and services that address the unique risks of fitness clubs and studios.

800.985.2021 + markelhealthclub.com + dawilliams@markelcorp.com


TIP 042: Sports & Fitness Insurance Corp. (SFIC)

Sports & Fitness Insurance Corp. (SFIC) has been dedicated to the fitness industry for 30 years, insuring health clubs and fitness centers, studios and fitness professionals. SFIC offers general liability insurance, property insurance, professional liability insurance, umbrellas, workers compensation and surety bonds in all 50 states and Canada.

800.844.0536 x 2333 + jennifer@sportsfitness.com + sportsfitness.com


TIP 043: Motorola / TechWholesale.com

TechWholesale.com provides professional Motorola business two-way radios to improve communication within facilities like spas and health clubs. The efficiency of personnel using radios, versus those without, show dramatic increases in effective staff hours, customer satisfaction and your bottom line.

888.925.5982 + service@techwholesale.com  + techwholesale.com/fitness-club-radios.html


Leading the Way

Top fitness professionals share their thoughts and ideas on leadership.

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Continuous personal development. “Being content to remain at the level you have already achieved is your first step backwards. Always be learning and growing. Develop yourself so you can develop those around you.” — Chez Misko, COO of Wisconsin Athletic Club.

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Hire people with skills you don’t have. “Don’t let your ego get in your way. True leadership means setting the direction, hiring and selecting those that share your values and can deliver. It’s not personality based, but mission based.” — Bill McBride, CEO and president of Active Wellness.

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Lead through observation. “Leadership is observing people, situations and opportunities so you can offer new solutions, viewpoints or growth to individuals who have given you the opportunity to observe. I believe that you do that by: Being the customer, forcing yourself to see the situation from a different angle than what is being presented, and leading through those observations.” — JoAnna Masloski, COO of Wellbridge.

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Listen. “Leaders listen. They give their associates their full focus and uninterrupted, quality time. They clarify the expectations, and give associates the resources and tools to be successful. Leaders abandon themselves to the strengths of others.” — Debra Siena, president of Midtown Health.

The Key to Locker Room Success

Suzanne Lee, the marketing manager for Digilock, provides key insight into locker rooms that wow.

Image courtesy of Digilock.

“Providing the right experience and ensuring your locker rooms are up-to-date, clean and safe can make a big impression and dramatically help with member retention. As this is the one area that almost every member sees at some point during his or her visit, the locker room should be an integral part of the member experience. From aesthetics to cleanliness, your locker room sets the tone for the rest of your facility. Considering this fact, keep these two tips in mind.”

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Upgrade. “Consider upgrading to electronic locks so your members won’t have to worry about carrying keys. Losing valuables is likely to put a damper on one’s workout, and may deter future visits altogether.”

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Level Up. “Just as your staff is well-trained in informing members on how to use the fitness equipment, your staff should also be knowledgeable on how to maintain and manage your personal storage system.”

Magnetic Marketing

Donyel Cerceo, marketing director for Merritt Clubs, shares three tricks for developing and executing a master marketing plan.


Image courtesy of Merritt Clubs.

Tracking is key. “Try to do as much marketing as possible that can be easily tracked to a specific source. If you cannot get an accurate ROI on something, it is like throwing darts with a blindfold. Direct as much traffic in your marketing pieces back to your website and make sure you have Google Analytics knowledge or some type of tracking software implemented on your website. Landing pages are a great way to track conversion rates. If you are not directing traffic to your website on a marketing piece, make sure you are using special numbers that may be tracked to a specific marketing source. This will help you get a good handle on your ROI.”


When looking at media buys, make sure you pin down exact times for your spots to run. “A buy that has a lot of spots but they run from 5 p.m. to midnight is too vague — you could get spots running late at night when no one is at your club to answer the phone. Make sure you are getting spots in prime time. Some radio stations now even have software that can track when your spots run and measure an increase in web traffic. Streaming spots are great for this because people often listen to streaming while at their computer, so it is easy for them to visit your website.”


Get social. “Make sure you are monitoring what people are saying about you online. In today’s world, user-generated reviews and feedback are much more commonplace. You need to make sure you have a finger on the social pulse of your organization. If you do not have someone on staff to stay on top of everything social, there are many brand reputation management companies you can work with to make sure you are responding to reviews and feedback promptly. The days of deleting negative feedback on social sites or ignoring negative reviews are over. If you choose to ignore these, it shows your current customers and prospective customers that you just don’t care. More and more consumers are going to sites like Yelp! and Google before they make a decision to consider your company. If they see any negative reviews on your business they need to see that you are addressing these concerns. Not only is this something that is imperative to marketing, it also is important for customer service.”

Here, Linda Mitchell, the director of public and government relations at Newtown Athletic Club, lists three marketing tricks she ranks high in importance.


Image courtesy of NAC.

Make a plan. “A plan is a must, and it can take many forms. Keep it simple from an overview perspective. You can fill in the details later. The plan should include promotional ideas supported by the ways in which you want to spread your message: hard copy, website, email, social media, etc. Once you plan for at least six months, stick to the plan as best you can.”


Communicate. “A plan is pointless unless it is shared with others who will buy into the plan and help you implement it. During the communication process, you may receive viable input to tweak the plan to make it better. Incorporate this input. This will create more buy-in and more effective implementation.”


Measure. “Always include a goal for each marketing campaign and a way to measure its effectiveness. This is a simple idea, but the most often overlooked feature of most marketing strategies. Digital marketing offers the most accessible measurement platforms, but all your efforts should be measured, including your guerilla efforts that are often one-on-one interactions.”

Developing Medical Fitness

Mike Alpert, president and CEO of The Claremont Club, lists three best practices for launching and managing a medical fitness program within a health club.

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Mike Alpert and a member of The Claremont Club.

“You first need to define what population you are focusing on. Are you developing a program for people affected by cancer, diabetes, paralysis or anxiety and depression? It is critical to remember many of the people who are struggling with chronic injuries or chronic illnesses have also seen their finances depleted. Many are unable to work, and in many cases, have lost their ability to care for their families. So get into this for the right reasons. Don’t just look at this as a way to boost your bottom line. Understand what moves the bottom line: creating and maintaining meaningful, purposeful work. It will change everyone’s lives and will lead to retention of both your members and your staff, and that will have a huge effect on your bottom line.”

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“Do your homework on the injury or illness your program is focused on. If your program involves people affected by paralysis (i.e., spinal cord injury, stroke, ALS), you need education on how to work with those populations safely. With ALS, you need to know when someone is in distress, etc. You need to focus 100 percent on safety at all times. It is also very important to know what markers you will be looking at and what results you are tracking.”

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“It is critical to build strong relationships with key physicians and hospital CEOs in your community. They should be a major source of education and you need to keep them in the loop at all times. This takes patience and time and they must feel that 1.) your specialists are highly trained and educated in their field and 2.) that your program is not simply to get them to refer their patients to you for membership dues. Again, you must be in it for the right reasons and that is to truly be a “health club.” It has to be more than how you look in a bathing suit. It has to be about health. And remember, the socialization part is critical.”

Nutrition Info Served

Carolyn Fetters, the founder of Balanced Habits, said any nutrition program has to be scalable in order to serve the masses.

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Made for Many. “Just like any program a fitness business owner wants to implement, it has to be something that not just one person is in charge of. It has to be scalable so that multiple people can manage the one program and be successful with it.”

Denise Hernandez, a registered and licensed dietitian specializing in health and wellness at The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa, discusses the merits of offering grocery store tours to members.

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Supermarket Sweep. “Grocery store tours are a valuable service for club members. Since most adults are hands-on learners, they are able to retain information by doing. In a tour, dietitians can help shoppers identify a variety of healthful options, review ingredient lists and nutrition fact labels, and offer opportunities to sample new foods. Offering such services to members is a valuable method to positively impacting their health.”

Re-energize Operations

Here, Shawn Stewart, the COO of O2 Fitness, lays out five tips to re-energize your operational hiring process.

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Shawn Stewart

Multiple interviews.  “To be certain that the correct individuals are chosen, multiple interviews should be conducted. Interviews should be done by different people or teams of people. Interviews should also be done in different environments. And interviews should always be based on the company’s core values.”

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Eliminate standard interview questions.

“One of the best ways to do this is a group interview. Group interviews allow you to put applicants in an unrehearsed situation. Have the interviewee tell jokes, have them role-play with each other on customer service scenarios or even do creative ice breakers. You can evaluate how they interact with other people while performing hands-on role-playing group work.”

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Create a hiring team. “Don’t rely on just yourself to make all the hiring decisions. First, select a group of managers, supervisors, leaders and decision-makers within the company. Second, train them in basic interviewing skills and techniques. And most importantly, teach them how to be great empathic listeners.”

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Train the front desk team to evaluate first impressions.

“Create a list of items you want your front desk people to evaluate when someone is turning in an application. For example: Did they have an engaging personality? Were they smiling? Did they introduce themselves? Were they professional? What was their attitude? Did anything change when they spoke with a supervisor?”

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Use selection tools.

“Tests such as the Adversity Quotient, Mark Simms and the Optimism test are great tools to use before you interview a candidate.”

Personal Training

Erin Carson.

Erin Carson, the co-owner and general manager of RallySport Boulder, which employs 27 trainers, shares her tips and tricks for running a high-performing and profitable personal training department.


One-of-a-Kind. “Allow the trainers to be themselves and establish a personal brand. Obviously that brand must align with the overall value system of the club in general.”


Pay Scale. “Compensate your team fairly for being successful. I would challenge most clubs to take more pride in the success of their team and how they contribute to the success of the business. Be OK with adding to the member retention conversation and possibly walking away from a few points on the margin. Trainer turnover is probably one of the biggest problems with traditional clubs, and by taking on this stance, [we have diminished this problem.]”


Trickle Down. “The personal trainer manager should be one of the top trainers in the club. In my opinion, the trainers who are focused on growing their business must be led by someone who has a pulse on the current market vibe. What worked to develop new business in the past may not be relevant in the current economic climate. The personal trainer manager should have a vested interest in the success of the team, as well as new trainers.”

Jose Madrigal.

Jose Madrigal, the owner and trainer at Studio Fitness in Houston, Texas, shares two tips for attracting the highest quality personal trainers to your club.

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“Seek to create a gym environment or program that potential employees can feel excited and proud of. Top talent looks for good pay, but will settle for less money if they feel like they are becoming part of something great. Make it your mission to keep employees feeling like [your club] is the greatest place to work at through innovation and atmosphere. In addition to attracting talent, this will make them your best ambassadors.”

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“Remember the core psychological needs of all individuals are autonomy, relatedness and competence. In simple terms, this means they have a choice in what they do, they feel supported as a person and they feel fully capable of doing their job. Appeal to those needs in the hiring process, making sure to have a legitimate strategy for fulfilling those needs through job duties, culture, training and your management approach.”

Profit Centers

Profit centers can do more than just pad a health club’s bottom line. They can also make your gym stand out as a one-stop-shop and convenient place for members. Here are a couple tricks to maximize their success.


Take a Sample: Juice Bars.

Offering a juice bar can be a great source of revenue, but getting members into the habit of spending food dollars at your gym can be tricky. Get members hooked on your juices or smoothies by offering free samples at the front desk. Once they see how great they taste, they’ll be more apt to come back for more — and this time pay for it.


Keep it Simple: Retail.

When you have a retail space, it can be tempting to offer anything and everything a member could possibly need. But doing so can leave you with excess inventory that’s hard to store for extended periods of time. Keep this in mind and stick to offering just your best sellers.

Retention Strategies

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Listen to Your Customers.

Clubs like Gainesville Health and Fitness feel listening to customers is so crucial to their business that they’ve incorporated the use of member survey tool MXM, a Medallia Partner. The survey tool has allowed it to gather feedback from more than 4,000 individuals who have experienced one of their locations. The Little Rock Athletic Club (LRAC) uses Listen360, another member survey tool, for its clients’ convenience. CEO of LRAC Frank Lawrence said the software takes only 30 seconds for members to use. “The members are able to have an ongoing conversation in a different way than just using the club,” he explained.

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Develop a Protocol for Connecting with Cancelling Members.

Life happens, and sometimes memberships must be dissolved for reasons beyond your control as a club operator. Chuck Cavolo, the COO of Brick Bodies, said it’s imperative to implement a script for staff members to use when dealing with a gym-goer cancelling their membership. He added when a member cancels, it’s an opportunity to learn. “Your staff needs to ask thoughtful questions in order to illuminate the real reason why someone is leaving, and whether or not you can encourage the member to stay,” he said.

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Image courtesy of Greenwood.

Work at Building a Genuine Relationship.

It isn’t plausible for your staff to get to know every single member of your club intimately, but there’s no harm in trying. Vic Spatola, the director of personal training at Greenwood Athletic and Tennis Club, said one of the major ways personal trainers can build relationships with their clients, and ultimately add value to their training, is by building a strong rapport with clientele. “Building a personal connection with a client is essential to keeping clients long term, aside from all the nuts and bolts things,” he said.

Boosting Sales

Tom Deimler, the senior vice president at California Family Fitness, shares top sales tips. “In my years of selling memberships and training membership sales people, I have compiled a list of best practices that ensure success. If you want to sell more memberships and create longer lasting memberships, follow these simple guidelines.

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“Be consistent in your full sales presentation.  If you want to be the best at anything you must have consistent, good habits. Each and every sale should be methodical. Greet the guest, listen carefully to their needs and what they are seeking from your club, tour the club, present membership options and close the sale.”

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“Be friendly. This sounds simple, but consistently being friendly and welcoming is essential to maximizing your sales. Find a common ground with the prospect, create a positive connection and don’t forget to always smile.”

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“Find out why the prospect wants to accomplish their fitness goals.  The most powerful skill of any salesperson is the skill of active listening. So, ask questions and listen more than you talk. When the prospect says they want to lose 20 pounds, you should always ask why. There is always an important reason behind why someone wants to reach a goal, and if you can convince them that your facilities and programs will help them do what they want, they will join.”

Small Group Planning

Donna Cyrus shares how Crunch set up its small group training program for success.

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Step outside your comfort zone. Crunch has always been a leader in the Group X space, but they recently expanded to offer the small group training format as well. As Donna Cyrus, the executive advisor for group fitness explained, Crunch’s approach to small group training came in the form of The SweatShed program, an immersive, HIIT class.

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Consider your space. Some clubs offer small group training on the main fitness floor, but Crunch decided to provide a dedicated space for its small group training program. The SweatShed is a 2,000-square-foot studio space designed for small group training. As Cyrus explained, they wanted it to be separate from the main fitness floor, to further set it apart as a unique program.

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Provide incentive. The SweatShed small group workouts focus on high-intensity, interval classes, each 50-minutes long, that provide a full-body, high-energy workout. Individual heart rate monitors are used to help motivate participants and personalize the experience for each and every member.

Social Media

Insight from Maribel Lara, the vice president of account strategy of VaynerMedia.

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Remember Your Audience. “Evaluate your content from your target audience’s perspective, not just your own. Be clear on the consumer you are trying to reach, while remembering that social media targeting isn’t a blunt tool. You can talk to distinct audiences in specific ways that will be more resonant for them.”

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Know Your Value. When trying to grow your presence on social media, it is essential to remember your core mission and vision as a business. With that in mind, then determine what value you can provide via social media. What is going to make customers listen? “Keep your business objectives in sight,” said Lara. “Your social media strategy should ladder right up to these goals.”

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Personalization is Key. Take the time to engage with your users on social media. Respond to comments, questions and feedback in a timely manner. “The personal one-on-one engagement is what social media was built on and still has value, regardless of the channel,” said Lara. “There is no substitute for having a real person communicating with your consumers in social channels.”

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Try Something New. Lara explained one of the biggest mistakes businesses make is being afraid to try something new. “I hear businesses resisting to experiment because the success hasn’t previously been proven out,” she added. “If you are the new kid on the block or the one with the least resources, you are not going to win by playing the game the same way everyone else is playing. You are in the best position to innovate, so be the first mover. You are going to have some failures, but what you will learn will eventually put you ahead of the pack.”

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Have a Cohesive Strategy. Between Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, it is easy to get overwhelmed. According to Lara, it is important to have a consistent strategy across all platforms. “Businesses should have a cohesive social media strategy that gets deployed across the channels that makes sense for what they are looking to achieve,” she explained. “For example, Facebook is where you are going to be able to reach the most people, but you’ll need to put media dollars behind the content to ensure impressions. Snapchat still offers an opportunity for your content to get seen organically, and if millennials are your audience, it’s a must.”

Trending in Tech

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API Integration.

Use Application Programming Interfaces (API) to create a more personalized experience for each and every member. Deeper API integration allows clubs to create a more holistic experience for members through data tracking. According to Keith Catanzano, the partner and co-founder of 2River Consulting Group, just as Amazon can recommend products and services you might like based on your past purchase behavior, health clubs can use the same method. “We use the same learning techniques to look through different sources of data,” he said. “We help identify who is at risk, but more than that, we can understand why a member might be at risk of leaving, so then as a club owner, you can actually do something about it.”

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Market Share.

According to research firm Canalys, the Apple Watch had a record-setting fourth quarter. Apple sold 6 million Apple Watch units worldwide, which meant sales were up 12 percent year over year. After Apple, the Fitbit was the second most popular smartwatch last year with 17 percent market share. Samsung came in third with 15 percent market share.

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In case you missed it, TRX released one of its newest products at IHRSA 2017 centered around technology. TRX CONNECT is a digital platform consisting of three integrated parts.

TRX Connect.

TRX APP. Personalized fitness app for members and consumers. Interactive audio workouts from professional trainers that react in the moment to guide and motivate users.

TRX DIGITAL PRO APP. Connects your gym with your members. Allows you to drive utilization in the various spaces in your facility and deliver dozens of personalized workouts to members.

TRX MAPS powered by Physmodo. A virtual movement assessment tool. This lead gen tool allows you to perform body movement assessments in less than 25 seconds and then push corrective exercises based on those results. For more info email sales@trxtraining.com or call 888.878.5348.

Insight from Travis Shannon, the vice president of information for Leisure Sports.

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Member Feedback. According to Shannon, having some kind of surveying mechanism is essential to keep track of how members feel about your club. “Gather useful information from your members about where they perceive you as being deficient,” he said. “In order to address those things, you need to gather that information, and survey tools are absolutely essential to making any kind of dent in the member experience.”

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Try creating a mobile app. Chances are the majority of your members are constantly on their phones, so having an app is another great way to engage with them. “Apps are required in almost any business nowadays,” added Shannon. “Our industry is a little harder with that just because it is so fragmented. You don’t have a lot of people that are building their own apps, but instead are relying on platforms for apps such as Netpulse — those can be effective tools as well.”

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Tracking Motivation. When it comes to keeping members motivated and engaged, never underestimate the importance of wearables. As Shannon explained, wearables are an essential technology to have. “It is important to have some sort of wearable strategy with your business,” he said. “Which ones do you prefer? Which ones do you encourage members to use? I think that data can help members reach their fitness goals quicker, or a least have more transparency in their progress.”

Top Trends

Phillip Mills, the CEO of Les Mills International, shares the top trends he’s seeing in the fitness industry, and how clubs should respond.

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The Future is Young. “Millennials are a crucial battleground market. Nielsen says they make up more than half of regular exercisers doing gym-type activities. The arrival of the huge Gen Z market, currently 8 to 23-year-olds, increases the incentive for traditional clubs to evolve.”

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An Evolving Industry. “Exploring some of the evolutionary options: Switching to a low-cost model has become more difficult in most parts of the world as the big players in that space offer more and more for less. Moving up into the high-end market is out of reach to most, with the price of entry often exceeding $10 million (Midtown Athletic Clubs will open a $75 million club in Chicago later this year).”

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Play to Win. “Boutiques are really starting to hurt the mid-market, luring their passionate Group X members away with experiential spaces, cool brands and a new generation of highly-paid instructors. But the fact is, it’s no easier to make a profit with this model than with a traditional club. How does a traditional, midmarket club play to win in this environment?”

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Profit Center.

“Les Mills has clear research showing that with studios of over 1,800-square-feet, Group X becomes the most profitable activity in the club and the economics improve with every increment past that. Our own most successful clubs in New Zealand have main studios of 4,000 to 8,000 square feet, and cycle studios with 50+ bikes.”

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What to Do. I believe bringing elements of the boutique experience inside the club is the best route. They are the destination of choice for the large number of Millennials and Gen Zers prepared to pay more than budget rates. With a few tweaks to your facility and your marketing, you can get a good share of this market without breaking the bank. You have equipment spaces that micros can’t match — you can put more modern, functional equipment into them and jazz your cardio areas up with multi-screen mosaics playing music videos and adventure sports. Prices on screen technology are plummeting, which is also changing the game with virtual classes. Being able to come in at off-peak times of day and workout with the world’s best instructors on a nine-screen mosaic is creating a revolution in member experience at an increasing numbers of clubs. A good, young architect or decorator can create experiential boutique studios inside your club and a cool, young advertising agency can tell your story in a way that will appeal to under-35 exercisers. I love 24 Hour Fitness’ ’boutique classes without the boutique prices.’ Finally, you can take a leaf out of the boutique book by paying Group X instructors more. We’ve existed on the generosity of near-volunteer labor in this area for decades. Now the boutiques are stealing our best and bringing in a new generation of rockstars by paying better wages. We can create win-win scenarios by paying based on attendance (with minimums and peak versus off-peak formulas) and we can either charge extra for classes or build bigger studios.”

Youth Fitness

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Why Youth Fitness is Important. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “The percentage of children with obesity in the United States has more than tripled since the 1970s. Today, about one in five school-aged children (ages 6 to 19) has obesity.”

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Partnerships. If you’d like to make an impact on youth in your community, consider partnering with your local high school. When Gold’s Gym in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, discovered the local high school was missing pieces of equipment that the Gold’s Gym had, they brokered a partnership. “Students get a discounted membership to our gym so they can use the facilities and our equipment,” said Chris Hartman, the assistant training director at Gold’s Gym Carlisle.

Kid’s Clubs

Maica Peterson.

Being a mother and former elementary school teacher, combined with her desire to contribute to Chuze Fitness being the best at everything it does, Maica Peterson wanted to help make the Kid’s Club top-notch. It is not just a place where kids are merely supervised while they wait — rather, it is a place for kids to grow, interact, learn and have a great time. The following is the formula Peterson used for setting up and running a Kid’s Club that successfully engages kids.

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Hire the right people for the job. “We feel what separates Chuze Fitness as the best in the industry is our amazing people,” said Peterson. “We implement an extensive hiring process (called Recruit Select) to ensure that we are onboarding people that fit with our culture. In addition to completing the Recruit Select process, candidates who wish to work in our Kid’s Club must complete additional questioning to help us get a feel for their understanding of and ability to work successfully with children.”

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Plan out the space with the kid’s perspective and safety in mind. “Then set up the space to best facilitate staff/child engagement. Again, we focus on our people first, so you won’t find huge kid’s play structures, but you will find loving caregivers who are cut out just right for reading, dancing and singing with and organizing fun activities. This can be done for children of all ages because the space is well organized, thus providing a dynamic setting for a multitude of activities.”

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Engage children in fun, organized activities. “Our collaborative team of Kid’s Club staff openly share ideas, lesson plans, crafts, games and new or well working techniques with each other company wide. Our team takes the member experiences just as importantly if that member is 4 or 40-years-old.”

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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