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With so many specialized classes and programs flooding the fitness industry each year, it can be hard to pick and choose which to place on your schedule.
But more and more, clubs are deciding to go back to the basics and offering foundational fitness and wellness programs that teach members about the rudimentary principles of exercise or nutrition.
These programs aren’t just focused on burning calories, losing weight or getting shredded quickly. Their purpose is to help participants establish a strong baseline on which to build their fitness or health — whether it’s teaching proper exercise techniques or establishing healthy eating habits.
By ensuring the basics of fitness or nutrition are mastered, clubs are setting their members up for success for the long-term.
“The top benefit of connecting with a group of people focusing on health and vitality, and trying to live a healthier, more comfortable life is getting the ability to stay athletic in later periods in your life,” said Dillon Johnson, a co-owner of RallySport in Boulder, Colorado. “You just can’t put a price tag on that.”
Several clubs currently boast foundational fitness and wellness programming among their many offerings. Here’s a look at how three clubs — In-Shape, VIDA Fitness and RallySport — are approaching the foundational trend.
With 67 locations across California, In-Shape offers a wide variety of classes with a foundational focus to accommodate all workout styles and guarantee there’s an option for everyone.
According to Jason Coulie, the senior manager of fitness education at In-Shape, foundational classes are beneficial by helping members feel more confident in what equipment to use or exercises to do. “Our members benefit by learning how to use equipment they usually wouldn’t use or know how to use,” he said. “Doing so enhances their workout and their experience.”
One such foundational class is In-Shape’s Active Aging program. These specially tailored workout classes are designed primarily for senior members who want lower-impact training to help maintain a healthy and active lifestyle.
With older adults, the risk for injury becomes higher, making it important to have properly trained instructors leading the program. “We focus equally on training our trainers to demonstrate the exercise correctly, as well as the delivery of the experience and how they motivate our members,” explained Coulie.
The more knowledge your instructors have, the more your members can learn about how their bodies should move. However, the experience is just as important in foundational classes as it is with other programs.
“We want to motivate our members and we can accomplish this by offering them more variety, more classes, free boot camps and informational in-club demos,” said Coulie. “But first, deliver an amazing experience.”
You’ve likely heard the old adage, “You can’t out work a bad diet.” With this in mind, VIDA Fitness in Washington, D.C. has created an eight-week foundational wellness challenge that helps members establish healthy habits in both exercise and nutrition.
“In a super strict and well-defined situation, people tend to work harder and stick to their plan better than if they’re just on their own without a defined time modality,” said Shawn Morris, a fitness instructor at VIDA.
To increase the chances of success, VIDA provides members in the challenge with tailored workout and nutrition plans.
“[Before the challenge] our participants met with me and did an initial Inbody scan, then we discussed goals and schedules,” said Morris. “Based on the Inbody results and what their personal schedules looked like, I created a weekly schedule of Group X classes that fits their needs specifically. And once they all purchased Myzone belts, I created the challenge.”
From that point, each member was given a consultation with the club’s registered dietitian, Addie Claire Merletti. The consultation, as well as two follow-up meetings with Merletti, came as part of their package.
The result of each meeting was a tailor-made eating plan. “She put together a nutrition template for them and worked with them on forming healthy dietary habits,” said Morris. “The meal plans are 100 percent customized to the individual.”
As beneficial as this personalized program has been for VIDA’s members, it took a little legwork to get buy-in at first. But once a few members saw the results they were looking for, the program’s popularity spread like wildfire.
“The only challenge was generating initial awareness and it took a consistent grassroots effort in the clubs,” said Aaron Moore, the director of operations at VIDA Fitness. “We of course did email blasts, social media posts and club signage, but it was really the daily conversations in the clubs that mobilized our members.”
Once members have jumped into the challenge, are tracking their results via Myzone and seeing results, they haven’t looked back. “Across the board, everyone so far has seen some success,” said Morris. “Obviously, the ones who are more committed are seeing more dramatic results, but everyone is making progress.”
The program has helped many of VIDA’s members develop a stronger foundation of health and wellness, increasing the chances of long-term, lasting results.
“What I’ve learned is if you create an environment of guidance, encouragement, community feeling and most importantly, accountability, and do it all in a finite amount of time, people will put in the work, stick to the plan, and see some amazing results,” said Morris. “And now, these people have had eight weeks to develop healthy habits they can take with them once the challenge is over.”
Like In-Shape, RallySport puts a particular emphasis on engaging its senior members in foundational fitness. “We’re trying to appeal to the demographic that may be beyond the years of competitive sports and [being active] with their own kids,” said Johnson. “We’re trying to create this excitement around the idea that even at an older age, they can still be active.”
According to Johnson, “Images that show activity excite people,” so creating promotions that feature participants with active lifestyles should be appealing to interested members.
In addition to promotional material showing the end results of foundational fitness, the best way to drive participation is to use that initial program exposure to educate your members on its benefits. Without an understanding of why it’s important for their long-term health, members might be hesitant to sign up.
“Your best opportunity there is to make sure you have some complimentary seminar series that speaks to the topic of the aging population and continuing athletic development,” said Johnson.
It’s also been important at RallySport to have the right trainers in place — not only trainers with training experience, but trainers with group fitness experience, according to Johnson. “The second you take someone used to only teaching private sessions and put them in a group of six to eight people who may be re-learning athleticism, that could be a real challenge,” he said. “It’s even better if they have experience with the aging population.”
Even in light of RallySport’s emphasis on engaging its seniors, however, Johnson encourages clubs not to limit their foundational fitness programming to a single demographic.
“It’s a very nice and lucrative opportunity for clubs to engage with everyone who wants to feel athletic,” said Johnson. “Creating that focus brings a nice culture and makes everybody feel important.”