Group X programs create a tribe mentality among members and encourage more participation, which makes them very desirable for clubs of various sizes.
Perhaps the greatest appeal of Group X programming is its adaptability, with large franchises and single-location clubs alike able to build engaging group offerings into class schedules and club experiences.
“Boutique studios provide a specialized experience, a sense of community and a foundation of consistent programming,” said Erin Lotta, the director of group fitness at Newtown Athletic Club. “But every club is different, so you must embrace the most popular trends globally, but also know what your own members want to come to.”
This means your Group X class schedule will always be evolving. “Trends in the fitness industry are interesting — what may be hot in one aspect doesn’t pick up traction right away in others,” said Lois Miller, the regional group fitness director of Fitness Formula Clubs.
Here, learn how four clubs in particular — Newtown Athletic Club, East Bank Club, Fitness Formula Clubs and The Alaska Club — have found success with group fitness.
Last year, Newtown’s Group X programming was operated primarily out of two studios, “fondly named ‘Studio 1’ and ‘Studio 2,’” according to Lotta. And even though they were decked out with a ton of Group X equipment — dumbbell racks, light weights, ladders, boxing gloves, Les Mills BODYPUMP equipment, physioballs and much more — Newtown wanted to kick its offerings up a notch.
“With 43% total member participation in group fitness in 2018, we anticipated that investing into boutique studio fitness would ensure retention in our club and bring in new studio-goers,” said Lotta. “We don’t want to just offer a class, we want to provide our members an experience to remember.”
Over the past year, Newtown has been re-imagining its Group X programs, resulting in four specialized studios: Six Zone, Pulse, The Practice and Reform.
“Six Zone is our 3,000-square-foot HIIT and strength studio that boasts the latest technology in wearables and equipment,” said Lotta. “Our coach-inspired HIIT experience is enhanced with four central Myzone screens to coach members into their working zone, in addition to six screens that display the workout at each station.”
The Pulse studio emphasizes complete immersion. “Pulse is our 3,000-square-foot, immersive nightclub studio for all high-intensity classes,” said Lotta. “The sound, lighting and atmosphere will hold dance fitness, insanity, kickboxing, cardio, barre and BODYPUMP classes.”
By comparison, The Practice is relaxing and focuses on movement. “It’s a yoga studio that greets members with nine-foot, hand-carved mahogany doors, bamboo floors, a sky-like ceiling mural, curved stone walls, and windows that flood the studio with light,” said Lotta.
Reform is also a movement-based studio, but with a focus on Pilates. “This is our 1,200-square-foot Pilates studio with reformer and mat classes that is clean and hip, with reclaimed wood and mirrors decking the walls,” explained Lotta.
All four of these studios have elevated Newtown’s Group X programming and club culture, facilitating more unique experiences in the club than ever before.
“Each dedicated studio space feels like you are walking into a free-standing fitness studio, complete with unique branding and personalized décor, inside and out,” said Lotta. “These touches set the stage for an unforgettable experience for members.”
At East Bank Club, several group training formats are driving attendance. “Circuit and HIIT classes are still very popular and evolving,” said Aida Johnson-Rapp, the club’s director of exercise programs. “And we have several other classes that are getting a lot of participation.”
Among the classes getting high participation numbers at East Bank Club are hot yoga, Peak Performance (a HIIT class that emphasizes agility, power and speed), indoor cycling, Pursuit of the Beat (a dance class that combines cycling with the power of music), and several others.
In an effort to increase the ease of access for group training, East Bank Club has been transitioning to a model in which all Group X class types have their own space.
“Having spaces designed for one modality just makes so much sense for being able to program, schedule and create community,” said Johnson-Rapp. “We have been able to get the majority of our group strength and HIIT classes into our largest studio, which allows for maximum efficiency and utilization of our space.”
This layout also makes life easier for members, according to Johnson-Rapp. “Additionally, members are better able to navigate the many classes we offer when they understand that all yoga classes occur in a dedicated space,” she said.
East Bank Club has five studio spaces, each geared toward a specific class type. In one studio, the club offers high-intensity classes like BODYPUMP, Muscle Camp, Peak Performance, Play Tough and Rope Burn, while another studio is dedicated to cycling.
Of course, this layout is still a work in progress, with some classes not in their proper spaces yet, but the benefits for members will be worth the effort.
“We are still in the process of moving some classes into these dedicated spaces, but it is definitely a change that has had a positive impact on how instructors can utilize the space and member satisfaction with the facility,” said Johnson-Rapp.
In a technology-saturated world, the average consumer wants big results in no time. As a result, Miller has made a greater effort at Fitness Formula Clubs to more frequently offer results-driven workouts.
“We live in a fast-paced world where there are not enough hours in the day, and people want effective, results-driven workouts,” said Miller. “Mixing high-intensity cardio intervals along with strength training exercises will always make for an efficient workout.”
According to Miller, gamification has helped Group X engagement. “Wearable technology used to be something runners, cyclists and endurance athletes found valuable,” she said. “Now it has become mainstream, where those gravitating to a group fitness class are wanting to track that effort. More and more fitness brands are installing leaderboards and high-tech screens in their group fitness studios, gamifying the whole experience.”
Fitness Formula Clubs has seen success with conditioning classes that emphasize proper movement and alignment. Because of its popularity, this format has been a mainstay in the brand’s Group X schedule for six years.
“Encourage your group fitness managers and teachers to develop programs that speak to your member base, add a name to classes that will grab their attention, and most importantly, invest in training your people so they have the tools to always deliver the best instruction,” said Miller.
According to Janet Warner, the executive director of group fitness at The Alaska Club, a major trend in Group X revolves around functional training.
“Trending are functional movements, core training and pushing anaerobic thresholds for metabolism boosting and athletic performance,” said Warner. “In addition, equipment is trending to functional movements and people are getting creative with it. It’s all about using pieces of equipment in different, fun ways.”
Capitalizing on the movement trend, Warner began offering yoga, and set aside a separate space to help execute this single modality to maximum effect. “Focusing on one modality allows us to create a space best suited to the format and an experience that goes above the multi-format studio,” she said. “For our boutique yoga studio, we installed a heating and refreshing system specific to hot yoga.”
The Alaska Club pulls out all the stops to deliver a top-notch experience in each specific Group X class with the best and latest equipment, a space set aside for that modality, and educated instructors.
This focus on quality is what sets Group X classes apart. “Some members will pay more for classes if they do not have to commit long-term and the experience exceeds their expectations,” said Warner. “This requires keeping the schedule fresh, having exceptional instructors and being committed to the experience.”
Ultimately, Group X can bring a variety of benefits to a health club business — including increased retention and a more engaged membership. To ensure these benefits, stay abreast of trends in group offerings and constantly think about how to improve the member experience.