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Boosting Group X Participation

Group X

Group X is consistently one of the most popular programs in health clubs.

In fact, it has turned into a viable profit center and retention tool for clubs across the country. As members flock to classes that deliver an engaging experience and tribe mentality, the opportunity to leverage that desire into more revenue and activity at your club will only increase.

Therefore, it’s imperative to boost Group X participation. And the best starting point is establishing your programs as the community your members are seeking.

“Group fitness is all about community — building a place where people feel they have a home,” said Jennifer Renfroe, the vice president of group fitness at Crunch Fitness. “People come to the gym to be in a group, so we encourage them to build a community by promoting the impact of working out as a group.”

There are several selling points for Group X classes — such as a variety of engaging workouts and a group of peers who keep users accountable — so boosting participation in your club is a matter of leveraging those positive aspects to turn prospective participants into loyal fans of your Group X programs.

Getting Members’ Attention

Boosting Group X participation comes down to tapping into new groups of members. Your dedicated Group X fans are already showing up to classes, so you likely don’t need to convince them to keep showing up. However, you can use the experiences of these consistent group exercisers as a starting point for drawing in new participants.

“Don’t just rely on your online schedule to attract members to classes,” said Renfroe. “For most people, it is all about seeing or hearing about the experience. You have to make each class a true experience so people are drawn in and curious and then want to engage in the workout.”

As is the case with any great class experience, the word about engaging group exercise workouts will make the rounds in your facility and should result in attendance by some interested participants. However, taking your Group X participation to the next level often requires actively promoting new programs to your members, especially those who might not be familiar with the format.

“I try to take Group X to the members and show them what they’re going to experience,” said Melissa Shippy, the group exercise director at The Houstonian Club in Houston, Texas. “That has helped bring people into new formats they hadn’t tried before.”

Exposing members to Group X can be accomplished in a variety of ways. “Establishing relationships with their fellow participants and instructors, doing social events, and exposing them to new formats are all ways of bringing group exercise to members,” said Shippy.

According to Renfroe, cross-promotion between different program areas is also an effective method for attracting new participants. “Work with the personal training department to develop a system of cross-promotion,” she said. “On the days personal training clients are not working with their personal trainer, the trainer can recommend they take group fitness classes to increase their workout frequency, as well as cross-train. This improves retention and promotes referrals.”

The Houstonian has a similar policy called “stand and deliver,” in which instructors share news about other programs with their participants. “In every class, they are making announcements about new classes or other things going on in the club,” shared Shippy. “We’ve found success communicating with our members in that way.”

Along with traditional methods like in-club signage and social media marketing, Renfroe has found pop-up classes to be very effective at promoting Group X classes due to their dynamic nature. But it also matters to get out in the community. “Partner with local businesses to host a series of classes or a special event at their location to reach a new audience,” she said.

Keeping Members’ Attention

After you’ve piqued interest, the next challenge begins: getting prospects to come back. A new participant’s initial interest in a Group X class can wane quickly if they don’t feel the sense of belonging that makes group exercise so appealing, so it’s critical to help them create a community they’ll want to stay engaged with.

“We cultivate our group fitness community through amazing group fitness coordinators, providing individual service to each member, hosting local gym events and off-site events, marketing our diversity and focusing on what is new, and developing a community for members,” explained Renfroe.

The key is constant and intentional interaction. “Keep them engaged with instructors, and give them the accountability with other participants,” advised Shippy. “Create more social ways to stay connected — that keeps them coming back.”

Your staff members also play an important role in maintaining strong Group X participation, and that includes more than just your class instructors. More likely than not, your front desk staff will field their fair share of questions about classes, so they need to be adequately educated.

“I try to educate as much of my staff as I can, so I invite my fitness people, sales people and instructors to take classes,” said Shippy. “That way they can talk to members about classes intelligently.”

At the end of the day, however, your instructors are the ones driving the energy of the workouts and engaging with members, so it’s critical to have passionate individuals in the driver’s seat.

“From people starting their fitness journey to the seasoned athlete, a well-trained instructor can deliver a workout that challenges participants, delivers results and makes people feel successful,” said Renfroe.

It’s also important to prevent your programming from getting stale. A major component of member engagement has to do with the creativity and variety of your workouts, so make sure you’re keeping your classes fresh.

“I truly believe each gym has an individual group fitness ‘personality’ based on the location of the facility and the demographics of the member base,” said Renfroe. “In some areas, mind-body programming is the most popular while in other areas, high-intensity interval training remains the hot format. It’s all about listening to the member base and using programming that fits the individual gym.”

From the initial promotion of programs to the continued engagement after a member joins, relationships are the driving force behind boosting Group X participation. “The most important thing is building relationships,” said Shippy. “Figuring out how to connect with your members is key, so listen to them.”  

Bobby Dyer

Bobby is the former assistant editor of Club Solutions Magazine.

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