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Recap: Research and Data You Can Use in Your Club

Panelists from the "Research and Data" virtual roundtable.

On October 21, IHRSA, REX Roundtables and Club Solutions Magazine presented the 29th installment of a weekly virtual roundtable series, on the subject of research and data that benefits your club, aimed at helping clubs navigate through the COVID-19 crisis.

Panelists included Melissa Rodriguez, the senior research manager at IHRSA; Kilian Fisher, an international public policy advisor at IHRSA; Bill McBride, the co-founder, president and CEO of Active Wellness; and Blair McHaney, the CEO of MXM and owner of WORX health clubs. The discussion was led and moderated by Brent Darden, the interim president and CEO of IHRSA, and chair of REX Roundtables.

The following is a summary of top takeaways from the discussion, centered on the role research and data play in the future of the fitness industry:


  • It’s important to pay attention to trends from around the world. For example, as of midnight October 21, many areas of Ireland are going back into a complete lockdown — no contact with anyone outside the home, enforceable by police — for six weeks.
  • Some research suggests the only thing consumers miss more than going to the gym is visiting loved ones.
  • Use data to create customer profiles — don’t make blind decisions for your club.
  • There are two audiences for which clubs are gathering data on how safe clubs are and how they boost well-being: government agencies and consumers.
  • You need the voices of your customers to validate the research and data you’re basing decisions on.
  • It’s important to know the difference between how your various members and prospects like to consume content and be marketed to.
  • Research and data shows clubs aren’t part of the problem transmitting COVID-19.
  • There are several measures health clubs can take to avoid being shut down again:
    • Two big messages the industry needs to be pushing are the essential nature of clubs, and how safe and clean clubs are.
    • Demonstrate to policymakers that clubs are safe places for people to go to.
    • Emphasize the role clubs play in giving people a place to improve their physical and mental well-being.
  • Use customer testimonials to help strengthen your message.
  • Tell, show, do — make sure your staff is executing on the policies and procedures you’re displaying in your messaging. If members don’t see the behavior they’re expecting, it could ruin your club’s credibility.
    • On the other hand, if consumers see the right protocols being followed in clubs, they’ll share their confidence in the club with others.
  • The COVID Era Fitness Consumer report from IHRSA has actionable data your club can use to help navigate the pandemic.
  • Research and data are the way the fitness industry will win the battle to get reopened and stay open, and convince policymakers that health clubs are part of the solution.
  • To help keep clubs open, be relentless in your communication with local policymakers, and be an active part of your state’s fitness alliance.
  • Clubs have to hold themselves to higher standards, and even be willing to possibly abide by standards set in place by government agencies and national policymakers.
  • The pandemic has revealed that the fitness industry didn’t have the right standards in place — having them before the pandemic might have stopped clubs from being closed in the first place.
  • According to research, 40-50% of jobs in the fitness industry are going to be cut or eliminated.
  • Use social media to disseminate research and data about how safe and essential clubs are — establish yourself as a voice on this topic.
  • Take the position that you’re pro-health and fitness, not desperate and begging to have your clubs reopened. Policymakers and government officials are likely to be more open to talking if you’re concerned about the health of the community.

To access the on-demand version of this webinar, click here.

To access the audio-only version of this webinar, click here.

UPCOMING: Don’t miss the 30th installment of our virtual roundtable series, “Successful Strategies for Shaping Your Future: Cost Containment & Budget Planning” on Wednesday, October 28 at 2 p.m. EST. Limited seats are available. Click here to reserve your spot.

Bobby Dyer

Bobby is the former assistant editor of Club Solutions Magazine.

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