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Roundtable Recap: New Year Trends


On January 19, Club Solutions Magazine presented the first installment of a monthly virtual roundtable series centered on thought leadership. 

Panelists included Joe Cirulli, the founder and owner of Gainesville Health & Fitness; Vicki Brick, the CEO of Brick Bodies; Mark Miller, the COO of Merritt Clubs; Jon Brady, the president of Midtown Athletic Clubs; and Maria Gonzalez, the CEO of ClubFitness Greensboro. The discussion was led and moderated by Rachel Zabonick-Chonko, the editor-in-chief of Club Solutions Magazine. Sponsored by Club OS.

The following is a summary of top takeaways from the discussion, centered on the biggest trends in the fitness industry in the new year:

Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic

  • The pandemic taught us first and foremost, the industry was caught off-guard by the crisis. Operators need to be prepared for every worst-case scenario.
  • COVID-19 revealed that the industry has a lot of support.
    • Ex. REX Roundtables, alliances, Club Solutions and IHRSA.
  • Look at all opportunities to grow.
    • What does the future of fitness look like?
    • What can the industry do today to prepare for if something like this happens again in the future?
  • The pandemic created a lot of fear and revealed the importance of a leader being strong and optimistic.
    • Offer hope to your staff and members.
    • During the worst of times, you have to have the most hope.
    • Be hopeful, but don’t ignore reality.
  • The pandemic was a wakeup call to club operators to see how much we have to improve and grow.
  • The world needs health clubs now more than ever.
    •  Both physical health and mental health are crucial right now.

Communication and Marketing

  • How we as an industry position ourselves going forward is important.
  • Typically, clubs are marketing to the same 20% of the market.
  • The message of safety and cleanliness, wellness and mental health is more important than ever.
  • We need to mature our messaging. Start using different body images and appealing to different groups of people.  
  • 80% of the population hasn’t been in a gym. Ask yourself why?
  • Broaden your appeal to other people, not just your typical gym goers.
  • You can only push how clean your facility is so much. If your members are scared, they aren’t going to come back until they are ready, and likely vaccinated.
  • Doc Morris’ kettlebell commercial is a great example of how to have an emotional appeal with your marketing.

Political Partnerships

  • The Maryland coalition has had great success building relationships with their politicians.
    • Show up — the more you can get in front of them the more impact you can have.
    • Everyone is concerned about being healthy and it’s our job to tell our story.
  • The first layer of a successful political relationship is by starting with your city and county commission.
    • Build those relationships.
    • Remind them what you’re doing and provide them with updated data when possible.
  • Creating these relationships started as a reactive approach — it is necessary to switch to an active approach.
    • Have them view you as a partner.
    • Talk to them in their language and meet their needs first.
    • Partner with medical alliances to gain credibility. Doctors and nurses are going to gyms — they need an outlet for mental health during the pandemic.


  • Proper marketing — get a greater understanding of your markets, use the right wording, etc.
    • Look at the little things such as word choice and age groups you are targeting.
  • Many clubs are seeing rejoins happening online.
  • Virtual and outdoor fitness will continue to be popular after COVID-19.
  • The importance of employee benefits has risen.
    • Dive into your benefits packages. Who gets it? How does it work?
    • Become a better employer.
  • Provide your employees with mental health resources.
    • Try to give employees more flexibility with virtual meetings.
    • 50% of Americans have experienced poor mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Find time to be available and open to your employees.
  • Your attitude matters. Have conversations about the future rather than everything that is going wrong.
    • Engage your staff in these conversations.
  • Find ways to cater to your local needs. Help with virtual schools, help with local sports teams, etc.
    • Offer free access for first responders and healthcare workers to virtual options.

Virtual Fitness

  • Virtual fitness allows clubs to be omnichannel.
    • It is rapidly advancing.
    • Consumers are craving flexibility in their fitness options.
  • Virtual fitness will vary on who delivers that content and how they deliver it.
    • There are barriers to entry with the big companies offering it. Such as having to buy an Apple Watch or Peloton bike.  
    • Many clubs scrambled to put together a virtual offering. Many are still using Facebook, Zoom, etc. Clubs don’t have resources like Apple.
  • Some clubs are struggling to see how to monetize virtual fitness. 80% of members have equipment at home, yet they still join the gym.
    • Is it a fad or a trend?
    • Wait and see — too many things we can focus on internally.
  • More people are working out than ever before.
    • Many people utilizing virtual workouts are beginners. You need to create a non-intimidating member experience to welcome them in.
    • People want human interaction, so they will return to clubs.
  • Virtual fitness is convenient, and it is important to have as an option.  
  • Know what you are good at.
  • Other brands going the virtual fitness route will bring awareness to your gyms. Once they gain confidence with virtual fitness, they will move on and join your clubs.

Access the on-demand version of this webinar.

Access the audio-only version of this webinar.

Taylor Brown

Taylor Brown is the assistant editor for Club Solutions Magazine. She can be reached at taylor@peakemedia.com

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