The annual issue of inspiration is filled with 107 tips and tricks from over 40 industry experts, all with a purpose to help improve your business, and in return, your members’ lives.
If the last two years taught us anything, it’s that advocacy is key to the fitness industry’s future. This includes on the local, state and federal levels. Recently, Paula Neubert, the president and general manager of Club Greenwood, joined the Club Solutions Magazine podcast to discuss this very topic. Below are her top takeaways from the discussion:
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, did you consider yourself politically active?
1. Not at all — not even remotely close. The amount I’ve learned in the last two years is amazing and made me realize what we should have been doing a long time ago. But there’s never a better time than now to start. Now I realize how much impact — positively and negatively — it could have on the business.
You helped co-found the Colorado Fitness Coalition. What have you learned from that experience?
2. Working together gets a lot more done than trying to be by yourself. We all knew that this entire time, but we’ve all been competitive. You never really realize the impact you could have in one geographical location if all of those bodies work together. We made some significant strides in Colorado that ended up being nationwide news through the coalition. We all worked together to get some really good things done, when we could have been in a much worse place — that’s for sure.
What would you say to people who are intimidated by getting involved in advocacy or politics, or feel it’s a waste of time?
3. I was in the same boat. When I’m getting ready to make my first phone call, I’m thinking, “How’s it going to go? Are they just going to hang up on me?” I had no idea what to expect. But every single person I talked to was pleasant, professional and willing to listen. Just talk to them from your heart, talk to them from the passion you have about our industry, and about the positive impact we have on people’s lives. If you do, you’re going to be just fine. Just go do it.
The Importance of Learn-to-Swim Programs
4. According to USA Swimming, “Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury death for children under 14, with the highest rates among children ages one to four.” With this in mind, consider bringing a learn-to-swim program to your facility, which has proved to be popular among clubs across the U.S.
In addition, keep in mind the disparities in communities that make lack of swimming knowledge more prevalent than in others. According to USA Swimming, “79% of children in low-income families have little to no swimming ability. There are also racial disparities in swimming ability: 64% of Black children and 45% of Hispanic children have little to no swimming ability, compared with 40% of white children.”
Architecture & Design
Your club’s design is just as important as the programs and amenities offered. Your layout, brand colors, architectural features and even flooring can make or break the customer experience.
Cher Harris, the general manager of The Houstonian Club, understands this well. Last year, the club embarked on a $23.5 million renovation plan that will include the addition of a new indoor and outdoor restaurant overlooking the pool areas, a new indoor turf performance zone, plus the redesign and expansion of multiple group exercise studios, and renovation of the club’s childcare area. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2022.
Here, Harris shares two trends in club design they’re incorporating into the project:
5. Larger studio spaces. We planned to have larger studio spaces, but with the advent of the pandemic, having larger spaces has become more vital than ever before.
6. More social spaces. Members are grateful to be back together again. Therefore areas to socialize are a must-have.
Although consumers are gravitating more and more toward strength offerings in gyms, cardio remains a vital component to any well-rounded exercise routine. Here, two operators share the trends they’re seeing in this format.
Ani Oksayan, the vice president of fitness at Chuze Fitness:
7. While not new to the cardio scene, HIIT workouts continue to be one of the most popular forms of cardiovascular exercise. The effectiveness of a HIIT workout has been validated over time and provides many benefits, including maximum fat burning — while allowing weight loss without muscle loss — increased metabolism and effective afterburn achieved by EPOC, and building a healthier heart by improving anaerobic thresholds. Perhaps the greatest benefit is the versatility of these workouts, allowing members to go all out in a short amount of time with no location or equipment constraints. In their pursuit of HIIT workouts, we see our members following Tabata drills, sprints, timed max intervals and, most pertinently, attending heart-rate based team training sessions.
Mark Durall, the general manager of Olympic Athletic Club:
8. We recently offered a class called High Fitness, which is an aerobics-based workout. We offered it as a special class and it booked out in advance almost immediately. Now, we are trying to recruit instructors to offer it regularly.
You must find a certified instructor. Or you can have some of your current instructors attend a training and complete their own certification virtually or in person. Another option is to host a training session. If you have a large group of people wanting to certify a training team, High Fitness can provide in-person training at your facility.
BONUS: Connected Fitness Equipment. Another key trend in cardio is connected fitness equipment, which includes cardio pieces and consoles that allow members to access their fitness data and log workouts on and off equipment. Be sure to ask your equipment partners if their technology has this capability.
Cleaning & Sanitizing
Cleaning and sanitizing has always been important, but the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened its focus among consumers.
Here, Marco Fiorini, the general manager of Cincinnati Sports Club, shares three best practices for ensuring your cleaning and sanitizing measures are up to snuff.
9. Deep cleaning of the facility has to occur after hours when patrons are not in the building. This should be a separate team than the daytime housekeeping staff. Showers, locker rooms, floors and carpet should all be scrubbed after hours.
10. Purchase an electrostatic sprayer to disinfect high-touch areas — this includes the children’s center, free weights, benches and racks, for example — to enhance, not substitute for, regular cleaning.
11.Outsource housekeeping to focus on core competencies.
Cleaning Versus Sanitizing Versus Disinfecting
12. Last but not least, as a club operator it’s also important to understand the differences between cleaning, sanitizing and disinfecting — common terms often used interchangeably but incorrectly. Following, these terms are defined courtesy of Clorox:
- “Cleaning” involves the physical removal of dust and dirt, but doesn’t necessarily eliminate germs.
- “Sanitization” decreases, but doesn’t necessarily eliminate, the amount of bacteria identified on the product’s label.
- “Disinfecting” can effectively eliminate bacteria and viruses as specified on a product’s label. In fact, only disinfectants are approved by the EPA to kill viruses on hard surfaces.
The Marketplace: CMS & Technology
Alaris helps fitness centers go fully digital and streamline check-in experiences for kids club, camp, guests and group fitness. Alaris is configured to each center’s unique check-in workflows and integrated with industry-leading club management software, such as ABC Fitness Solutions. Alaris Dynamic Reporting insights empower centers to make critical cost-saving decisions.
14. Club Automation
Around 83% of Americans have smartphones, and 90% of mobile time is spent on apps. Your members are using their mobile phones more than ever and to reach them a health club app is essential. With Club Automation’s enhanced mobile app, empower members to take control of their experience through bill pay, package purchasing, class registration and more.
ClubReady Member Experience Management helps you remove the friction in the experience for members and staff so that everyone can stay focused and engaged on their goals. Learn how ClubReady combines mobile, performance tracking, online booking and communications to power growth for some of the industry’s fastest-growing businesses.
Your gym. Your design. Your app. With the EGYM Branded Member App, your gym can be better connected with your members. The design and layout of the EGYM Branded Member App can be customized to match your facility and tailored exactly to your facility’s needs via many innovative features.
Exerp is the leading club management software for large fitness chains and multipurpose clubs — where streamlining, control and scalability are of the utmost importance. We serve some of the most recognized and demanding brands around the world, offering vast industry knowledge in addition to our highly flexible and comprehensive platform.
Hapana is the end-to-end platform for ambitious fitness businesses that want to deliver insane engagement from one integrated platform. Combining member management, a branded app, marketing automation, digital content suite, and insights and analytics into one platform. We believe in purposeful technology, one that empowers the fitness industry to deliver beautiful experiences.
19. Jonas Fitness
Compete Club Management Software by Jonas Fitness is a comprehensive suite of tools that allows fitness, health and wellness clubs to reach, engage, service and retain members. With best-in-class 24/7/365 customer support, integrated billing, 99.9% system uptime, continual R&D and over 40 API partner integrations, Compete is the obvious solution for your club.
888.590.0026, jonasfitness.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
The MZ-Switch is the world’s first interchangeable heart rate monitor for the gym, outdoors or in water. Wearable three ways, your members can switch between the chest, wrist and arm, depending on their favorite way to workout.
312.870.4800, myzone.org, email@example.com
21. Paramount Acceptance
PULSE Member Management software helps you easily manage every aspect of your members’ needs. Track member profiles, payment information, visit history, signed documents, and more. You can even customize your Member Management Software to fit your own club’s needs. Contact us today to learn more about our software solutions.
800.316.4444, gymsoftware.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
By-the-book solutions make it easier to book amenities the right way by integrating Radianse’s compliance-scheduling technology into your day-to-day operations for a more focused team dynamic.
23. Smart Health Clubs
Member Engagement Software for Full-Service Health Clubs→ Custom Branding | Calendar | Booking and Attendance | Instructor Sub and Payroll | E-commerce | Hire a Trainer | Fitness Plans | Tennis and Pickleball | On Demand Video | Live Streaming | Les Mills | Digital Marketing
24. Twin Oaks
Twin Oaks’ web-based online software product and mobile app is simple yet sophisticated, delivering efficient tools to generate and maximize revenue and save on costs. Bottom-line boosting features include real-time reporting, online join, a complete member portal and returns management — all designed by club owners for club owners.
According to Harvard Business Review, “Culture can be defined as the ways people in an organization behave and the attitudes and beliefs that inform those behaviors — i.e., ‘the way we do things around here’ — including formal, stated norms, as well as implicit ways people work and interact.”
Here, Gino Garcia, the CEO of VIBE Fitness and Powerbox Fitness, shares tips for building a great company culture within your fitness organization:
25. Building great company culture is a never-ending cycle of leadership and accountability that begins with top leaders.
To build great company culture, it’s the leader’s responsibility to:
- Define the culture.
- Communicate the culture.
- Protect the culture.
- Empower the culture.
Each culture building factor should contain examples and training points that support the company mission, team member values and the customer experience, and highlight the positive impact we have on people’s lives. If you do that, you’re going to be just fine in building a great culture.
As a leader, it’s important to set the example of continuous improvement — i.e., striving for growth and keeping an open mind to new learnings and ways of thinking. Here, two fitness leaders answer questions on continuing education’s importance and opportunities available industry-wide.
Eddie Davila, the owner of Urban Fitness:
26. Why is continuing education as a leader important? Continuing education is a pivotal piece for any leader who endeavors to have influence on others. Like muscles, our brain, the knowledge absorbed and our ability to inspire, lead and develop need consistent exposure to quality content — stimuli — and an opportunity to put it into practice. By continuing to grow as a leader through continuing education, not only does the leader get better, but those they lead also get better.
27. What benefit do you get out of being a part of a networking group like Club Solutions Mastermind Groups? Sharing information and learning from peers can be extremely beneficial for leaders. Being part of a group and sharing experiences, best practices, wins and failures, and other pertinent information related to business performance can offer different perspectives to certain obstacles. You may be dealing with varying backgrounds, markets and experiences — peer groups can offer a unique value proposition to leaders and their ability to operate and lead.
Bill McBride, the co-founder, CEO and president of Active Wellness:
28. Why is it important to invest in your staff’s continuing education? It was originally said by Sir Francis Bacon that “knowledge itself is power.” The idea of having and sharing knowledge is foundational for better decision making, and better logical and ethical thought processes. Growth and development of team members is crucial to the growth and performance of the organization.
BONUS: McBride on fostering a culture of continuous improvement: Hire the right people, train them well, recognize their positive performance, coach their areas of desired improvement, and provide learning opportunities on an on-going basis. Encourage curiosity. Continuous improvement is a culture and way of being — not a program or one-and-done activity.
- Books/articles to read for the full team, creating common language and concepts.
- On-site training.
- Virtual events.
- Podcasts, webinars and panels.
- Independent or self study on specific topics.
- College/university/community college courses.
Data and Security
According to IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach Report, “2021 saw the highest average cost of a data breach in 17 years, with the cost rising from $3.86 million to $4.24 million.”
With this in mind, Mark Harrington Jr., the president of Healthworks and Republic Fitness, shares advice on protecting your member’s info and your business from risk:
29. Why should data security be a top priority for clubs today? Beyond the legal requirements to keep your member and employee data secure, members trust us to safeguard their data. It is our responsibility to ensure our clubs are safe both physically and online.
30. What are best practices for securing your club’s data? Hire an expert, train your staff, apply all network and computer updates, test your network, and ensure all IT vendor and software contacts have contractional requirements for data security.
BONUS: Listen to Mark Harrington’s interview on the Club Solutions Magazine podcast for additional insights into protecting your club’s data.
31. According to the Verizon 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report, “Phishing attacks were connected to 36% of breaches — an increase of 11%.”
32. According to Accenture’s State of Cybersecurity Resilience 2021 Report, “a total of 82% of organizations have admitted to increasing their cybersecurity budgets over the past year, with these funds accounting for up to 15% of total IT spending.”
Group X remains one of the most popular forms of activity among gym members, and a key driver of member engagement and retention. Here, two experts weigh in on Group X trends, attracting the best talent and more:
Victoria Tolbert-Ashley, the national director of group fitness at XSport Fitness:
33. Strength is a priority among consumers. Group fitness regulars want to have fun but also want the benefits of increased strength. This includes looking, feeling and being stronger. Considering the pandemic forced everyone to take a more intense look at their personal health, class-goers want the added benefits strength gains offer.
34. Participants are driving instructor programming. Class participants want more variety in instructor-led classes. After being forced to take a gym hiatus and tune into a lot of virtual classes which offered rapid program changes for a large portion of the last two years, class participants want fresh exercise routines as the norm.
35. Technology is another key trend. Wearable technology is assisting with tracking everything from heart rate to sleep quality. Many people have an increased interest in technology that can assist them in goal achievement or simply monitoring personal metrics. It makes it more fun when a workout is trackable, allows for a memorable moment and opens the door for a group selfie post-workout.
Amy Thompson, the vice president and general manager of IDEA Health & Fitness Association:
36. Learning new teaching skills associated with the unique demands of online and virtual classes. Many instructors had to rethink the way they cue, both verbally and non-verbally, and how to toggle those and other skills between in-person and virtual. This is due to the pandemic forcing more instructors to learn new ways to reach participants.
37. Staffing challenges are still an issue for many facilities and, in tandem, professional burnout. This affects instructors who may already be dealing with burnout in their personal lives. Fewer staff means fewer subs to call when needed. Some instructors may be asked to teach formats they aren’t necessarily familiar with, pushing them to grow.
BONUS trend from Amy Thompson: Many instructors are dealing not only with their own mental health issues, but with participants who are feeling anxious about being back in person, and who may be feeling awkward in social situations, unsure how to interact. Group exercise is a wonderful opportunity to reintroduce participants to the many benefits of moving in sync with others.
Your hiring practices are your chances to weed out bad apples and identify the perfect fit for your club culture. Here, Adrian Antigua, a general manager at Gainesville Health and Fitness Centers, shares hiring strategy tips:
38. Make sure your hiring process is centered around your core values. Your core values should stay true no matter what, and you should never compromise on them no matter what the situation may be.
39. Design your interview to identify people’s natural tendencies. You can teach people how to do different skills, but what you cannot teach people is how to smile, to always be in a positive mindset, or to say hello and goodbye.
BONUS from Adrian Antigua: Make the experience fun. We want our applicants to be excited to work with us. So, adding a little bit of fun into the experience keeps them engaged and sheds a little bit of insight into what it looks like when they join the team.
The past two years have been chock-full of leadership learning lessons. Here, three club leaders share what they’ve gleaned:
Matt Remick, the president of Rochester Athletic Club:
40. Peer group experience has been my biggest learning lesson from the last couple of years. I am in an industry group and a local business group. Both have helped me to learn faster. Being in a group that honestly shares with each other spreads success and minimizes mistakes.
Ada McKenzie, the owner of Cedardale Health & Fitness:
41. Resiliency matters. The ability to process, absorb and take action is vital. Over the last three years, Cedardale saw the strengths of individuals rise to the surface. We are successful because of the power of our people.
Kevin McHugh, the COO of The Atlantic Club:
42. Leadership is about knowing your weaknesses and being willing to share with others in your family as well as on your team. This will provide you the opportunity to enroll and empower others to use their strengths so the entire group can achieve success levels higher than they ever dreamed. It is important to shoot for the stars, but be willing to settle for the moon.
Like fitness, marketing trends are constantly evolving. To help you keep up, two marketing experts weigh in on the latest marketing evolutions:
Mindi Bridges, the chief brand and marketing officer at VASA Fitness:
43. Make it personal. People support brands they can relate to and trust. Understand your customer and share relevant content that speaks to them in their voice so they can see themselves in your brand.
44. Leverage technology to understand and engage members as much as possible. Technology can help you make personal connections and foster community. Ask for member feedback often and communicate frequently.
Donyel Cerceo, the marketing director at Merritt Clubs:
45. QR codes are back. After failed attempts to integrate these into marketing several years ago, the QR code has made a resurgence with COVID-19. All of our printed material, flyers in-club, passes, newspaper ads, etc. now have QR codes on them that go back to a landing page on our website. The landing page has a lead capture form on it. This makes it much easier to track our ROI from everything.
46. You have to make it easy for people to make all transactions online. The ability to let people know in your marketing they can join online is so important. We have seen such a shift in the last two years to people joining online. We went from maybe two to three online joins a month to now about 15 a week.
BONUS tip from Donyel Cerceo: An important part of your online join marketing strategy is ensuring you have a virtual tour of your club on your website. People want to see what they are buying, but often don’t want to make the time to come in for a physical tour. Today’s consumer is all about having an easy transaction. Major programs and events are also important to offer online registration. Our camp registration is all done online now, too. Making it easy for consumers is key.
In February, medical fitness experts from across the industry gathered for the Thought Leaders panel “The Future of Medical Fitness.” Following are key takeaways and insights from the discussion:
47. According to Michael Feitelberg, the CEO of The EDGE, medical fitness is key to preventative care in communities across the U.S.
“Take in people while they’re healthy as opposed to waiting for them to unfortunately become sick, and then try to back their way out of it,” said Feitelberg. “I think what everyone is learning is it’s much healthier, a greater benefit and certainly less expensive to catch people on the front end. It’s a big opportunity and we as an industry need to seize it.”
48. However, to achieve this goal, Scott Gillespie, the owner of Saco Sport & Fitness, said gyms need to become much better at helping a wide range of members improve their health outcomes.
“We are very good at helping fit and motivated people stay healthy, but over the past 10 years we’ve sold roughly 150 million people who have quit our gyms because they didn’t achieve what they wanted to achieve,” said Gillespie. “This marriage of the need to improve our community’s health and the medical community that is great at treating but not good at serving — we need to work together to help improve that. I think we are the best people to do this. We’re good at behavioral change, although I think we need to get a lot better. The health of the community demands it.”
49. According to Karen Raisch-Siegel, the executive director of LifeWorks of Southwest General, clubs pursuing medical fitness also need to ensure staff are credentialed and qualified.
“You need to invest in your staffing to have the certifications and credentials behind them,” said Raisch-Siegel. “In my experience, if you go to the medical community and you don’t have [credentials] to back you up, you may have that door closed immediately. You have to invest in your staff.”
50. When starting a medical fitness program, Rhea Vaags-Olafson, the director of health and fitness at Reh-Fit Centre, advised keeping it simple.
“Physicians don’t want a big handout they have to read or go through, something really complicated to refer patients, or a really challenging process,” said Vaags-Olafson. “Work with them to find out what makes life best for them and their patients.”
BONUS: According to Jeff Jeran, the corporate director of fitness services at Valley Health Wellness & Fitness Center, medical fitness is the top trend in the industry right now. It’s definitely something operators should be thinking about. “Medical fitness is the trend,” he said. “More people are talking about it than ever before. COVID-19 has identified the need to improve nutrition, exercise and lifestyle management.”
Recently, Victor Brick, the co-founder of the John W. Brick Mental Health Foundation, was on the Club Solutions Magazine podcast to discuss mental health, and the role physical activity plays in helping treat mental illness. During the discussion, Brick shared some of the findings of the recent Move Your Mental Health Report, which reviewed the scientific evidence on the role of physical activity and exercise on mental health. Here are two takeaways from the report:
51. According to John Hopkins Medicine, “26% of adults in the U.S. experience mental illness at any given time.” However, according to the Move Your Mental Health Report, exercise can make a huge difference:
“Physical health is clearly intertwined with mental health in a bidirectional fashion. Scientific evidence shows that changes in thinking patterns and behaviors affect neurological, endocrine and immune systems. Conversely, disruption in these biological systems negatively impacts mental health. In addition to medication, holistic approaches such as exercise and physical activity, nutrition, and mind-body practices such as yoga can improve mental health.”
52. What does the data say? Here are the facts, courtesy of the Move Your Mental Health Report:
- Existing scientific research overwhelmingly indicates that exercise and physical activity benefit mental health.
- 89% of all published peer-reviewed research between 1990 and 2020 found a positive, statistically significant relationship between exercise/physical activity and mental health.
- In general, the optimal type, intensity and duration of exercise remain unclear, although several conclusions about specific types of exercise can be made, detailed in the full report.
BONUS: Access the full report at johnwbrickfoundation.org/move-your-mental-health-report.
With this in mind, how can clubs begin to emphasize mental health? Here, Tina Hall, the vice president of human resources at Club Fitness, weighs in on the implications for staff:
53. Understanding the potential lasting effects of the pandemic on someone’s mental health, we surveyed our employees to learn how Club Fitness could better support employees’ overall health and well-being. We identified the need to offer free assistance to employees for mental health, financial assistance or other types of stressors they might be experiencing by introducing an Employee Assistance Program. We also implemented a Leave of Absence Policy, allowing employees to take up to one week of leave without documentation for mental health reasons.
54. Lastly, in 2015 we rolled-out a tiered approach — based on salary — when calculating medical benefit premiums, to help make medical insurance affordable for everyone. In 2021, we decided to significantly reduce each tier’s employee contribution amounts to healthcare even more affordable. Plus, we added 100% preventative with improved mental health coverage to the plan.
According to Harvard’s school of public health, evidence suggests those with obesity have a greater risk of negative outcomes from COVID-19. After facing over two years of the pandemic, more Americans have begun prioritizing their nutrition and health. Here are two facts to consider when offering nutrition programs to ensure you are serving everyone:
55. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reports the high cost of healthy diets coupled with persistent high levels of income inequality put healthy diets out of reach for around 3 billion people in every region of the world in 2019.
56. According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, about 117 million adults suffer from one or more chronic diseases — Type 2 diabetes, different types of cancers and various heart conditions — due to improper nutrition and lack of exercise.
BONUS: Be sure to check out Victoria Tolbert-Ashley’s interview on the Club Solutions Magazine podcast on the topic of addressing community health and food deserts.
Outdoor fitness was a lifeline for many facilities while enduring government shutdowns and closures. However, despite reopening, members are demanding outdoor classes stick around. Here are five tips to help your outdoor fitness classes thrive.
Eric Schmitz, the president of California Athletic Clubs:
57. Outdoor Group Fitness Classes. Outdoor group exercise classes will remain popular after COVID-19 subsides in most areas. Make sure to set up a safe environment that keeps weather issues, tripping hazards and noise problems to a minimum. Even if your class offerings are seasonal, it can be an important differentiator that adds value.
58. Outdoor Fitness Area. Incorporate strength, cardiovascular and flexibility areas into your design. Make sure to invest in proper equipment that can withstand your area’s weather. Don’t skimp on having the proper flooring, as this adds a lot to the overall experience. Make sure you are following any special guidelines from your insurance company. Create seasonal programming for the demographic you want to attract.
Amina Daniels, the owner of Live Cycle Delight:
59. Weather-proof. Clearly you need to consider the weather — and here in Michigan where I’m located, it can be very tricky. I constructed a large event tent in a yard across the street from our main studio. We installed a 15-foot TRX S-Frame with stall mats underneath for a more comfortable workout experience that was similar to the studio experience. In the tent we created elevated wooden platforms to enhance the experience by keeping participants off of the subfloor, which was placed on top of the grass. Participants had ample room for one individual per platform, a mat, and a water bottle and towel. Participants had space to move, jump, hop and squat. We enhanced the experience with incense, candles and provided bug spray. In the cooler months we heated the tent with space heaters inside and fire pits on the outside. We installed solar lights and used battery powered lanterns at night.
60. Think About Logistics. The logistics of moving outside can be challenging. Ideally it would be nice to have a secure shed to store all of the equipment and necessary cleaning materials. We bring equipment from the studios outside for each class. Our staff sets up for each class, so you need to build time into your staff’s schedule to accommodate for this. We had at least one staff member outside during each class — in addition to the instructor — to assist with equipment, checking-in clients, sales and cleaning after class. It enhances the client experience when there is staff available to assist. We increased our staff to accommodate for outside classes. In addition to staff, it is imperative to communicate this change to your clients on your website, social channels and signage. We have an outdoor class sandwich board and communicated the update in our Mailchimp and social media platforms.
61. Prioritize Communication. If you plan to potentially cancel classes during inclement weather, you will need to have a rock-solid plan in place for communication to participants, instructors and all staff members. The worst thing you can have is a studio member who carved time in their day to workout and drove to your facility, only to find out the class was canceled.
Having a tent gives you the flexibility of still being able to have classes outside. The bottom line is going outside is great — it builds camaraderie, feels good and is a more comfortable alternative to being inside post-pandemic. However, it is labor intensive and has a ton of moving parts.
Personal training (PT) has been a mainstay for many clubs, as it’s been a key driver of revenue and member results. But how can you keep your personal training fresh and continue to attract new clients? Here, two industry experts share their best practices for boosting PT sales.
Lisa Groft, a director at Baptist East Milestone Wellness Center:
62. Ask some of the current PT clients to provide testimonials promoting PT services. Hearing a client’s success story will get others to want to hire a personal trainer.
63. Offer nutrition coaching, stretching or massage gun sessions as an additional service at the end of each PT session. Continue to upsell your current client base.
Cecil Highwater, a partner in Villa 59 Fitness Partners Consulting:
64. Most trainers go to school or get certified in kinesiology or biomechanics. These degrees or certifications don’t spend much time on sales and customer service. So, establish an internal sales training program for your trainers. Have minimum standards of customer service the trainers are held accountable to so you are setting the stage for a memorable experience for your customers.
65. Create a digital outreach process to support your members when they are or are not in the gym and keep them connected to your community. Offer various programs such as educational content, video programming, online access to small group training or one-on-one PT, etc. so you stay competitive with the ever-growing digital online fitness options that are readily available.
BONUS: Check out the Thought Leaders episode, “The Latest Fitness and Programming Trends.”
Profit centers can vary from swim lessons, youth programming, personal training, food and beverage, and more. If you are looking for new profit centers to add, the following operators share tips for two different revenue streams.
Aaron Moore, the director of operations for VIDA Fitness, on spas:
66. The entry sequence is everything, especially as operators are welcoming a lot of new clients to the spa. Make sure clients are immediately met with a beautiful aesthetic and a warm personality. Lighting, furniture and accessory decor all help or hurt your client experience. Use your interior design to set a calm and relaxing mood.
67. Educate your clients on retail products and pre-book their next appointment before they leave the spa. Clients who purchase a retail product are much more likely to return, so give them options along with the “why” behind your recommendations. Make sure your pre-book recommendation is based on your client’s desired results as opposed to an arbitrary timeline.
68. Commit to always recruiting new service providers. Treatment rooms are lost inventory if not occupied, so keep a deep bench of potential hires so you always have someone ready to go as current service providers leave your spa. Work on your reputation as the best spa, the best work environment, the best compensation, etc. so new service providers come to you organically seeking employment.
Larry Welch, the co-owner of Cross Gates Family Fitness, on retail centers:
69. At Cross Gates Family Fitness we have a pretty big retail component called The Lifestyle Store. It’s not just fitness wear: we offer all kinds of fashion, home goods, jewelry, beauty products and more. Both members and non-members can request shipping, curbside pickup or gift wrap options. It’s a really nice boutique.
70. We can even use The Lifestyle Store to connect with members outside the walls of the club. We launched our official online store that’s got its own inventory. We had our first few sales, and some of them we are shipping out of state.
More and more facilities are realizing the importance of recovery options and members are starting to demand them. However, offering successful recovery programming is more than placing a percussive gun in your facility and calling it a day. Members need ambience, space and, most importantly, education on what to do and why to do it. Here, EK Navan, the co-founder of Regymen Fitness and The Covery, gives four tips on how to offer recovery:
71. Create the right environment to disconnect the mind from the world for a few minutes. This means creating an ambient and calming space, and allowing one to disconnect from reality — if only for five minutes.
72. Diversify your offerings while creating an outcome-based therapy plan. People need to be educated, not sold, on these therapies.
73. Have a well-thought-out selection of therapies, including those designed to increase the heart rate variability response — specifically used to decrease the level of stress in the body. By this, I am referring to the fact you need to be different. Offer new technologies that at first seem a little out there, but open the door to conversations about how light, sound and frequencies all factor into helping achieve mental wellness.
74. Charge appropriately. Many of the best services aren’t designed to be cheap — they are designed to be effective. In the recovery space, the fitness industry needs to be certain to keep the value in these services and not give them away, or as add-ons to the membership. The recovery space has high ROI, and because it offers instant gratification, it can quickly add to your bottom line.
BONUS: Don’t miss EK Navan’s interview about recovery on the Club Solutions Magazine podcast.
While gaining new members is exciting and important, being able to keep the ones you already have is even better. Here, two leaders share tips on how to help retain your members.
Dr. Paul Bedford of The Retention Guru:
75. Drive visits because unless your members are visiting, nothing else you do really matters.
76. Interact, don’t interrupt. Smile at them on the way in, talk to them on the way out.
77. Create exercise content that builds confidence and competence before you build intensity.
Chez Misko, the COO of Wisconsin Athletic Club:
78. Every hiring decision is a retention decision. Hire the right person, put them in the right position and spend the time to train them properly. Having the right or wrong team members dramatically impacts your retention.
79. Get to know your members. Learn their names, and understand their goals and preferences. Spend time with your members. Ask them questions to provide feedback on their experiences in the club. Surveys are nice, but nothing beats an individual conversation with a member.
80. Integrate new members into your club during their first 60-days after joining. Connect new members to as many other people and programs as you can. The more people a new member knows and the more programs they participate in does increase their length of membership.
Potential risks to your facility come in all shapes and sizes. Here, three experts share tips for keeping both your members safe from potential harm and you safe from potential lawsuits.
Brian Rawlings, the vice president of FITLIFE:
81. Tap into your network. Vendors can be valuable partners in maintaining your equipment, as can neighbors in keeping you up-to-speed on local events, seasonal flooding and more. Further, your insurance provider can conduct a property risk assessment to help you identify risks when developing a customized risk mitigation plan.
Jayson Scott, the national program director for The Cincinnati Insurance Company:
82. Prevent a dryer vent fire at your facility with a professional, commercial dryer vent cleaning plan. Lint buildup inside dryer ducts is a fire safety hazard and is the most common cause of dryer fires. Establish a quarterly cleaning schedule to ensure dryers consistently run efficiently and can meet the demand for your club. It’s also important your staff members are trained to recognize the indications your vents need to be cleaned.
Max Goodman, a partner of SmithAmundsen:
83. When it comes to responding to injured members, there are three steps: medical attention, gather evidence and follow-up. After providing medical attention, create an incident report with the member’s account of what happened in their own words. Gather surveillance footage, witness contact information and any photographs you took of the scene. The next day, follow up with the injured member to see how they are doing. Kindness and compassion will preserve that relationship and may dissuade them from suing.
After months of shutdowns, battles with the government over proving gyms are clean and safe spaces, and dealing with people staying home out of fear of COVID-19, clubs are ready to tackle their next challenge — getting new members. Here, Amita Balla, the regional director of sales West Coast for Crunch Fitness, shares three sales trends she is seeing and how you can apply them to your club:
84. Focus Messaging on Overall Health. We truly believe the consumer is more interested in health than ever before. Since the latest finding by the CDC, the consumer is realizing exercising is an integral part of their overall “health plan.” A focus on health is trending like never before.
85. Offer Hybrid Experiences. While hybrid workplaces are all the buzz, hybrid workouts may fill in the gaps for the employee who isn’t quite back in the office. We expect to see more in-club usage with some fun alternative online workouts mixed in for the gym-goer who doesn’t have to make their commute that day. People want options. Our job is to give them just that.
86. Create a Simple and Easy Sales Experience. The consumer today is smart, educated and has done their research. They want the experience to be transparent, efficient and simple. The overall trend is to have an easy, clear experience for the consumer to join and get to their workout.
Small Group Training
Small group training (SGT) can often be your “Goldilocks” offering for your members. It’s large enough for members to make meaningful connections with other participants, but small enough where they still get the personal connection many want from personal training. Here, Mary Edwards, the fitness director and a professional fitness trainer at Cooper Fitness Center, shares three benefits SGT can bring to your facility:
87. Maximize Revenue. With SGT, both trainer and facility capitalize on members trained per hour, thus increasing total revenue billed per hour. Our Cooper Fitness Center SGT instructors are commission-based, so the more members they teach in SGT, the higher the percentage payout. Instructors are motivated to market Cooper services/classes and stay actively engaged.
88. Member Relationships and Community. Cooper’s SGT program attracts a subset of membership—members who do not use personal training services and members who are not group exercise participants. This group may find new and like-minded members within their SGT class. The programming can help forge new relationships and social groups, fostering a sense of community and commitment to the class and club.
89. New Business Niche or Stimulation for Existing Staff. Your existing staff may be interested in supporting your SGT program to develop a new revenue source/stream or add diversity to their professional engagement. It is essential for staff members to find a way to maximize earning potential.
BONUS: Listen to Mary Edward’s interview on the Club Solutions Magazine podcast for more insights into personal and small group programming.
Social Media Marketing
The COVID-19 pandemic revealed to many gym operators the importance of getting “the other 80%” into their facilities. However, if you want to attract people of all backgrounds who don’t have a gym membership, a great place to start is ensuring your social media messaging is inclusive and welcoming. Here are three tips to consider:
90. According to Facebook Advertising, 54% of consumers surveyed by Meta — formerly Facebook — said they do not feel fully culturally represented in online advertising.
91. 59% of people say they are more loyal to brands that stand for diversity and inclusion in online advertising, according to a survey conducted by Facebook Advertising.
92. According to Adobe, 38% of consumers, in general, are more likely to trust brands that do well with showing diversity in their ads. This percentage is even higher among specific consumer groups including Latinx+ (85%), Black (79%), Asian/Pacific Islander (79%), LGBTQ (85%), millennial (77%) and teen (76%) consumers.
Since gyms have reopened, people have been navigating toward strength equipment after a lack of accessibility from home due to equipment shortages and price. With more and more people wanting to utilize strength exercises, there is an opportunity to upsell your services.
As such, Bente Smart, the director of education and fitness operations for Crunch Fitness, and Larry Schneider, the regional director of fitness, West Coast, at Crunch Fitness, share three tips on how to use the increased demand of strength equipment to your advantage:
93. Now that the consumer has started to jump on board, be sure to highlight how your locations already offer this through boot camps, HIIT classes and group fitness classes. These types of group workouts are more popular now, so think about making additions and beefing up your current schedule.
94. Advertise one-on-one training. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, people were working out at their homes with their bodyweight or smaller amounts of resistance. Drive personal training by advertising the importance of working with a professional when utilizing heavier resistance for the first time in a while, if not the first time ever.
95. With strength training comes the need for good posture, injury prevention and relief from soreness. There is a great opportunity for gym operators to start offering recovery in their locations. With recovery services increasing in popularity, try offering your members services such as percussion therapy, compression and stretching.
Additionally, Bri Sexton, the chief product officer at BLAST, gave a few tips on how to offer a strength program successfully:
96. Lean into the idea that strong is a feeling before it is an aesthetic. It will help your clients stay motivated even when they aren’t seeing their results yet, and keep them feeling successful.
97. Have a variety of different types of strength training equipment in your programming. This will keep the experience fresh even when the actual programming is consistent — e.g. bicep curls with dumbbells versus with a bar or cable system.
98. Educate members on the benefits of building lean muscle versus just burning calories, getting a longer-term result for the time invested in each workout. Also, teach them all the great post-workout benefits such as lower impact, increased resting metabolic impacts and the overall ability to function better in life.
Virtual online training was first introduced on ACSM’s annual survey for 2019 and debuted at No. 3 before dropping to No. 26 in 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, online training skyrocketed to the No. 1 trend in 2021, but fell to No. 9 in 2022.
Despite losing some popularity after gyms were able to reopen, many operators agree that virtual isn’t going away. Here are five tips on how to continue to make virtual fitness a success long after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jenn Hogg, the director of exercise programs at East Bank Club:
99. First and foremost, establish strong Wi-Fi connections. Limit unstable connections with a robust network. Use external microphones and balance levels with the voice above the music for clear audio connections. Block space for strong visual connections displaying full movement without shadows. Remind instructors to connect with the camera and speak to the audience as if they were in the room.
100. Cover all bases and prepare for the worst. Technology can fail, instructors have emergencies and life happens. Document all necessary steps for flawless execution and communicate to everyone who may get called into action. Have written instructions readily available and train staff — at all levels — to feel confident in this new space.
Greg Maurer, the vice president of fitness at Workout Anytime:
101. Have a one to two-year roadmap of capabilities and goals for your virtual ecosystem and capabilities.
102. Develop a report that tracks how many members are using your digital ecosystem, what parts they are using and how often. Review it regularly and set goals.
103. Strive to continually increase your member app capabilities with the end goal being a member can literally do everything from your app, from checking in to purchases to referrals to scheduling and canceling.
The past two years, more and more people have been making their mental health and wellness a priority due to increased stress from the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of this, yoga is gaining popularity and interest in the U.S.
104. According to RunRepeat, in 2020 it was estimated 55.1 million Americans did yoga, up by 53% from 36 million in 2016.
105. Additionally, RunRepat reported 18.3 million Americans do not practice yoga, but are interested in trying it.
With this in mind, Lori Lowell, a Gold’s Gym franchisee, shares two tips on how to offer a successful yoga program:
106. Yoga is abundant and there are many different styles. It’s very difficult when your club offers a lot of different styles of yoga and does not offer each style on a consistent basis. It gets confusing for members if your yoga program is all over the place and offers too much. Try to pick two or three formats — vinyasa flow yoga, yin yoga and restorative yoga — and stick to the formats you choose to avoid confusion. Vinyasa will give a solid yoga class format, yin is great for stretching and holding poses, and restorative is great for recovery. This keeps your yoga program balanced and styles like this are excellent choices for a fitness facility.
107. Ensure your yoga teachers have at least a 200-hour yoga certification that is accredited with Yoga Alliance, the governing body of yoga. Quality control is critical and if a teacher has completed their 200-hour training, then they have been trained and have passed their exam. Standards for Yoga Alliance include techniques, training and practice, teaching methodology, anatomy and physiology, lifestyle, philosophy and ethics for yoga teachers, and practicum.