Why UFC GYM is partnering with CryoBuilt to offer cryotherapy at 20 locations and counting.
Nowadays, fitness and recovery are no longer treated as separate modalities. To be truly successful in one’s health and fitness journey, these concepts must work in conjunction with one another.
“Recovery is quickly becoming recognized as important or more important than the workout itself,” said Marcus Wilson, the CEO of CryoBuilt, the largest manufacturer of electric, whole-body cryotherapy systems in the U.S. “Cryotherapy and other recovery services are a must for any gym that wants to provide a true fitness experience.”
One brand that has recognized recovery’s importance is UFC GYM, a national gym chain with more than 150 locations in 40 countries. Over the years, the brand has continually invested in the recovery services it provides members, from nutrition to compression to cryotherapy.
In fact, UFC GYM is one of the only fitness brands in the nation to have a national director of recovery — Jeremy Longwell — who works hand in hand with the brand’s leadership to ensure recovery offerings are optimized and successful.
“We are getting a good percentage of our members who are now involved with recovery,” explained Derek Gallup, the executive vice president of group fitness, fitness, operations, combat sports and education at UFC GYM. “We are getting so much involvement from members we had to create a new position for it, which was the national director of recovery. That tells you a little bit about how important this is to us.”
In fact, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, UFC GYM had three locations with recovery zones — a number that has since grown to 20.
“Every new location we open has a recovery space, and we’re looking to convert some clubs that don’t have it currently,” said Gallup. “It’s something we’re finding is a successful part of the business.”
A key component of UFC GYM’s recovery services is cryotherapy, which the brand offers in partnership with CryoBuilt.
CryoBuilt’s cryotherapy systems stand out in the fact they are electric — resulting in lower operating costs — and whole-body, allowing members to get the full benefits of cryotherapy from head-to-toe.
“It all goes back to the experience,” said Longwell. “Electric cryotherapy is truly whole-body cryotherapy, as in your entire body, including your head, can go in. There’s also enough room for multiple people, so you can have two people in there for those who may be intimidated to try it and need a friend. There are also lights and music, so from a presentation perspective, it doesn’t look nearly as intimidating as some of the nitrogen-based units out there.”
According to Gallup, cryotherapy has created a number of benefits for the UFC GYM brand, including as a value-add and member retention tool. He explained many members have been utilizing cryotherapy elsewhere — paying exorbitant fees to do so — and are thrilled when this offering is available.
“Jeremy and I ran into a gentleman in New Jersey, and he was talking about how he was utilizing cryotherapy every day,” recalled Gallup. “But he told us he had been going someplace else for just cryotherapy — and was paying three times what he does compared to what he’s paying with us. So he was so excited that we’ve got the gym and the recovery and all these other aspects in one place — and now we have a raving fan.”
Longwell added one of the great things about cryotherapy compared to other recovery services is that the benefits — ranging from reducing inflammation and fatigue to boosting one’s mood — are oftentimes immediate.
“It’s a very sticky service,” said Longwell. “It keeps people coming back. A lot of times people dread going to the gym — especially new people — because they’re breaking down their muscles, they’re feeling sore and they’re becoming demotivated. The fact we have a whole suite of recovery services, including cryotherapy, is great to help people keep moving toward their goals.”
Although the benefits of cryotherapy are clear, this isn’t an offering clubs can just “set and forget.” It requires an infrastructure and strategy to have the benefits truly maximized.
For example, according to Wilson there are two key components.
“Education and awareness around cryotherapy are the two most important things operators should be providing their members,” said Wilson. “The majority of people still either don’t know what cryotherapy is or they think it is only for professional athletes or they are unsure how it can help them. They also have to be aware the services are there, as they are typically added to a ‘recovery corner’ they may not know they have access to. Offering a dedicated walk-through and trial to every member can help to introduce them to the new services, find out how they can help them on their fitness journey, and once they try it, they will be hooked.”
According to Wilson, this is where UFC GYM has shined in its successful roll-out of cryotherapy.
“UFC GYM does a great job at educating its members on new recovery services, and typically offers tours or free trials for new and existing members,” said Wilson. “This helps with overall awareness and increases the willingness for the member to try something new.”
Additionally, Gallup said a main key to success has been ensuring staff are well educated on cryotherapy and have experienced the offering first-hand, so staff can advocate for these services to members.
“Especially when we’re touring guests through the facility, our membership specialists and general managers really need to understand the benefits of it,” said Gallup. “We encourage our staff to experience our recovery offerings for themselves, so they know first-hand what it’s like when explaining it to members. One of the nice things with the electric cryotherapy is that you don’t have a very high cost for each usage, so we really can encourage our team members to try it. That’s really important to understand — the experience from actually doing it versus just talking about it.”
As today’s consumers continue to emphasize overall wellness versus just fitness, clubs need to seriously consider the importance of recovery services like cryotherapy.
Post-COVID, Longwell believes this is even more important.
“Especially after going through this whole pandemic we’re coming out of, there are a lot of people struggling with things mentally,” said Longwell. “Literally everything in our recovery rooms has benefits mentally: it helps people relax, helps reduce stress and helps with reducing anxiety, in addition to the physical benefits that it has for everyone.”