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Booming Trends: Anti-Gravity Yoga

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Once upon a time, I had no interest in yoga at all. I thought yoga was all about meditating by candlelight and singing “oms” in unison with twenty or so strangers. As a health and fitness enthusiast, I was under the impression that a “good” workout had to include intense cardio and heavy weights — neither of which, to my knowledge, were present in most yoga classes. It wasn’t until a friend of mine invited me to an Aerial yoga class that I realized how little I actually knew about this ancient fitness practice.
First of all, I had no idea that there were different types of yoga with varying degrees of intensity. Aerial Yoga (also known as Anti-Gravity Yoga) just so happens to be the most rapidly growing variation, popping up in clubs all over the country. Aerial Yoga includes the use of silk hammocks to support participants as they move through various yoga poses, midair. When I walked into the class and saw lines of these silk hammocks suspended from the ceiling, I immediately thought of the acrobats in Cirque Du Soleil. I thought, if I didn’t get a real workout, at least I’d have fun swinging from the ceiling.
About fifteen minutes into the class I realized I had severely underestimated it. I was sweating, breathing hard and channeling all of my energy into holding what felt like a hundred different positions only a contortionist could pull off. However, I felt great! I felt muscles aching in places I couldn’t normally reach with a typical cardio or weight-centered workout. It was a completely different kind of experience. After class, I thanked my friend for introducing me to this new-found addiction and immediately went home to do some more research about this practice.
What I found was a recent study conducted by the American Council of Exercise that examines how effective Aerial Yoga is as a form of exercise. As I was still feeling the endorphin rush from class, I wasn’t surprised by the results. The study aimed to track how this form of yoga affected participants on a cardiovascular level after three 50-minute classes a week, for a total of six weeks. The study included sixteen participants (all women) of various ages who were asked to wear a calorimetric measurement system as well as a heart rate monitor during each class. The results were extremely positive. At the end of the six weeks, participants not only experienced weight loss and a reduction in body fat, but also an increase in “good” cholesterol and improved respiratory function. Furthermore, it was found that each participant had reduced their risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
The study went on to say that each 50-minute class burned about 300 calories! That was impressive enough for me to go back for another round. In fact, I now go about three times a week and each time I go I see a significant increase in attendance. It’s become so popular that my gym had to start offering three more Aerial Yoga classes to accommodate all the members jumping on this new trend.
From the health benefits to the positive, fun, intense environment Aerial Yoga provides, it might be time to consider adding it to your facility’s programming. The flexibility of the hammocks allow for all different fitness levels to participate. I highly recommend it!

If you are yoga business offering anti-yoga classes make sure to check out our yoga studio software to make class check-in quick and easy.

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8 Best Practices For Promoting Your Business On Social Media

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Who, in this day and age, is not on some kind of social media? This channel of communication has developed into a major source of revenue for businesses both big and small. Unfortunately, if you’re a small, new business, chances are you can’t afford to hire a Social Media Specialist. This makes marketing and attracting new clients and followers very tricky. Posting a picture or tweet here and there is not going to attract or engage a large number of followers. In order to truly use social media to its full potential, businesses must prepare to invest some time and effort into better understanding how to market on different platforms. Fortunately, we’re here to offer some advice:

1. Quality Over Quantity: You’ve heard this phrase before. As a small business, you want to reach for loyalty as opposed to millions of followers. You don’t need to “go viral” straight off the bat. Instead, focus on building strong relationships with a smaller number of followers. Social media relationships, like real-life relationships, take time. When you start to attract and build these loyal relationships with a select few, you tap into their social circles. Building a solid reputation for great customer service and support will translate into referrals and will build your following over time. Don’t put all your effort into one huge campaign for immediate value—let your following build up with LOYAL clients who plan to stay for the long haul.

2. Focus On Your Local Community: Start local. Look at the types of businesses that are around you and post targeted content. You can also offer incentives for local workers who check into your facility on social media.

3. Plan In Advance. We cannot stress enough how important this is. Create a content calendar so you know what kind of content to post on each day. This will save you so much time in the long run and consumers will appreciate your consistency. Also, start by experimenting with the best times and days to post content. Perhaps you get more engagement from posts on Wednesdays at 9am. Experiment and then make it a ritual. Also, take advantage of Holidays! Offer a Christmas special or free guest passes on Mother’s day—the possibilities are endless!

4. Use What You Already Have. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Utilize content you’ve already created or include quotes from satisfied customers. In the age of Yelp and other review sites, clients are looking for first-hand experiences to form their own decisions. Adding a client testimonial will go a long way in attracting new followers. 5. Be Engaging! People love quizzes, polls or any other medium where they can post their opinion. Let the public know that there are real people working at your gym, and don’t be afraid to show a sense of humor! Take some risks.

6. Translate Relationships Into Sales. So, you’ve established some loyal relationships, not how do you turn this into revenue? Begin by offering special offers to clients via social media. Offer online and offline coupon codes. Create contests with prizes such as free classes or memberships. This will generate sales both online and at your facility.

7. Quick Response Time: Never ignore a complaint! Think of complaints as little gifts. If one person voices an issue, there are usually ten more with the same issue that are just too lazy to post it. The people who DON’T speak up, are usually just leave rather than deal with the issue. Use these complaints to better your business and let the client know that they’ve been heard and that you are actively working to address their concerns. Most importantly, by responding quickly, you show that your company cares about your clients and want to create the best customer experience possible. With that being said, respond quickly to positive comments too! Everyone likes to be acknowledged and if you ignore a compliment it might rub followers the wrong way.

8. Use Data and Analytics. Finally, make sure you are measuring your reach and engagement on social media. This is critical to understanding what is and isn’t working. Most social media platforms provide their own set of analytics. However, it doesn’t hurt to use an additional tool for accuracy. Some of the data you should be sure to measure include:

• Who is promoting your business the most and has a vast amount of followers you can tap into?

• Who is visiting your page and when?

• Who made purchases from you in the past? This will help so you develop tactics to encourage future purchases.

The fact is, there are a myriad of ways to promote your business. Don’t dive straight in and try everything at once. Gradually build up your following with loyal members and nurture those relationships. Listen, respond, and get to know your audience so that you can develop your overall marketing plan into a major success.

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The Power of Member Referrals

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There is a common misconception that, in order to boost membership sales, you must spend an absorbent amount of money on marketing, but this is simply not the case. Word of mouth is STILL the most valuable tool for a health club and especially for those that are just starting out and don’t have a lot of room in their budget for paid advertising. Referrals are a great, cheap way to boost sales. Satisfied customers will recommend your services to their friends, family, and acquaintances, and these recommendations can be worth their weight in gold.

Set the Tone. Engagement is key. Start as soon as a prospective member walks through the door. You need them to like you and trust you as a valid resource of fitness information. The best way to build trust is to be relatable. Don’t barrage them with sales pitches from the get-go. Instead, have a real conversation. Ask them what they are looking for and what their personal goals are. If they don’t have any at this point, help them create of realistic, reachable ones and then explain in detail how you can help to achieve them. Come from a place of helping and assistance. Even if you don’t make the sale immediately, once you’ve established a connection and trust, you can ask them for others who may be interested as well.

Accept Constructive Criticism and Offer Incentives: Unless you’re a mind reader, you may not always be able to tell if a customer likes the way you do certain things at your facility. You don’t have to take every complaint or suggestion to heart, but the willingness to accept suggestions and requests for changes is a much-appreciated quality in ANY business. Accepting constructive criticism is just good customer service, plain and simple. It allows customers to see that their needs are of the utmost importance.

You can also offer incentives for referrals. Again, don’t overwhelm them with a big salesy pitch, but make it worth their while. For example, perhaps offer a free class to those who bring in at least 5 referrals in 3 months, or offer a month free of dues for those that get up to 10. You should fine-tune your referral policy and make the rewards clear on your website as well as any social media platforms you manage.

Give them Results. So this new member has joined your gym. Great! But now you need to give them incentives to stay. You’ve won them over with your engaging, charming and relatable personality, but now they need to see some results. You’ve discussed their goals and explained how you can help them reach them, but you can’t just tell them, you have to SHOW them. When you show you care about them as individuals and not just as a means to reach your bottom line, you will gain a loyal member and an unlimited supply of referrals. Now you are the local fitness guru and you have built a member base of word-of-mouth advertising.

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Creating Space for New Fitness Fads

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When I was in college, there were two stationary bikes in the gym’s cardio room. One of them had a tiny little screen that allowed you to set the number of miles you wanted to log or the amount of time you wanted to exercise; it also had a primitive graphic, like something from an Atari 2600 video game, that let you visualize your course: up “hills”, down “valleys”. That was the high-tech bike. The other one had a wheel that looked kind of like a giant fan. There were no screens or graphic-based interfaces attached to it; you just got on and pedaled.

I haven’t seen my college gym in, ahem, a very long time, but, given the pressure on colleges and universities to supercharge their fitness and recreation offerings, I imagine it’s a much more polished (and much more visited) place than it was back in the day. Two stationary bikes, one of which apparently was built in 1897? There’s no way they’d get away with that anymore. What with the growing popularity of spin classes in the past decade, I imagine the college rec center has a whole room dedicated to sleek-looking stationary bikes now, and the bikes are probably equipped with the latest digital enhancements that give their riders a full dossier of personal health data.

My point is, fitness centers have to keep up with changing fads, and this is true whether they’re on college campuses, independently owned, or part of a corporate wellness program. They have to do aerobics when people want aerobics, host Zumba classes when there’s excitement about Zumba, and so on. All well and good, but how exactly should a fitness center keep on top of changing trends when those trends involve deep-pocket investments in big, expensive pieces of equipment? Athletic Business magazine posted an interesting article on this topic a couple months ago, focusing on the growing popularity of rowing machines. One fitness industry veteran interviewed for the article put it this way: “Rowing will never be group cycling, but it is gaining its place with more hard-core fitness enthusiasts.” CrossFit aficionados have brought it nearly into the mainstream, and more and more gyms and fitness centers are increasing their stock of rowing machines, even lining them up and creating classes à la spinning classes.

But what if you’re a small outfit that can’t afford a whole roomful of new rowing machines? What if you don’t have the space for many large pieces of new equipment? How do you give your clientele the most up-to-date, exciting workout experience — the one they’ve been hearing so much about from friends and through advertisements, the one being touted at a rival fitness center down the street — if you don’t immediately have the resources for that kind of development?

As Athletic Business says, “To be sure, fitness facility owners needn’t run out and invest in a fleet of rowers, but nor should they continue to assume their current mix of cardio equipment is adequate to meet their members’ expectations.” That is, you have to focus on finding a balance. Then you have to make a plan for growth. Maybe you can start out by making space for one or two rowers. Keep close tabs on them: Make a note every time someone uses them. Note when they are empty for long stretches of time. Observe whether a line of people waiting to use them frequently forms.

Survey your clients to find out whether they’ve used them, when they did, for how long, and how they liked the experience. Ask whether they would sign up for a rowing class if one were offered. Set up a temporary class with a very limited enrollment (even just three or five would be okay). How is it received? What would participants change? Do they want more?

A business can’t change its programs and equipment the way teenagers change clothes — adoption of new fads should happen slowly, after testing, focus-group research, data-gathering, and trial-and-error. After you’re convinced that a fad is here to stay, and after you’ve conducted adequate research among your user base, then you can take the plunge and buy the equipment. Just make sure that when you do you’re keeping half an eye on the next emerging trend, because you’ll want to start researching that one too.

Oh, one last thing. After writing this I got curious and called my alma mater’s athletic center. I was told they recently ordered four new rowing machines!

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Train Employees Efficiently—Online

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If you run a sports facility, fitness center, or gym, you’ve probably embraced technology—these days, it’s impossible not to. You have your social media sites streamlined and constantly updated. You have your employees carrying around tablets for instant accessibility and communication. You have gym members uploading data from their personal fitness devices into your club management software. You might even have your fitness studios hooked up so members at home can stream classes. But have you thought about online training for your employees?
In this industry, training is crucial for some skills and types of knowledge. Think of pool management, for example. No matter what type of facility you run, if you’ve got a pool, your aquatics team needs to know, for starters, how to circulate and filtrate water, how to test for contamination and handle disinfection, and how to understand water chemistry concepts and calculations. Maybe you have the in-house resources—the time, the personnel—to pass this knowledge along.
If you don’t, signing your employees up for online training courses is the most efficient and effective way of getting them up to speed. Athletic Business runs a pool management course in partnership with the National Swimming Pool Foundation. Eight hours long, the interactive class promises to give your employees all the information they need to operate a pool expertly. The Aquatic Training Institute also offers a course, culminating in pool technician certification. Universities and MOOC (massive open online course) providers, such as Coursera, edX, and Udacity, are likely to offer free online pool management classes of their own.
In fact, universities and MOOC-providers are go-to web presences for all of your facility’s training and professional development needs. Personal trainers can find specific classes to address areas of knowledge they may be lacking, such as how to work with elderly or disabled populations, how to incorporate high-intensity training into existing workouts, and how to work with injured athletes. In this age of the Internet, almost any skill you or your employees need to develop can be learned cheaply and effectively online. You might have to invest some time into researching the options, but the investment will pay off in spades when you find yourself with a crew that knows what it’s doing (or knows how to find out what to do when it doesn’t know what it’s doing).
So how do you begin to incorporate online training? Whenever it makes sense, require new hires to educate themselves via courses you specify or allow them to choose from. This is an excellent way, in fact, to use inevitable downtime during the first couple weeks of employment, when new hires are learning the ropes. For existing employees, offer incentives. Give them a day off in exchange for completing a course, or throw a giant staff appreciation party—maybe even consider paying a small amount for each class an employee takes. It won’t be long before your staff realizes that, in addition to boosting your facility’s overall performance level, you’re offering them an opportunity for personal growth.

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Boost Retention: Help Your Members Achieve Their Goals

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There’s a powerful little word in our industry, one we love (when things are looking good) and hate (when things aren’t). I’m talking, of course, about “retention.” The word carries some kind of magical power. If retention is working in our favor, that’s an indication that business is good and we’re making the right decisions. If it’s not, it’s an indication that something is off, but often it’s mysterious what that something is.

The thing that makes great retention an especially slippery goal is that it depends so much on factors in the lives of our individual members; factors that we couldn’t possibly control. Whether each member is happy or depressed, employed or suddenly unemployed, in a good relationship or in a psychologically draining one — each of these factors, and dozens of others contribute to a member’s decision to stay or go.

Fine. Some stuff you have to let go of right? No sense in getting worked up over things you can’t do anything about. But what about the things you can do something about? That’s what you’ve got to focus on, and for gyms, fitness centers, health clubs, and the like, that really means one thing: helping members achieve their individual fitness and weight-loss goals.

The key here is the word “individual,” because the fact is that no two bodies are alike. There’s no one-size-fits-all fitness or weight-loss program. Diet books, workout videos, and advice blogs might want us to believe otherwise, but the fact is that what works beautifully for one health club member might not result in any improvements for another; the HIIT routine that allows one person to become mean and lean in four weeks might not show results for another person until after six or eight weeks. This, incidentally, is the beauty of the gym. The gym is staffed by real, live humans: trainers, concierges, nutritionists, class instructors, and cardio equipment experts who can listen to members express their goals, worries, and limitations, and help them chart out the best possible course for themselves. The best, most successful businesses in our industry do just this: They listen and respond accordingly.

So, back to that magical equation: improving retention by helping members achieve their individual fitness and weight-loss goals. If you want members who keep coming back, you have to offer them human attention. Employ knowledgeable, caring staff who are trained to:

1) Ask your members what their goals are; these can be tiny or huge, about health or about weight, short-term or long-term. The important thing is that they have goals, and that your staff knows how to help them define those goals.

2) Construct a realistic plan of attack to help them meet their goals. This means finding out what they enjoy in a workout and what they can’t bear — if they aren’t enjoying it, they’re not going to do it. It also means determining what kind of commitment is sustainable for each member. If they can’t keep up with the schedule, they’re likely to quit.

(3) Offer them support and guidance throughout. You just can’t do this kind of thing without a community, without someone cheering you on.
(4) Revise the plan if it’s not working. Help your members check their progress and make adjustments as needed. Can they handle more reps? Should they be doing less? Is there any measurable improvement? What are they struggling with?

It is also crucial to have a gym management software that allows you to track this critical data. With an all-in-one software that allows trainers and staff to create client profile pages, scheduling for both trainers and clients, as well as client fitness assessments, you will be making your lives and the client experience so much better!

Again, the purpose of all this — in addition to helping your members — is to keep them coming back. With the kind of attention outlined here, and the kind of help that will lead them to a better understanding of the individual plan that’s best for them, they won’t be able to help themselves.

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Designing Senior Fitness Centers for All Seniors

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When my father went for his routine checkup with his doctor, he was sent straight to the hospital for a triple-bypass operation. Needless to say, my family started focusing hard on getting him to exercise. We found a weekly cardio class for him at the senior center in his small town, but it wasn’t enough. He felt uncomfortable and self-conscious in that setting — too exposed to the non-exercising seniors — and he didn’t like the routine of the one class that was offered. When the instructor began poking fun at him for being the only man there, he quit on the spot-and while my family all understood- we didn’t want him to quit exercising altogether.

So we sent him for a trial session at a local gym. He took one look at the young, pumped-up clientele and turned tail. It was intimidating and overwhelming for him to think of learning, or re-learning, how to exercise among such a crowd.

What did my father need?

What he really needed was a senior center that incorporated a fitness facility focused particularly on the needs of an older adult population. We found this harder to locate than we thought would be the case. There were many senior centers in the towns surrounding his, but few of them incorporated adequate exercise facilities. They either offered meager pieces of machinery that seemed older than the population they served, or classes that attempted to be one-size-fits-all for a community that was really quite diverse.

This, it turns out, is a common problem: As a recent article in Athletic Business magazine states, “One of the greatest misunderstandings about senior centers is that they serve one generation. In fact, as currently configured, senior centers target members of the so-called Silent Generation, Depression-era babies who are now between 69 and 89; the remaining members of the Greatest Generation, the youngest of whom are now 90; and increasingly, the Baby Boomers, who are now in the range of 50 to 68 years old.” None of the offerings at the places we checked out seemed to fully target my father’s generation.

Eventually, we found a gym that isn’t perfect for him, but is a good enough fit. It has a special “Senior Room,” where older adults in particular are invited to gather for classes — and one of those classes is particularly for men in their seventies who were recovering from heart surgery. That kind of specificity is rare and welcoming. A corner of the room, overseen by trainers who specialize in older adult fitness, is equipped with free weights and cardio machines that allow my father to undertake the independent, free-weight sessions he likes best, but without the pressure of younger adults killing it on their reps all around him. He still wishes he had access to a center that would cater solely to the needs of older adults like him, but he’s making it work. Maybe eventually we’ll find a place for him like The Summit, located in Grand Prairie, Texas.

The Summit was “specifically designed for active adults ages 50 or older.” It operates on the principle that senior centers should serve all seniors, whether they’re in their 50s or their 90s. It strives to incorporate spaces for socializing, but to keep those spaces separate from the workout areas. For now, we’ll settle for the fitness centers that consciously create spaces for seniors.

Maybe it’s time to consider how your own facility might better serve an older adult population. How can you create a space just for them? How can you cater to the varying needs of the many different generations who make up “older adults”? How can you design a program that benefits both that sizable population and your own facility? Do you currently have a health club management software that utilizes senior discount programs like Silver Sneakers? My father will thank you if you figure out good answers to such questions.

Retaining Members a Month at a Time

Retaining Members a Month at a Time

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Let’s say you’ve got a prospective member who has shown a lot of interest in your facility. You’ve given her a tour, offered her a free day pass to try the place out, and even had the highest-performing member of your sales team sit down with her for a full twenty minutes, chatting like an old friend and answering a slew of questions. Yet, when it comes time for the prospective to sign on the dotted line, she balks—she just doesn’t feel like she can commit to a year-long membership.
Does this sound like a familiar scenario? With members’ increasingly hectic work lives and a tight economy, it’s happening more and more at gyms, health clubs, and fitness centers around the country. Something else is also happening more and more to directly counteract the phenomenon: Clubs are starting to offer month-to-month membership with greater frequency than ever before.
How, you might ask, could a club stay operational with month-to-month memberships? The better question might be: How could a club stay operational without them? As Geoff Dyer, Founder of AussieFIT in Columbus, Ohio, puts it, “Some 25 percent of all members become inactive within six months of joining a club, and that figure doubles, rising to 50 percent, after one year. Unfortunately, one of the black eyes our industry has earned is its reputation for locking inactive members into long-term retail installment contracts.”
Dyer recently discussed month-to-month memberships on IHRSA’s blog. These options are better, Dyer argues, because they allow the industry to focus as much on member retention as it does on new member acquisition. “If our clients can leave at any time,” he says, “simply by providing written notice, then we’ll likely be much more attentive to their level of satisfaction with our service, programs, and facility upkeep.” That is, allowing for month-to-month memberships will force health clubs and similar facilities to improve the services they provide—the incentive for keeping members happy will increase, and therefore the efforts to do so will increase. As a result, more customers will join. In the end, Dyer says, even if members leave the facility at a faster pace, the outcome can still be a net gain.
Jarod Cogswell, Founder of Enterprise Athlete and President of Fit Academy, Inc., agrees. “The challenge for you,” he says, “is to prove your club’s value on a month-to-month basis, which promotes and produces a higher level of services. It motivates your staff to focus on service, cleanliness, and member retention because every visit counts, and there may not be a second chance.” Cogswell acknowledges, this reality places a lot of pressure on the sales process, because if clients can leave at any time there’s a greater chance you’ll lose them. “You therefore need to be selling at the same or higher rate than the rate of your membership losses,” he says.
Nevertheless, Cogswell believes the month-to-month option can reap rewards for a club. “When people understand that they can leave whenever they like,” he explains, joining your club becomes a comfortable decision—both psychologically and financially—that will tend to drive the volume you need to be profitable.”
Another critical factor to consider is what kind of fitness membership software you are currently using to track membership data. The right club management software will supply you with the ability to access robust reporting as well as the ability to set up auto-billing or auto-pay for membership payments.
So maybe it’s time to consider how you could implement month-to-month memberships at your own facility. The key to success with month-to-month is providing your members with the incentive to return, and instituting such a plan could force you to revisit some of your systems and processes. This presents short-term challenges, but the long-term benefits could greatly offset those challenges.

Creating Classes for the Cool Kids

Creating Classes for the Cool Kids

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When you think of exercise classes for the 8- to 13-year-old set, you probably think “ballet” and “karate.” You probably leave instruction in those fields to the kinds of niche studios that have been catering to children’s physical activities for decades. But things are changing in the world of kids’ calisthenics. Classes are no longer limited to the traditional ballet and karate. Now, kids are engaging in workouts that have fueled adult fitness for a while; such as cycling, Zumba, and CrossFit. Those workouts are happening not at kids’ boutiques, but in health clubs, gyms, and fitness outlets that are used to serve an adult population almost exclusively. The New York Times recently published an article about the phenomenon (and you know something is becoming a trend if the New York Times is reporting on it). The article features several gyms of various sizes and orientations that have launched classes created for adults, which were then subsequently adapted to meet the needs of smaller, more energetic types. Exceed Physical Culture, in New York City, is one of them.

Since 2012, the gym has offered adult classes involving jump ropes, monkey bars, and kettlebells. Soon after opening, owner Catherine Rocco discovered that parents seeking after-school activities for their kids were bringing them in and expecting to sign up. Rocco and her co-owner responded to that demand by creating a class for ages 8 to 13. Very soon after, they found themselves offering five classes per week for children only, and another for families on the weekends. AKT in Motion is the second company that offers classes just for kids. Based in New York, the dance cardio studio launched a regular eight-week session for children this past spring. Capitalizing partly on shrinking physical education time at school and on those late-afternoon hours when gyms and similar venues tend to get quiet, companies like these are finding kids eager for physical outlets that are not necessarily team or competition focused.

They’re finding parents eager for activities that keep their children happy, busy, and physically fit. That last point is key: In an era when obesity among children and teens is at an all-time high, parents want to get kids hooked on exercise early. According to the Times article, many parents take that a step further by enrolling their kids in classes at a gym. Parents are trying to convey a sense that getting a membership at a place where you can work out regularly is simply a normal part of life.

This is good news for gyms, health clubs, fitness centers, and other alike. Children’s classes pull in no less revenue than adults’ classes! In fact, they create a whole new revenue stream because they engage a separate segment of the population. Also, they offer venues the chance to create loyalty among a clientele that might develop those early gym-going habits their parents are hoping for and then stick around for a long time. The upshot? If you haven’t yet opened your doors to young ones, it’s time to sit down and start strategizing about how you’re going to do so. Start small, like the way Exceed Physical Culture did: Launch just one class, but have a plan for expanding. Because chances are, you’ll need to do so pretty quickly.

Supporting Your Female Clients

Supporting Your Female Clients

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You’ve probably heard the saying before: “Women hold up half the sky.” But, in fact, they may hold up most of your fitness facility. Research suggests that women drive 70 to 80 percent of consumer spending worldwide. Moreover, women, much more than men, engage in word-of-mouth publicity—they talk about their experiences with businesses, products, and service-providers, and, in their social circles. They hold a great deal of influence over the way others choose to spend money. Given that women also purchase fitness-related products and services more often than men do, what does all this mean for your health club?
It means it’s time to design ad campaigns better geared toward them. Here are a few tips for doing so.
First, put away the pink paint, lacy towels, and flower arrangements. The way to show women that other women are comfortable using your gym is not to advertise their presence through pretty embellishments but to highlight the fact of their presence. Using posters, brochures, and social media postings that show women looking serious about their workouts and happy to be in your facility will suggest that you cater to their needs. Supporting breast cancer awareness and making sure members and potential members know you do shows that women’s issues are important to you. Offering—and heavily advertising—childcare programs demonstrates that your club understands the logistics many women must juggle.
Loading your marketing materials with images of women is not enough, however. You must also create real programming for women. Do you offer women-only high-intensity interval training classes, extra women-only swim times, or self-defense classes for women? Do you offer co-ed basketball leagues or squash tournaments? Make your programming for women solid, and then talk it up as much as possible. Highlight your offerings on social media. Send emails. Offer prospective clients chances to take part for free, and invite current members to bring a friend at no charge.
On that note, make sure you’re advertising in establishments and publications that cater to women. Is there a clothing boutique or nail salon near the gym? Ask if you can hang flyers announcing a new women-only cycling class. Partner with local businesswomen’s associations and request that they include mention of your facility in their next newsletter. If you have branches nationally, consider buying ad space in magazines like Self, Women’s World, and Women’s Health.
Finally, engage the advice of the experts. Ask the women in your club what kinds of services do they want, then do your best to provide those services, and let everyone know that you’re doing so. Don’t forget to go to the official experts, too. Some marketing consultants focus exclusively on strategies for marketing to women; they can point out weaknesses in your existing campaign and show you how to polish it up for the demographic. Plenty of books and articles on the subject exist too. I’m not suggesting, by the way, that you forget all about the men—but chances are that if the women are happy, the men will be too.