Matching Clients with Trainers

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Recently, the fitness concierge at my gym sent me an email to remind me that I still had one free orientation session to use. When I joined last year, I was given two. I used the first one right away but forgot about the second, and I appreciated the reminder, not only because I didn’t want to let such a gift go to waste, but also, embarrassingly, because it had been a while since I’d made it to the gym. I needed that refresher course.

The trainer assigned to my case was a sweet, older man who looked like he might be on the verge of retirement (or perhaps even past the typical age). He clearly knew his business, and yet I wondered whether I might not be better off with a trainer who “matched” me more than that one did. Would a woman, and one closer to me in age (let’s just say I’ll soon turn 39 — again) know more instinctively what kinds of exercises I’m most in need of? Would someone who is also the mother of a young child have a sense of the constraints I face and help me figure out a work-out plan accordingly? Would someone a little, er, rounder in the thighs (and elsewhere) have more specific experience that could push me to reach my goals more quickly?

Maybe not. But it got me thinking about how we choose trainers when a member or client calls and wants a consultation. At my gym, the process is random — you get whoever’s available during a given timeslot. A better way to do it might be to ask some questions before pairing a customer with a trainer: age, gender, height, weight, body type, health issues, goals, special concerns or considerations. I did fill out a questionnaire that elicited this sort of information — but only after I’d arrived at the gym for my session.

I liked my trainer, but I have to admit that when he gave me the hard sell at the end, trying to convince me that I should sign up for a three-session training package with him, I declined. Maybe if I’d filled out that questionnaire beforehand and been assigned to a trainer who was a better match for me, I would have shelled out the money. Honestly, I could really benefit from those sessions — just not, I think, with that sweet, older man. If you are interested in learning more about effective examples of personal trainer software, we recommend signing up for a free demonstration.

Workers Need You

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Yesterday was International Workers’ Day, a holiday created to commemorate Chicago’s Haymarket Affair of 1886 and the events leading up to it. The long and short of it is this: in 1867, the federal government passed a law guaranteeing federal employees an eight-hour work day; all Illinois workers were covered by a similar law. But the government failed to enforce its own law, and workers in Illinois were forced to sign waivers of the law as a condition of employment. So, on May 1, 1886, labor leaders organized a protest to demand adherence to the eight-hour rule. It ended badly, a few days later, with riots, police killing protestors, and someone throwing a bomb into the crowd.

What does all this have to do with anything? Well, it seemed like a good day to talk about a recent study that found out what today’s employees desire most: onsite fitness facilities. In a way, this could speak to the failure of the demand for eight-hour days so long ago; although eight hours is still the law, millions of salaried workers work ten- or twelve-hour days, or even longer, and just a few months ago Eric Cantor, the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, called for ending overtime pay for hourly workers. Clearly, employees need a way to shake off the stress of their long days.

But more than that, it speaks to our present-day understanding of how crucial fitness is to health, and the link between fitness and productivity. According to the results of a survey, titled Principal Financial Well-Being Index: American Workers, twenty-five percent of workers who did not have an onsite fitness facility in 2012 wanted one, up from 19 percent in 2011. (The second most desired benefit was fitness center discounts; twenty-three percent of workers who did not have an onsite fitness facility in 2012 wanted those).

Now, only 12 percent of workers who participated in the survey said their company offers an onsite fitness center. What does this mean? There’s a demand for your services, and so far the demand is going unmet. Have you visited local companies to talk to Human Resources folk about how you might be able to help keep their employees happy, either by bringing your business into their building or offering discounts and opportunities in your facility? If not, it’s time to think about doing so. And then go ahead and knock off of work early today—you’ve probably been there for too long already anyway.

Health Clubs and Property Taxes

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There’s been a lot of talk recently about Rodney Steven II, owner of Genesis Health Clubs in Wichita, Kansas. Steven has been fighting local YMCAs that receive tax-exempt status, arguing that the Ys have an unfair advantage over for-profit health clubs that pay property taxes.

Last month, by a 25-14 vote, a bill passed in the Kansas Senate that would exempt for-profit health clubs from paying property taxes. The exemption reportedly applies to health clubs that focus on cardio and strength equipment but not specialty clubs, such as golf courses, spas, and tennis facilities. The bill is now in a House-Senate conference committee, and will presumably be taken up again when the Kansas Legislature resumes its current session on May 8th, after a break.

What people have been debating is, first of all, whether the votes in favor are legit. Some critics have accused Steven of having bought the vote, as his company donated at least $45,000 to Kansas Senate Republicans during their campaigns over the past two years. Twenty of the 24 senators who received contributions from his company voted for the bill, according to reports. (Steven, refuting any connection between his donations and the votes, has pointed out that he’s been politically active for years, that no bill had been written when the donations were made, and that some senators who voted for the bill did not receive any contributions.)

Critics also have argued that the bill would have an impact on local school and municipal budgets that collect property tax money, and that private golf clubs, child-care centers, waste collection companies, and generally any private entity that competes with municipal services might find themselves freed of the obligation to pay property taxes if the bill passes.

But, as Steven told the online fitness business news source Club Industry, “Even municipal golf courses in Kansas are required to collect and pay some taxes. Not every non-profit in Kansas is tax-exempt. Only non-profit and municipal health clubs are 100 percent exempt from collecting and/or paying any taxes. This unique exemption was granted to non-profit health clubs in 1998 by the Kansas Legislature.” And, Steven says, “The Legislature needs to fix their creation of this inequity.”

What do you think? Is the 1998 law unfair? Should for-profit health clubs be required to pay property taxes if nonprofit and municipal clubs are not? Instead, should YMCAs, as one senator suggested, be required to pay property taxes? If the bill passes, will the door be opened for other organizations that compete with municipal services to claim exemption? And might schools and other municipal services be negatively impacted if they are?

What are your own experiences with property taxes?

fitness incentives

Home Sweet Gym

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I have a confession to make. Sometimes, when I’m too lazy to head to the gym but I know I need to exercise, I pull out my mat, look online for a good workout podcast or video, and start trying to get my heart rate up in my living room. I know that, without proper equipment (all right, without any equipment), without an instructor or personal trainer, and without fellow sweaty bodies, I’m not getting quite the level of exercise I need. But often convenience trumps quality.I’m not alone in this. A friend of mine keeps a stationary bike in her office; another one has an entire weight room in his basement. The fact is that sometimes fitness centers are competing for customers not only with other fitness centers, but also with those customers’ personal spaces. What can be done to pull people — yes, people like me — away from the yoga blocks in their closet or the medicine balls in their bedroom and into the gym

Of course, a health club will never be able to offer the convenience of a living room. But the benefits any exercise facility can offer far outweigh what can be found in the average living room. The key, then, is to focus on those benefits — in business-speak, the core competencies. What can a gym do better than a lone exerciser in her office?

Whatever it is, focus on doing it absolutely as best as you can. Trust that just being better at those things will draw at least some people who might otherwise never get out the door.That said, maybe there is a way for a gym to compete with the convenience of home: offer discounts to people who live locally — within a few blocks or a mile or two of the facility, say. Whatever your location, you’re convenient for at least some people. Make it your business to make sure those people know it.In addition, as with most things, incentives help. My gym offers a good one: Work out 180 days between one birthday and the next, and you get a month’s free membership. The thought of that sometimes entices me from my living room. There are hundreds of possible variations on this: come in a certain number of times and we’ll send ten dollars to your favorite charity, give you a free drink from the cafe, invite you to bring a friend for a free workout, put your name up on a poster announcing the current month’s most dedicated gym-goers, etc.

It’s hard to get us homebodies out of our personal spaces, it’s true, but it’s not impossible. Make it worth our while.


Activate Perkville on EZFacility and Gamify Exercise this Year

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For this blog post we’ve asked Sophia Wong, Marketing Manager for Perkville, to share some insights on how to best use Perkville for your business!

To survive in the competitive health and fitness industry, club operators must focus on what differentiates their club from their peers.  Did you know that an EZFacility user can customize a rewards program by activating Perkville?

Perkville provides health and fitness businesses with a competitive advantage — giving businesses a platform to drive lifestyle changes by providing gamification tools to boost retention, referrals, and social media.
Gyms and studios have the ability to log into Perkville and customize their reward program to reward class attendance, personal training sessions, and more.  The reward program can be updated at any time to accommodate new behaviors, classes or services that the staff determine they would like to incentivize.  Staff can easily modify the list of point-generating activities in just a few clicks.

Redeemable rewards are viewed as tangible tokens of achievement in the fitness game.  While nothing can substitute for a great workout, redeemable rewards are motivational factors and help retain clients.  For many clients, rewards provide a goal they can strive to achieve.   Based on our discussions with gyms using Perkville, we recommend a 40 to 1 ratio where 40 works outs or activities equate to a retail, service, or discount reward.
“Perkville has created a buzz in our gym as well as on social media and has helped us perform better in comparison to last year.  Our annual memberships grew by 6.6% this past September (2012) compared to 3.0% in September 2011.  We saw an improved trend in October as well, and November is looking good too.  I get really excited by annual membership growth,” said Anne Co-Owner of Royal Fitness Gym.

For more details here is the link to Perkville’s Gamification White Paper.