4 Ways You Can Turn Your Facility Into A Summer Oasis

4 Ways You Can Turn Your Facility Into A Summer Oasis

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You’ve been there, walking in a world that’s basically the inside of an oven. And when the world is an oven, just about every place that’s cool is a refreshing break from the heat. With that in mind, turning your facility into a place to escape the heat can bring in a bit of summer profit.

So…how? Remember the second step in our Blog 5 Ways To Overcome Gym Membership Retention Challenges? That’s right, incentives and rewards. The simple act of giving a small gift can do member retention wonders and we’re going to revisit that idea but this time, under the lens of a summer season perspective.

Advertise your water

Water. Water. Water. It’s important more than ever to stay hydrated in the summer but still, we can often forget that. We go on trips without a beverage and we feel it just about everywhere in our body. When you’re craving water, you need it, now. If I was thirsty while walking in the summer heat, I’d run to the nearest water fountain or bottled water provider. In the season of scorching heat, a nice sign outside your center advertising water could very well drive some local joggers into your facility. Heck, you could do a free water period for members to encourage and reward your clients.

Summer Merch Sales

When summer is around, having an extra pair of everything is almost a necessity for anyone. There are two great experiments to try if you have merchandise to sell at your facility. The first is the opportunity for a sale on winter and fall items and the second is a tactic to increase audience engagement. The summer sale on winter merch is self-explanatory. Select which out of season products you wish to discount with the intent of retaining clients for the colder seasons now that they’ve bought workout clothes with your business on it as a reminder. There are endless approaches to a sale of course. You could even go a step further and attach discounted memberships for the fall/winter seasons if clients spend a select amount on your merchandise. Now the step to increasing audience engagement would be to make the summer sale accessible to members who sign up for a particular class or new members.

Free Giveaways Through Engagement

When it’s free, it’s got someone’s attention. Let’s say you have 100 t-shirts you’d like to get rid of. Put up a sign saying you’ll give them out for free to the first 100 people on a Monday. If they’re a member add a discount to upcoming classes along with the shirt. If they’re new, ask for their contact info in exchange for the free shirt . But let’s say only 50 people entered your facility on Monday so you still have 50 shirts left. Repeat your giveaway strategy to Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday but limit your supply of shirts to 10 each day. It is now Friday and you have 20 shirts left so you decide to raffle 10 to the your members and 10 to new members who previously gave their contact info. By the end of the week, you have no more t-shirts and a handful of leads to reach out to during the colder seasons.

Introduce an R&R Space

When your work out you’re not just thirsty. You’re hungry and tired and not every facility is going to have a café running inside it or a place to lounge for a few minutes. (If your facility does happen to have a café inside, share on social media #EZDoesIt and we’ll share it on our Twitter and Facebook pages!) However, the presence of a separate station for food and drink can boost the interest level among clients. If there’s no room in your facility to make a rest stop, advertise your facility as a delivery friendly location. (Sounds like the perfect time to team up with some of your local eateries near your facility!) Build a connection going and turn your spot into a place people go to workout and relax. When summer arrives, it can be quick—so there’s no time to lose! Be the first fit summer oasis spot in your town! Be the first fit summer oasis spot in your town! Check out more information about our sports facility management software.

HubSpot’s Marketing Event

3 Vital Lessons We Learned From Attending HubSpot’s Marketing Event

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Nothing beats a good stretch of fresh perspective. Our blog team took a trip for some fresh perspective on the marketing industry and we’re happy to share what we learned with all of you. Take a dive into the marketing world today, join us in our recapand let’s get a new perspective on social media together!

Build Your Client Profiles With Social Media

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Facebook is still the most popular social media platform and per its own quarterly report, an average of 50 minutes or more a day is spent on their site per person. So if the average person reads around 200 words in a minute, then an estimate of 10,000 words are read in that 50 minutes a day from Facebook users. That’s more than two chapters of the first Harry Potter or Game of Thrones book!
So, what does this mean? One takeaway is the importance of personalization. If people are taking around an hour a day at minimum to engage in content relevant to their personal lives, then the messages they will want to continue reading should ideally be in line with their established preferences. These preferences can of course always be recorded in a Client Profile for future occasions such as birthdays or client anniversaries, etc.
How can a business tailor their content for personalization? I would say a variety of options never fails to accomplish a personalized experience. For example, if you develop a poll post on social media you can utilize the comments section for that post as an “other” option answer. Not only does this prompt engagement among clients—it also gives them an opportunity to type their message directly to you in their own words rather than selecting an answer.
I also reached out to my boss for her thoughts too!

The average amount of time that people spend per day on Facebook alone is incredibly eye opening to the opportunity it creates to engage with not only clients but attract potential clients as well. The stats learned while participating in Hubspot’s marketing event, further drove home the importance and value of crafting the right message for your audience. One tip I would give anyone looking to utilize this platform for their business would be too often check the built-in analytics to gauge how your content is performing. From there you can easily make informed decisions to tailor your message accordingly.

Great advice! Another insight from social media we learned comes from an out-of-the-box perspective. Because Facebook is so popular, what is the preference for platform access? Do clients prefer a computer, laptop or going mobile? These preferences can very well determine the presentation of your content. For example, video news content on mobile devices is commonly featured with large captions and an option for no audio. For the mobile user who may be quite literally on the go, the video then connects to them in the same way that it would for a user who is stationary. With the captions, there is no need for raising the volume or finding a quieter environment to concentrate because the content is tailored to their situation and therefore instantly digestible.

Communication Makes the Experience

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In December, we mentioned the value of overlooked communications that, while may feel technically dated, can still carry an impact. Examples of these communications include ‘Thank you’ notes and—it may seem a bit contrary to recommend handwritten communication, however, to assume all our clients who use social media and technology don’t enjoy a letter can be a mistake. Not to mention we’re honoring grandpa and grandma each time we sit down and handwrite a letter. Remember that you can always double check your clients profile page under the Customer Relationship Management feature for their contact info as well as any information you have recorded for them. We also encourage watching our online webinar: How to Become A Data-Driven Powerhouse, to ensure the best is being made of your EZFacility account.
You can also start an experience with members by communicating a follow-up. Follow up conversations have become somewhat prominent due to how fast communication has become so email is where to start. Our Email Marketing Tools has hundreds of templates to choose from. If you need a quick brush up on how to make use of email templates, please check our support guide here.
And if you are interested in keeping in touch more than often, the EZFacility Branded App could be your best step of all! A branded app permits clients the ability to have access to your business within their smartphone. With the help of our design team, we will help you visualize the brand identity of your business into an easily accessible app from the symbol to the layout colors. Bigger buttons? You got it! No social media or carousel images? Done and Done! We’re happy to help you sculpt the app to your liking.
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Self-Service is awesome

Ah, self-service. It can be seen from car rentals, hotel check-ins, gas stations, grocery stores… The list goes on and it won’t stop anytime soon due to the popularity it serves for a pleasant consumer experience. As the saying goes, convenience is king, and with the time saved throughout our day-to-day lives it would benefit more to add Member Self-Service to your time-saving helpers tools. Member Self-Service grants client access that puts them first. They can book sessions, lessons, update their contact info, pay bills, view schedules and cancel appointments online. In addition, you have the power to define requirements for bookings and package classes as well as set restrictions for members with unremitting balances. You may even open self-service to the public—enabling a bigger market audience towards your business. It wouldn’t be self-serve if it didn’t serve both your client and yourself! We welcome you to take a tour of our newly improved feature in our support center.

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5 Gym Membership Retention Strategies & Ideas

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If you are a human living on planet Earth, chances are you pay a LOT of monthly bills. You have your car payments, your cable bills, cell phone bills, mortgage or monthly rent and, let’s be honest, who doesn’t have Netflix these days? With all of these obligatory payments each month, chances are you are going to be extremely picky about how you spend your precious leftover income. A recent study found in the fitness industry that most people who cancel their gym membership –for reasons other than relocation or medical issues—do so because they aren’t utilizing their membership to its full potential and are sick of watching their monthly dues sucked from hard-earned paychecks.

With the rise of boutique clubs offering loyaly programs and services at lower prices, gym owners are now put on the spot to create rewarding experiences and perceived value for members. The cost to save a member is much less than the cost of acquiring a new member, so there is a tremendous benefit in having a set of efforts, activities, and resources allocated to trying to prolong the experience with the existing member. Now, more than ever before, gym owners need to focus on making clients feel motivated and confident in their gym membership investment.

So, how can fitness facilities compete with lower-priced alternatives and meet member retention challenges head on? Here are 5 key gym membership retention strategies to increase loyalty and customer satisfaction:

1. Exceptional Onboarding Process and the Right Staff.

Start off on the right foot and straight off the bat. You don’t want members to feel lost, intimidated or overwhelmed when they first sign. Make it a policy to place a personal phone call to a client two days after they join or send them a handwritten postcard. Let them know that your club is full of friendly people that are easy to connect and relate to! When it comes to hiring your coaches or personal trainers, focus on quality over quantity. A critical component of exceptional customer experiences is matching a client with the right trainer and allowing for smooth connections with other members. Hire people who are great listeners and fully committed to keeping in line with your club’s image and goals. Trainers should easily be able to identify client needs and interests. For example, if a client is into group classes, trainers should know to pair them up with other attendees and create a mini “fit fam” they can turn to for support and help to reach their goals. It’s also important to avoid “friction points” during the onboarding process and the first few weeks. For example, avoid frustrating situations such as forgetting to give them their membership cards or neglecting to teach them how to book a class or use equipment properly. You must give them the tools to succeed in order to build customer loyalty to increase retention.

2. Incentives/Rewards:

Who doesn’t like presents? Offer rewards and incentives to keep clients coming back. This is extremely critical for the first few weeks and months. Offer a $25 reward for attending a trainer’s program or for getting their picture taken. Offer a free class to clients who attend classes twice a week for 60 days, or 3 free PT sessions once they reach 3 months. Maybe after one month, you give them one month free (who doesn’t like free!) or a special discount at your smoothie station—the possibilities are endless. The point is, you need to keep your clients interested and perceive the value of returning to your club.

3. The 21-Day Rule and Effective Software for Tracking Activity

One of the most frustrating issues clubs face is figuring out WHY a client leaves. Most of the time, it could have been anything. Did they dislike one of your instructors? Was the music too loud? Did they face gymtimidation? WHAT WAS IT? The challenge is your lack of information. Aside from asking how a client is doing every time they sign-in at the front desk, how can you track client activity and identify “fragile” members before they leave?

The solution here is an all-in-one management software. Most gym software out there has more sophisticated tracking tools that will allow you to identify information such as who hasn’t been visiting your gym as often. Once you have this precious information, you can start putting together a strategy to interact and re-engage them. You can also use sophisticated tracking tools to easily see which classes have the highest attendance and focus your marketing efforts on promoting them even more.

Using these tools, you can then implement the 21-day rule. The rule is simple: if a member has not visited your facility after a full 21 days, your club reaches out to re-engage them. Be sure to establish a membership retention team to reach out 21 –days, 60 days or even once per quarter. Methods of re-engagement can range from sending an encouraging email to personally checking up on the client the next time they attend a class. Your goal is to reignite their motivation to be a part of your club’s culture and “family”.

4. Cutting Edge Fitness Center Classes

Last but not least, offer fitness classes and programs catered directly to your gym member’s interests. Keep on top of trends! Want to compete with that boutique Crossfit gym down the road? Offer Crossfit classes and, while you’re at it, create a Groupon to encourage clients to bring a friend! Do your research to make sure you remain on the cutting edge.

These are just some tried and true tactics to combat retention issues; but in reality, the possibilities are endless. Start with these 5 key tips and use what works best for YOUR facility. Need help making your fitness center or gym more efficient? Check out our gym management software.

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A Simple Guide For Calculating Retention- It's Easier Than You Think!

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The last thing we want to do while on the job is crunch numbers. However, the fact of the matter is, for a business to succeed—especially in the fitness industry—calculating your retention rate is vital, and this means we need to do a little math.

Calculating retention rates can be VERY confusing, but we’re here to break it down to some more manageable formulas. The key thing to take away from all this is, regardless of the equations you use, keeping members satisfied is a sure way to keep your retention rate high.

What Is Retention and Why Should I Care?

In laymen’s terms, retention is the percentage of the members that stayed in the past year or 12 months. It costs a LOT more to attain a new client than it does to keep loyal members, so it’s pretty safe to say that membership-based facilities should focus energy and resources on retaining members to be successful. Although reaching sales quotas and getting new faces in the door are important parts of the business, if you are not keeping those members, you’re working harder for the smallest profits.

How Do I Calculate My Retention Rate?

One of the biggest mistakes club owners make is they just total cancellations in a year and divide this by the membership total at the end of the year. Don’t make this mistake. Instead use any of the methods listed below.

By far the easiest way to track retention is by using the following steps:

1. Start with a 12-month chart and record the beginning monthly membership for each month.

Use the equation:

Previous month’s beginning membership + number of sales in previous month + number of reinstated (unfrozen) memberships.

PMBM + SPM + RM

2. Subtract the number of canceled memberships and the number of frozen memberships.

3. Total the canceled membership for the last 12 consecutive months.

4. Total the beginning monthly membership for the last 12 months and divide by 12 which indicate the average beginning monthly membership.

5. Total the number of canceled membership for the last 12 consecutive months. Divide this number by the number of average beginning monthly memberships in the previous step. This answer is your annual attrition.

For annual retention, take the number from step one and subtract attrition. The process is pretty easy, but make sure you are meticulous in your calculations.

Another popular formula for calculating retention rates:

Member retention rate = ((ME-MN)/MS)) X 100

ME = number of members at end of period

MN = number of new members acquired during period

MS = number of members at start of period

I know you’re probably starting to get painful flashbacks of high school math class, but don’t be intimidated. These formulas are actually pretty simple to use. Think about it:

If you start with 100 members in your club’s first month, and factor in the 15 members who canceled their contracts and 20 new members, then you are left with 105 members at the end of the month. Using the numbers above, your equation should look like this:

((105-20)/100)) X 100 = 85 percent of your members are still active.

Both formulas work for large clubs and small boutique facilities. Tracking retention rate is the foundation of growing a business. Whichever method you choose, make sure to take a serious approach to keeping members loyal and reducing your attrition.

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Understanding What Makes Your Members Tick

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Recently, my son and I were in an old-curiosity-shop kind of store on a quaint little Main Street. It was the kind of place seemingly designed to ignite the imagination of a nine-year-old boy, full of tomahawks and fishing equipment, moccasins and hiking boots, old-fashioned toys, unidentifiable objects, kitschy souvenirs, wind chimes. We’d spent nearly an hour poking around in there, and I was on parenting auto-pilot: “Mom, can I have this?” “No.” “Why not?” “Because.” “Mom, can I have this?” “No.” “Why not?” “Because.” Finally, my son stomped his foot and shouted in frustration, “Don’t just say because!”

What struck me was his reason for getting frustrated: It wasn’t so much that I was saying no to most of the junk/treasures that he wanted to purchase, it was that I wouldn’t give him reasons for my refusal. When I looked him in the eye and explained how I felt — the real feelings behind my “no” — he relaxed. We left the store with just a tomahawk (don’t worry, it’s wooden) and a better understanding between us.

All of this was still on my mind when I was reading IHRSA’s blog the other day, and I stumbled on an article about the best ways to understand a prospective’s motivations for seeking a health club membership. The fact is, when we understand another person’s reasons — when we have more from them than just a “because” — we’re able to make things happen. My son could calm down and accept my refusal to buy him all the things he wanted when he understood why I was refusing. You can make sales to prospectives more effectively and up your member retention when you understand why your clients are seeking — (or renewing, or considering giving up) — membership. As Casey Conrad Tamsett, President of Communication Consultants in Wakefield, Rhode Island, puts it on the IHRSA blog, “If you don’t know why a guest happens to be standing in front of you, or what a member wants from your club, how can you possibly meet their needs?”

The question is, how do you go about discovering your prospectives’ and members’ true motivations? Justin Tamsett, Managing Director of Active Management in Sydney, Australia, advises, “In your first face-to-face conversation, when asking about them and their life, you need to show an authentic — not a feigned — interest.” In other words, you have to earn a client’s trust before being allowed to understand his or her true motivation. Earning that trust is a process, Tamsett says, one that begins with your staff’s commitment to making the moment of initial contact a special experience. “You need to convey the fact that you genuinely care about them,” he says. And that caring has to carry through, with every employee in the club working hard to regard the visitor as a guest.

Keep in mind, though, as Conrad warns, that most people purchase gym memberships not for logical reasons but for emotional ones. “Their ‘trigger,’ the factor that brought them to your door, usually is related to some significant personal experience,” she says. But that experience is hidden under layers. Conducting a needs analysis, in which you peel back the layers with careful questions, gives prospective clients a chance to open up. You have to spend the time listening until you get to the feeling that prompted action — just like my son had to spend the time listening to my underlying feelings in order to understand my reasons for saying no. Of course, it’s a give-and-take: I had to be willing to reveal my underlying feelings to my son before he could listen to them. But if you create the right environment in your facility, one in which the client is respected as more than just a commission score, one in which employees work hard to gain clients’ trust and form true relationships with them, the willingness to open up will come naturally. And the opening up will lead to more successful business operations.

personal trainers

Finding Time to Combat Epic Gym Fails

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Most gym enthusiasts will, at some point, observe an ‘Epic Gym Fail’ whilst working out. With smart phones in hand, there is plenty of supporting evidence that more and more people are being captured executing what can only be described as ‘Gnarly maneuvers’. These videos range from misfortunate to downright stupid. To add insult to injury (which is very likely) these videos end up online for all to see.

Putting aside the ethical debate of posting these videos in the first place, it’s clear from reading viewers’ comments that some people find these clips comedic gold. On the flip side, there are others that suggest the people capturing these videos would be better off giving advice rather than jeering at these poor souls’ lack of education and safety training.

Other than the humiliation and obvious risk of serious injury to the gym member, you have to ask what it’s saying about the facility these events take place in. Imagine signing up as a new Gym member and then witnessing some crazy guy doing a Tarzan impression with a weight machine on your social media feed? I know I’d certainly question whether the staff are giving the right advice, let alone, if I’d made the right choice in signing up for this gym.

Having witnessed several gym fails for myself, I’ve often wondered why there are no staff members monitoring the floor at all times. Surely if more staff were around they would step in to educate, combat and eradicate these events from occurring in the first place.

So how does one go about finding time when resources and budgets are already stretched thin? Make no mistake; it’s not easy juggling schedules, payments, memberships, attrition rates, marketing, disparate systems and other managerial duties involved in running a Gym. It’s no wonder some Gym’s find it hard to balance a good mix of monitoring their members whilst adhering to all the other business processes required! I’m sure, if given the chance, all Gym owners would love to find more time to nurture the wellbeing and success of their clients’ goals by giving hands-on help at all times – sadly that’s not always an option.

So my point is this: How do Gym owners and their staff free more time to spend with customers, ensuring safety, good customer care and, most importantly, no Epic Gym Fails?.

There are two very simple answers: The more obvious one is to employ more staff, which we have already established isn’t always a viable option due to lack of funding. The second less obvious answer is to work out how to streamline, consolidate and automate some of your business processes to free up valuable time and resources. As with any business the first place you can always look to do this is by assessing the software you use to run your business.

Generally speaking, finding an all-in-one software solution is usually the way to go. Having a unified system to manage all aspects of your business will always significantly increase efficiencies/productivity, save time and, ultimately, money.

Luckily, here at EZFacility, we offer exactly that! If you want to benchmark your existing systems to see how much time we can save you, then sign up for a free demo/trial and assess for yourself what EZFacility can do for your business! Streamline, grow, nurture, inspire – it’s EZ

motivation

Keeping Members Motivated

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A musically talented friend of mine recently joined a band and was thrilled to have the opportunity to create new songs and practice regularly with other musicians. But after a while she found it difficult to keep going. “It’s hard,” she said, “when you have no goals and no ambition.” She meant that without a set date for an on-stage performance, the band’s enthusiasm and drive were flagging. My friend is prone to exaggeration — in reality the band has plenty of ambition, and they honed their goals enough that they played their first live gig a few weeks ago — but she was right to pinpoint goals and ambitions as the keys to motivation. Researchers in the field of exercise psychology have long understood that without these ingredients, an exercise program is a recipe for disaster. In a 2009 study, for example, Kylie Wilson and Darren Brookfield estimated that only 50 percent of new members in a gym remain after six months. Without specific goals, they concluded, it’s highly challenging for an exerciser to remain committed to any workout plan.

Of course, it’s in your best interest to help your members stay motivated. How can you get them coming to your facility more than once a week? How can you get them to keep coming after six months, and to return year after year? Here are a few tips for helping them define their goals, feed their ambition, and stay loyal to you and your brand for a long time.

1. Highlight the importance of tracking results. We all know that it’s easier to stay committed to a goal if we can see progress. This begins with establishing a baseline — make it a practice to offer new members a free consultation with a trainer. The trainer should help the member identify exactly where she stands at the start of her new exercise routine and teach her how to measure her progress. Beyond that initial meeting, encourage your members to track their workouts by documenting the machines they used, their weight levels, and the number of reps and cardio routines they’ve performed. Offer them logbooks and workout sheets for this purpose, and promote fitness tracking apps that allow exercisers to stay on top of their performance electronically. Take it a step further by creating your own app or website function that allows for fitness tracking.

2. Design and host collaborative events, and get members to join in. Offering positive challenges that rally your club as a whole allows members to feel truly connected to the community you’re providing. Seasonal hooks can be a great way to get started. For example, around Halloween, host a costume fun-run. During the build-up to major marathons, challenge members to run or walk one or more miles of the marathon until the full distance is completed. Have dance-a-thons on Valentine’s Day, and get a huge volleyball tournament going at the start of summer (you might even cart in loads of sand and set up an indoor beach for this one). Whatever the event, get your members working together. The more fun they have, and the more of a community feel there is, the more likely they’re going to stick to their goals — and keep coming back.

3. Encourage members to think about the kinds of goals they’re setting. Emphasize the idea of SMART goals: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. With goals clearly defined along these lines, members are well-poised for success. In order to set the right SMART goals for themselves, though, members have to understand what types of goals would work best for them: performance, process, or outcome. You can help them determine which goals they’re best suited for. Performance goals use an objective or measurable standard with a specific due date. Process goals focus more on method — how will an ultimate goal be achieved? What are the steps along the way? Outcome goals measure achievement in comparison to other people. For many individuals, identifying some combination of these three types of goals works well; a performance goal might be best relied on at the start of a membership, while process and outcome goals might be more effective later on.

On the whole, seek opportunities to connect with your members, the new ones and the existing ones, to elicit their feedback and create a caring, responsive, dynamic community. If your members know that you’re there to help them, if they feel you supporting their goals and cheering on their successes, they’re much more likely to stick around. In that sense, helping members stay motivated is helping your own bottom line.

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Attract New Members with More Creative Classes

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I have a dear old friend who’s always been a bit on the chubby side. In high school, he preferred sci-fi films and Dungeons and Dragons to sports or, really, any form of exercise. You get the picture. I hadn’t seen him for years and years and then unexpectedly ran into him the other day — and what a shock. I didn’t recognize him at all. He’s in such great shape that he puts Rich Froning, Jr. to shame. Okay, well maybe not Rich Froning, Jr., but he’s muscular and trim now, fitter than he’s ever been in his life. “How did you do it?” I asked. “Star Wars,” he said. Huh?

Turns out he’s been taking fitness classes inspired by the great epic film series. Several times a week, he duels with a lightsaber in classes at a local gym that incorporate marching maneuvers (a la Stormtroopers), one-handed cartwheels (the other hand holding the lightsaber), and handstands of the sort Yoda makes Luke Skywalker do (not one-handed, though). He learned about the classes through a friend of his who knew how much he hated — but needed — exercise. “My friend thought I might be willing to try it because of the Star Wars theme,” he told me. “I have to admit, I was skeptical at first, but I knew I had to do something, and this sounded like the only exercise I’d ever heard of that I was even remotely interested in. Now, I want to go every single day. I never knew exercise could be so creative and fun.”

Why don’t more people know how creative and fun it can be, I started wondering. Maybe health clubs, fitness studios, and gyms need to work harder to incorporate creativity and fun. What better way to entice non-exercisers off the couch and onto the exercise floor than to give them a way to forget that they’re exercising? That, said my friend, is ultimately what did it for him. “I’d get out there and start getting into it, and before I knew it, I was fighting with a lightsaber — I wasn’t working out. Forgetting that I was in the gym and just letting myself go all out with role-playing made it possible.”

A number of health clubs around the country are starting to launch Star Wars classes, and they’re benefitting by pulling in new members from a population they weren’t able to reach before. A recent article in California’s Orange County Register mentions a gym in Dallas that “developed a workout that included the Stromtrooper march and Wookiee sandbag slams.” The article also describes Star Wars-themed summer camps and sports facilities that are helping to reduce the U.S.’s childhood obesity epidemic by getting otherwise inactive kids interested in lightsaber-fights and related workouts. Appealing to these new populations, those gyms, camps, and facilities are boosting their membership numbers and, by making workouts fun, probably increasing the likelihood of retaining the new members they sign up.

If cult film-inspired exercise doesn’t seem like the right thing for your facility, don’t worry: There are other ways you can kick up your creativity factor. The key, again, is to design workouts that help people forget they’re working out. One trend that’s been catching on lately is 305 Fitness, classes that feel more like a night out at a dance club than like a class: live DJs spin records, strobe lights and colored lasers flash, and instructors incorporate high-intensity dance moves. Another is planting in an exercise studio props that approximate the feel of an outdoor park and letting members race around parkour-style. There are also always good, old-fashioned dance classes. Take the time to consider the ways in which your facility might appeal to new audiences with fun, unique, and creative classes. If you do, your audience will find you. Or, as Yoda might put it, the force will be with you.

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Encouraging Exercise Partnerships

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Thomas Acquinas said, “Friendship is the source of the greatest pleasures, and without friends even the most agreeable pursuits become tedious.” The corollary, of course, is that with friends even the most disagreeable pursuits become less tedious. As far as exercising goes, whether one sees it as an agreeable pursuit or a disagreeable pursuit, one thing has been made adequately clear through both rigorous research and personal anecdote: Doing it with a friend makes it more effective.

Studies have shown, for example, that we lose weight better when we work out with a partner. At Miriam Hospital/Brown Medical School and the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, for example, researchers found that participants in a weight loss regimen that included exercise lost more weight when their support partners took part in the same program and were successful at dropping pounds. Others who participated alone, or whose workout partners did not lose weight, did not lose as much weight themselves.

It turns out that even just spending time with fitter friends helps. In the book Friendfluence, journalist Carlin Flora writes, “We seek out health and weight-loss advice, but the most effective plan might be to hang out with fit friends. Not only do they make it easier for us to eat better and work out by setting an example and dragging us along on active outings, but they also provide the human connection that fosters robust physiological characteristics, such as lower blood pressure and increased immunity.”

And, perhaps even more surprisingly, we don’t even need real-time interaction with friends to make exercise more effective; even just being part of an online group can help people achieve their workout goals better. For example, a Northwestern University study published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface found that people who actively engage in online weight-loss communities lose a higher percentage of their body weight compared with users who participate less. In the study, the most active participants, who recorded their weight and engaged with other members of an online forum that grants access to weight-loss tools, lost more than 8 percent of their body weight in a six-month period. The least active users, who had the fewest online friends and social interactions, lost only about 5 percent of their body weight in the same time span.

The question you should be asking yourself is clear: How can your facility capitalize on friendship? The more you can encourage your members and prospective members to come in and work out with friends, the more you’ll be leading folks to success in their exercise goals, and the better your retention numbers will be. It’s as simple as that. So, consider offering special “friendship deals” — classes half off for members and their friends, if they bring them. Or launch membership drives during which anyone who becomes a member by a certain date wins a month’s free membership for a friend? Or start a weekly “Friend Day” initiative: Members bring a friend to the gym for free on that day. Make sure that your club management software handles guest passes as well as robust reporting on membership data.  Also, consider whether you can build an online community for members to offer each other support. There are endless variations on these possibilities, and the potential benefits for your facility are huge — as are the potential benefits for your members and their friends.

Keeping Your Facility Germ-Free-- And Your Members Happy

Keeping Your Facility Germ-Free—and Your Members Happy

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In 2008, IHRSA published the Guide to Health Cleanliness, which highlighted the startling results of a survey: More than 90 percent of survey participants said they were more apt to renew their membership with a health club facility if the facility was clean. That might not be so surprising, but here’s the shocking part: Only slightly more than half said they would renew if the facility was not clean.

Keep in mind that this was six years ago, before the Ebola scare, before enterovirus D68, before super-strong strains of the flu were floating around. With these threats around us, and with media hype that frequently blows such threats out of proportion, it’s little wonder that health club and sports facility users are even more cautious than they used to be. Add to that the fact that we’re smack in the middle of cold season, and you’ve got potentially a lot of skittish members on your hands who want assurance that their health is protected when they’re using your facility.

What can you do to reassure them? First of all, make sure you’ve got a plan for keeping your place as clean as possible. Review your cleanliness policies and procedures. Are they up to date? Do they follow best practices? Are they generally in keeping with standards set by the Centers for Disease Controls (for example, wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or rub an alcohol-based sanitizer on hands for 15 seconds before and after workouts; shower after workouts; avoid walking barefoot across exercise floors and locker rooms)?

After you’ve polished up your policies, start thinking about your staff. Do they know the policies? Do they know what to do if they’re sick (best practices say they should stay home)? Do they know what tasks they should take responsibility for in order to help maintain the highest standard of cleanliness possible? Organize a mandatory staff meeting solely around these issues and make sure everyone is on board. Do frequent walkthroughs with a cleanliness checklist to make sure rules are being adhered to.

Finally, communicate directly and explicitly with your members about cleanliness in your facility. Send out an email explaining your concerns during the season, highlighting the steps your club is taking to stay as germ-free as possible, and asking members to remain aware of ways in which they can help contribute to a cleaner club environment. List specific tips, like the Centers for Disease Control standards shown above. A post on IHRSA’s blog describes an email Newtown Athletic Club recently sent to its members. Linda Mitchell, Newtown Athletic’s director of PR and Marketing, devised a letter with the subject line “Healthy Facilities Initiative.” She and her team carefully worded the letter, avoiding making any promises but being sure to explain procedures. They assured members that maintaining a clean facility is a top priority. Then they described new procedures being implemented and outlined member responsibilities. Mitchell told IHRSA that the email had an unheard-of 35 percent open rate—to her a clear indication that members were hungry for information about facility cleanliness.

Ultimately, you want to make your members feel secure, and you want them to know you welcome their questions and can answer them satisfactorily. Over and above that, you want to keep your facility as germ-free as possible — for your members’ sake, but also for your own and your staff’s. Provide a safe environment, clearly communicate the details about how you’ve done so, and keep everyone feeling strong and healthy all winter long.