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.

Enhance Your Facility with Aerobic Accessories

Enhance Your Facility with Aerobic Accessories

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Looking for an easy, inexpensive way to freshen up your club, engage members, and create a viable non-dues revenue stream? Look no further than aerobic accessories. Club Business International magazine recently ran a great little piece about the advantages of relying on accessories to boost many aspects of your club’s offerings. It even described one Toronto-based club, Fitness Nation, which relies entirely on aerobic accessories as their training model, without offering a single cardio or strength machine. “Because these products offer so much value,” Marc Lebert, the owner of the club, told Club Business International, “they give startups, small operators, and personal trainers a lot of great choices for a modest investment.”
It’s not just startups, small operators, and personal trainers that can benefit, though: Larger clubs and sports facilities also can create innovative programs, find savings, and possibly ignite new revenue by incorporating aerobic accessories. The possibilities are nearly endless—and certainly endlessly versatile. With battle ropes, bodyweight trainers, kettlebells, medicine balls, slam balls, sand bags, gloves, grips, belts, wrist wraps, and a host of other accessories a club can incorporate, there are significant options for keeping members on their toes with new class offerings. Combining accessories in novel ways can result in exciting experiences for club members — ones that keep them coming back for more and spreading the word about your creative classes.
Another bonus, the article points out, is that new accessories involve a learning curve. They require proper instruction, and because of that they help foster engagement between trainers and clients. With engagement, clients are more apt to feel attached to their place of exercise, satisfied with their experiences, and ready to push themselves further. As Lebert explained to Club Business International, “The products have to be introduced with proper instructions, or you run the risk of [them] not being used.” To encourage instructional activity, Lebert’s club offers trainers online access to programming updates and other exercise content. Consider the possibilities for your own facility if you can offer relevant online content—perhaps to trainers and members alike—to promote the use of accessories.
Finally, the article points out that these accessories can provide clubs with a fresh revenue stream. Chanin Cook, the director of marketing at Harbinger Fitness, says, “It’s been proven that utilizing accessories in club programs boosts on-site sales, and instructors and trainers can exert tremendous influence here.” If you’re not already selling accessories, it may be time to consider doing so.
The takeaway? Incorporating aerobic accessories into your programming can benefit your facility, your clients and members, and the manufacturers who are constantly devising new and exciting products. It’s a win-win-win situation.

Bringing a Taste of the Retreat into Everyday Life

Bringing the Taste of a Retreat into the Everyday Life

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Luxury health-fitness retreats have become something of a trend. Perhaps some of your members have tried them, or maybe you’ve given one a go yourself. If not, you can imagine the drill: At a beautiful resort somewhere exotic or simply far away from it all, you and your fellow companions spend a week or so hiking twelve miles a day, taking yoga and weight-training classes, and working out for as many hours as possible, and you do it all on about 1,200 calories a day (luckily, many such retreats also feature massages and facials, so be grateful).
Don’t get me wrong—I think this trend offers wonderful opportunities to people who want to kickstart a fitness regimen or who love a good workout and want to combine one with a vacation. There are many reasons why I’d jump at the chance to go on a fitness retreat myself. However, there are also many factors holding me back, several of which have to do simply with practical limitations: time, money, child care.
That got me thinking. What I really need is a luxury health-fitness retreat here at home. I need a week-long or ten-day crash course in intense exercise and healthy eating right here where I live and work. Boot camps, of course, abound in New York City and throughout the country, but what I want is something even more focused and intensive—something that gives me a sense of total immersion while also offering me a chance to get things done. I wonder if there’s an opportunity here for the gyms and health clubs, a hole to fill. It might be worth considering whether there’s a flexible form of health retreat that you could offer members (and nonmembers too, as a way to invite them to join your facility).
I imagine something that begins early in the morning, soon after I drop my son off at the bus stop. A two-hour class could ensue, followed by a healthy breakfast. Afterwards, there could be a three- or four-hour break for participants to get work done or run errands (and possibly wi-fi and lounge/workspace made available to those who want it). Another two-hour exercise period could follow the break, with a light lunch afterward—maybe offered while nutrition or fitness experts offer talks on the best ways to carry the effects of the retreat over into the everyday life. For the afternoon, childcare could be on offer while another class takes place, and after, everyone could be sent home with instructions for dinner. Facials and massages could also be offered on select days. Follow-up sessions in subsequent months might be something participants could elect to take part in for an extra fee.
Many variations of that scenario are possible, and it’s especially worth dreaming up options that might better suit office workers. No matter what form a hometown fitness retreat takes, the benefits could be immense, and not just for participants: Your club could find itself with a new revenue stream. Plus, as alluded to earlier, it can be an effective way to draw in new members (prospectives who take part in the program could be offered a discount on first month’s membership, or the like).

Study Links Obesity to Lack of Exercise

Study Links Obesity to Lack of Exercise—What It Means for Your Facility

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You may have heard about a long-term Stanford University study that recently revealed interesting—and controversial—results. Obesity, the study concludes, is due primarily not to over-eating but to a decline in exercise. “Our findings do not support the popular notion that the increase of obesity in the United States can be attributed primarily to sustained increase over time in the average daily caloric intake of Americans,” said the study’s lead author, Uri Ladabaum, an associate professor of medicine at Stanford. “We found significant association between the level of leisure-time physical activity, but not daily caloric intake, and the increases in BMI and waist circumference.”
This is good news for the fitness industry for several reasons. First, amid all the clamoring voices in the media and among experts, it lends a weight of authority to the work we do. Every day, it seems, there’s a new report, or a new top-ten list, or a new “trusted opinion” about the value of exercise, the value of dieting, the value of exercising while dieting, the value of a health club membership. The Stanford study took place over a 20-year period. It rigorously examined obesity, waistline obesity, physical activity, and calorie intake among both men and women. It offers unique data: In 1994, for example, only 19.1 percent of women said they did not have any physical activity in their lifestyle; in 2010, 51.7 percent reported that they did not work out. The difference is similar for men: In 1994, only 11.4 percent of men didn’t work out; in 2010, that figure was up to 43.5 percent. During that time, body mass index increased .37 percent per year for women and .27 percent per year for men.
The upshot is this: Medical scientists who have spent two decades studying the issue have proven that people need to work out to avoid obesity. The opportunities for working out provided by gyms, health clubs, fitness venues, sports centers, and the like are unparalleled. In today’s society, with the pressures of work being what they are and the possibilities for sedentary activity being so attractive and plentiful, it is your facilities that give people a fair shot at lasting good health.
How can you use this information to your benefit? Make it known. Spread news of the study through your social media channels and through personal interaction—make sure your trainers and your sales staff know about it, and get them talking about it. Find ways to ask your members to tell their friends.
Also, create outreach programs. The study shows that the groups hit hardest by lack of exercise are African-American women and Mexican-American women. Consider creating affordable programs and make them available to these groups. Also, try to figure out the best ways to spread the news about them. People who don’t have easy access to exercise want it—and desperately need it—and they represent for you a virtually untapped source of new memberships. It’s up to you to design memberships that work for them.
But beware of one thing: The study results are, as I mentioned, controversial. Certainly eating habits in this country are problematic, especially in places known as food deserts, where nutritious choices are not always available or understood. Even in places where incomes and available options do allow for healthier eating, the prevalence of processed food, fast food, and just plain junk food often leads consumers to make poor choices. To show that you’re concerned with the total health of your members, try to make yourself a source of information about nutrition and healthy dieting. Offer programs to educate your members about healthy eating choices—and to set yourself apart from your competition. Your members are there to work out, and that’s the first step; give them the added bonus of increased chances at better eating. They’ll watch their BMIs drop quicker, and eventually you’ll watch your membership numbers grow.

Spin class

Getting Past the Summer Attendance Blues

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This is it, folks—we’re now in the throes of what I like to call Summer Attendance Blues. Every year it’s the same story: June hits, attendance at gyms, fitness centers, and health clubs takes a dive. It stays low till the end of August. You watch in despair as a handful of only the most loyal clients straggles in for classes, while your front desk crew twiddle their thumbs and your locker rooms stay woefully empty.
Okay, maybe it’s not that bad, but some days can feel that way. What can you do?
It may be daunting to imagine cutting back on your group exercise schedule, but that could be the first step to take. On IHRSA’s blog, Anne Whiteside, program director at the Yakima Athletic Club in Yakima, Washington, says, “It’s absolutely necessary to cut back on group fitness classes during the slower months.” Frances Michaelson, Owner/Director of Muscle Up, Inc. in Quebec, Canada, agrees. “In the summer,” she says, “there’s always a drop in the numbers and it’s acceptable to reduce the number of classes.”
If you do cut back, you’ll inevitably displease some people, but both Whiteside and Michaelson say there are steps you can take to assuage them. Whiteside recommends educating members very directly about why you’re cutting back. “Inform them about industry averages for classes, and/or your own personal goals for the club’s group exercise program. Let them know what the numbers are, that that they’re falling off due to seasonal low attendance.” One possible benefit from doing so is that members may begin to pay more attention to the shrinking numbers—and they may start to encourage others to attend regularly in order to keep the classes on the schedule. Another option is to combine classes, says Michaelson. “For example, if you offer a step class and a toning class that are both popular, then why not put the two together with a circuit-style format, and call it ‘Step ‘n Tone’?”
If reducing the number of class offerings doesn’t seem like enough, or if it’s something you’re simply not willing to do, there are still other steps you can take. You could consider instituting summer hours, keeping all your offerings but compressing them into just four or five days a week. Or design an incentives program. Perhaps if members attend 35 classes between July 1st and August 31st, they receive a discount for September, or if they bring a friend to at least 10 classes during that time, their friend gets a month’s membership free. Think about what kind of program would work best for your facility, and get creative. You might also try simply getting members to pledge at the start of summer that they’ll make it to your facility a certain number of times before the summer ends. Studies show that people are more likely to stick to promises and goals if they take the trouble to state them in a formal way.
Whatever your plan, make sure you have one, even if it’s just doubling down on efforts to keep attendance high during the fall, winter, and spring. The last thing you want is that experience of sitting around watching the numbers dip, feeling powerless and waiting for the year’s sunniest season to end. And remember: Summer does end. Everyone will be back.

Improve Your Community, Gain New Members

Improve Your Community, Gain New Members

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Earlier this month, the American College of Sports Medicine released its annual American Fitness Index, ranking the fittest cities in America (congrats to the top three: Washington, D.C.; Minneapolis, MN; and Portland, OR). Boston, a city that prides itself on spiritedness and strength, celebrated to find itself in the top ten. Pulling in at number nine, Boston got points for its high number of farmers’ markets per capita, its high percentage of people using public transportation, biking or walking to work, and its high number of playgrounds per capita. Yet one of the areas in which the city ranked lowest was in access to exercise.
That’s about to change. In May, the Executive Director of Boston’s Public Health Commission, Barbara Ferrer, announced the Boston Parks Summer Fitness Series, a three-month program offering free exercise classes in 18 parks throughout the city. Classes will include, among others, salsa dancing, yoga, tai chi, Zumba, and Zumba Gold.
When a community becomes more aware of healthy living and the role of exercise in improving health and making a brighter future, everyone benefits—including gyms, health clubs, fitness centers, and the like. It’s almost like free advertising for the services you sell. After three months of regularly using a similar service, some people are bound to come seeking your services when the program ends. I guarantee that some facilities in and around Boston will be signing up new members come the end of August.
Chances are, your city is offering something similar. Free, municipally-run, summer exercise programs have become something of a trend in the past five years or so. That trend will only continue to grow. But why wait for your city to do the work? Why compete with your city? Why not become an entity helping your community to get fitter—while introducing the community to the benefits and wonders of your particular facility? You don’t want the summer to end and new exercise enthusiasts going to the gym down the road. You want them coming to yours. Offering a free summer program yourself is a good way to get them to do so.
Of course, as with anything, you have to weigh the benefits with the costs. Still, even a limited program—say, one free yoga class or one free Zumba class per week throughout the summer—will bring new potential members into your club. Once they’re in there, they’ll see what else you have to offer. You’ll be helping the community get fitter, and they’ll be walking out the door with memberships. It’s a win-win opportunity. And who knows, maybe next year, your own city will end up in the American Fitness Index top ten.

Gym community

Helping Your Members Connect

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Every weekday morning, my sister-in-law heads to a functional fitness center and undergoes a grueling routine involving kettlebells, ropes, medicine balls, and heavy chains. The center is located in a small warehouse with a homegrown feel. There’s one instructor and a small number of regulars for each time slot; it’s the kind of place where the instructor greets everyone by name and asks about their kids and pets. My sister-in-law took me to a class recently. When I arrived, she introduced me to each person there, and they welcomed me so warmly that I felt I’d known them all for years.

The workout that followed made me want to lie in bed for three days and moan feebly, but I had a great time while I was doing it. It was great partly because functional fitness is just plain fun and the instructor was wonderful—but I know the main reason it was great, was that I felt instantly comfortable around all of those people. I felt accepted; I felt both gently teased (when I collapsed after the ten-thousandth burpee) and brilliantly supported (when I discovered a natural flair for kettlebell action); I felt a genuine interest in all of my classmates, and it was clear that feeling was mutual. I left with a whole new set of friends.

My sister-in-law lives far away, so I can’t join the class, but I know that if I could, I would (despite its tortuous aspects). There’s one simple reason why I would: to be a part of that community. Anthropologists and social scientists have long known that human beings function best when they function within a community. We have our ideas about independence and autonomy, but when it comes to basic questions of survival, or just to getting through each day—or, say, to getting through a workout—we need to have others around us, and we need to feel some connection to those others.

For owners of gyms, fitness centers, training facilities, and health clubs, these facts are crucial to running a sound business. If you build a supportive, intimate community, you’re much more likely to both retain members and find new ones. So where do you begin?

1) Introduce members to one another. This one is simple, but it works, perhaps even better than anything else. I don’t mean just play icebreaker games at the start of a class; I mean make personal introductions based on your knowledge of your clients. If a new member who is a schoolteacher joins, bring her over to the schoolteacher who’s been working out at your facility for years and get them talking. Of course, you can’t facilitate connections on this level without first knowing—or ensuring that your staff knows—members personally and thoroughly. Getting to know them personally and thoroughly takes a great investment of time and energy, but it’s one of the most worthwhile investments you can make. Members will feel valued, and their positive feelings will translate into referrals, loyalty, and longevity.

2) Form clubs to address specialty interests. Find out what your members are interested in doing outside of your facility (you can use surveys, registration forms, or just personal chats for this), and see what happens if you form a club around that activity. Outdoor biking, bellydancing, macrobiotic cooking — whatever it is, you can get things started, and you don’t have to do much else. Put up a sign-up sheet, and let the members themselves take care of the rest. They’ll form personal connections and you’ll benefit.

3) Get social. I’m talking about two kinds of social here: real and virtual. On the real side of things, host cocktail hours (or juice bar hours), get-togethers, and meet-and-mingle events. Match members up for training sessions. Hold talks and seminars. On the virtual side, welcome new members to Facebook, offer incentives to members who post to your Facebook page or comment on posts you put up, create a Facebook group that members can join in order to stay connected. Explore other forms of social media too. Again, your members will form a valuable community; you’ll reap the rewards.

Outdoor Workouts

Outdoor Workouts

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I don’t know about you, but now that the long winter finally (finally!) seems to be drawing to a close, all I want is to be outdoors. I want that so badly that I almost, for a very brief second — full disclosure — considered letting my gym membership expire. I’ll just start a new one in September, I thought. It was only a fleeting idea; happily, I know that I get too much from my gym to ever really let go of my membership so easily. But a lot of people don’t know that. A lot of people do exactly what I thought of doing: let their membership slide in the warm months and rejoin (or, worse, join somewhere else) when the cold sets in again.
One way for a gym, or any type of fitness or sports center, to combat this phenomenon is to take things outdoors. In recent years, it’s become more of a trend for health clubs to institute outdoor programs. Large cities hold yoga-in-the-sun classes. Gyms offer boot camp in the park. So-called “street workouts” are becoming more popular, with exercisers using poles, park structures, even swing-sets to build up core muscles and practice other forms of strength training.
If you haven’t yet cashed in on the trend, it’s time to do so. Your audience is hungry for it (google “outdoor workouts” and you’ll see what I mean). The question is, how do you make it work? How do you move operations outside?
Start with an existing class — it’s probably your most portable commodity. Go for a low-key class first, one that doesn’t rely on music or heavy equipment. (Once you get things up and running and you understand how to coordinate outdoor sessions smoothly, it’ll be simple enough to fiddle with sound systems and free weights; til then, keep things easy for yourself.) Think of props that naturally work well outside: balls, jump ropes. Get your instructors to incorporate these items and, if necessary, to modify their routines to suit the outdoors. Of course, promote heavily. Your social media channels should be screaming, “New outdoor class!” The walls of your facility should be littered with posters and flyers. Make sure the logistics are clearly communicated: Will the class meet in the gym lobby and then follow the instructor out? Will there be a meeting point in the park? Spell it out.
Once you’ve seen how it works — and what the potential pitfalls are — think of creating classes specifically for nature. Call upon the expertise of your trainers and instructors; find out their favorite outdoor workouts and ask them to develop these into teachable sessions. Scout out potential locations carefully and make use of what’s out there: trees, old jungle gym sets, park benches. Anything fixed to the ground is fair game.
After you’ve built up an outdoor clientele, think about investing in equipment. Life Fitness recently developed a “jungle gym” series for outside; other companies are following suit. If you’re in a location that doesn’t easily allow for outdoor access, consider doing what my gym in New York City does: use the rooftop. You might have to partner with a school, community center, or other organization that already has outdoor space. (If you’re using parks, keep in mind that many municipalities require permits for the use of public spaces, and often there are restrictions about how existing structures, including trees, can be used. Do your homework.)
Follow these steps, and you’ll be well on your way. The only thing left to figure out will be how you can sneak into one of your own facility’s outdoor sessions — because once you have the option, there’s no way you’re going to want to stay inside.

Foster Partner Workouts

Foster Partner Workouts

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A recent blog post and a recent study, although differing significantly in content, come to essentially the same conclusion: We have more of a chance of staying healthy when we partner with someone than when we try to go it alone.

The blog post, written by a sports writer and athlete for the popular Greatist website, notes that studies show working out with a buddy can increase accountability, keep spirits high during exercise, and spur better results. The post lists 35 great ideas for partner workouts. The study, a collaboration between the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg and policymakers in the Canadian province of Manitoba, suggests that younger children learn about health from older children more effectively than from coaches and teachers. Researchers looked at a program called Healthy Buddies, in which older kids mentor younger ones about healthy foods, physical activity, and positive body image; elementary school children who took part in the program reduced their waist sizes and showed improvements in self-esteem.

Why should all this be important to you? Of course, as a fitness club or sports center owner or manager, you’re interested in retaining current members and attracting new ones. One way to do those things is to make workouts or practices fun. If science is proving it’s more fun for people to workout with a partner, it would behoove you to think of ways to foster partner workouts. If you don’t yet have classes designed to accommodate buddy exercise, it’s time to develop and offer some. And maybe it’s time also to experiment with new ideas: How about designating a weekly time slot for partner workouts in the cardio room? Anyone can come, and no one will be forced to work with someone else, but singletons who want a partner can ask others looking for the same if they want to pair up during that time, and duos can be encouraged to come. Trainers can be on-hand with ideas for buddy exercises.

Really, with the studies in hand that prove the effectiveness of partner workouts, there’s no limit to ideas you can try launching based on that information. And let your clientele know that you’re reading up on these studies and developing new ideas based on what’s best for them — that’s another good way to keep the members you already have and gain new ones.

As for the study about older kids mentoring younger ones for better health, this is information that will be useful to sports centers that cater to youth. Whether you specialize in baseball, soccer, track and field, or offer general athletic programming, why not start thinking about how older kids at your facility might be able to help teach younger ones? Can you offer one night of mixed-age practices, pairing elementary-schoolers with high-schoolers and letting the learning take off? This same strategy might work for fitness clubs too — not necessarily using age as a guide to matching mentors and mentees, but creating a program that would allow members who have successfully met their weight loss and exercise goals to mentor members who are still struggling. Doing so could only strengthen your community, and strengthening your community can only be good for business.

2014 Trends

Sports and Fitness Trends in 2014

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It’s that time again — time to make predictions. Here, based on what’s been big and what’s been growing, are some predictions for sports and fitness trends in 2014:

  1. HIIT Workouts. Everyone from the American College of Sports Medicine, to trainer Jillian Michaels, to USA Today, the Huffington Post, and a host of other domestic and international publications is citing high-intensity interval training (HIIT) as the top fitness trend in 2013, and they say it’s here to stay. As Michaels puts it: “Based on current research that suggests high-intensity interval training is the best way to achieve training improvements and body change results, metabolic training will continue to top the list of trends for 2014.”
  2. Right up there with HIIT workouts will be body-weight training. A “back-to-the-basics” approach that uses little equipment but requires a good deal of know-how, body-weight training became more popular than ever in 2013. It will continue as a trend in the coming year, especially used in combination with intervals and circuits.
  3. Sports tourism will continue to soar. In 2013, destination sports complexes, sports-related tours and camps, and adventure travel packages boomed; even as other tourist activities floundered, these flourished. In 2014, their popularity will only grow; in particular, complexes with established tourism programs will benefit.
  4. Express classes and workouts also will prevail, as people continue to look for more efficient ways to squeeze effective workouts into their busy schedules. Fueled by HIIT-style programs that take as little as thirty, twenty, ten, or even just seven minutes, the desire for quick, super-intense workouts grew in 2013 and will continue to shape consumers’ choices in 2014.
  5. Programs for older adults. As the population ages and the number of older gym-goers increases, classes designed for older adults will multiply. Says Colin Milner, CEO of Canada’s International Council on Active Aging, “By 2017, 50 percent of people who walk into a health club will be over the age of 50…. Over the age of 80, 46 percent of people cannot lift 10 pounds. There is a necessity to help people be stronger longer as people need to be driven by quality of life and not just longevity.”

There will, of course, be additional trends — such as more sports and fitness opportunities for kids, the proliferation of wearable fitness technology, a focus on staying fit as means toward health (more than as a method of weight loss), and more boutique fitness centers — but the ones detailed here are the ones you’re likely to hear most about. It’ll be fun to check in again a year from now and see how accurate this list is (and what looks hot for 2015). Happy New Year!


Become the Solution

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You struggle with retaining members and signing up new clients. How could you not? With the proliferation of low-cost health clubs, wearable technology, home video exercise plans, and YouTube workout videos that go viral within hours, traditional fitness facilities face enormous challenges these days — and experts tell us we’re only at the beginning of what will be a sea change in the way the fitness industry operates. In this blog space there’s been a lot of talk about facing the challenges by building communities; investing in trainers, staff, and other human resources; and incorporating technology. Here’s another approach to consider: becoming the solution.

In a recent article for FitBusiness Insider, Pat Rigsby, fitness industry consultant and co-owner of both the International Youth Conditioning Association and Athletic Revolution, says that if you can pinpoint the group you want your facility to serve and then “become the solution” for that group — that is, be the place that group automatically turns to to fulfill its needs — then you’ll establish a strong business that can withstand today’s challenges.

When you become passionate about helping a specific group, Rigsby says, you simplify your business. As he puts it: “You know what you have to focus on. What to study. Who to market to. What your identity is.” He provides several examples: “In Boston, baseball players seek out Eric Cressey’s gym. In Edison, NJ, wrestlers flock to Zack Even-Esh’s Underground Gym. If you’re in Santa Clarita and you want to lose fat, you go to the Cosgrove gym.” In other words, if you establish yourself as the go-to place for a particular group in a particular area with a particular interest or problem, you’ll find you don’t really have to compete with new technologies or other fitness facilities. You’ll simply be the place where people go.

What if your facility is already established as a more general gym, one that has pitched itself as a solution for everyone? That can work in your favor. Keep your generalist side, and keep inviting in members who simply want a good workout. But in addition choose one group to focus on, hone in on their needs, and begin investing in the resources needed to fulfill those needs. Be the go-to place for that group while also providing others with their daily exercise fix.

Help Your Clients Make It to the Gym

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Every year around this time of year, it feels like someone has turned the dial up a couple notches. Whereas earlier in the fall everything was just busy, suddenly now everything is insanely chaotic. Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving break mean quite a few no-school days, and there always seem to be a couple professional development and parent-teacher conference half-days around the same time. At work, everyone is scrambling to finish projects before the end of the year, and all of those projects seem to land up on your desk at the same time. Meanwhile, you find yourself invited, in the span of three weeks, to more parties than you’ve been invited to all year. And then there’s the holiday shopping, cooking, planning, and wrapping to do (don’t even ask me about season’s-greetings cards — I gave up on those years ago).

What this means for your facility is that client visits will slow down. Fewer client visits equal less revenue, either in the short term, because you’re missing out on class payments or members aren’t spending on personal trainer sessions, massages, and other extras; or in the long term, because if a member goes for a month or two without making it to the gym, she’s less likely to renew her membership when the time comes. What can you do to help your clients make it to the gym in the midst of their busy schedules?

First, remind them that the most important time to maintain gym-going habits is now, when stress increases and tempting, sugary foods abound. Come up with a simple slogan: something like “Make Time,” for example. Hang up motivational signs bearing the slogan, and reiterate the message via email and on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets.

Consider extending your hours for the season, and if you’re able to do so, then widely—and proudly—advertise your extended hours.

If possible, have your instructors or trainers develop abbreviated workouts. Give these a snappy name, something like Twenty-Minute-Holiday-Workout, and, again, advertise heavily: Let everyone know that you’ve got a new program created specifically to address the trouble we all have making time to exercise right now. Luckily, the high-intensity interval training workouts widely praised these days for their dramatic results and intense health benefits are perfectly suited to short workouts; pull together a few of these and you’re all set.

Finally, craft a message specifically for patrons whose records indicate they haven’t made it in for a while. If you have a fitness concierge, have him or her send the message personally, with an invitation to call and discuss their difficulties making it to the gym. Offer to help devise a plan. You won’t hear from everyone, and there may well be a client or two who disappears and never renews, but chances are you’ll reach at least a handful who will feel grateful to you for reaching out, and who will re-apply themselves with new vigor. Happy holidays.

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Take Advantage of Special Events

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Wandering around among witches, dragons, princesses, and Harry Potters this Halloween, I watched my own little ninja’s jack-o-lantern fill up with various forms of sugar, and I despaired — not at the thought of all the junk food he’d be consuming, because I knew that after a few days the novelty would wear off and he’d forget about it, but at the thought of all the tempting treats that would be sitting in my cabinet over the next couple months. While I’m pretty good at defeating sugar cravings day to day, Halloween candy undoes me. There’s so much of it, it’s all so accessible (when my son’s not looking), and it ignites so many nostalgic childhood pleasures.

That’s why I was grateful for the fitness center employee dressed in a Superman costume (replete with giant, fake muscles — not that he needed them), who was standing on the street corner handing trick-or-treating chaperones coupons for a free cycling class. His mere presence reminded me, first of all, that I needed to keep my eyes on the prize, no matter how many tiny Butterfinger bars my son was collecting; more than that, he lifted from my shoulders the burden of excuses I’d been carrying around. I had wanted to try a cycling class for a long time, but I kept coming up with reasons not to. Now, at a key moment, I was being offered one for free.

What a great idea, I realized. Halloween is a terrific opportunity for a business to rustle up new clients — especially if that business is in the fitness industry. People are out in the streets, there’s a festive atmosphere, and there are a lot of guilt-inducing treats for folks to indulge in. What better time is there to remind people of the benefits of working out, and to give them an opportunity to try your offerings at no charge? Better yet, if you send an employee already scheduled to work for the day out to handle distribution, the cost to you is nothing more than what it takes to print the flyers.

This goes not just for Halloween, but really for any kind of special day: the upcoming cookie-, pie-, and sweets-filled holidays, for sure; a community fair or carnival; even Veteran’s Day. Whenever people are out and about, take advantage of special events and spread the word about what your business offers. And, with fitness, the work you do is always relevant.

That Superman must have pulled in at least a dozen new clients on Halloween — I saw parents and babysitters eagerly reaching out for his handouts. And when I took the free class, I was pretty sure the woman next to me had the same help-I-just-ate-another-mini-Kit-Kat look on her face that I did. I think she and I will both be going back for another class.

Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

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It’s back-to-school month — and Childhood Obesity Awareness month. Even if your fitness facility caters mostly (or exclusively) to adults, you can contribute to the effort to draw attention to childhood obesity and its devastating consequences.

Why should you want to? The long-term health of millions of citizens is at stake; as an institution devoted to fostering good health, your investment in the wellbeing of the population at large is crucial. Moreover, the more than one-third of children and adolescents who are overweight or obese in this country make up your future clientele. In ten or fifteen years, they will be coming to your facility to try to reverse decades’ worth of physical damage — or they won’t be coming at all, because they’ll be too ill even to take that step. Finally, showing your support for the community, in addition to being good for the community, is simply good business. Parents and others who care for children’s health and their own will be more likely to choose your facility over another if yours is the one that’s been vocal about fighting childhood obesity.

So what can you do? At the least, advertise your support for Childhood Obesity Awareness Month so your clients know that it’s important to you. Hang up flyers or posters, send e-mails, talk about it on Facebook and other social media sites. Consider inviting experts to your facility to discuss childhood obesity and what can be done to fight it.
If space, personnel resources, and other logistical conditions allow for it, invite kids in for a fun day of physical activity. Have a dance party or set up an obstacle course; incorporate lessons on healthy eating and the importance of exercise. Emphasize the philosophy of personal achievement over competition — kids, especially kids who might feel self-conscious about their weight or appearance, need to understand that they can become healthier by focusing on their own goals and accomplishments.

Consider whether your facility has the resources to serve children’s needs on a more long-term basis. Rather than just a day of physical activity, can you offer classes for kids in addition to adults? If you already offer them, can you step them up in some way in honor of Childhood Obesity Awareness month? And can you offer special family-focused classes for the month, so that kids and parents can have fun working toward their fitness goals together?
Whatever you do, contributing in some way to the effort to raise awareness ultimately will benefit your facility. Give it a shot, and see what you get in return.

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HIIT the Gym

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I (and millions of other people) have a new obsession: high-intensity interval training (HIIT).   It seems that everyday there’s a new study showing how effective HIIT is as a method for keeping the heart in shape, burning fat, increasing muscle, and generally just feeling great. But what I love most about it, and I know I’m not alone in this, is how quickly it’s over.  It’s true that, for the seven, twelve, twenty, or however many relatively brief minutes you’re doing it, you think you’re killing yourself — but then you’re done (done except for the fact that, as an added bonus, you raise your metabolism and continue burning calories at rest).

I love how quickly it’s over because I never have enough time for everything on my to-do list. Between work, child-rearing, housekeeping, socializing, and all the other demands of modern adult life, I was always desperately trying, often unsuccessfully, to squeeze in workouts.  Adopting a HIIT approach has helped hugely — except for one problem; I want to do my working out at the gym. Sometimes it’s hard to justify leaving the house when travel time to and from the gym takes longer than my actual workout. I’ll admit it: Sometimes I just do it in my living room.

How can facilities make it worthwhile for members to continue bringing their workouts to the gym floor when those workouts are short and sweet (well, short anyway)? One answer is machines: Most people do not have treadmills or stairmasters or other such equipment at home. Though it’s possible to raise the heart rate doing jumping jacks in the living room, a thirty-second treadmill sprint followed by a sixty-second walk on the same machine, repeated a bunch of times, is simply more efficient. The trick is making your members aware of this: Convince them that their HIIT routines will work better if they’re carried out using your equipment.

The other answer is personnel. I don’t have a trainer wandering around my living room, giving me tips on posture and performance, pushing me to work harder (if only…). Sometimes, when I’m really in a rush, it’s easy to believe I can do it just as well myself. But the truth is, I work out better when there’s a knowledgeable professional helping me out. We all do.  Just having one in the same room — even just having other exercisers in the same room — makes me push myself harder. I know this. And this is one of the best things any gym has to offer: a supportive community. HIIT might change the game in a lot of ways, but that’s one thing it doesn’t change.

As a fitness facility, you’ve got your core strengths. Machines and personnel are two of them. With HIIT workouts increasing in popularity day by day, you have to find a way to put your core strengths in the service of providing the best HIIT experience possible — and you’ve got to communicate to your members that this is what you’re doing. And not only to your members: You’ve got to communicate it to prospective clients as well. Pull them in by showing them how seamlessly you’ve incorporated HIIT techniques into your facility.

All right now, I’m ending here because I’m off to HIIT the gym.

The Best Approach To Providing Recovery Services

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This week, the IHRSA blog asks an interesting question: What is the industry standard when it comes to recovery services for members? How much is too much (or is there even, in this case, such a thing as “too much”)? What kinds of services should clubs offer, and how are they best implemented?

Christine Thalwitz, Director of Communications and Research at ACAC Fitness & Wellness Centers, points out that it’s very common for fitness facilities to offer in-house massage and physical therapy services. These days, she says, a lot of clubs also offer acupuncture, aromatherapy, or chiropractic services, often through partnerships with local practitioners. But, what is the best approach to providing recovery services? Amenities should be FDA approved and meet safety standards, she cautions, and should be administered only under the direction of a qualified professional. The way to determine whether they’re the right services for your club, she says, is to measure their effects on your members. “While offering new and interesting products and services will capture the attention of your members and prospects, it is the ongoing satisfaction and positive outcomes that will determine the long-term success of the offering,” she says.

She has another good piece of advice too: “The types of amenities and services clubs adopt should be consistent with their mission, audience demographics and service model.” This might seem obvious, but given our culture’s “more is better” tendencies and the pressure to outshine competitors, it can be easy to pile on services your target audience does not necessarily want or need, or your mission does not call for. If you’re primarily a center for weight loss, do you need an aromatherapist on site? But if you’re a facility that, say, caters to the overall health and well-being of women, offering aromatherapy would probably be a good choice for you.

If you’re considering adding some recovery services but are unsure what would best suit your facility, poll your members. Ask them what they want to have on-site; you might think they’re looking for a chiropractor, when what they really long for is a certified physical therapist. When you get their answers, run with them; provide what they’re looking for (if you’re in a position to do so) and forget about the other extras. They’ll thank you for it.

At the same time, guard against getting caught up in the push to provide such services. Focusing on core competencies is sound business practice, and if you’re distracting yourself from providing the best basic services you can — safe, effective workout equipment, great classes, high-quality trainers — then all the recovery services in the world won’t mean a thing. Do what you do best first; discriminately add on other things later.

Adapting to Functional-Fitness Trends

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Last week, the New York Times ran an article about the functional-fitness trend. “Vintage exercise machines have recently become the padded shoulders of the workout world,” the article states, “swept aside for a fresher look.” In other words, out with the leg presses, biceps curlers, and seated torso rotations, and in with the kettlebells, medicine balls, and weighted sleds. Anything that gets you working out in ways devised to help you perform daily activities, like lifting, bending, and climbing stairs, constitutes the latest trend, the article says.

To experience the trend for herself, the writer of the piece, Julia Lawlor, signed up for a class at the UXF (“ultimate fitness experience”) Training Zone in the New York Sports Club at 59th Street and Park Avenue, in Manhattan. The class started out with jumping jacks, frog jacks, walkouts, and mountain climbers, she says, in addition to speed and agility drills.

After that, participants were asked to cycle through six exercises: a backward lunge with a kettlebell, a squat thrust, a swinging of the kettlebell from one hand into the other, an upper-body exercise using bands suspended from metal frames, a sled-pulling exercise, and a rope movement drill.  “I was breathless, my throat burned, and I felt as if I were slogging through mud,” Lawlor writes “…UXF, I concluded, really stands for ‘utter exhaustion and fatigue’ zone.”

But the fact is that, no matter how exhausting clients like Lawlor might find a functional-fitness workout, they keep coming back for more. The International Health, Racquet, and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) concurs with the article, stating that workouts like the one Lawlor describes are taking over as a trend. “Functional-fitness workouts are pushing other workouts into the corner of clubs, and even out the door,” IHRSA wrote recently in a blog post.

For health clubs, this means facing a need to adapt. In the fitness industry, perhaps more than in other industries, service providers have no choice but to incorporate the latest fads into their facilities; they have to offer the classes and regiments that will bring members in. But does this mean that old standbys like the machines listed at the beginning of this post should be tossed out?

Probably not. While adaptation is necessary and creating a supply to meet demand is only healthy business practice, it is also the case that tried-and-true methods — like common workout machines, plain free weights, and even simple aerobics classes — have their place. Some members will always prefer a routine they are used to, rather than a trend they might fear will disappear soon or could be discredited by future research. The ideal for any club, of course, is to make room for both. One thing is for sure, as Julia Lawlor discovered: Adapting to functional-fitness trends is a must.

The Early Bird Catches the Great Deal

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I’ve always wondered how it feels to get in a good workout at 3 a.m. I don’t belong to a 24-hour gym, though, so there isn’t much of an opportunity for me to try. But this winter I came close. My gym launched a “sunrise special” for early birds: For $29 extra a month, members could access the facility starting at 5 a.m. on weekdays and 7 a.m. on weekends. As a pilot program, it ran only January through April, but I’m hoping it starts up for good soon; I loved waking up with the birds and finishing my whole drill before most other people were even reaching for their snooze buttons.

You might want to think about instituting such a program for your facility, if you don’t have one already. The extra cost associated with doing so is relatively small – personnel-related, mainly – but there’s a potential for some nice new revenue. Most members won’t mind the cost (at my gym, less than a dollar a day) when the pay-off is an uncrowded cardio room, no one to jostle with on the machines, and the opportunity to accomplish the day’s exercise before work and other demands kick in.

If you’re worried about that uncrowded cardio room, fear not: chances are enough members will want to take advantage of the program to make it worthwhile. I know that even when I reached the gym right at 5 a.m. when the sunrise special was on, there were always a few other people (sleepily) stumbling in with me. The stream was small but steady throughout the morning — not enough to make me feel like I had to battle for equipment, but just enough so that I never felt I was there on my own. In fact, it was a little bit like a secret club; the other members and I would acknowledge each other with a knowing smile that seemed to say, “So you’ve figured out that this is a great deal too, eh?” And with a program like this, incentives work well: Come ten times before 7 a.m. and receive a free massage, or something along those lines.

Try an Early Bird type program. Your members will love you for it.

Reality Television and You

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We live in interesting times. The convergence of reality television with the national obesity crisis and a new level of health obsession has created opportunities for the fitness industry that never existed before. Last month, CBS’s Undercover Boss featured the CEO and founder of New-Jersey based Retro Fitness; last year, the CEO of Modell’s sporting goods shop appeared on the show. Now, a new season of Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition is starting up on ABC, and exercise technology company NuStep has a product in the limelight.

Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition documents the year-long efforts of eight men and women who are at least 200 pounds overweight to lose half of their body weight while continuing to live at home. Each participant’s home is modified to include a dedicated exercise area, and each area includes a NuStep T5xR Recumbent Cross Trainer.

With potentially hundreds of thousands of viewers, that’s a lot of exposure for NuStep’s product, just as the Undercover Boss episodes offered exposure for Retro Fitness and Modell’s, and just as other reality television programs — including NBC’s The Biggest Loser, A&E’s Heavy, and MTV’s I Used To Be Fat — have offered exposure to other clubs, to trainers, to a range of players in the fitness industry.

What does this mean for you? Of course, you can’t just up and appear on a reality television show any time you please. But you can, perhaps, capitalize on the stir of interest in and excitement about these programs. Here are a few ideas:

  1. You might consider running a mini-version of one in your own facility: ask overweight members or regular clients to consider signing up for a year-long program dedicated to helping them lose a certain number of pounds, or a certain percentage of their body weight. Choose a handful to participate in the program, and then give them their fifteen minutes of fame in your club. You can hang up their pictures, along with brief profiles and their stated weight-loss goals, and you can post their progress each month. You can feature them in newsletters and website spots, and you can host a ceremony honoring their efforts at the end of the year. Not everyone will want to be in the spotlight in this kind of way, but some people might find it incredibly motivating — and the program could pay off for you by garnering local attention, new referrals, and new members who want to participate in such a program themselves.
  2. If you have the staff know-how, you could consider actually making a reality tv show of your own, or some version of one, and posting it on your website. It needn’t be national-network quality, and these days a decent smartphone and a video-editing software program can produce a pretty impressive, very watchable video. You would probably want to do it on a smaller scale, featuring, perhaps, ten-minute segments. And you wouldn’t have to limit the theme of the show to weight-loss; any theme that makes sense for your facility could work, or even a weekly “show” that just highlights a different part of the facility each time, or a different staff member. You’re limited only by your imagination here.
  3. It might, in fact, be possible for your facility, or for one of your trainers or members, to land a spot on a reality tv show! Many of the shows that are out there (and, again, not just the ones having to do with weight-loss) have simple, web-based procedures for applying to appear on the show. In an article about Mitchell Modell, the CEO who appeared on Undercover Boss, Modell was quoted as saying, “I tell everybody: If you’re fortunate enough to be on Undercover Boss, do it in a heartbeat.” He describes the experience as having been not only good for business, but also life-changing. Why not look into it?

Reality Television and You: the results could be unimaginably rewarding.

Kid and Me Classes

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My son’s in first grade, and it’s his spring break. I don’t love traveling during spring break, given how crowded attractions can get and how miserable airports can be. I prefer to save the travel for off months and arrange fun things for us to do near home instead. Because it’s just him and me, and because I want to take advantage of the fact that he’s not yet embarrassed to be seen with me in public (I have another four or five years, right?), we’re pretty much attached at the hip during times like these. It’s all well and good, but what happens when I need a workout? He knows how to run me around in the park, that’s for sure, but sometimes it’s just not enough.

I wish my gym offered a class we could take together—something in between the Mommy and Me classes we used to go to when he was a toddler and the grown-up ones I attend on my own. I know there are creative instructors out there who have the know-how (and the energy) to provide both him and me with the structured exercise we each need, while also making it engaging for both of us. Anything involving a ball would probably work.

Equally appealing would be classes for him that coincides with the ones I want to take. Right now, the gym offers drop-off babysitting, but, as he often reminds me, he’s not a baby. Again, I need something to fill in the space after the toddler years and before he’s old enough to spend a couple hours on his own. A class that drills him in soccer or baseball techniques, teaches healthy habits, or just offers a chance to play a rousing game of dodge ball, gaga, or something he’s never heard of before would be perfect.

On the practical end, arranging just a week-and-a-half’s worth of such classes might not be so easy, but it can be done. Your facility management software program can help you slot the classes in and figure out who would be the best instructors; it could also make targeted marketing to the right demographic a breeze. With three or four long school vacations each year, plus shorter ones and all of summer break, there are a lot of parents out there who would instantly sign up for Kid and Me classes or well-timed kids’ classes. The chance to get in a good work-out while still being on-duty would be irresistible.

Childhood Obesity Awareness Month

What Are We Doing to Our Kids?

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Recently, Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield awarded $125,000 to nine schools in Western Pennsylvania to help fight childhood obesity. This got me thinking. Childhood obesity, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past thirty years. The percentage of children aged 6 to 11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7 percent in 1980 to nearly 18 percent in 2010. In 2010, more than one third of American children and adolescents were overweight or obese.

What are we doing to our kids? With the effects of childhood obesity ranging from, in the short-term, increased likelihood of suffering risk factors for cardiovascular disease, having prediabetes, and being at greater risk for bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and poor self-esteem to, in the long-term, being at risk for adult-onset heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, cancer, and osteoarthritis, we owe it to our youth to help turn things around.

Which is why Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield’s action is laudable. The executive director of the Highmark Caring Foundation, Charlie LaVallee, was quoted as saying, “Our goal with funding additional schools is to ensure that even more children will begin to learn early in life the benefits of being active and healthy.” We should all be working together to teach as many children as possible those lessons, in whatever way is available to us. It’s great to see a health insurance company step up to the plate. Of course, parents, schools, and medical professionals also need to play a role.And what can sports clubs, health facilities, fitness centers, and gyms do?

As organizations dedicated to helping individuals meet their physical potential, push themselves past preconceived boundaries, and achieve greater awareness of their own health and their ability to control it, sports facilities of all kinds might be uniquely positioned to fight childhood obesity.

Take a look at your scheduling software: Can you fit in an extra class or two that will get kids moving? Can you host healthy-eating information sessions for parents? Can you even send personal trainers or other staff out to schools, maybe in underprivileged areas, where their expertise (and enthusiasm!) could inspire whole classes full of kids?

It’s worth thinking about, anyway.

Spring Break: Be There or Be Square

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This month, most colleges, universities, and schools around the country have at least a week off. Not everyone goes to Cancun, and parents of small children are likely tearing their hair out, trying to figure out how to keep their energetic young ones entertained. So now is the time for you to be asking yourself: What can my fitness facility or sports center do to help? If you don’t already think of spring break as an event that you should be planning for each year, it’s time to start. Here are a few ideas:

  1. If you already offer programs for children, consider creating a special, week-long camp that follows school hours and gets kids moving. Soccer, basketball, baseball, hockey, dance, and swimming camps are popular options; if your facility allows for any these, working parents are bound to be grateful and kids will join in with gusto. Plan time for snack and lunch, and alternate activity and rest in hour-and-a-half-long chunks: for example, for a basketball camp: an hour and a half of drills followed by snack, followed by an hour and a half of games, followed by a viewing of a documentary about basketball stars. Also, mix it up: an intense study of basketball in the morning goes well with a relaxed game of dodgeball in the afternoon.
  2. If your facility isn’t set up for camp, consider offering new classes that kids (and their parents, who might be taking the week off) and college students are not likely to have tried before. The sheer novelty might draw them to you — and once there, who knows? Maybe they’ll stay. Also, you can think of the classes you offer as trial runs. If they’re popular, you might have discovered a new niche for yourself. Options include Kangoo, surfing workouts, barre classes, rockwall climbing— even quidditch!
  3. Bring Cancun to them. Maybe you have a pool. Sure, it runs on a tight schedule, but can you carve out a few hours one day to turn it into a beach? Let people use their imaginations to fill in the sand. You supply umbrellas, lounge chairs, cabana music, and health drinks. Maybe you can get a beach volleyball game going in one area of the club (again, no sand required — just have players wear bathing suits). It’ll be a party — and it’ll draw prospective clients to you.
  4. Offer a special membership deal for the week. Existing members can bring a friend to a few classes for free; new members who sign up during spring break get two free weeks tacked on to their membership. Other ideas include offering a free session with a personal trainer or a discount at a local sporting goods store or on the gear you might sell at your own facility. Be imaginative here — there are endless incentives you can offer, with spring break as your excuse.
  5. Get your gym management software or fitness center software involved. Be sure to enter the names of clients who have never been to you before; so that you can fine-tune these offerings in the future, you want to keep a record of who your audience is. For existing clients who participate in your spring break offerings, make a note of their participation in their profiles — most health club software allows for this. That way, you’ll keep tabs on their interests and be able to target the right crowd for future events.

It’s never too late to start planning for Spring Break 2013, and it’s never too early to think about next year. Make it an annual offering. As a fitness center, health club, or sports facility, you’re in a unique position to keep people active and entertained when regular routines are on hold. Take advantage of it — and have fun!

Adding Value to Your Business

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As many of our clients may have noticed recently, EZFacility has been endeavoring to add more value to the services we provide our global customer-base. On this note, we’d like to encourage our customers to continuously add value to their own business in order to keep members engaged and excited about the services you provide. Whether it’s setting up a simple rewards system (enter Perkville!) or by adding a special service to a package that you currently offer, your clients will notice and appreciate the added value.

Additionally, adding value to your business will go a long way in helping you retain members. Often, by keeping things “new” for existing customers, you’ll find that more and more members will stick with what you’re offering.

 Other great ways of adding value to your gym or sports facility includes offering a wider range or schedule of classes that members can select from, or even promoting a special two-for-one on certain group-centric services (like group fitness or batting cage rentals) to encourage people to bring friends with them to your facility. The possibilities are endless and require little effort on the business owner’s side when it comes to incorporating this type of value. However in the end, the payoff will be huge because members will always choose the best value for their money, which in-turn ensures that your business continues to grow.