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.

Workout Statistics

Get Fit with Exercise Snacking

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Have you heard the latest? Snacking is good for you. Not food snacking—exercise snacking. Researchers in New Zealand recently conducted a study that showed that multiple, brief portions of exercise in a single day—“exercise snacks,” the researchers dubbed them—may control blood sugar better than a single, continuous workout. The study was conducted on men and women with insulin resistance, a common precursor of Type 2 diabetes. Though, the news is relevant to anyone who wants to stay healthy by keeping blood sugar under control. In the study, participants who exercised for 12 minutes before breakfast, 12 before lunch, and 12 before dinner had far lower blood-sugar levels after dinner than those who exercised only once in a day, for 30 minutes before dinner. They also kept their blood-sugar levels lower for longer—over 24 hours as opposed to less than a day.

What does this mean for health clubs, gyms, fitness centers, and exercise boutiques? Well, you need to be prepared to serve members and clients who are looking to get to your facility three times a day. Also, if you want to help your members and clients reach their health-related goals (and you do, because their success is your success), you should probably think about how to encourage those who aren’t necessarily looking to get there three times a day to do so — and, let’s face it, many of them most likely struggle to get there once a day. Scientists have long argued that shorter, more frequent bursts of exercise are more beneficial than long, continuous spells. As the body of research supporting this hypothesis grows, more and more people will be demanding — and needing — to fit this new way of working out into their daily routines. This is especially true because, as researchers of the New Zealand study discovered, the blood-sugar benefits (and it remains to be seen which other benefits) are strongest when the exercise snacks consist of high intensity interval training. For most people, such training is much easier to do at a facility, with trainers and functional fitness equipment, than at home.

Here are a few ideas to consider:

1) Create a new three-times-a-day program. First, be sure to spread the word about the findings of the New Zealand study (and other studies that show the benefits of exercise snacking). Then, establish a structured program to help people get started. Designate a core group of trainers to work with the three-times-a-day-ers: They’ll have to work hard to motivate their clients to come before breakfast, lunch, and dinner. At the same time, they’ll need to plan out careful twelve-minute exercise sessions, preferably high-intensity interval routines.

2) Everything’s easier with incentives. What discounts, rewards, or deals can you offer your members for trying out a new three-times-a-day program? Can you provide a day pass that will allow them fast-track entry each time, or a free smoothie from the juice bar after they complete their third workout? Can you give a free month to members who manage to make it to your facility three times a day, three days a week, for one month? Or maybe you can offer a month at half price for anyone who comes in three times a day with a friend at least twice in one month. The possible variations are limited only by your imagination.

3) If your facility has the capacity to serve food, consider providing three-times-a-day-ers with vouchers for at least one meal on their exercise days. This might make it easier for them to contemplate the logistics of coming to and leaving your facility three times in one day. They might, for example, come before breakfast, head to work, come before lunch and then stay and have lunch, and come again before dinner.

4) If it’s feasible, consider offering three-times-a-day classes in a couple of satellite locations in addition to your facility (maybe there’s an empty warehouse somewhere on the other side of town?). That way, members who live or work further away from your facility have a choice in where to go, and choices make for convenience.

As the trend increases and the demand for facilities to accommodate for more frequent, briefer sessions grows, health clubs and other fitness venues will learn what works and what doesn’t. Now is the time to get started — put yourself at the forefront of the exercise snack trend, and you’ll find yourself the leader of a pack before long.

Free Classes

Free Classes

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If you’re a sports facility with tennis courts, you’ll want to pay attention to this. And if you’re any other kind of sports facility, you’ll also want to pay attention. Actually, everyone listen up — this is an idea that health clubs and fitness centers can capitalize on too.
In May, as part of a promotional effort started jointly by the Tennis Industry Association, the Professional Tennis Registry, and the United States Professional Tennis Association’s Tennis Across America program, sports facilities and certified teaching pros around the country will take part in Try Tennis — a program to offer free tennis lessons. Any facility with tennis courts can sign up here to participate; tennis-playing aspirants can find participating facilities on the same website. The possible result for you? Free advertising and perhaps new long-term members.
The sponsoring associations based their decision to launch Try Tennis on industry research showing that 65 percent of players who begin tennis in an introductory program continue with the sport. Offering free classes or lessons is a way of getting potential players hooked.
You can see why I wanted you all to listen up — this is a widely adaptable idea. If you’re a facility with a focus on baseball, basketball, volleyball, lacrosse, hockey — any sport — you can work on getting a Try [Your Sport] promotion going industry wide. If you’re a gym, you can think about a Try a Trainer month, or a Try Zumba (or other workout class) month. Pushing a promotion on a huge scale, like the tennis initiative, might feel beyond your scope; if that’s the case, try it with a few other facilities in your network or your region, or just launch a similar program in your facility alone. However you’re able to manage it, a full month of free lessons is likely to draw potential new members, a good number of whom will stay on after the promotion ends.
The idea can be applied in all types of facilities and can be carried out in a number of ways. You could do as the tennis folks are doing and make it a month-long promotion. If you’re a facility with fewer resources, make it a week’s event, or even just a single day’s. Of course, however you end up designing it, you’ll want to spread the word widely. If you’re doing it in conjunction with other facilities, consider setting up a website like the Try Tennis one. If you’re going solo, give it a big headline on your own website’s landing page, and shout about it on your social media channels. Ask your current members to let others know; ask them to bring their friends.
Equally important: Keep track of the numbers. Make sure you count the people who take part (and get their names and contact info for follow-up). Then count the number of people who sign up for long-term instruction or general membership. You’ll want to know whether the effort pays off for you. In your niche, is it also the case that 65 percent who begin playing continue on? Maybe not, but either way, you want to have the data available. Then, if it works, do it every year!

Take Advantage of Special Events

Take Advantage of Special Events

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Take Advantage of Special Events 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.
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A Natural Alliance – Gyms and Schools

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In New York City, it’s common for schools to raise funds by holding yearly auctions. In the months leading up to an auction, parents stump all around town, trying to win donations from local businesses so auction attendees will have a wide variety of items on which to bid. Common donations include free piano lessons, handmade jewelry, restaurant gift certificates — and month-long gym memberships.
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Retaining Members Effectively

Retaining Members Effectively

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Retaining Members Effectively For many gyms, the end-of-summer push for new members is coming to a close; that effort won’t be ramped up again for another six months or so. So what do you concentrate on in the meantime? Retaining members, of course! As profitable as new sign-ups, or sometimes, with upselling, more profitable, retaining members is a goal all clubs have — but the goal is sometimes elusive. Here are a few refresher tips on retaining members effectively.
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What Kind of Happiness Can You Offer?

What Kind of Happiness Can You Offer?

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yellow flag with black happy face on itIn this industry, there’s a lot of talk about happiness – as well there should be. In recent years, studies have suggested that the presence or absence of happiness affects us at a cellular level: When we’re happy, our tissues suffer less damage, our bodies have less inflammation, and our immune systems are stronger. Because we know that regular exercise contributes to greater happiness, we remind our clients that coming to the gym is good for them, that it’ll make them happier. But, in the light of a recent study, maybe we should wonder whether we’re giving happiness enough thought.
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Reality Television and You

Reality Television and You

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Reality Television and YouWe 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.
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An Innovative Idea — and the Benefits of Sharing It

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Recently, Colleen Kennedy, the director of membership at The Houstonian Club, wrote a blog about an innovative sales program at her Houston-based fitness facility. They call it The Houstonian Lotto, and Kennedy says that it has been instrumental in increasing both sales and referrals. She also says that it’s a program any club can duplicate — and that it costs little (…)
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fitness incentives

Don’t Let the Lovely Weather Get You Down

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fitness incentivesAfter a debilitating hurricane in the fall and a seemingly endless winter, spring finally has arrived in New York City. The trees poking up from the sidewalk have fully let their green hair down; Central Park is overflowing with tulips, bluebells, pansies, and forsythia; and exercisers are out in droves. Yes, all those people who spent the long, inhospitable months of fall and winter in the gym are now donning their jogging shoes and mounting their bicycles. They want to feel the warmth of the sun as they work out. They want fresh air.
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