Business of FitnessFitness Professionals

Embracing the Group Effect

As fitness professionals, we know that members join our facilities for various reasons, with the primary reason to improve their fitness and health. Clearly the simplicity of that motivation does not mean it’s easy to meet or exceed expectations. Member retention remains the biggest challenge for everyone in the club or fitness business. See how the delivery of fitness experiences and the group dynamic can benefit you and your members.

Walk into any “open gym” facility and you’ll see more members using tablets/phones, following predesigned workouts. And look, I get it – sometimes it’s not easy to figure out effective workouts on your own. It can also be less intimidating for members to go it on their own at their own pace. It begs the question, how do we engage with our members and/or clients to create a more solid relationship?

Research and trends from the Association of Fitness Studios shows that members want their fitness experience to be more than just effective – they’re demanding a fun, engaging, creative, and innovative experience. We’ve learned the hard way that, sometimes, access to exercise doesn’t necessarily equate to the habit of exercise.

Members are always looking for the next trend to see if that will “work” for them. It’s an endless cycle facility and fitness leaders struggle with – keeping relevant to deliver the “next” workout concept to alleviate boredom and complacency. At the end of the day, the concept of “fitness on their own terms” has many guessing how to deliver experiences that drive long term loyalty and retention.

There are solutions to this evolving challenge.

More facilities are utilizing open spaces and functional training to create the equivalent of an adult fitness playground where no two workouts are the same. The downside is that newer members may be intimidated to try a class they aren’t familiar with.

No matter where you work, as fitness professionals, you can always create a workout solution for your clients. This includes everything from jungle gym equipment to virtual group fitness to group training programming to live fitness classes.

Analyzing opportunities to provide the best programming.

The diagram to the right serves as a useful tool to maximize programming opportunities that best suit your facility and members. It’s referred to as the “Fitness Spectrum” and shows what the ideal program offering is based on demographics and opportunity. I use this with clients to help determine the offering(s) that best suit their specific needs. It also serves to help understand how a suite of offerings can sit adjacent to one another and serve different members.

The proven benefits of any group fitness offering (large, small or even individual) is to accomplish the following (in this order):

  1. Increase frequency
  2. Increase engagement
  3. Increase retention
  4. Increase referrals

Specific to Small Group Training (SGT) programs, ensure they offer the following structures:

  1. Community building parameters. A SGT program should have built in structures (through social media or otherwise) that bring the group together as a community. Large group fitness more naturally will do this by the essence of the offering.
  2. A specific environment (area) that allows for the class to feel unique and that is properly equipped to accommodate the offering (equipment, sound, designated area, etc.).
  3. Program design that is differentiated from anything else in your facility. Be specific so it’s clear what the offering is promising to deliver.
  4. Have a program champion to own the results and engage with the community. Without the champion in place, programming can become more of a melting pot of workouts that don’t drive members toward the 4 benefits above.
  5. Have FUN. For everyone…the members AND the trainers. This is also an opportunity for trainers to make more money, use different skills (teaching a group is a different dynamic than leading a single person) and change up a day of one-on-one sessions.

Yes, it’s a bit of puzzle to put the best programming together for your members inside the space you have, however, the reward for adding group training/fitness offering far outweighs the effort done researching.

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The Author

Ingrid Owen

Ingrid Owen

Ingrid Owen has been in the fitness industry for the past 25 years including 18 years with 24 Hour Fitness where she served in various capacities as the Vice President of Fitness, Group Fitness, Learning and Development as well as corporate Operations. She’s an AFS Educator and started her career as a GX instructor as well as a personal trainer. Eventually she entered the club management track and was elevated to Vice President of Operations before moving into a corporate role.

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