American Fitness Magazine American Fitness Magazine Winter 2020

Creative Interim Programming Solutions

Dana Bender
Dana Bender
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Originally published in the Winter 2020 issue of American Fitness Magazine.

Are you planning to renovate the flooring in your group fitness classroom? Or perhaps you need to complete a construction project at your yoga studio in the near future? If so, you may be worried about the impact the work will have on your clients’ participation in your programming.

 American Fitness Magazine Winter 2020Although all construction and renovation projects are different, every business owner needs to understand how to offer creative interim programming and services during a short-term renovation period.  

Here are a few steps you can take to set yourself up for success. 

DO YOUR RESEARCH

First, as a business owner make sure you research your project properly, planning financially for any potential impact on business revenue. More specifically, gather detailed information about the cost and the construction timeline to anticipate how long the renovation project might take, keeping in mind the possibility of delays. During this research process, obtain at least three different professional opinions on overall cost and timing for the construction project.

Once you’ve researched and gathered the critical information about cost and timeline, save and budget accordingly. This part of the process will look different for everyone, and finances can help you determine the best time frame for completing the project. If possible, it might be worthwhile to undertake facility renovations at a time when business is usually slower or when programming could be transitioned to an outdoor space. For example, consider renovating a yoga classroom space in late spring, summer or early fall, when weather is comfortable enough to offer interim classes outside.

PREPARE CLIENTS AND PARTICIPANTS

As you plan a construction project, it is important to notify everyone who might be affected by the renovation—as early as possible. Once you’ve established the estimated timeline for the project and procured the necessary finances, the next step is to communicate with your clients. Provide at least 2 months’ advance notice, so that all those who might feel the impact can plan ahead. Avoid waiting until the last minute to communicate about upcoming changes, such as possible gaps in programming or in use of facility space; if you delay, participants could feel angry about not knowing sooner. Let your clients know about the project, give them a glimpse into the predicted timeline and explain what the interim might look like. Above all, stay positive in all communications so your participants will think that way, too.

Don’t forget to make sure all staff members understand the messaging and are prepared to field questions as well. It’s frustrating for customers not to get a consistent answer from people who are supposed to be on the same team. Additionally, team members can voice any concerns they have, and someone may bring up a potential challenge that no one else has thought of.

ATTEND TO THE NITTY-GRITTY

With the groundwork laid for time frame, cost management and client relations, it’s time to turn your attention to your program offering. How can you still provide creative programming during a construction project in your facility space? Here are some ideas.

FIND AN ALTERNATIVE SPACE.

Think outside the box on what a creative interim space might look like, whether for group fitness classes or for one-on-one appointments. Consider what other indoor spaces could be available. For example, a small or midsized conference room that can fit compact group fitness equipment, or can just provide an open floor area, might be an option. The space might not be perfect, but you could still deliver a great workout with the right accessorial equipment or body-weight exercise sequence. In this temporary space, you might offer low-impact options like recovery, relaxation or even resistance band classes that take up less room.

GET OUTDOORS.


Scheduling outdoor fitness classes or special outdoor wellness activities can offset the impact of facility renovations on programming. For example, feature a studio group walking meetup with various group walks, hold outdoor or rooftop group exercise classes or offer fitness assessments at a public park. If possible, why not create a structured schedule around outdoor classes for the interim period? Offering a walking group or an outdoor boot camp class at least twice a week will enable clients to build these offerings into their own schedules, allowing participation to grow over time.

PROVIDE REMOTE OFFERINGS.

If an alternate space is not available, for whatever reason, remote fitness and wellness programming might be a solution. How about a self-reported, self-led program, where participants sign up and obtain your advice and recommendations but do not need to meet with you in person to be successful? For example, a self-led “Couch to 5K” program could pique client interest if you run a fitness business. Throughout the program, you could provide weekly tips and encouragement to help with engagement and consistency. You could also offer educational conferences through Zoom or other online portals. Consider online webinars where participants take part from the comfort of their own homes. If you do go this route, make sure to survey your participants after the webinar or remote program to get ideas for future classes. By eliciting participant feedback, you can get people involved in the decision-making process for future interim programming.

INCREASE MOTIVATION BY OFFERING PROMOTIONS.

Offering participants an added value due to the inconvenience of the construction is another way to show your appreciation. More specifically, you may be able to increase motivation by offering discounted personal training pricing. Another idea is to offer free fitness assessments, and anyone who completes an assessment gets an additional 5% off a training package. Promotions could even continue once the facility space is up and running again. This could help convince regular participants and clients to continue with your services and come back to your business after construction. Think about promotions that will maintain and elicit interest and encourage consistency.

NETWORK WITH OTHERS.

During the planning process, ask other fitness and wellness professionals or any other local business owners if they would like to collaborate with you during the interim period. You could even partner with local nature reserves, restaurants or retail stores for a special event. For example, maybe a local registered dietitian would host a yoga session or fitness class at her office, or perhaps a local chiropractor might offer a fitness class to his clients. These options will give you opportunities to keep participation and engagement going until the construction project is complete. Through such collaborative efforts, business owners can promote their business and market their programming to current participants—and maybe even expand their clientele.

BE FLEXIBLE AND TRANSPARENT.

It will be important to stay flexible during the entire renovation process, no matter what happens. Construction delays may come up unexpectedly, in addition to other conditions that require a flexible attitude. As situations arise, adjust course to continue moving forward. To do this successfully, you will need to let go of any idea of perfection along the way. Instead, focus on offering high-quality services and programs to participants despite the renovations. Most importantly, stay transparent with your clients, and give them regular progress updates so that people can look forward to the new space and the finished project.

FINDING AN OUTDOOR VENUE

Competition for good outdoor venues can be fierce, especially if your buildout is planned for the spring or summer. Here are some things to keep in mind when you’re looking for an outdoor location.

  • Consider lighting. If you’re holding class before sunrise, make sure there will be some light from street lamps or houses. This improves visibility and keeps everyone safe.
  • Avoid problem areas. If a field or other greenspace isn’t being used during an ideal training time, ask yourself why; there’s likely a good reason. The next time it rains, for example, visit the field a few hours later and look for standing water, divots or other undesirable conditions.
  • Check the parking options. Clients need a place to park and a safe
    way to get to the training area. Access to restrooms and water fountains is
    also important.
  • Go private. Public parks and fields aren’t your only option. You may be able to make an arrangement with a private facility, such as a hospital, an office park or a school campus.

MAINTAIN AND STRENGTHEN YOUR BUSINESS

These tips and creative ideas on offering interim programming during a temporary gap in facility space could strengthen your business—not just maintain it. Again, all renovation projects and financial situations are different, but it is always highly recommended that you plan well in advance of the onset of a construction period in order to minimize impact on programming and revenue. Stay agile and creative along the way for a successful outcome.

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The Author

Dana Bender

Dana Bender

Dana Bender, MS, ACSM, CWWS, E-RYT. Dana Bender works as a fitness and wellness Program Manager for Health Fitness Corporation in downtown Chicago. Dana is also a National Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach, an adjunct professor with Rowan University, and an E-RYT 200 hour Registered Yoga Alliance Teacher.