Feature Article - November 2006
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Special Supplement: Problem-Solver Guidebook

By Stacy St. Clair and Emily Tipping

Bringing Your Fitness Programs Into the 21st Century

According to a recent survey from the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association, 91 percent of Americans believe that exercising at a health club would improve their overall health, but only 18 percent of those surveyed actually belong to a health club. Health club managers know that getting people into the club and keeping them as members can be major challenges. By creating fresh new ways to get people involved in exercise, you can create and maintain a healthier—and more profitable—relationship with your members.

Q: At our small fitness club, we offer all of the typical equipment—treadmills, stairclimbers and elliptical machines. How can we expand our offerings to create more excitement among our members?

A: Taking your workout options beyond the basics can offer your members more variety. And by offering a greater variety of machines and workout classes, you can attract more potential members as well as keep your regulars coming back for more. For example, indoor rowing machines can offer a great low-impact workout for the entire body. Members can work out individually, or you can offer group classes. Rowing might also appeal to older members, since it's impact-free, due to the seated nature of the motion.

Q: Our members love our Spinning classes. Are there other types of group classes we can offer on our exercise equipment?

A: Absolutely. Many club members like to take part in group exercise because belonging to a group of exercisers may make them feel more accountable to show up for their workout. In addition to the ever-popular Spinning classes, you might consider offering group classes on other machines. Group rowing classes are popular all around the country in regular fitness clubs, as part of school programs and within YMCAs.

If you plan to offer a group rowing class, consider finding a certified rowing coach. Or, if you have several instructors at your club who are interested, it might be worthwhile to bring in an instructor to train them to earn their own certification. An added benefit for them: These classes may be recognized as continuing education credits. Check to be sure the instruction is recognized by the American Council on Exercise.

Q: Many of our members are interested in high-tech options that allow them to track their workouts and measure their improvements. Should we consider upgrading our offerings?

A: In this day and age, people are accustomed to "plugging in" for everything from paying bills to downloading music to maintaining their fitness levels. You can find many pieces of exercise equipment these days that allow members to track their heart rates as well as their improvement. In addition, many pieces of cardio equipment now come with software that provides an interactive gaming experience. Some of these games offer a means to get all ages involved in working out on the equipment. Many vendors also allow exercisers to log onto their Web sites and track their times, competing with others around the world.

Q: What programming can we offer to get members excited about using our new equipment?

A: Many cardio equipment vendors now go beyond simply setting up the equipment in your gym. They now offer continuing support through programming suggestions and training and certification for your instructors. Some vendors offer challenges to help motivate club members to improve their fitness. Whether it's by logging into a Web site to record their times and improvements—and compare their scores with exercisers around the world—or it's a team challenge that takes place in the gym, there are many ways to get your members excited about coming back to your facility.


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