Feature Article - November 2012
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Fitness Gets Personal

Find Your Niche(s) and Stand Out

By Julie Knudson

Personal and Group Training

Personal training is a popular offering in many gyms, and it's where members can often obtain the best results for their specific goals. Not only do participants get more personalized attention, they also have their own cheering section. "You develop a relationship with that trainer, and the accountability goes both ways," said Whitney Proud, marketing director at The Cornerstone Clubs in Furlong, Pa. Sessions can be tailored to fit not only the client's goals, but also their energy level on that particular day, as well as any sore spots or areas of concern.

Proud said that Cornerstone's personal training participants are typically more eager to show up and stay on track, because they know the trainer is waiting for them. "It really becomes this great personal history between the trainer and the client," she said.

In addition to one-on-one training, Cornerstone also offers small group classes. It's a trend that many centers are following, and Proud said it's been a big hit with their members. "Team training has become a huge resource for our members across all clubs and all demographics," she said.

Team training sessions support between two and four people, allowing participants to forge a bond that helps keep everyone going. "You get the intimacy and the friendliness of the group, while also having that great small-session training work," Proud said. "You feel like showing up, because you know they're waiting for you."

The group classes offered at Greenwood have a specific training methodology or focus, said Vic Spatola, the club's director of personal training. This approach allows members to use group sessions as standalone workouts or as part of a larger program. "For instance, we do not address stretching in PowerFit, but we recommend participants supplement with Pilates," Spatola explained. Progress is also tracked individually, rather than by the trainer, and the metrics clients use to measure their success will depend on their goals and the classes they're taking.

With all the different options available to clients, Spatola said that one crucial element to a gym's success with small group sessions is finding the right instructor. "The classes only succeed if you have the proper coach and motivator to lead them."

In addition to the support and encouragement participants get from small group sessions, the reduced impact on their wallets is often a draw, too. "Due to economic factors, people enjoy and are looking for alternatives to the more costly one-on-one sessions," Spatola said.

The group environment offers clients a fun and compelling way to balance those cost concerns with the benefits of a personal trainer, all while staying on track with their fitness goals. Spatola reported that their group classes have been going over well with members lately, and that participant feedback has been very positive. "They love the camaraderie and social aspect," he said.


Technology is filtering into more facets of the world every day, and people's desire to be fit and to live healthy lives is among the areas benefitting from the tech invasion. At least one major smartphone maker is looking at developing an interactive fitness center application (no confirmed word on timeframe yet), and standalone programs are already available to keep track of workouts and act as pocket-sized personal trainers. One platform even charges users real dollars for missed workouts while rewarding others who stay on track. Some fitness centers have rolled out their own apps that show members where to find the nearest gym, display current class schedules, and give users the ability to document goals and track their progress.

In-center technology is also expanding. At Cornerstone, clients' fitness levels are gauged with the help of a trainer and then entered into the ActiveTrax system. From that information, a workout is generated each day that's tailored not only to an individual's fitness goals, but also to their level of ability. "It takes the angst out of coming to the club and not knowing what you're doing," Proud said.

For clients who don't want to (or aren't able to) do personal training every day, the system can be a great tool. But Proud said that centers shouldn't expect members to use technology in a vacuum. "These apps and programs are great to have, but you only really build a repertoire of data with them," she said. "ActiveTrax has been a big benefit to people who use it a couple times a week, but I think the real benefit comes from the person-to-person interaction."