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IHRSA Advocate

The IHRSA Advocate is your guide to knowing and understanding the policies that influence daily health club operations. We analyze the action, so you know when to take your own.

For more timely relevant news about advocacy issues affecting the industry, and your bottom-line, subscribe to​ the bi-weekly (member-only) IHRSA Advocate newsletter

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Communicating the Value of Physical Activity

One of IHRSA's missions is to promote the benefits of exercise and communicate the value that health clubs play in making communitiesand the worldmore active. 

In case you missed some of our recent opinion pieces, we have you covered. Here is a list of commentaries written by IHRSA's Executive Vice President of Public Policy, Helen Durkin, that recently appeared in PsychCentral, Morning Consult, Medical Economics, the Hill, and Disruptive Women in Healthcare.


January 3 Issue

Say hello to 2017. 

We hope you had a relaxing holiday spent with family and friends. Now it's time to think about what lies ahead this year—resolutioners, new legislative opportunities, and legal issues to address...oh my! But don't worry, we have you covered. So go ahead and leap into the new year knowing IHRSA has your best interests in mind.

Results Are In...Here's Your Legislative Forecast for 2017 

IHRSA has been hard at work preparing for all the issues we anticipate your club could see this yearHere's what you need to know about PHIT, updates to the new overtime regulations, and state legislation that could impact health clubs.

Help Members Achieve Weight Loss Goals

Learn how you can develop successful weight loss programs to help members achieve their New Year's resolutions. 

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2017 is Comin’ in Hot: Here’s Your Legislative Intelligence Briefing

2017 has arrived.

While you’ve been busy signing up ‘resolutioners’, taking care of current members, optimizing your group-X schedule, and selling training packages, you can rest assured that IHRSA has been just as busy surveying the legislative landscape and prepping for the year ahead. Here’s what you need to know about the most prominent issues and opportunities we expect to see this year.

1. Passing PHIT in the 115th Congress

2017 presents the perfect opportunity for individuals and communities to join the movement to “Get PHIT.”

The Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act would directly benefit your membership roster and revenues by allowing your members to save 20-30% on their fitness expenses—such fitness equipment, youth sports league fees, and health club memberships and services.

This year, there are a few unique circumstances that could serve as added momentum to propel support forand passage ofthe bill forward.

The first opportunity comes in the form of proposed changes to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). With the help of Congress, the Trump administration plans to repeal and replace the ACA, therefore creating more opportunities to expand the use of private health savings accounts (HSAs). On the flip side, an increased emphasis on tax reform creates the second opportunity to pass this legislation.

However, regardless of the political landscape, IHRSA needs help from you—club owners and operators—to actively communicate all the reasons why Congress should pass PHIT. We, as an industry, need you to educate your members about the importance of passing this legislation and encourage them to spread the word about the value that daily exercise provides for both the health of the American people and the stability of the economy. So download the Get PHIT Toolkit and begin rallying your members by explaining how they’ll benefit from PHIT’s passage.

2. Keeping a Watchful Eye on the New Overtime Regulations

On December 1, new FSLA overtime regulations were scheduled to go into effect. These regulations would have extended overtime eligibility to an additional 4.2 million workers, exponentially raising payroll costs to businesses, including health clubs.

Even though a November 22 ruling prevented the implementation of the new rules as a result of a preliminary injunction, the fight to prevent implementation of the rules is far from over. The preliminary injunction upholds the current overtime regulations, but does not constitute a final ruling.

The opportunity for Congressional review of the new rules is still in play for 2017. Right now, the federal government has appealed the preliminary injunction to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and this motion has been granted. Under this appeal, final opposing briefs will be due on January 31 with oral arguments to follow. Therefore, it is not anticipated that any changes in the regulations will be seen until February or later.

Regardless of the Congressional review, a decision will have to be made by the new administration on whether or not to continue with the appeal or let the injunction stand.

IHRSA will continue to provide you with additional updates as more information becomes available.

3. Monitoring State Legislation for Issues Impacting Health Clubs  

While federal legislation (like PHIT and Federal Overtime Law) may receive the most media attention, it is important to note that all politics is local. And while federal legislation usually moves at a glacial pace, legislation at the state level moves so quickly that it can often hit without warning. That is, unless you’re an IHRSA member, because our team acts as your early warning system.

You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘do-nothing Congress,’ but recently the state of Colorado passed 63% of the bills proposed. And, in terms of the volume of bills introduced, New York (an average of 12,389 bills per session), Illinois (6,002) and Massachusetts (3,973) introduce the most. Because of this high volume of introduced bills, it can be difficult to stay on top of breaking legislative developments while keeping up with the daily responsibilities of running your business.

In 2017, the IHRSA team anticipates seeing and fighting against a number of issues at the state level which include but are not limited to sales tax proposals, locker room privacy & security issues, and consumer protection laws impacting health clubs.

To view a more detailed summary of the issues we predict will be seen in your state this year, look for IHRSA’s 2016 Advocacy Impact Report which will be released in the coming weeks. In the meantime, be sure to monitor the latest updates in your state, and if you have not already done so, sign up to receive IHRSA’s legislative alerts by emailing


December 20 Issue 

May your days be merry and bright. Whether you're "walking in a winter wonderland" or "soaking up the sun" on a tropical island getaway this year, the IHRSA team would like to wish you a happy, healthy holiday season. See you in 2017.

Selling Gift Cards this Holiday Season? Read This

The holiday season means gift certificate season. Before your next sale, please make a list of the gift certificate laws in your state and then check it twice!

Allow Us to Introduce Ourselves

In our last edition of the IHRSA Advocate, we introduced you to the newest member of the public policy teamJeff Perkins. This week we would like you to meet our government relations coordinator, Suzanne Trainor. 

Calling All Leaders: Here's a Lesson in Branding 101

Consider all the traits that are required of you as a leader. Is personal branding included on your list? If not, it should be. Attend the 2017 ILC Experience to discover how to develop and manage your personal brand. 

2017 Is Practically Here

Are you ready for the New Year's resolution crowd?

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Meet Team IHRSA: Suzanne Trainor, Government Relations Coordinator

Allow us to introduce ourselves. We are the IHRSA public policy team, and we hope that this series will help you get to know us a little better. 

Suzanne Trainor
Government Relations Coordinator


Explain your role at IHRSA. What do you do? What is the best part of your job? 

I am IHRSA’s government relations coordinator. Day-to-day, I analyze legislation impacting the the health club industry in all 50 states, support our state and federal lobbying teams, write testimony, and write legislative alerts which are sent to IHRSA members. My job also entails connecting IHRSA members with their elected officials on issues they care about.

It is hard to choose, but the best part of my job is being able to activate the voice each one of has in the political process. It is truly incredible how a quick meeting or call with your elected official elevates the industry and helps to build a healthier future.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Growing up, I wanted to be a singer because in the board game “Life” they had the best attire. Later on, I had a fantastic high school government teacher who sparked my interest in politics. The class was particularly interesting due to the intrigue of guessing his political viewpointhe would not disclose whether he identified as a Democrat, Independent, or Republican. We also held a mock campaign in which I was publically smeared for being out of touch with the average American on the basis of pictures posted in the hallways of me sailing in the summer. In my defense, I will just add that I was working as a sailing instructor at the time.

What drew you to work for an organization that supports the health club industry? 

Fitness is important to me on the basis of its multiple health benefits and I have a background in politics.I did opposition research for some campaigns and advocacy groups and then did some grassroots organizing in the most recent New Hampshire Presidential Primary. The opportunity to combine both of these passions drew me to IHRSA.

Tell us about your fitness routine. How do you stay active?

I stay active by taking spinning and yoga classes. I also enjoy running around Boston with IHRSA colleagues and participating in office plank challenges.

What do you do for fun in your spare time?

I have two older sisters who live in Massachusetts as well, so I have fun catching up with them in my free time.

Share a random fact about yourself.

I was studying in Morocco just after the Arab Spring erupted in nearby Tunisia. It was exciting to witness the changing political tone, albeit challenging with only a basic knowledge of Arabic and French. They also have excellent food.


'Tis the Season for Gift Certificates...Beware!

According the National Retail Federation, Americans are expected to spend $27.5 billion on gift certificates this holiday season, making them the second most popular gift after clothing and accessories. Gift certificates are frequently used to sell everything from clothes and electronics to personal training sessions and classes. While gift certificates may be a great opportunity for health clubs to boost end-of-year revenue, there are traps for the unwary.

SoulCycle, Inc., the spin company, has become embroiled in a potential class-action lawsuitCody, et al v. SoulCycle, Inc.over its handling of classes sold in packages ranging from one class to 50. The cycling packages come with different expiration dates depending on the number of classes purchased. A single cycle class expires after 30 days, while 50 class packages are good for 12 months.

SoulCycle Washington D.C. (Picture P. Bedford)

The customers suing SoulCycle claim that the class packages are actually gift certificates and the short expiration dates result in lost money for consumers and unjust gain for SoulCyclein violation of state and federal law. Federal law prohibits the sale of gift certificates that expire in less than five years, while California Civil Code prohibits the sale of gift certificates with any expiration date at all.

SoulCycle filed a motion to dismiss the case, arguing that their class packages could not be applied toward the purchase of a more expensive good or service and therefore should not be treated as gift certificates. U.S. District Court Judge George King granted SoulCycle’s motion to dismiss the claim of a state law violation but denied the motion to dismiss the federal claim, meaning the class-action lawsuit will advance.  

While the ultimate outcome of the SoulCycle case will not be know for some time, it serves as a good reminder that if you sell gift certificates or are considering doing so, that while there may be no better time of year to sell them, it is important to make sure you know the rules of the road when doing so. For instance, some states mandate that merchants provide cash back when the gift certificate balance is low. In California, gift certificates with a cash value of less than $10 are redeemable in cash. It is important to be aware of the gift certificate laws where you operate. If you have questions or comments, please send them to


ILC Update: The Gift of PHIT

Imagine this. You’ve been given a gift. What do you do next? Do you throw it away unopened? No.

Gifts are meant to be opened and used.

This gift won’t be too big or too small. It will take a little work on your part, but the return for your business will be significant—as well as good for the American people.This gift could reduce the cost of a club membership by 20 to 30% without any of that reduction coming out of your pocket. This tax-based incentive to be more physically active is a gift we call PHIT.

The election has made PHIT a front and center opportunity.

Come January, when the 115th Congress is sworn in and Donald Trump becomes President Trump, healthcare reform and tax reform move to the top of the agenda. This will create a two-tiered legislative opportunity for PHIT to be passed within  broader healthcare or tax reform legislation.

Just because it can pass, doesn’t mean it will pass.

This is where we need clubs to do a little work to reap the benefits of PHIT. Our lobbyist and coalition partners have been doing their jobs. The PHIT bill is supported by key leaders in the House and Senate. But as we know from past experience, when politicians negotiate behind closed doors over what is to be included in a bill, the voices of their friends, contributors and constituents need to be front and center in their minds. Otherwise we could find ourselves seeing a law passed without PHIT included.

The voices of the health club industry are powerful. It is time to use them.

You, your staff, and your members have a powerful voice. We know from past research that the members of your club are more likely to vote, make political contributions, and even write a letter to the editor than the average American. Your members of Congress will listen to them.

Just as importantly, we also know that many of your members are passionate advocates for physical activity. Yes they would like to use pre-tax dollars to pay for their club dues, but they also know how important it is for families to have the opportunity to use pre-tax dollars to pay for soccer leagues or Pop Warner fees that keep the kids in their community active.

Educting your staff and members about PHIT and, when the time is right, asking them to voice their support for PHIT to their members of Congress  will take us closer to making the 115th Congress the Congress to make history and pass PHIT.

Two Baby Steps to Get you Started.

  1.  Tell your staff you want to start educating your members about PHIT and when the time is right, you want to give your members the opportunity to voice their support for PHIT.
  2. Forward this email or just send the link to download “Get PHIT: Tools to Design an Awareness Campaign at Your Club” to a member of your staff. Perhaps someone who works in communictions, PR, marketing, social media or your right hand person. Ask THEM to download and read the Get PHIT Toolkit. Have your staff contact us. (Or just let us know their name.) We will be happy to work with them to develop plan of action

As always if you have any questions, suggestions or comments—just let me know.


Helen A. Durkin
EVP Public Policy - IHRSA
P.S. If you or your staff have a personal relationship with any members of Congress, would you let me know. Members of Congress do listen to constituents—but like any other human—a  well-timed message from a friend and/or supporter can carry a lot of weight.

The Important Leadership Requirement You Might Be Overlooking

Better your brand, your business grows. Better the industry’s brand, the whole industry grows.

Some people are naturals at it. For others, it’s a struggle...but if you're a leader, it’s a requirement. If you take a quick glance at this year’s ILC Experience for IHRSA 2017—you’ll notice that many of the speakers we’ve engaged will be talking about personal branding—in all it’s forms.

Personal branding isn’t about self promotion. It’s about leadership and relationship building...

Forbes states this perfectly, so I’ll repeat their sentiment here: 'Managing your personal brand requires you to be a great role model, mentor, and/or a voice that others can depend on. You should ‘view your personal brand as a trademark; an asset that you must continuously mold and shape, an asset that must be managed with the intention of helping others benefit from having a relationship with you.’

We know that branding is integral to your business, and as a business leader, you are your company’s main brand representative. If we take that one step further, industry leaders (i.e. members of the ILC) are the industry’s main brand representatives. Better your brand, your business grows. Better the industry’s brand, the whole industry grows.

That’s where the ILC Experience for IHRSA 2017 comes in… ILC members and their senior staff are invited to take a deeper dive into conversations with world class branding and relationship experts in the comfort of the Industry Leaders Club which provides the perfect space to relax, refuel, network, and hold meetings.

Highlights of The ILC Experience (exclusively for ILC members) include:

  • A casual lunch discussion with keynote speaker Seth Mattison where we’ll talk about his presentation “Relationship Revolution: Building Better Connections in the Digital Age.”
  • The ILC Summit and Leadership Reception with personal branding expert Nick Westergaard. Nick’s talk, “Brand Now: How Today's Digital Dynamics Can Help You Build a Better Brand,” provides a framework for building your brand, telling your story, and engaging your brand ambassadors. The ILC Summit is sponsored by ABC Financial.
  • The Industry Leadership Council (ILC) Meeting & Lunch with a discussion on efforts to raise the profile of the industry, discuss ways to encourage physical activity, and develop strategies for preventing risks and threats to club operations.
  • A Q&A meeting with keynote Martin Lindstrom, author, change agent, and brand futurist and discuss his presentation, “Forget BIG Data – Small Data Defines the Future.”
  • Another Q&A over lunch with branding expert keynote Johnny ‘Cupcakes” Earle, where we’ll discuss his presentation, “Viral Business: Inspiring Customer Loyalty.”
  • A discussion keynote Soraya Darabi, impact investor and co-founder of Zady, about her keynote presentation, “Creating & Maintaining Engagement.”

Check the ILC Experience schedule often as we add more detail. And please let me know if you have any questions. Not an ILC member yet? Please consider this your invitation.

Meredith Poppler
IHRSA Vice President, Communications & Leadership Engagement

December 6 Issue

It is officially the season of giving—and you know what that means. It is time to share what you are most thankful for. In our last edition, IHRSA staff told us why they were most grateful to work in an industry that has such a positive impact on the lives of others. Now, it’s your turn to show your appreciation. Please send your gratitude to and we will include your comments in the next issue of the IHRSA Advocate. Happy holidays!

IHRSA Among Leaders at NCPPA Policy Meeting

The start of every new year brings with it a set of new opportunities. Last week, IHRSA attended the National Coalition for Promoting Physical Activity (NCPPA) meeting to discuss advancing legislation that would encourage more physical activity in 2017.

Allow Us to Introduce Ourselves

You know that IHRSA’s public policy team is committed to protecting your club’s best interests. But, how much do you actually know about each of us individually? To help you get to know us better, we thought we’d introduce ourselves..

So to start us off, please say hi to the newest member of our teamJeff Perkins.

Eat, Drink & Be Merry But Donut...I Mean Don’t...Let Members Quit on Their Goals

The holiday season is full of temptations—office parties, home-made desserts, and skipping workouts to name a few. Your members are looking to you to not only keep them on track now and in the New Year. Use IHRSA’s best practice e-books on nutrition and weight loss to put effective programs and resources in place now to help your members achieve their goals.

Keeping Healthy Habits During the Holidays 

Looking for more ways to keep your members healthy and engaged through the holiday season? We have you covered.

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Meet Team IHRSA: Jeff Perkins, Assistant Vice President of Government Relations

Allow us to introduce ourselves. We are the IHRSA public policy team, and we hope that this series will help you get to know us a little better. 

Jeff Perkins

Assistant Vice President   of Government Relations


Explain your role at IHRSA. What do you do? What is the best part of your job?

My role at IHRSA is to oversee all legislative activity that could affect health clubs across all 50 states and at the federal level. I work closely with IHRSA’s lobbying teams across the country, reviewing bills and regulations and working with IHRSA’s members to advocate on behalf of the industry. I also work with our clubs to help them understand existing laws that impact their day-to-day business operations.  

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

There was a pizza place near my father’s office that we used to go to when I was growing up. The chefs were on display in the front window throwing the pizza dough up to the ceiling and catching it. I thought this was great and was determined to become a “pizza man.”  Sadly, despite much practice with play dough and anything else I could throw, my skills never really progressed so I had to go in a different direction.  

What drew you to work for an organization that supports the health club industry?

For me, it was the opportunity to represent and advocate for an industry that makes a real difference in people’s lives. Health clubs help people transform their lives, improving their health and outlook. When you take that transformational change and multiply it across the thousands of IHRSA members, you see how health clubs impact more than just their members, but their communities, states, and countries! It is both powerful and enormously satisfying to support an industry that is such a positive force in the world.         

Tell us about your fitness routine. How do you stay active?

I was a sports nut growing up and played just about every sport I could, even if I wasn’t particularly good at it. I was a runner in college and used to run a lot as my primary exercise while also playing different club sports. More recently, with two kids at home and less time, I have shifted to smaller group workouts at higher intensities and typically play hockey once a week in the winter and soccer in the spring/summer.    

What do you do for fun in your spare time?

I like to go on nature walks with my wife, two little girls, and dog. They used to be hikes but with small kids and an older dog, they have been dialed back to walks these days. Otherwise, I like spending time with my girls; my oldest likes to practice her karate on me while her little sister looks to climb up anything in the vicinity that looks fun: playsets, bookshelves, rocks, cliffs...  

Share a random fact about yourself.

I met my wife in Sydney, Australia, and proposed in Badlands National Park in South Dakota.

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