The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association is the fitness industry's only global trade association representing over 10,000 for profit health and fitness facilities and over 600 supplier companies in 75 countries.



From educational tools and events to promotional programs and public policy initiatives, IHRSA brings you success... by association!

Join | Renew
Pledge Your Support

Search IHRSA Blog

Welcome to the IHRSA Blog

The Online Home of news.

Blog Home |  Subscribe to our RSS Feed


7 Success Factors That Lead to a Thriving Personal Training Career

As the fitness industry has grown and evolved over the past several decades, so, too, has personal training (PT). Today, more opportunities exist both for newcomers and for veteran trainers than ever before.

However, with increased opportunity comes intensified competition, and, as a result, trainers—if they’re serious about succeeding in a significant way—need to think about and plan for their professional future.

To identify the basic building blocks, the foundation on which a person can construct a sound, rewarding, and constantly evolving career, CBI conferred with three of the industry’s best-known and most accomplished personal trainers, Todd Durkin, Fred Hoffman, and Greg Johnson. In addition to working with clients, all have managed to share their expertise, grow their brand, and develop their businesses by writing, speaking, and providing consulting services.

7 Personal Training Success Factors

To develop a successful PT career, Durkin, Hoffman, and Johnson, have acknowledged the critical importance of, and patiently cultivated within themselves, the following personal characteristics and commitments.

Success Factor #1:  Passion 

At the top of the must-have list, loving one’s calling is absolutely essential to excelling. Passion drives and satisfies trainers.

Durkin spent five years doing everything possible to rid himself of the pain from a back injury, and it changed his life. “I got ignited with more passion to share my knowledge and help people out of pain and to improve their performance,” he says. “Despite having no money, no clients, and no business plan, I started my company with the purpose of creating impact and inspiring millions to greatness every day.”

Success Factor #2: Diligence 

As with any career, PT requires ongoing effort and perseverance to excel. “It’s not as easy as you think, so be prepared to work hard, and aim to become great,” says Johnson. “This industry is full of grunt work, such as cleaning equipment and conducting maintenance, so embrace it.”

“New graduates may have to put in their time when they start out, and accept that this can be a stepping stone to something greater,” says Hoffman.

“Be persistent, work hard, always over-deliver, and never give up,” Durkin says. “Success is a marathon—not a sprint.”

Success Factor #3: A Service Orientation

Although it may seem obvious, it’s important to remember that the PT business is about the clients.

“People won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” Johnson says, quoting Theodore Roosevelt. “When you first meet a client, don’t rattle off your certifications or accomplishments, but, rather, get to know them, understand why they came to you, and listen.”

According to Durkin, trainers should always be thinking about how to improve client satisfaction. “Be on the lookout for new ways to enhance their experience and create a ‘Wow!’ moment for them.”

Success Factor #4: Constant Curiosity and Learning

In an industry where research, products, and training methods are always changing, it’s imperative to keep abreast of the wealth of information—above and beyond fitness- related CECs—that’s available.

“Personal training is no longer just about exercise,” ays Johnson. “Always be on the lookout for new ideas, concepts, and business practices. Go to live events, read books, watch DVDs. Learn from other fields about such things as finance, business, customer service, and mental focus.”

Durkin recommends attending at least two industry workshops and one personal development seminar per year, and reading one book a month.

Success Factor #5: A Business Mindset

Trainers who own their own businesses need to be businesslike. They should create a business plan; identify their corporate and personal goals; develop a solid strategy; hire the necessary professionals, e.g., accountants and attorneys; invest in a strong staff; and cultivate a positive team culture. Joining industry associations and participating in trade shows provides valuable opportunities to learn and network.

As the industry has grown, so has the opportunity to branch out to develop additional revenue streams, advises Durkin. “Write more and speak more to grow professionally.”

Success Factor #6: The Pursuit of Excellence

Durkin recommends that trainers do what they do best ... and hire the rest. Quoting Kevin Plank, the CEO of Under Armour, whom he met in 2009, Durkin says, “The bigger your dream, the more important your team.” He goes on to note that “Your coworkers elevate your thought processes, inspire your mindset, challenge you, and support you.”

Johnson focuses on connecting— versus competing—with industry colleagues. “We’re all on the same team,” he says. “As soon as you shut yourself off from the industry, you miss out on networking opportunities and don’t hear about a skill or marketing technique that could make or break your business.”

Success Factor #7: Balance

Trainers appreciate that cultivating all of these characteristics, while also working with clients, could easily become a daunting load.

“If you work 16-hour days and never say ‘No,’ it can lead to fatigue and burnout,” Johnson says.

Durkin acknowledges the importance of self-care, including workouts, nutrition, and massage.

“Permit yourself at least two weeks of ‘mellow’ time each year,” he says. “Vacation and time away are critical to restore and reenergize your spirit, and can lead to big ‘Aha!’ moments.”

Read the full article in the September issue of CBI.


Watch Michelle Obama and Nick Offerman’s Fitness-themed Funny or Die Video

We’re excited to finally unveil “History of Exercise,” a video starring First Lady Michelle Obama and actor/comedian Nick Offerman. 

The Funny or Die video, done in partnership with IHRSA, the National Foundation on Fitness, Sports, & Nutrition, the American Heart Association, and the American Council on Exercise, marks the public launch of the President’s Council’s #0to60 campaign, an initiative aiming to educate, inspire, and help Americans lead a healthy lifestyle. 

The video chronicles fitness trends through the ages, from the belly-band machine of the 1950s to the Ab Roller of the ‘90s. IHRSA helped source the vintage exercise equipment for the video, including a thigh master owned by none other than our CEO Joe Moore. 

“IHRSA was thrilled to be a partner in producing this video, with the goal of encouraging more Americans to get active,” Moore says. “Health clubs have been part of the American community since the 1970's and since then have evolved along with changing styles and trends. IHRSA has been supporting its member clubs and the fitness industry since 1981, and will continue to do so.” 

We shot a video today with @MichelleObama & @Nick_Offerman! Coming soon to FOD!

A photo posted by Funny Or Die (@funnyordie) on Jul 26, 2016 at 6:57pm PDT

Today, health clubs continue to offer Americans a safe, fun, convenient, and reliable place to exercise. They provide both professional guidance and the social support and accountability proven to enhance the chances that an individual will stick with a lifelong exercise habit. 

Research shows that 70% of health club members joined to improve their overall health and well-being, and that three out of four people who join stick with it—undoubtedly because they value the health-promoting support they find there. 

All told, health clubs are a vital part of America. With more than 36,000 health clubs across the country, found in all 50 states, health clubs are an integral part of community life, serving cities and towns across rural and urban America. Together, America’s health clubs help millions of Americans of all ages and backgrounds along their journey to a healthy, active lifestyle.


3 Marketing Secrets That Helped West Wood Clubs Survive Ireland’s Recession 

Can you name every single element of your health club business that falls under the umbrella of marketing? The answer may be longer than you’d think. 

“Marketing is everything you do that influences someone's decision whether to buy or not to buy from you,” said Alan Leach, regional manager of West Wood Clubs in Ireland, during his 2016 IHRSA Institute session. “It’s everything we do that influences someone's decision whether to continue to buy from us or not continue to buy from us.” 

During his Wednesday, August 3 session, Leach outlined the sales and marketing strategies that allowed West Wood Club to thrive during Ireland’s economic recession, which caused many health clubs to declare bankruptcy. 

The following are Leach’s top three marketing secrets: 

1. The Price is Rarely the Issue in Most Buying Decisions 

Leach cited a study done for Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and How to Take Advantage of It) by William Poundstone. For the study, researchers interviewed people who bought a slew of products—cars, gym memberships, etc.—and asked them how important price was in the buying decision. 

For those who bought the product they were considering, 14% said price was the most important factor. But when researchers asked the salespeople how important they thought price was in the buyer’s decision making, 84% said it was the most important factor. 

“In a lot of cases, the price is a far bigger issue for the people selling [the membership] than the people buying it,” Leach said. 

Knowing this, West Wood Clubs continued to charge a joining fee during the recession, while other clubs that eliminated their joining fees struggled. 

2. Winning the Battle for Sales Leadership Will Clinch the Victory for Decades 

“When it comes to sales, the golden rule is that ‘winning the battle for sales leadership in a single year will often clinch victory for decades to come,’” Leach said, quoting Jack Trout’s book Jack Trout's book Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind. “When you have sales, you can fix anything.” 

3. Only Spend on Marketing if it Generates a Profit 

West Wood Clubs only spends on marketing if it has delivered a proven return-on-investment, Leach said. As a result, they only spend $35 on marketing and sales per new member.

Read more coverage from the 2016 IHRSA Institute.


Energy-efficient Stafford Hills Club Complements Neighborhood

The following is an excerpt from the Myhre Group Architects blog. 

Following an afternoon tennis match, Marla Zupancic returned home with an idea. She shared her thoughts with her husband, Jim Zupancic, a Portland-area real estate/business lawyer and developer, and described to him how she played on a poor-quality court that day. Soon, inspiration evolved into a plan to build a tennis-centered health club facility. The Zupancics, both avid tennis players, recognized a shortage of high-quality courts in Portland and set out to fill the void. 

As their plan took hold and design concepts were created, the Zupancics concentrated on developing a club where people could gather, socialize and attend wellness-based events. The motivation to achieve these goals led the couple on an extensive tennis center tour, with stops in Australia and across the United States, as they evaluated design features.

One stop included a tour of the National Tennis Center in Flushing, NY, home of the U.S. Open Tennis Championships. A Butler building system, the National Tennis Center features multiple metal systems, which encouraged Jim and Marla to focus the design team on metal building materials.

"When we saw the USTA Tennis Center in New York, we were inspired," Jim said. "The building design reaffirmed that we were going in the right direction in terms of function and high-end finishes." 

Building a Championship Team

Upon returning to Oregon and securing development approvals on a 16-acre property, which included 10 acres that had to be preserved as wetlands, Jim organized a design team led by architect Ray Yancey and general contracting firm Todd Construction to complete planning for the proposed tennis-centered health club. He also contacted Butler Manufacturing to locate a Butler Builder in the area that could infuse qualities of the USTA Tennis Center into his new project.  

Todd Construction President Brent Schafer brought in three design-build companies to provide steel services proposals, including SM Andersen Company Inc., a local contractor and Butler Builder with more than a decade of experience building Butler building systems. Rick Brockway, manager of SM Andersen's metal building division, met with the larger Stafford Hills Club group to give the design team an in-depth explanation of the benefits of Butler building systems. 

"We selected SM Andersen Company due to Rick's experience and expertise with metal buildings and Butler," Jim Zupancic said. "Rick knew the Butler product inside and out, which gave us confidence, whereas other builders we spoke with had metal-building experience but gave us concern that our project would be more of an experiment for a less experienced builder." 

Continue reading Energy-efficient Health Club Complements Neighborhood.


Who Should Manage Your Health Club's Facebook Account?

Odds are you have a Facebook account—and the majority of your members do too; in June 2016, Facebook reported an average 1.13 billion daily active users. 

Nearly every demographic you can think of is on Facebook, from celebrities to brands to high school classmates you’d rather forget. IHRSA is on Facebook, and we even hosted Randi Zuckerberg—former Facebook employee and sister of founder Mark Zuckerberg—at IHRSA 2016. 

Facebook could serve as a major marketing tool for your health club, but many independent clubs struggle with identifying the right employee to update their account. To help club owners and operators get over this hurdle, we talked to social media expert Frank Furness, author and consultant, Frank Furness & Associates

Why It’s Important for a Health Club to Have an Active Facebook Account 

“Firstly, to connect and interact with current members,” Furness says. “Don’t try to sell—just give great information, training and nutrition tips, and the more photos and videos you have, the better the interaction will be. This will help with member retention. 

Secondly for branding and creating an awareness of your club for potential new members. Remember to always have a call-to-action at the end of each video.” 

Who Should Be Running the Health Club Facebook Page 

“Ideally someone on the marketing team who runs social and digital media,” Furness says. “This should be a full time position and not something that someone tries to do in addition to their normal job at the club.” 

No Budget for a Social Media Manager? No Problem 

Of course, some clubs aren’t able to hire a designated staff member to update Facebook and other social media. But that doesn’t mean your account should be neglected. 

“Try to find a student studying media and offer a barter deal—free membership for social media management—or get an intern,” Furness says. “Giving it to someone who already has another position at the club will not work as their priority will always be what they are paid to do. They might start off enthusiastically, but it will always wane.” 

Read more of IHRSA’s social media advice for health clubs.


This Week in the Fitness Industry: Australia’s Goodlife Health Clubs Bought by Quadrant Private Equity

Australia’s Goodlife Health Clubs Bought by Quadrant Private Equity
A new holding company called Fitness and Lifestyle Group Pty Ltd (“FLG”) (funded from Quadrant Entities) has entered a binding agreement to purchase the Goodlife business in Australia. Chris Hadley, QPE executive chaiman and chairman of FLG, said, “we are delighted to join the team at Goodlife, the business fits our investment strategy of bringing together a great brand, strong management team, and culture, with industry growth opportunities. We intend to invest significant capital to further grow the business.” The acquisition by Quadrant is an exciting opportunity for Goodlife and testament to the successful business strategy led by Goodlife Health Clubs CEO, Greg Oliver, which has seen incredibly strong trends in member growth and retention over the past 18 months. Read the full press release on Goodlife Health Clubs. 

IHRSA Prepares for the 17th Annual IHRSA / Fitness Brasil in São Paulo

We’re gearing up to head south to the 17th Annual IHRSA / Fitness Brasil, Latin America’s largest fitness industry conference and trade show, held in São Paulo, Brazil, September 1-3. Since Brazil has been struggling with an economic recession and political instability—all on top of the Summer Olympic Games—much of this year’s event will focus on change and transformation in the industry. The program is designed for all types and sizes of clubs—from established clubs to those that are just starting out in the industry. The program provides educational opportunities in a variety of interactive formats: traditional seminars, how-to sessions, and best practices. IHRSA is committed to investing in Latin America, which, with 55,809 health clubs, has more clubs than any other region worldwide, according to the IHRSA Global Report 2016. The Brazilian health club industry is the largest in Latin America by far, with 31,809 clubs and nearly 8 million total members. Learn everything you need to know about IHRSA / Fitness Brasil. 

McDonalds Removes Fitness Tracker Toy from Happy Meals
In recent years McDonald’s has been trying to improve its unhealthy image—especially when it comes to Happy Meals. The fast food giant has been offering more nutritious options, allowing kids to swap fries for fruit and soda for water. But the chain suffered a major setback last week when it had to recall the fitness trackers that were distributed with Happy Meals because it was causing wrist irritation, The Wall Street Journal reports. The toy tracker began appearing in Happy Meals in the U.S. and Canada on Aug. 9, and its removal from Happy Meals is voluntary, a McDonald’s spokeswoman said. “We have taken this swift and voluntary step after receiving limited reports of potential skin irritations that may be associated from wearing the band,” McDonald’s said in a statement. “Nothing is more important to us than the safety of our customers and we are fully investigating this issue. Our restaurants are now offering our youngest guests an alternative Happy Meal toy.”

Highlights from the Canfitpro World Fitness Expo

Earlier this month, IHRSA staff attended and exhibited at Canfitpro World Fitness Expo in Toronto, Canada—the largest fitness expo in Canada, attracting more than 16,000 fitness professionals, business owners, and consumers from all over the world. The Canadian Industry Forum—presented with the Fitness Industry Council of Canada (FIC)—featured several topical discussions, including boutique fitness studios and the advance of technology. Read our full coverage of the Canfitpro World Fitness Expo.


At Gold’s Gym Dutchess County, Member Results and Community Giving Go Hand-in-Hand

Kim Austin Kenyon found her inspiration to help others from a young age. As a kid, she watched her father, Bill Austin, strive to better the lives of others through physical fitness and daily exercise in his role as the owner of two Gold’s Gym facilities in New York. And in these moments, Kenyon realized she wanted to pursue the same calling and she became drawn to the philanthropic nature of the industry.

Today, Kenyon follows in her father’s footsteps as the managing partner of Gold’s Gym Dutchess County, where she and her colleagues currently serve over 11,000 members in Fishkill and Poughkeepsie, NY. In her daily work, she seizes similar opportunities to offer meaningful programs that help local community members lead healthier lifestyles.

“These program offerings make us who we are,” says Kenyon. “We want to give our members the results they are looking for while also giving back to the community. The initial decision to offer these programs was easy because our clubs have always supported this idea and we wanted to create a way to differentiate ourselves from our competitors—providing these services gave us opportunities to do both.”                         

Gold’s Gym and ‘BetterU’ Work to Prevent Heart Disease

The American Heart Association (AHA) estimates that 370,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year. And, the AHA also attributes heart disease as the number one killer of women, in particular—taking more lives than every type of cancer combined.

Almost six years ago, Gold’s Gym Dutchess County was approached by the American Heart Association about an opportunity to sponsor a program that would address rising rates of heart disease by countering them with healthy behaviors, like regular physical activity and wholesome dietary choices. Gold’s Gym gladly accepted this offer and joined forces with the AHA to sponsor the BetterU program—a free AHA program that encourages 12 women to make small changes to individual fitness and nutrition habits to improve cardiovascular health.

Continue reading about Gold's Gym Dutchess County's community programs.

Click to read more ...


Everything You Need to Know About the 17th Annual IHRSA / Fitness Brasil 

We’re gearing up to head south to the 17th Annual IHRSA / Fitness Brasil, Latin America’s largest fitness industry conference and trade show, held in São Paulo, Brazil, September 1-3. 

Since Brazil has been struggling with an economic recession and political instability—all on top of the Summer Olympic Games—much of this year’s event will focus on change and transformation in the industry. The program is designed for all types and sizes of clubs—from established clubs to those that are just starting out in the industry. The program provides educational opportunities in a variety of interactive formats: traditional seminars, how-to sessions, and best practices. 

IHRSA is committed to investing in Latin America, which, with 55,809 health clubs, has more clubs than any other region worldwide, according to the IHRSA Global Report 2016. The Brazilian health club industry is the largest in Latin America by far, with 31,809 clubs and nearly 8 million total members. 

IHRSA / Fitness Brasil Keynote Presentations 

The current economic situation in Brazil is reflected in this year’s keynote presentations:  

  • Why and How the Economy Will Improve and Surprise Us After 2016: Ricardo Amorim, one of the country's leading experts in macroeconomics, will present in a clear and transparent way the available paths for Brazil and the world, in times of crisis and, as such, help with decision-making for our businesses. 
  • Happiness Leads to Profit: Márcio Fernandes, CEO of Elektro, explains his Innovative Management Philosophy, which is based on valuing ​​people and making business more sustainable. From former packer to Brazil's most highly rated executive by the employees themselves, with a 99% satisfaction rate, argues that it is possible to increase the profitability of a company without downsizing. Instead, it is necessary to create an efficient environment, with real growth opportunities for employees.
  • Making Innovation Happen: Rivadávia Drummond, one of the country's most sought-after speakers and former CEO of HSM, will bring to the table ideas about how to think and rethink our businesses. Drummond is a consultant, lecturer, and post doctoral professor who has taught at Harvard, Stanford, Darden, Dom Cabral, and Hong Kong. He is the author of books and articles on innovation, business models, and knowledge management.
  • A Life Worth Living: Clovis de Barros Filho, Ph.D., associate professor at the School of Communications and Arts of São Paulo University, will share his tips to lead a life worth living. To be human is to be ethical, because ethics is the activity of choosing the best life to live. In this talk, ethics, happiness, commitment, and quality are presented in a chain of ideas that moves and touches us. 

IHRSA / Fitness Brasil Live Coverage

We’ll be providing plenty of live coverage of the convention for those of you who can’t join us in São Paulo. Over the course of the event, we’ll be posting updates right here on the blog, as well as on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.

You can also check out the Fitness Brasil Facebook page and Fitness Brasil blog


How to Empower Your Health Club Managers and Engage Your Employees

One of the consistently reported challenges to owning or managing a health club is finding and retaining quality staff—and even more challenging can be hiring effective managers.

If your tireless recruiting has paid off and you now have a promising management team, how do you make sure they stay and grow with you? 

The key is empowerment. 

Enable Your Health Club Managers to Take Ownership 

Empowerment starts with clear communication, continues with nurtured relationships, and carries over to the next generation of your management staff.

Enabling your managers to take a level of ownership of their contributions to your team will allow them to be more motivated, productive, and engaged in your club. As each individual is motivated by different things, it’s important as an owner or senior manager to get to know your managers and what methods of coaching and recognition will lead them to feel most empowered. 

During his session Strategic Culture: Three Keys to Creating a High-Performance Culture at the   2016 IHRSA International Convention & Trade Show, Rob Lewis of RBS Holdings, LLC said, “Professional development and career progression are among the most important things for employees when looking at jobs.” Lewis explained that owners and managers often only communicate the end result, when what is more important is to communicate the behaviors that produce that end result. 

Communicating your health clubs mission, vision, and values to your managers and enabling them to pass that along to hourly staff and club members, will keep your club culture alive and thriving. “Employee engagement is reflective of a good culture,” Lewis said. 

Clear Communications Set Employees Up for Success 

Another industry leader—Allison Flatley—offered her expertise in keeping your staff engaged in her 2016 IHRSA Institute session, “Staff Hiring, Training, and Retention.” 

The Corporate Fitness Works Chief Strategy Officer and IHRSA Board Member discussed the importance of clearly communicating job responsibilities, what the expectations are, how and when employees will be evaluated, where to find the tools they need to succeed, and how they can overcome obstacles.  

Whether you’ve just hired a brand new manager, promoted a stellar employee, or have a seasoned staff of fitness professionals on your management team, these are essential elements to fostering a sense of empowerment. Flatley also suggested using Gallup’s Q12 survey to help assess the level of engagement in your staff and identify areas for improvement.   

IHRSA’s Professional Development and Management Video archive is full of sessions and recordings from industry leaders, discussing many aspects of successful management skills, training tactics, and culture-creating strategies. These training tools and more are available to IHRSA members at up to 50% off non-member prices, online at the IHRSA store.


Highlights from the Canfitpro World Fitness Expo

Earlier this month, IHRSA staff attended and exhibited at Canfitpro World Fitness Expo in Toronto, Canada—the largest fitness expo in Canada, attracting more than 16,000 fitness professionals, business owners, and consumers from all over the world.  

The Canadian Industry Forum—presented with the Fitness Industry Council of Canada (FIC)—included the following people and topics: 

Barbara Allen, program manager from the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services, spoke on consumer protection rules for fitness clubs. This department is responsible for the protection of consumers from unfair business practices. The session was designed to inform fitness club owners, operators, and trainers about their rights/obligations under the Consumer Protection Act, and what to expect if they ever are inspected. 

David "Patch" Patchell-Evans, founder and CEO of GoodLife Fitness in Canada (and a former IHRSA Board president), spoke about some of the trade-off decisions that you will go through as you grow your business. He went into more details on the important choices you'll encounter as you grow your business from one club to two clubs, two clubs to five clubs, from five clubs to 10 clubs, and beyond.

Helen Vandenberg, owner of Heavens Elevated Fitness, spoke on the changing landscape of the health club industry in Canada, the rise in boutiques/studios, changing technologies affecting the industry, and the more specialized, more unique options consumers have. 

Scott Wildeman, senior vice president of Fitness and Operations of International Fitness Holdings, spoke on the prescription for exercise and the importance of the doctor-gym relationship. He also stressed the importance of the sales process, staff education, and the on-boarding process for these members as clubs need to inspire them to stay at the club after their initial introduction. 

Frank Napolitano, president of 24 Hour Fitness, shared some of the similar trends happening in the U.S. and the rise of the boutiques/studios. He also spoke on the changing trends in marketing and advertising corresponding with the advance in technology. 

Jack Trummer, vice president of the Americas and APAC for Precor, also spoke on the rise of the studio, and went into how consumers are looking for the experience. He spoke on the “omni-channel strategy” to address the multiple ways people buy, and then went on to explain how to connect with people in multiple different ways to reach the most people. Finally, he explained that it's what you are doing besides just opening the door that will make you succeed. 

Colin Milner, founder and CEO of the International Council on Aging (ICAA), went into demographics and the huge opportunity that is out there with the age 50-and-up demographic, which controls a tremendous amount of spending power at a club. The age 50-and-up group has a desire for active lifestyles and social interaction which can be found at health clubs. He went on to describe the importance of design and appeal—both aesthetically and functionally—to attract this generation. 

Thank you to Fitness Business Canada for their continued support and for including the IHRSA staff in their booth at the trade show.