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.



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This Week in the Fitness Industry: First IMAX Cycling Studio Opens in NYC

First IMAX Cycling Studio Opens in New York City
The first IMAX cycling studio opened in a warehouse under the Manhattan Bridge in New York City this week, reports CNBC. The warehouse has been renovated to fit 50 spin bikes on five levels in front of a 40-by-24-foot screen. “I pedaled through snow-capped mountains first, just to get warmed up,” the CNBC reporter wrote. “Then I moved effortlessly over a still blue sea. Until the tunnel. That's when it went techno. Streaming lines, thumping rhythms, all blending (well, not really blending) with the blaring encouragement of a top fitness trainer in a tiny sport top.” Classes are $34 each with monthly packages running about $350. "Imax is always looking for opportunities to take the brand, the technology and, frankly, the focus on larger-than-life experiences to different places," said Bryan Marcovici, CEO of IMAX Shift. "With fitness, you have a market where people are migrating from big-box gyms to more boutique personal engaging experiences. We have an opportunity to accelerate that trend." 

Study: To Avoid Obesity, Exercise Matters More than Diet
Exercise may be more important than diet when it comes to avoiding obesity, according to a study by researchers at the University of Missouri. For the study, researchers split obesity-prone rats into three groups: a control group, a sedentary dieting group, and an exercise group with unlimited access to food. At the end of the study, the control group had become obese, but the dieting and exercise groups had maintained a healthy weight. However, they found that the rats that exercised were metabolically healthier, with better insulin sensitivity and lower levels of bad cholesterol than the dieters. They also burned more fat each day for fuel, according to their metabolic readings, and had more cellular markers related to metabolic activity within their brown fat than the dieting group. Additionally, the exercise group “showed no signs of compensatory eating or compensatory inactivity,” the researcher who oversaw the study told The New York Times

IHRSA Represents at Prestigious BIAC Forum on Innovation in Health and Well-being
Several IHRSA representatives, including Helen Durkin, IHRSA's executive vice president of global public policy, Kilian Fisher, IHRSA's global public policy advisor, and IHRSA members Martin Seibold and Catherine Carty, are representing the fitness industry at the Business and Industry Advisory Committee to the OECD (BIAC) Forum on Innovation in Health and Well-being. The forum, held May 3-4, 2016 in Paris at the OECD headquarters, is a unique two-day event that brings together senior representatives from government, the OECD, the leaders of multi-national consumer corporations, and leading experts in health and wellbeing to exchange solutions and policy recommendations. "With so many multi-national food and drink companies and trade associations involved, this is our opportunity as one of the few 'positive' industries involved to really drive the health and wellness message, especially with regard to what the fitness and health club industry can offer to help addressing the global health crisis," Kilian Fisher said when speaking about the opportunities presented in attending this event. Read our full coverage of the BIAC Forum. 

Yoga May Improve Symptoms, Quality of Life for Asthma Sufferers
Asthma sufferers who practice yoga may see small improvements in their symptoms and quality of life, according to a new review. The findings come from a doctor in Hong Kong who looked at the results of 15 studies involving more than 1,000 asthma patients to determine whether yoga provided significant benefits. “One third of these studies included only yoga breathing exercises, and the rest included breathing, postures, and meditation,” Reuters reports. “The yoga practice lasted anywhere from two weeks to four and a half years, though it was less than six months in most studies. Overall, yoga slightly improved symptoms and quality of life and reduced the need for medications.”


Learn How to Promote Physical Activity on Social Media with IHRSA’s New E-book 

In the United States, every May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, a month to spread the word about the many benefits of a physically active lifestyle with your members and community. And a great way to do that—and boost your club’s brand awareness—is through social media. 

One of the ways IHRSA is helping club support physical activity online is #WhyGetActive, a social media movement born at the grassroots level to rein in the physical inactivity crisis that feeds chronic diseases, drives healthcare spending, and escalates economic uncertainty in the U.S. and worldwide. 

It is an inspirational movement that provides a worldwide platform for sharing the many compelling reasons for being physically active and fosters a cultural shift toward wellness—wherein physically active lifestyles are encouraged, supported, and easier to sustain. #WhyGetActive enables people around the world to share their personal motivations for pursuing an active life, provides a platform of support for active lifestyles, and links discussion of healthy lifestyle topics on social media. 

Another resource for clubs looking to improve their online presence is the May edition of the “12 Months of Health Promotion,” an e-book filled with resources designed to help you spread the word about physical activity—and your club’s great work—on social media. 

May resources include:  

  • 7 Tips for Successful Social Media
  • Building a Health Promotion Program In Your Club: An Introductory Toolkit
  • WhyGetActive Campaign Brief
  • Social media-related blog posts to read and share   

“12 Months of Health Promotion” is a monthly series of e-books that will provide information, resources, and ideas to help you capitalize on the communication opportunities available to you in the U.S. and around the world. Look for a new issue at the beginning of each month.

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Cloud Computing 101 for Health Clubs

Cloud computing technology has become increasingly popular in the business world—it provides new opportunities to streamline business processes, secure critical information, and enhance the client—i.e., club member—experience.

At this point, however, industry observers note, the use of cloud computing hasn’t yet become widespread in the health club sector.

The clubs that are using it—most likely in conjunction with their member management software—are, in a sense, pioneers. They’ve taken the first steps on a path that may well lead to a technological revolution in this industry.

If you haven’t yet made the leap, consider the following your personal copy of “Cloud Computing 101.”

How Cloud Computing Benefits Health Clubs

Remember when the only thing you could do on the Internet was send e-mails? Well, just think about what you can do on the Internet now.

Cloud-based services have the potential to change the way you run your business, and how your members interact with your club. The possible improvements they offer are numerous and, it seems, open-ended. They provide new ways to engage prospects and members; maintain the connection, the dialogue, with members both inside and outside the club; can lead to new revenue streams; and, importantly, can make running your business easier and more efficient.

If you were so inclined, you could manage your club 24/7—at your leisure.

Cloud Computing Basics

To begin, it’s important to define what cloud computing is—and what it isn’t.

“It’s essentially the use of a network of servers and power generation that’s remote, and hosted over the Internet, to manage and process data and crunch numbers,” said Al Noshirvani, the CEO of Motionsoft, Inc.

The Rockville, Maryland–based firm offers member management software in both hosted and cloud-based versions. A number of other IHRSA associate member software providers do so as well.

A hosted solution, also known as software as a service (SaaS), is a product that’s run on remote servers located at a host’s—typically, the software provider’s—facility. One of the biggest misconceptions today is that cloud-based and hosted solutions are the same, when in fact, they’re very different, Noshirvani said.

“The majority of clubs in this country aren’t utilizing cloud solutions,” he said. “Most are using hosted solutions, and, because of that, people aren’t taking advantage of the possibilities the cloud provides.”

Security and Cost Savings

Transitioning to the cloud means not only increased security, but, also, big savings. Clubs don’t need to invest in expensive hardware, because cloud services are available on most devices via a simple Web browser.

“The cloud is an ‘infrastructure modality,’” said Bryan O’Rourke, the president of the Fitness Industry Technology Council (FIT-C), based in Covington, LA. “That means that, since you don’t own your own servers, you don’t have to have a hardware infrastructure. The cloud opens up a world of possibilities—at a lower cost.”

Read the full article on cloud computing for health clubs in the May issue of CBI.


Cats, Beer, and Salt: 3 Unique Yoga Offerings

The number of Americans practicing yoga increased by more than 50% between 2012 and 2016, climbing from 20.4 million to 36 million, according to the 2016 Yoga in America Study.

The mind-body genre as a whole—including yoga, Pilates, barre workouts, meditation, and scores of other options, such as Qigong and tai chi—seems to be experiencing a moment in the sun. The reasons for this are many: The unique benefits of holistic exercise modalities; growing awareness and appreciation of them; and, among the most compelling factors, the fresh new versions that are constantly appearing.

Here are three unique variations of yoga that have recently come to our attention.

1. Yoga with Cats

One spot where yoga mats are now being rolled out is the Meow Parlour, a “cat café” in New York City.

Here, classes are conducted in the company of the resident felines, all of whom are available for adoption. Each 45-minute class, which costs $20, is preceded by 30 minutes of playtime with the animals. It’s the ideal way, some argue, for cat lovers to practice downward dog.

2. Yoga with Beer

Another unlikely, but intriguing new venue for yoga classes are breweries. Beth Cosi, a yoga instructor, is the founder of Bendy Brewski, a firm that offers classes—and beer—at breweries in Charleston, SC, and Memphis, TN.

It’s a trend with its own Instagram hashtag, #beeryoga, and has been embraced so enthusiastically that Lululemon, the huge, Vancouver, British Columbia-based manufacturer of yoga clothing, has ventured into brewing: It’s introduced Curiosity Lager, a limited- edition beer flavored with lemon drop and Chinook hops.

The unique setting, Cosi said, is casual, laid-back, and hardly exotic or esoteric, and, therefore, more appealing to individuals who otherwise might be dismissive of the Eastern regimen. “I get a lot of men, and you don’t see a lot of men in yoga studios,” she told ABC News. “Sometimes I have more men than women.”

The classes are priced from $15 to $20, and, for safety reasons, the beer always comes after the yoga.

3. Yoga with Salt

Okay, now for the salt: Dry salt therapy, believed to reduce stress, relieve respiratory problems, and improve skin conditions, has been a popular spa treatment for years. Now instructors are teaching yoga in salt chambers to help their clients heal. Salt-themed classes are available in locations such as the Los Angeles Athletic Club, the Canyon Ranch in Las Vegas, and the Breathe Easy spa, in New York City.

At Breathe Easy, pharmaceutical-grade salt is circulated in the air via fans placed inside a room constructed of Himalayan salt. Students place their mats atop a floor of soft salt and, for $25 per class, participate in a yoga session.

Making yoga more interesting and accessible is the goal of Hotpod Yoga, which was developed in the U.K. by yoga instructor Nick Higgins and strategy consultant Max Henderson, and is now being offered worldwide. The founders developed a fully portable, inflatable yoga studio—the pod—which, warmed to 98.6 degrees, can comfortably accommodate up to 20 people for an hour-long hot yoga class. The unique venue is described as providing an “amazing, tranquil environment,” and can be conveniently inflated in less than 15 minutes. That means that yoga classes can literally pop up anywhere, anytime.

The brand is expanding rapidly, and classes are now available in locations near and far—London; Lisbon, Portugal; Bucharest, Romania; and South Africa.

The “pop-up” concept is also being explored by the providers of other mind-body practices, such as Pilates and barre.

Read the full "The Beauty of Mind-body" article in the May issue of CBI.


How to Protect Your Health Club from Wildfires

The risk of wildfires is currently high and no region of the U.S. is excluded from this danger. Here is some information to help you lower your health club’s risk and damage from wildfires from Philadelphia Insurance Companies (PHLY), an IHRSA group purchasing supplier. 

While the western states have the greatest predicted potential for wildfires, areas in the Southeast have experienced wildfires in recent years. California has declared a State of Emergency due to drought conditions. The drought produces drier conditions and increases the probability of wildfires. 

U.S. Drought Map 

Brush Fires 

Smaller than wildfires, there are three ways a brush fire can attack a building:  

  1. Flying embers blown by the wind ignite combustible external elements (most common)
  2. Fire spreads from the bush to walls of the structure
  3. Heat from flames causes building to catch fire  


Recommendations for protection:  

  • Create and maintain defensible space around your property
  • Strategically place fire-resistant plants to resist the spread of fire
  • Cover chimneys with a screen
  • Ask your utility company to trim trees away from power lines
  • Check condition of fire extinguishers
  • Practice fire drills and emergency evacuation
  • Note the location of the closest fire hydrant or water supply 

Health Club Infant Swimming Program Boosts Revenue, Value

It’s quite a sight—something most people aren’t used to seeing. At the Hockessin Athletic Club (HAC), a 109,000-square-foot, family-oriented multipurpose club in Hockessin, DE, Aquatics Director Nadya Davis routinely places babies face down in the pool; parents watch from the deck with anticipation. Within seconds, each infant rolls onto its back to float and breathe, until Davis picks up the child, prompting cheers and smiles.

Unconventional as it may seem, the routine is part of the club’s carefully planned Infant Swimming Resource (ISR) Self-Rescue program, which provides survival swimming lessons for children ages six months to six years. Founded in 1966 by Dr. Harvey Barnett as a way to prevent pediatric drowning, ISR today has nearly 500 certified instructors in 16 countries who are focused on the organization’s defining mission: Not One More Child Drowns.

“We wanted to partner with ISR to further its objective, which ties in with our core value—that of community,” said Davis, who led the initiative to bring ISR to HAC. “We pride ourselves on raising awareness for various health, fitness, and charitable causes.”

As the first commercial health club—and IHRSA member—to have its staff trained to offer the ISR program, HAC has made a commitment to prevent drowning, the leading cause of accidental death for children under age four in the U.S.

Davis encouraged other IHRSA clubs to do the same. What better way, she said, is there for operators to demonstrate to their staff, their members, and their community that they deeply care about the health and well-being of others?

A Valuable Feeder Program

Since it began to offer ISR lessons four years ago, HAC has taught 250 children, even though the commitment to the program on the part of participants is intense. The youngsters attend 10-minute, one-on-one lessons five days a week for four to six weeks, at a cost of $21 per lesson. There’s also a one-time ISR national registration fee of $105 for an initial medical history review.

Upon completing the initial lessons, children can enroll in weekly maintenance lessons at HAC, and may also take an annual ISR refresher course to deal with changes in their cognitive and physical development.

HAC members and nonmembers are encouraged to take advantage of ISR, and some families travel for as long as two hours to attend the lessons. A number of local participating families have gone on to become members.

The successful program has become an integral part of the offerings of HAC’s extensive aquatics facility, which includes a 25-yard, four-lane indoor pool; a 25-yard, six-lane, heated outdoor pool (open year-round); a warm-water therapy pool; a zero-depth entry leisure pool; and a catch pool beneath a water slide.

“Children start ISR lessons in the six-months to three-year-old range, and then, typically, stay with their ISR instructor for maintenance lessons until they’re ready for stroke mechanics around age four or five,” Davis said. “The ISR program not only extends our revenue opportunity to younger children, but also feeds into our traditional private and group swim lessons.”

Continue reading "Health Club Infant Swimming Program Boosts Revenue, Value."

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IHRSA Represents at Prestigious BIAC Forum on Innovation in Health and Well-being

Several IHRSA representatives, including Helen Durkin, IHRSA's executive vice president of global public policy, Kilian Fisher, IHRSA's global public policy advisor, and IHRSA members Martin Seibold and Catherine Carty, are representing the fitness industry at the Business and Industry Advisory Committee to the OECD (BIAC) Forum on Innovation in Health and Well-being.

Catherine Carty and Kilian Fisher at OECD in Paris.

The forum, held May 3-4, 2016 in Paris at the OECD headquarters, is a unique two-day event that brings together senior representatives from government, the OECD, the leaders of multi-national consumer corporations, and leading experts in health and wellbeing to exchange solutions and policy recommendations.

Riz Khan, an internationally recognized journalist and author with shows on CNN International and Al Jazeera English, is moderating the two-day discussion.

The event will showcase the diversity of how business is involved in providing solutions to healthcare challenges. Participants will learn how the food and drink industries are investing in innovations to deliver healthier products for consumers.

As employers, businesses are also providing wellness programs that empower populations and increase productivity. The business community knows that we are just one stakeholder, and the event will showcase examples of partnerships with governments and community stakeholders to reduce risk factors for chronic diseases, as well as education programs that encourage populations to become physically active and adopt healthy lifestyles.

Martin Seibold and Catherine Carty about to speak on improving well-being."With so many multi-national food and drink companies and trade associations involved, this is our opportunity as one of the few 'positive' industries involved to really drive the health and wellness message, especially with regard to what the fitness and health club industry can offer to help addressing the global health crisis," Kilian Fisher said when speaking about the opportunities presented in attending this event.

IHRSA's representatives Catherine Carty, manager, UNESCO chair for inclusive Fitness, Sport, and Recreation (UFIT), and Martin Seibold, managing director of Fitness First UK, presented on day one on behalf of the fitness industry.

The discussion outcomes of the meeting are relevant for the global health community.

Find out more about the BIAC Forum on Innovation in Health and Well-being. You can also follow the event on Twitter via the hashtag #BIAChealth.

Event representatives include:
Heineken, The Coca-Cola Company, The McKinsey Global Institute, Nestlé Research Center, UNESCO, Fundación de Investigaciones Sociales, IHRSA, Fitness First UK, COCIR, Healthcare Services and Solutions, Alzheimer’s Disease International, Government of Sweden, EFPIA, Partnership to Fight Chronic Disease, Pfizer Inc., Mines ParisTech, and The National Institutes of Health.

Corporate Fitness Works Wellness Coordinator Honored with President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition Community Leadership Award

St. Petersburg, FL—The President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition has selected Joe Troubetaris, a Corporate Fitness Works wellness coordinator at CSX Transportation’s corporate health and wellness center in Huntington, WV, to receive a 2016 President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition Community Leadership Award.

The award is given annually to individuals or organizations who improve the lives of others within their community by providing or enhancing opportunities to engage in sports, physical activities, fitness, and nutrition-related programs. 

Corporate Fitness Works’ vision is to lead a health revolution that moves everybody and Joe is leading the charge with his work to support CSX and the Huntington community. Having been diagnosed with diabetes at age 12, Joe brings an incredible desire to help connect, strengthen, and empower his community to live a healthier, happier life. Joe never hesitates to support CSX community service events that incorporate physical activity such as 4 Summer Spikes, Family Fish & Fun Day, Military Appreciation Day, Service Day and Fall Awareness Day. 

“Joe Troubetaris has worked to consistently promote opportunities for individuals to lead healthy lifestyles through physical activity and/or healthy nutrition,” says Shellie Pfohl, executive director of the Office of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. “Because of Joe’s efforts and contributions, his community can embrace a more active lifestyle. Together, we are all working to make our nation a healthier one by helping individuals across the nation live vibrant, vivacious, and productive lives.” 

Joe’s supervisor has lightheartedly deemed him the honorary mayor of Huntington, WV. “Truth be told, Joe has done so much to improve the lives in Huntington that he truly is an inspiration and well respected leader within his community, CSX and throughout our Corporate Fitness Works Team.” 

This year, in honor of its 60th Anniversary, the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition presented the Community Leadership Award to 60 recipients across the country for making sports, physical activity, fitness, and nutrition-related programs available in their communities. 


Why the Health Club Business Handbook is the Ultimate Investor and Operator Guide

This feature is brought to you by the IHRSA Store spring sale. Now through June 30, save 25% on reports, webinars, and all other resources in the IHRSA Store by using promo code 2016SALE at checkout. 

IHRSA’s Health Club Business Handbook: The Ultimate Investor and Operator Guide to Gyms, Studios and Fitness Centers (HCBH), is a resource aimed at helping existing and potential club owners, managers, and investors understand the key factors that affect the success of a health club company. 

The ABC Financial-sponsored publication is organized into 11 sections, each featuring charts and graphics from industry research or from the private collection that author John McCarthy, retired former executive director of IHRSA, has gathered over the course of his career. Sections include: 

  • The Health Club Industry at a Glance - a summary of industry growth, consumer demographics, public companies, and the largest franchises in the U.S.;
  • Facilitating Industry Growth - an exploration of demand and supply drivers, market readiness, and financing options;
  • Evaluating a Loan or Investment Proposal - an examination of factors to consider when developing or investing in a health club, including start-up costs and operating capital, success factors, and return on invested capital;
  • Formula and Measures - an analysis of key performance indicators and recommended guidelines;
  • Industry Prognosis: The Next 10 Years - an in-depth overview of economic, legislative, consumer, and related factors that impact the future of the industry.  

“The IHRSA Health Club Business Handbook provides club owners with critical information needed to understand the operational considerations and market conditions that can make or break their businesses," said Jay Ablondi, IHRSA’s executive vice president of global products. “It also provides lenders, investors, venture capitalists, and others with the financial performance indicators, consumer demographics data, and industry overview that will help them properly evaluate a club investment."

Now through June 30, use promo code 2016SALE to save 25% on the Health Club Business Handbook and all other resources in the IHRSA Store!

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A Q&A with Blink Fitness President Todd Magazine

Todd Magazine, the president of Blink Fitness, Equinox’s new high-volume/low-price brand, spoke to Club Business International about his plans to grow this new franchise concept. 

CBI: Blink is an appealing, but rather ambiguous, name—similar to Apple and Amazon. Where did it come from? What do you want it to convey? 

Todd Magazine: The name was inspired by our brand vision, “Fitness for Everybody,” which is shorthand for our desire to democratize high-quality fitness and make it accessible to as many people as possible. So we were looking for an interesting name that connoted something that everyone does frequently and naturally. 

The idea of “blinking” quickly became the front-runner because, every time you blink, you refresh your eyes and your view. We thought it represented exactly what we were trying to do—refresh people’s view of the high-volume/low-priced (HV/LP) club segment. Our vision statement has since become “Fitness for everybody. Everybody blinks.” 

CBI: How do you describe the Blink offering? And its value proposition? 

TM: Blink Fitness is changing the HV/LP segment by offering its members “Mood Above Muscle,” a new and fresh philosophy that celebrates the positive feelings you get from exercise—not just the physical benefits. It resonates with a much broader audience because it showcases the immediate benefits of exercise. The physical results take time and patience, which is why so many people give up, or never even start, exercising. 

CBI: Can you elaborate on that a bit? 

TM: We bring the Mood Above Muscle idea to life with what we call our “Feel Good Experience,” which offers five things no other gym in this segment is providing: We’re “Mood Lifters” who greet and treat members with respect.
We have an “everyone cleans” philosophy with respect to club upkeep that permeates our staff culture. Our gyms are designed to inspire by being colorful, open, and bright. We specifically select energizing music to help motivate members. And our training programs boost confidence—not wallets. 

CBI: To focus on you for a moment: You have an impressive corporate resume. Which of your previous assignments best prepared you for your current responsibilities at Blink? 

TM: That’s kind of you to say. In many ways, I feel that all of my previous work experiences, and some of my personal experiences, have prepared me for my role at Blink. On the work front, I learned about building brands of passion, particularly ones in the health and wellness space, such as Advil, Gatorade, and Quaker Oatmeal. On the personal side, my father was a corporate controller and my mother was a real estate broker, and I went to college hoping to pursue an architectural career. I’ve been an athlete and an exerciser my entire life. 

CBI: Given that, where do you work out, and what does your typical routine consist of? 

TM: As you might expect, I’m a loyal and passionate Blink member. I typically work out four to five times
a week, including two to three times at Blink with my personal trainer. On the days that I don’t go to Blink, I play tennis or run out-of-doors. 

Read more about the Blink Fitness franchise concept in the May issue of CBI.