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4 Ways Health Clubs Benefit from Offering Community Programs

Health clubs are in the business of serving people. And what better way is there to serve people than to get involved in opportunities that will make a lasting impact outside the four walls of your health club? 

Community programs act as a way to engage all people to participate in physical activity, regardless of factors such as age or ability. With the right resources, staff members, and organizational support it is possible for clubs to play a larger role in helping local residents be more active. 

In fact, what clubs are willing to actively give to the local community is often returned in the form of business prosperity. 

Here are four reasons health clubs could benefit from offering community programming: 

1. Shows that Your Club is Involved in the Community 

“Our ideas for programming come from simply answering a need,” says Noah Hastay, operations manager at Gainesville Health & Fitness, “with our vision of becoming one of the best companies for the world, we are striving to help those inside and outside of our four walls.” 

Asking local community members what they want out of a health club’s program offerings is a proven way to demonstrate a club’s ability to listen to member suggestions and personally address them as best as possible. 

 2. Differentiates Health Club from Competitors 

 “The initial decision to offer these programs was easy because our clubs have always supported this idea,” says Kim Kenyon, managing partner at Gold’s Gym Dutchess County, “and we wanted to create a way to differentiate ourselves from our competitors—providing these services gave us opportunities to do both.” 

In today’s ever-expanding market, most clubs offer some variation of yoga classes, personal training sessions, and group-X programs. However, programming specifically tailored to address a certain need—whether it is helping cancer patients regain their strength or sponsoring a road race to raise charitable funds for ALS—generates unique interest and makes any facility stand out in a sea of similarity.   

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This Week in the Fitness Industry: Peleton CEO Stresses Importance of Group Exercise Environment

Peleton CEO Stresses Importance of Group Exercise Environment
Boutique studios continue to grow in popularity among consumers, and some savvy health clubs are offering boutique-style classes to remain competitive. But boutique fitness has its limitations, such as location, price, and availability. In a recent interview in The New York Times, Peleton Co-founder and Chief Executive John Foley talks about how he hopes to solve those problems by providing users with a boutique experience in their own homes. “What the consumer wants, what is making people addicted to these classes, whether it’s yoga or boot camp or spin or high-intensity interval training or whatever, it’s the group environment,” he said. “It’s the other people. It’s the instructor. It’s the music. It’s the motivation.” 

Meet the IHRSA 2017 Keynote Speakers

A talent management guru, an internationally acclaimed branding expert, and an entrepreneur with an unlikely success story will keynote IHRSA 2017. This March, the IHRSA International Convention & Trade Show returns to Los Angeles, CA, and will feature more than 100 education sessions taught by some of the most successful individuals in the health club industry. Here’s a preview of three dynamic keynote speakers who will set the tone. 

Fitness Trackers Might Be Detrimental to Weight Loss Efforts
Some people buy fitness trackers with the goal of losing weight—but perhaps they shouldn’t. A new study found that wearing a fitness tracker may undermine weight loss efforts. For the study, 470 people were put on a low-calorie diet and asked to exercise more. Soon, all started losing weight. After six months half the group began self-reporting their diet and exercise, while the other half were given fitness trackers to monitor their activity. After two years, both groups were equally active—but those with the fitness trackers lost less weight. "These technologies are focused on physical activity, like taking steps and getting your heart rate up," John Jakicic, a researcher of health and physical activity at the University of Pittsburgh and the lead author on the study, told NPR. "People would say, 'Oh, I exercised a lot today, now I can eat more.' And they might eat more than they otherwise would have."

IHRSA Generates Support for PHIT on Capitol Hill
(Click to enlarge)Several IHRSA members and staff, along with members of the PHIT Coalition, conducted a lobby day on Capitol Hill today to generate additional support for the PHIT Act. Members of the PHIT Coalition, co-chaired by IHRSA and the Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), met with members of the House and the Senate, asking them to co-sponsor the PHIT Act. Currently, PHIT has 101 bipartisan sponsors, with 88 from the House and 13 from the Senate. PHIT, the Personal Health Investment Today Act, would allow Americans to use flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs) to pay for health club memberships, fitness equipment, exercise videos and youth sports league fees. If passed, it would allow individuals to tap their pre-tax account up to $1,000 per year to cover these expenses—families would be granted up to $2,000. Read our full coverage of the PHIT Act lobby day.


Meet the IHRSA 2017 Keynote Speakers

A talent management guru, an internationally acclaimed branding expert, and an entrepreneur with an unlikely success story will keynote IHRSA 2017

This March, the IHRSA International Convention & Trade Show returns to Los Angeles, CA, and will feature more than 100 education sessions taught by some of the most successful individuals in the health club industry. Here’s a preview of three dynamic keynote speakers who will set the tone. 

Seth Mattison, founder and chief movement officer of FutureSight Labs 

Session: Relationship Revolution: Building Better Connections in the Digital Age (sponsored by MYZONE

Date: Wednesday, March 8 

Expertise: Seth Mattison is an internationally renowned expert on workforce trends and generational dynamics. As founder and chief movement officer of FutureSight Labs, Mattison advises many of the world’s leading brands and organizations on the key shifts happening around talent management, change and innovation, leadership and the future of work. 

Named to the Editors’ Picks for Favorite Speakers of 2013 by MeetingsNet, Mattison offers actionable content that can immediately impact business performance. With his finger on the pulse of today’s changing workforce, Mattison blends storytelling from his own personal experience working with category-leading brands while leveraging cutting-edge research to develop fresh perspectives on the key strategic issues most relevant for today’s leaders. 

Martin Lindstrom, author, change agent, and brand futurist 

Forget BIG Data – Small Data Defines the Future (sponsored by Technogym

Date: Thursday, March 9 

Expertise: Martin Lindstrom is recognized as one of the world’s leading brand experts, having pioneered the introduction of brands on the Internet (1994), using our five senses in branding (2004), introducing neuroscience in advertising (2007) and exploring the next generation of subconscious communication (2010). He was named a top “Thinkers 50 Global Management Thinker” in 2015. 

Lindstrom was named one of TIME magazine’s "World's 100 Most Influential People" and is the author of several New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling books, including Buyology, Brandwashed, and Small Data. He is a trusted brand-and-innovation advisor to numerous Fortune 100 companies, including McDonald’s Corporation, PepsiCo, American Express, Microsoft, Nestlé, The Walt Disney Company, and GlaxoSmithKline.

Johnny Earle, branding expert, and founder of Johnny Cupcakes 

Viral Business: Inspiring Customer Loyalty (sponsored by Matrix Fitness

Date: Friday, March 10 

Over the past decade Johnny Cupcakes, founded by speaker Johnny Earle, has grown from a "joke" to a multi-million dollar, highly exclusive t-shirt brand driven by a community of world-wide collectors. Johnny shares his story of how he took his t-shirt brand from the trunk of his rusty car at age 19, with a learning disability, to some of the world's most sought after retail locations. 

In this session, Johnny will piece together how his success reinforces the power of details, experience and loyalty. Johnny's presentation provides comprehensive blueprints for getting any small business, passion or idea off the ground, while also expanding the way existing creators think.

Learn more about IHRSA 2017, March 8-11 in Los Angeles, CA.


6 Actions Health Club Leaders Take to Develop Emerging Leaders

Identifying and nurturing emerging leaders continues to be a challenge in our industry.  

It’s also one ofif not the most importantchallenges we face. In his IHRSA 2016 session, “Extraordinary Leaders: Develop a High-Performance Team,” Eddie Tock of REX Roundtables said, “research shows that improving leadership behavior has more impact on your company performance than any other investment.”

So, in looking at the leadership traits of many of our industry’s leaders, I’ve distilled those traits into six common actions leaders use to foster leadership in both their own organizations and throughout the industry.

To develop the next generation of industry leaders, current club leaders...  

#1. Lead by Example 

Most everyone replied that leading by example is by far the most important trait. Basically, the leadership traits you want to see in your club staff are the same ones they want to see in you every single day. Any form of leader should be professional, ethical, communicative, supportive, display a high work ethic, and be willing to share knowledge and experiences.  

Jim Worthington, owner and president of Newtown Athletic Club, who is known for “walking the talk” has said that being a leader in the industry has given him the chance to mentor employees as well as colleagues at other clubs.

#2. Are in Perpetual Learning Mode  

According to Leadership Hospitality, it is important for leaders to ‘be visible about their own need to learn. Great leaders are never more powerful than when they are shown to be in a learning mode.’

Our industry’s leaders are some of the best at sharing the fact that they are information and education-hungry. Allison Flatley, CEO of Corporate Fitness Works, has shared that she loves learning growth strategy from successful entrepreneurs and training techniques from experienced personal trainers. And Janine Williams, vice president of human resources at Leisure Sports, said that the most important leadership trait is “to ensure that you continue to expand the depth and breadth of your knowledge; not only in the health club industry but in business and financial acumen as well.”

#3. Cross-train to Develop Across Skills or Knowledge Gaps  

Our industry already understands the value of cross-training to build endurance, flexibility, and skill. The same applies for leadership learning as candidates that are rotated through various jobs gain first-hand experience and new expertise in many different roles. They also develop a broader vision of your club and exposure to staff dynamics and member concerns.

In his IHRSA 2016 presentation, "Developing NextGen Leaders," Brent Gallagher discusses the practical steps involved in establishing a team of next-generation leaders, including the need to train across areas to create a healthy leadership pipeline.

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IHRSA Generates Support for PHIT Act on Capitol Hill 

(Click to enlarge)Several IHRSA members and staff, along with members of the PHIT Coalition, conducted a lobby day on Capitol Hill today to generate additional support for the PHIT Act.  

Members of the PHIT Coalition, co-chaired by IHRSA and the Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA), met with members of the House and the Senate, asking them to co-sponsor the PHIT Act. Currently, PHIT has 101 bipartisan sponsors, with 88 from the House and 13 from the Senate.

PHIT, the Personal Health Investment Today Act, would allow Americans to use flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs) to pay for health club memberships, fitness equipment, exercise videos and youth sports league fees. If passed, it would allow individuals to tap their pre-tax account up to $1,000 per year to cover these expenses—families would be granted up to $2,000.

In addition to the day’s lobbying efforts, members of IHRSA’s Board of Directors are presenting the first-ever “IHRSA Get Active Leadership Award” to Congressional Fitness Caucus co-chairs, Representatives Ron Kind (D-WI) and Bob Dold (R-IL). This inaugural award honors Members of Congress with especially strong track records of supporting policy initiatives that promote physical activity.

Presenting the IHRSA Get Active Leadership Award to Rep. Ron Kind

“This lobbying day provides the perfect occasion to rightfully acknowledge and honor Reps. Kind and Dold for their long-term commitment to helping Americans live healthy lifestyles,” says Helen Durkin, IHRSA’s executive vice president of public policy. “By presenting them with the ‘Get Active Leadership Award’, we hope to raise the visibility of their efforts and to inspire others on Capitol Hill to recognize the important role that public policy has to play in enabling all Americans to embrace and live more physically active lives.”

Missy Moss, Steve Cappezone and Allison Flatley, members of IHRSA’s Board of Directors; Suzanne Trainor, IHRSA’s public policy assistant, and Tom Scanlon and Jay Sweeney, the association’s Washington D.C. lobbyists, represented IHRSA and its members at the event.


Corporate Fitness Works ‘Pays the Fun Forward’ in Memory of Beloved Team Member 

All this week, Corporate Fitness Works (CFW) employees have been carrying out “random acts of fun,” inviting members to choose from a jar filled with inspirational quotes and partake in a “sweet mini-break” with a friend.   

The CFW team members’ actions have already put many smiles on members’ faces, but the Pay-the-Fun-Forward Campaign (PTFFC) has a deeper meaning—celebrating the life of Amanda DiGirolomo, a Pennsylvania-based team leader who lost her life in a car accident last year. 

“Our Pay-the-Fun-Forward Campaign has allowed us to honor the memory of a very special Team Leader and to help heal our broken hearts," says Allison Flatley, chief strategy officer for CFW and IHRSA board member. "Amanda DiGirolomo was filled with sunshine and could make anyone smile. Now we have the honor of paying her love of fun forward to the special people we interact with everyday.”

Paying the Fun Forward 

PTFFC will take place annually in conjunction with Amanda’s birthday, September 18. In 2016, September 18 falls on a Sunday, therefore, the first annual PTFFC is taking place Monday, September 19, through Friday, September, 23. 

Throughout the week, CFW employees are encouraging, inspiring, and implementing “random acts of fun” at their site, at home, and/or in their communities. 

“Creativity is the limit for how Team Leaders ‘pay the fun forward,’” says Elaine Bispo Smalling, director of marketing and PR for CFW. “Team Leaders are encouraged to capture moments of fun and share them on our internal communication feed, Yammer, using the hashtag #PayTheFunForward.” 

Remembering a Beloved Team Member 

As a tribute to Amanda’s memory, CFW team members company-wide are wearing yellow shoelaces with her initials throughout the month. 

“The color yellow was selected because it was one of Amanda’s favorite colors, and also the perfect color to reflect her fun, happy, positive personality,” Smalling says. “When Team Leaders receive inquiries about their yellow shoelaces, they are encouraged to freely share the meaning behind them and ask those inquiring to join the Pay-The-Fun-Forward Campaign!”

At CFW's Florida headquarters, team members will be going to a local paint-your-own pottery studio, where they will paint sunflowers on tiles that will be incorporated into corporate headquarters. That way, Amanda's spirit will greet everyone who visits.


GIVE Fitness Stresses Purpose Over Profit

Purpose fuels profit. By definition, the two work together to achieve remarkable results. 

From its inception, this is something that GIVE Fitness realized and incorporated into its business model to better serve its members and be more accessible to residents in the local community. By promoting best practices for individual health and wellness and finding the value in reaching out to and assisting a larger network of people, GIVE has used its passion to solidify its brand as one that is both generous and prosperous. 

GIVE Fitness was started as part of Working to Give, LLC (WTG), a for-profit corporation launched in 2005 as the result of a college MBA project conducted by Matt Holguin and two of his MBA colleagues at Azusa Pacific University. WTG is the parent company that oversees a number of smaller business operations in food, retail, and fitness, and what makes WTG so compelling is the requirement that all smaller business operations under WTG ownership must be willing to use 50% of their profits to give back to the community.  

A Business Model Unlike Most 

In the business world where profit often trumps purpose, GIVE does the opposite and encourages other businesses to follow its lead by prioritizing the needs of the people they service over the financial gains they attain. However, even as GIVE’s business model proves to be both effective and powerful, there are many that continue to question whether this strategy is too good to be true. 

“Our biggest challenge has been maintaining transparency. Many people think this is a marketing ploy, so battling the skepticism and being consistent in our messaging has been extremely important. This is not just a monetary thing. It is a daily practice for us to be part of our community,” says Josh Donovan, president and co-founder of GIVE Fitness and COO of the fitness division for Working to Give. 

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Going Digital: The Disruptive Opportunity for the Global Health Club Business

If you’re uncertain about technology’s place in the health club industry, Marcos Eguillor, managing partner of BinaryKnowledge_ and professor at IE Business School, would like to give you a wake-up call. 

The growing use of technology in fitness is “not going back to ‘the good old times,’” he says. “Forget about it—this is not going to happen. Digital is going to stay, and instead of trying to fight it I would say try to leverage it.” 

Eguillor will teach IHRSA European Congress attendees how to leverage digital strategies in his keynote address, “Going Digital: The Disruptive Opportunity for the Global Health Club & Fitness Business.” His Keiser Corporation-sponsored presentation will take place on Wednesday, October 19 in Seville, Spain. 

How Technology Is Impacting Health Club Infrastructure 

One of the biggest disruptive elements of today’s digitized world is that the days of solely brick-and-mortar businesses are over. 

“The main change is the way customers think of infrastructure has changed,” Eguillor says. “The gym or health club is no longer just a place. Technology has made us independent from the infrastructure being a specific location or exercise machine or personal trainer—we are more autonomous and more knowledgeable about what to do and how to do it.” 

Jump on Different Digital Opportunities 

Eguillor suggests looking for new ways to turn a profit, even if that means the fundamental value proposition of your club could change. 

“It’s no longer a place to practice sport—the gym infrastructure has to be rebuilt in terms of the value proposition,” he says. “I don’t know if that means better infrastructure or no infrastructure, but you cannot be restricted to infrastructure. You need to be part of the value change in terms of digital.” 

This means that all staff members have to be aligned under the new digitized structure, Eguillor says. For example, if one of your personal trainers isn’t capable of interacting with members virtually, in addition to face-to-face, you are likely missing an opportunity. 

“Your personal trainer at the health club needs to be a digital ambassador,” he says. “By pushing those boundaries forward you can create a seamless experience—the user shouldn’t be able to differentiate when they’re at the club and when they’re out of the club.” 

Ultimately, undergoing a digital transformation can be a huge opportunity for a health club, but Eguillor cautions that the process is much more involved than simply building an app or purchasing new technology. 

“Digital transformation is not technology—it is what you do with technology,” he says. 

Learn more about the IHRSA European Congress, October 17-20 in Seville, Spain. 


Health Clubs Sharpen Competitive Edge by Opening Boutiques

Having been involved in the fitness industry for decades, Cliff Buchholz knows that the one constant is change.
 He’s equally aware that club operators who fail to recognize and embrace the newest trends will pay the price—most likely, sooner rather than later.

Buchholz managed tennis clubs and staged major tennis tournaments, successfully, in the ’60s and ’70s. When the popularity of racquet sports gave way to broader, emerging exercise trends, he moved on to operate full-service fitness facilities in Pittsburgh and Springfield, both in Illinois.

Capitalizing on New Fitness Trends

In 1979, he opened the first Miramont Lifestyle Fitness Club, in Fort Collins, CO, and today owns and operates four multipurpose properties in the area.

Remaining relevant has always been a big part of Buchholz’s business plan, as well as a major reason for his success, and so, last summer, he and his management team made a significant strategic move. Alert to the threat, as well as to the opportunity, posed by the dynamic studio/ boutique business model, they opened REVE by Miramont Fitness to capitalize on the explosive trend.

Rather than compete with small operations offering pricey, specialized workouts, they decided to join the party.

“The customer is asking for something different—not just here in Fort Collins, but throughout the country,” he says. “The concept of smaller studio classes is becoming more and more popular, and we’d be foolish to ignore it.”

Susan Cooper, the owner, president, and COO of BB Fitness Studios, in Austin, Texas, understands, agrees, and, like Buchholz, is a conceptual convert. “In January, we changed our name, and completely rebranded ourselves as a collection of studios with small, intimate exercise classes and lots of hands-on instruction,” says Cooper, a former member of IHRSA’s board of directors.

“In other words, we’re giving our participants an exclusive, intimate experience—exactly what they want.”

And, in doing so, they’re not alone. Cooper and Buchholz are just two of a growing number of IHRSA members who’ve opted to open studios inside, adjacent to, or near their facilities.

Boutique Studios Explained

In recent years, studios have been celebrated for offering intense, high-energy, and, importantly, personalized sessions in a wide variety of exercise categories—among them, boxing, CrossFit, cycling, yoga, Pilates, and personal and functional training.

If it seems that there’s now a boutique studio on nearly every street corner or in every shopping mall—well, that’s about right. According to IHRSA’s Comprehensive Guide to the Boutique Studio Phenomenon, a recently released free e-book, studios already constitute 42% of the U.S. market in terms of number of units—that’s double what it was just two years ago.

This comprehensive IHRSA report, which provides insights into the purchasing behavior of boutique habitués, concludes there are three psychological rea- sons why studios, also called “micro-gyms,” are hot right now. They’re social, they’re fun, and they’re trendy—all of which appeal strongly to 20-to-30-year- olds, aka millennials.

The report also notes that they’re convinced that studios can help them achieve the results they seek—quickly.

“Millennials have more buying power than previous generations, and place a high value on health and fit- ness,” Tara Sampson, the general manager of the VIDA Fitness & Aura Spa, in Washington, D.C., notes in the IHRSA report.

Continue reading "Surfing the Studio Surge" in the September issue of CBI.


This Week in the Fitness Industry: Proof that Exercise is a ‘Miracle Drug’

Time Magazine Examines the Proof that Exercise is a ‘Miracle Drug’
“As time goes on, paper after paper after paper shows that the most effective, potent way that we can improve quality of life and duration of life is exercise,” said Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky, a genetic metabolic neurologist at McMaster University in Ontario, in Time Magazine’s September cover story. The article, “The New Science of Exercise,” provides an in-depth look at the scientific proof backing up the long-standing belief that exercise works like a miracle drug. “Despite public-awareness campaigns, the health benefits of exercise have not been effectively communicated to the average American,” the article stats. “Humans are notoriously bad at assessing the long-term benefits–and risks–of their lifestyle choices. And vague promises that exercise is ‘good for you’ or even ‘good for the heart’ aren’t powerful enough to motivate most people to do something they think of as a chore. Humans are, however, motivated by rewards. That is why experts like Tarnopolsky are so focused on proving that the scientific benefits of exercise–slower aging, better mood, less chronic pain, stronger vision, the list goes on–are real, measurable and almost immediate.”

IHRSA Board Members Represent at the Motionsoft Technology Summit

Several IHRSA board members and former board members attended and spoke at the Motionsoft Technology Summit in Baltimore, MD, this week. Rick Caro, former IHRSA board president and president of Management Vision, Inc., spoke at the CIO Roundtable on Wednesday, and IHRSA Board Chair Rasmus Ingerslev presented the closing keynote address on Thursday. Read our full coverage of the Motionsoft Technology Summit.

Blink Fitness Asks Members to Audition for its 2017 Ad Campaign

Blink Fitness is inviting 300,000 members to use social media to enter the company’s brand-wide casting call for its 2017 ad campaign. The digital “audition” for the campaign, which is part of Blink’s continued effort’s to advocate for body positivity, will be open until October 7. More than 300 people have already applied since the September 12 launch. Following the submissions, the finalists will be chosen and called back to stand in front of a panel of influential “casting agents” to explain why feeling good is the new looking good. Panelists will include Dascha Polanco, known for her role as Dayanara Diaz on Orange is the New Black and NFL punter, Steve Weatherford. Blink’s 2017 campaign is an evolution of its “Every Body Happy” platform, which launched earlier this year.

IHRSA Submits Comments on Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program
On September 6, IHRSA formally submitted comments to the Center for Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS) concerning the proposal that Medicare cover the cost of a preventative service incorporating physical activity and diet intervention—the Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program (MDPP). The MDPP stands to be the first ever preventative service model certified for expansion by the CMS Innovation Center. With the proposal that Medicare will cover the cost of MDPP, health clubs are in an advantageous position to administer the program and become a vital component in the healthcare system. The program consists of educational sessions on healthy habits for individuals at risk of diabetes, evidenced by blood test results (and covered by Medicare), beginning with an initial six-month period with a core curriculum. The curriculum incorporates the importance of physical activity in healthy living, in addition to nutrition and stress management. The primary goal of the program is weight loss and behavior change to prevent against diabetes—both goals achievable in a health club setting. Read our full coverage on IHRSA's Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program comments.