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Entries in ACAC Fitness and Wellness Centers (16)


Hone Your Organizational Skills to Create Successful Marketing Campaigns

This post is an IHRSA Institute preview.

A strong, integrated marketing strategy is key to the success of any business. Unfortunately, creating and implementing that strategy can be a challenge for smaller health club businesses, which often don’t have the resources to employ full-time marketers. 

Continue reading "Hone Your Organizational Skills to Create Successful Marketing Campaigns."

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This Week in the Fitness Industry: Aerobic Fitness Should Be Considered a Vital Sign

Report: Aerobic Fitness Should Be Considered a Vital Sign
A new statement from the American Heart Association says aerobic fitness should be considered a vital sign and be part of annual physical exams, The New York Times reports. “The statement points out that fitness can be a better indicator of someone’s risk for heart disease and early death than such standard risk factors as smoking, obesity, and high blood pressure,” the article states. “The authors recommend that each of us should have our aerobic fitness assessed as part of medical examinations and, if our fitness is on the low side, we should be advised and helped to start exercising. The authors also suggest that if your physician does not begin to determine your aerobic fitness in the near future, you should do so yourself, using any of several scientifically validated online tools.”

acac Fitness & Wellness Center to Open New Location
acac Fitness & Wellness Centers announced last week the acquisition of a facility in Germantown, MD. The new club is located inside of the Johns Hopkins Health Care and Wellness Center. acac will begin operations in the facility, which currently operates as Healthtrax, in December 2016, according to a release. “We are thrilled to become part of the Johns Hopkins Health Care and Wellness Center,” said acac owner Phil Wendel. “The center is an exciting concept in total health for individuals and families. It is a one-stop shop for health with traditional medical services, community health education, physical/occupational health services and a full- service fitness center all under one roof.” The new location offers indoor aquatics, racquetball, basketball, Kids Zone childcare, cardio, free weights, stretching, group exercise, and group cycle classes. In addition, acac will offer wellness programs in partnership with Suburban Hospital, and acac’s award-winning Physician Referred Exercise Program (p.r.e.p.) will feature prominently in the club.

How Presidents Have Stayed In Shape Since the Founding Fathers
Presidents have been physically active since the Founding Fathers set up shop in Washington D.C., according to a CNN article. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were skilled horseback riders. Later, Herbert Hoover would exercise on the South Lawn of the White House with his advisors, playing a game that would become known as Hooverball. Theodore Roosevelt built a tennis court near the south side of the West Wing in the early 20th century, and in 2009 Barack Obama had new lines and removable baskets added to the space so it could be used for a full-court game of basketball. Read our blog post about how former presidents stayed in shape while in office. 

IHRSA Members Can Save on Music Licensing with BMI
IHRSA group purchasing supplier Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) supports songwriters, composers, and publishers by taking care of an important aspect of their careers—getting paid for the music they create. BMI supports businesses and organizations that play music publicly by offering blanket music licenses that permit them to play more than 10.5 million musical works. BMI is the bridge between songwriters and the businesses and organizations that want to play their music publicly. As a global leader in music rights management, BMI serves as an advocate for the value of music, representing more than 10.5 million musical works created and owned by more than 700,000 songwriters, composers, and music publishers. Learn more about how to save on music licensing with BMI.


Lessons in Fitness Leadership: Treat Customers and Employees Well

The Lessons in Fitness Leadership series highlights IHRSA’s industry leaders and thanks them for their continued commitment to growing, promoting, and protecting the health club industry. By sharing their business expertise, we hope that you will get to know them, what they've learned along the way, and how they view leadership. 

Phil Wendel
Charlottesville, VA

What is the most fulfilling part of being a business leader in the fitness industry? 

This is a feel good way to make a living. At ACAC, we say that we help people “live their best.” We’re part of the solution to America’s healthcare crisis. So, while we’re making a living we’re also helping other people live.

If you were able to go back in time, what is one piece of leadership advice you would have given your younger-self about working in the fitness industry?

1. Focus on sales, sales, sales. I’ve had two jobs. The first was at a student travel company, and the second was in this industry. I started a fitness center (ACAC) in 1984. When we started, we focused on tremendously building the top line. I had a piece of advice I would always give to anyone that put a great idea on my desk; I would ask them—do you have someone that can sell this?

2. If your business is based heavily in sales, make sure there are an equal number of people working to manage the expense side of your business.

3. Treat your customers and your employees extremely well.

What prompted you to join the Industry Leadership Council (ILC)?

Any industry is far more effective if it has somebody that represents your common interests. IHRSA’s most effective tool and their best work—other than providing an A+ convention every year—is their work on fighting sales tax battles.

One of the best IHRSA member benefits is allowing individual club operators to contribute to legislative outcomes. Collectively we are stronger. Together we have a broader and more effective voice than any of us can have individually. 


Best Practices: 4 Ways to Solicit Health Club Member Feedback

The following post was written by Christine Thalwitz for our Best Practices series.

Question: Knowing the importance of listening to members, how should I solicit feedback to improve customer service?

To have a complete picture of your members’ expectations and perceptions, it’s important to make use of feedback.

1. Customer-initiated Communication

Open-ended, customer-driven systems, such as suggestion boxes, Q&A boards, and “open-door” policies are valuable because they allow members to share their thoughts spontaneously, especially when there’s an acute need to respond to them. Of course, it’s also important to make sure that your team members “own” any complaint they hear.

2. Company-prompted Contact 

Focus groups, surveys, and member advisory committees can yield highly focused information that can help you make better strategic decisions. And you can time these interactions to measure particular aspects of various products or services.

3. Unarticulated Feedback 

Also pay attention to your members’ body language, which can express volumes. Sometimes, a warm greeting or a simple apology for an inconvenience may be all that’s needed to smooth things over. It’s also valuable to track other ways that members “vote with their feet,” such as program participation and club attendance.

4. Conversations Outside the Club 

Of course, social media has made it easier than ever for customers to share their opinions. In addition to creating your own presence online, monitor other channels that your customers frequent. Whenever you encounter complaints, consider it an opportunity to respond positively and publicly.

Christine Thalwitz
Vice President of Marketing
ACAC Fitness & Wellness Centers
Charlottesville, VA


Best Practices: How to Retain Health Club Members When a Popular Instructor Leaves

The following post was written by Christine Thalwitz for our Best Practices series.

Question: How can I retain health club members when a popular exercise instructor leaves?

Christine Thalwitz: First, take steps to ensure a smooth transition. Inform members about pending changes clearly and well in advance. If you plan to retain the class, find a strong replacement, and, if possible, have the new and departing instructors teach together a few times prior to the transition.

Focus members on other exciting club offerings.

Overall, be sure to reward staff teamwork more than personal popularity. Team goals and incentives help instructors understand the big picture. Consider pairing your newer teachers with veterans for mentoring to improve the quality of instruction. Avoid filling your schedule with specialty classes that rely on the expertise of particular leaders.

Encourage members to participate in a wide variety of club activities to help them develop stronger feelings for your brand, and to develop relationships with staff and other members. Special workshops, member socials, and class-launch parties foster camaraderie.

Finally, if instructor turnover is a recurring problem, then organizational issues may be sabotaging staff satisfaction. If you don’t already do so, you should administer employee surveys and conduct exit interviews to gather valuable feedback.

Christine Thalwitz
Vice President of Marketing
ACAC Fitness & Wellness Centers
Charlottesville, VA


Keys To Success for Medical Wellness Programs

Medical wellness has drawn increasing interest over the last few years at IHRSA. Last month at IHRSA 2016, acac Fitness & Wellness Centers Medical Advisor Dr. Greg Degnan spoke about the opportunities available to clubs entering the medical wellness space, factors to consider before adding a medical program, and keys to implementing successful programs. 

There Are Opportunities for Clubs

The healthcare and health club industries have historically been separate, with little overlap or communication. However, there have always been a few champions—physicians who worked out at a club, or who embraced the importance of physical activity for their patients.

But now the time for closer ties is right, due to changes in healthcare. Initiatives like "Exercise Is Medicine" are growing, obesity is now recognized as a disease, and the Affordable Care Act has signaled the importance of prevention and opened the door to reimbursement for preventive and wellness services.

The fitness industry can find several opportunities in the 80% of the population that does not currently use a health club. If clubs can reach this group and help them get results, they will create loyal, long term members while adding to their membership base overall.   

Integrating Medical Wellness Into Your Club: A Road Map

When you’re ready to implement a medical wellness program, there are four key components to keep in mind. 

  1. Decide what level of commitment and programming your club can offer. This will depend on three areas: facilities, programming, and cost. Do you have space in your brick and mortar location or is a virtual “off site” program more realistic? Do you have enough staff with the right skills (remember, you’re dealing with patients)? What kind of price model will you be able to offer?
  2. Embrace the top-down culture change necessary to make the program succeed. This means ownership must buy in to the fact that these types of programs often call for a different sales and training process and team than used for your typical members. Choosing the right teams for this group will be a key to success.
  3. Make your facilities a safe haven. Healthcare providers need to know their patients are safe in your club, not just physically, but emotionally. Providers will look for a layout friendly to people with limitations, a non-intimidating environment, and a social atmosphere. It is also beneficial to have every person in the club—not just raining staff—CPR and AED certified. A pool is not required, but it’s a bonus.
  4. Commit to marketing and outreach. You’ll need to reach beyond your members’ community to be successful, and the marketing will be different as you are not appealing to the fitness consumer but to their gate keeper—the physician. 

Recognizing the importance of physician outreach in the success of medical wellness programs, IHRSA worked with Dr. Degnan and acac p.r.e.p. Director Kelly Lynn to produce a new toolkit for members.

The “Using The Physician Outreach Model to Grow Medical Wellness Programs” toolkit is designed to assist the IHRSA members that are unfamiliar with this model and are interested in learning more about the merits of utilizing physician outreach. The toolkit focuses on defining the physician outreach model and providing insights into how to make medical wellness programs under this model work for your club and community.

Get the CEO Pledge Toolkit (Member Login Required)


Social Advantage: Businesses with Active Blogs Are More Successful

In this age of technology, establishing an active presence on social media sites and online forums is one of the most effective ways to communicate with your audience. And being well-versed in how to build and implement a successful blog strategy has its added advantages, as businesses that post regularly on their blogs are 55% more likely to be found by customers looking to invest in a product or service. 

At IHRSA 2016 , Christine Thalwitz, vice president of marketing for acac Fitness and Wellness centers in Charlottesville, VA, offered her best practices for creating an engaging blog during the session “Social Advantage: Tips, Tricks, and Tactics to Build a Better Blog.” 

Thalwitz encouraged attendees to consider the following tips to increase blog readership: 

1. Decide what your story is and how it should be told. Identifying your target markets is a crucial part of tailoring content to fit the interests and needs of your readers. This includes showing how your story will unfold as well as telling your readers exactly what they want to know.    

2. Create a unique and captivating website design that is easy to navigate. Ensuring that your website has a welcoming design is almost as important as the content that will be housed on your blog. Readers want to have easy access to information through simple navigational tools that lead them directly to the content they are searching for. Mobile capability is also an essential component to consider when thinking about potential design options.   

3. Use a defined blog process to create content. Generally, this process involves:    

  • Planning and researching – A large part of being successful is about staying up-to-date on trends and current events. Therefore, it is important to do research on what others are blogging about. 
  • Creating – Creating a post requires a certain level of mastery that involves crafting the perfect headline, incorporating key words and phrases that illustrate a clear point, making sure that your content is rich without being “stuffed,” and including bullet points, links, and video elements for easier “readability.” 
  • Publishing and distributing – When considering how much regular material to publish, it is important to think about how many posts you can publish consistently while still maintaining the high quality and integrity associated with your company’s brand and message.  

4. Focus on analytics to measure success. Programs such as Google Analytics, Social Analytics, CoSchedule, and Mail Chimp all have applications that can provide accurate information on the views that your posts are receiving. Studying and reviewing these numbers can provide useful feedback on where to focus efforts for future improvement.  


‘Build a Better Blog’ with IHRSA’s January 7 Webinar

Health club blogs often fall to the wayside due to time constraints and low member engagement. But, if done correctly, blogs can be a major attribute to your business and its reputation.

Christine Thalwitz, vice president of marketing for acac Fitness & Wellness Centers, will outline exactly how health club operators can do just that in her Thursday, January 7 webinar, “Build a Better Blog: Tips, Tricks & Tactics.”

“There is a lot more to blog writing than meets the eye,” she says. “If you understand post architecture and optimization, your life will be a lot easier and your posts more powerful. I’ll be sharing tips and tools to demystify that process.”

Thalwitz’s 60-minute webinar will cover the following learning objectives: 

  • Learn how to rethink and relaunch your blog for a unique competitive advantage.
  • Discover how to update your blogging strategy to attract more quality prospects, enhance your company’s reputation and improve sales.
  • Learn how to craft compelling content that matches today’s buyer behavior.
  • Gain insight on how to measure the impact of your content strategy and tweak what isn’t working.
  • Explore how to leverage social media and email marketing to maximize your blog’s reach and influence. 

“Done well, a blog will improve your SEO, increase discoverability and website ranking, and ultimately drive traffic. It is a platform for you to share timely information and position your business as the market leader,” she says. “Use it to feed your content marketing efforts in social media, email, and publications. Analyze your traffic and engagement to see where you are gaining traction and where you might need to sharpen your messaging.”

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IHRSA 2016 Session Spotlight: Make Your Club the Pharmacy to Fill Exercise Prescriptions

Changes in the U.S. health care reimbursement system have opened the door for health clubs to work side-by-side with medical providers to deliver preventive care through fitness. While health care integration presents growth opportunities to health clubs, it can be a daunting task to undertake.

That is, unless you attend IHRSA 2016 session “Make Your Club the Pharmacy to Fill Exercise Prescriptions,” presented by Greg Degnan, M.D., medical director for acac, a health club chain based in Charlottesville, Va.

Targeting a New Population

Degnan is an orthopedic surgeon who splits his time between an active clinical practice and leading the medical programming for acac. He and acac owner Phil Wendel conceptualized the program 15 years ago when they discussed ways to reach the 60 percent of the population who are most in need of help from the fitness industry, but ill-equipped to exercise without guidance.

Since then, Degnan has been tasked with designing, implementing, and selling acac’s medical programming. His conference session, scheduled for Monday, March 21 at IHRSA 2016 in Orlando, will draw on his years of experience and teach health club operators how to build a successful medical integration program.

Defining Your Commitment Level

A critical step in developing such a program is to define your commitment and involvement level.

“This is not a fad you can jump into just to beef up your membership numbers,” he says. “This is a special needs, high touch population—not your standard relatively fit people who walk in the door.”

Some clubs prefer a lower level of involvement, which doesn’t require a large investment. But others, like acac, have established fully integrated programs. For example, acac employs a registered nurse and a dietician at every site, as well as full-time outreach workers who focus on selling the program’s benefits to the medical community.

Communicating the Medical Benefits

And it’s the benefits—not a membership—that will convince medical providers to recommend your health club to their patients.

“Membership does not impart a skillset, and the problem with this part of the population is they don’t have the skillset to exercise well or safely,” Degnan says. “The one thing I’d tell a club trying to reach this population is to change your focus to short-term programs that safely deliver the skillset that then allows these people or entices these people into moving into a membership.”

Don't miss “Make Your Club the Pharmacy to Fill Exercise Prescriptions” and many more information-packed sessions at IHRSA 2016!

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ACAC’s Lifelong Commitment to Community

ACAC is to community service as physical activity is to health club. The two have always gone hand in hand. So much so, that ACAC has branded itself according to the community service outreach it partakes in, and it is this reputation that has inspired many of ACAC’s current employees to pursue a career there.

“ACAC has offered community outreach initiatives for as long as I can remember,” recalls Christine Thalwitz, ACAC’s Vice President of Marketing.

Twenty years ago, before working for ACAC, Thalwitz recalls receiving a phone call from ACAC asking her club to participate in their all-day aerobathon to benefit AIDs and HIV research and funding. Impressed with the way they conducted their business; Thalwitz had no idea that she would end up joining their team a few years later. A team that not only works toward the betterment of the community but also creates programs for the betterment of their own staff members and their families.

In 2007, Ber, the son of an ACAC group exercise instructor, was unexpectedly diagnosed with Stage 4 Neuroblastoma.  To help lessen the costs of treatment, club employees developed a series of group exercise classes to help the family fight this disease. The generous donations collected on behalf of Ber’s Bowl have contributed to Ber’s improved condition – as his cancer is now in remission. However, this fight is far from over.

Every year during Super Bowl weekend, ACAC hosts a class-a-thon where members of the community are invited to participate in a variety of free exercise classes. The club donates $1 per member and $5 for every guest for every class that they attend. Proceeds from this project are now being donated to Cookies for Kids Cancer, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising funds and awareness for pediatric cancer research.

In 2012, Ber’s family requested that proceeds from this event be redirected to ACAC team member, Charlie Ritting, to financially assist him with his fight against cancer. Charlie has since passed away, however, the fund has continued to raise awareness and unite the club and the community under a single cause – one that has raised over $100,000 to date and has taken tremendous strides toward finding an eventual solution to this deadly disease.

This passion is the force that ultimately drives these programs and their purposes forward. Thalwitz explains that employing advocates and champions who will positively promote these initiatives is the best way to ensure increased community involvement, while also guaranteeing that staff members feel satisfied with the meaningful work they perform.

This cohesion among club employees and the community is what has shaped ACAC’s respectable character as a company that cares strongly about its ties to the public.

“That all-for-one spirit I first observed so many years ago still permeates the organization to this day,” Thalwitz says.

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