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Entries in Alan Leach (24)


IHRSA Welcomes the Newest Members to the IHRSA Board of Directors

IHRSA proudly welcomes Carrie Kepple, Alan Leach, Bryan O’Rourke, and Brad Wilkins as newly elected members of the IHRSA Board of Directors. The board-elect will serve a four-year term from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2021. 


Carrie Kepple is a 10-year industry veteran of international club business, currently serving as the manager of a Les Mills facility in Newmarket, New Zealand. She has expanded Les Mills business operations in New Zealand—opening, reopening, and managing three clubs across the country. As an international trainer and presenter, Kepple has also served as a global sales training consultant for Les Mills and as the national director for 62 corporate-owned clubs offering Gold’s Gym Group Exercise (GGX).

Most recently, Kepple launched a new coaching business called LIFESTYLES-Mindful Wellness, and she enjoys being a distributor for Kyäni nutritional supplements—demonstrating how proper nutrition can be paired with daily exercise to produce lasting health benefits.


Alan Leach currently serves as general manager, sales trainer, and head of sales and marketing for the West Wood Club, based in Dublin, Ireland. He uses his 32 years of health club and sales management experience to serve more than 33,000 health club members at West Wood Club and Crunch Fitness locations in Ireland and Bosnia.

Leach has been an avid supporter of the industry for years. At the start of his career, he grew an individual club’s membership from 700 to 3,100—establishing the club as one of the most profitable facilities in Europe. He continues to promote physical activity and the global industry as a regular speaker at countless events for fitness professionals.


Bryan O’Rourke is the founder and CEO of Integerus, LLC; the chief security officer (CSO) and principal of Fitness Marketing Systems, LLC; the CSO and partner in the Flywheel Group, LLC; the president of the Fitness Industry Technology Council (FITC); and the owner and CSO of a chain of Gold’s Gyms based in Houston, Texas. He is also a former chairman of the Medical Fitness Association’s education committee.

O’Rourke is an industry innovator and technology expert, who serves and consults with leading fitness and health clubs brands around the world. As a highly regarded speaker and author, he has spoken on four continents, addressing how health club businesses and wellness professionals are improving the world’s health one step at a time. He was recently named to ACE's industry advisory council and contributes to the GGFA's think tank.


Brad Wilkins is the senior vice president of Cooper Aerobics Enterprises, Inc., and oversees the Cooper Fitness Center and the Cooper Spa in Dallas, Texas. Wilkins joined Cooper Fitness Center as an intern in 1996 and since then, has taken on roles as a fitness trainer, fitness director, and general manager. Most recently, in 2015, he was named the chief operating officer of Cooper Wellness Strategies.



IHRSA Mercado Fitness 2016 in Photos

The third annual IHRSA/Mercado Fitness Mexico City Conference & Trade Show was held on October 26 and 27 in Mexico City, offering attendees 10 conferences, four seminars, and a bustling trade show. 

IHRSA staff was there, and we've compiled some of the top photos from the event.  

IHRSA Mexican Health Club Report Announcement

During the IHRSA Mercado Fitness opening address on Wednesday, Jay Ablondi, IHRSA’s executive vice president of global products, announced the forthcoming IHRSA Mexican Health Club Report—the first-ever comprehensive report that provides an overview and analysis of the health club industry in Mexico. All attendees will receive a copy of the report for free. Read our full coverage of the opening address.


The Trade Show Opens

Jose Marsico, CEO of Mercado Fitness, and others spoke before the Trade Show opened on Wednesday. 

Dr. Paul Bedford Shares Retention Strategies

Dr. Paul Bedford, the research director of Retention Guru, based in Croydon, Surrey, shared his research-based best practices for better health club member retention. One tip: split members' long-term goals into smaller goals. For each goal a member achieves, you reduce their risk of canceling each month by 10%.


Enjoying Mexico City

Attendees took the opportunity to get some fresh air between sessions in the area surrounding the World Trade Center.


Alan Leach Talks Sales and Marketing

Alan Leach, regional manager of West Wood Clubs in Ireland, gave two presentations on Thursday about sales and marketing.

"One of the reasons West Wood is so successful is I don’t follow what they do in the Irish market. A lot of the sales and marketing techniques that I use are based on proper marketing principles," he said in an interview prior to the event. "I’ve worked for companies in Mexico and [the marketing approach] is not different at the end of the day."


Lots of bright lights and high-flyers today at the IHRSA #MercadoFitness trade show.

A photo posted by IHRSA (@ihrsa) on Oct 27, 2016 at 9:51am PDT

Scenes from the Trade Show

Attendees got a chance to check out equpiment, demonstrations, and more throughout the event this week.


IHRSA/Mercado Fitness: An Industry Fiesta

In just three years, the IHRSA/Mercado Fitness Mexico City Conference & Trade Show has become the preeminent industry event in Mexico, which, by any gauge, is one of the five largest markets in the Americas.

According to The IHRSA Global Report 2016, the country now has 7,826 fitness facilities, with some 2.7 million members, and annual revenues of $1.5 billion—and all of those numbers are growing.

Testifying to the sector’s vibrancy is the fact that, this year, attendance at the 3rd annual IHRSA/Mercado Fitness (I/MF) gathering, taking place October 26–27, at the World Trade Center in Mexico City, is expected to jump by 20%, topping 6,000.

Upgrades and Improvements

The increase is being driven, in part, by the numerous upgrades and improvements to the 2016 edition of I/MF.

“While the 2014 and 2015 events in Santa Fe were very successful and well-attended, this year the conference and trade show will take place in the heart of Mexico City, which will boost attendance,” says Jacqueline Antunes, IHRSA’s senior manager for Latin America.

In addition to increased accessibility, I/MF ’16 boasts a host of other enhancements, explains José Antonio Mársico, the CEO of Mercado Fitness Mexico, the program’s producer. It’s been promoted by well-known athletes and government organizations, has introduced a new web platform and app, and has fine-tuned its schedule of conferences and workshops to maximize the possibilities for attendees.

In all, it will offer some 10 conferences and four seminars that, together, will address virtually every essential, as well as some extraordinary, aspects of health club operations. And, as it has in the past, I/MF will attract operators from throughout Mexico and countries such as Argentina, Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Panama, Spain, Uruguay, Venezuela, and the U.S.

Continue reading "IHRSA/Mercado Fitness: An Industry Fiesta."

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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.


The 2016 IHRSA Institute in Photos

On August 2-5, nearly 100 health club professionals descended on the picturesque University of North Carolina campus for the IHRSA Institute, Executive Education for Club Professionals, sponsored by Core Health & Fitness, MINDBODY, NASM, and SPRI.

Over the course of the week, attendees sat in on high-level sessions on topics from sales to finance, networked during meals and cocktail hours, and shared experiences and strategies during roundtable discussions. And some even got their sweat on during daily early-morning workouts.

If you haven't been, it's difficult to explain just how engaging an event the Institute is. So we figured—rather than tell you—we'll show you.

Opening Keynote Address on Visionary Leadership

Over time, organizations naturally focus on efficiency—delivering on objectives—and start driving out flexibility and, as a result, miss opportunities for innovation, Christopher Bingham, Ph.D., professor of strategy and entrepreneurship for the Kenan-Flagler Business School at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said during the opening keynote address.

Scholarship Recipients Recognized

This year’s IHRSA Institute scholarship recipients, Azeza Tessereau, general manager at Wellbridge Athletic Club and Spa located in Town and Country, MO, and Brent Gallagher, owner of Avenu Fitness & Lifestyle located in Houston, TX, were recognized on the first night.

Attendees Got Hands-on During a Keynote Activity

Christopher Bingham asked keynote attendees to team up to try to build note card towers for an exercise that demonstrated the power of experimentation.


Networking Galore!

Between networking events, roundtable discussions, and group meals, attendees had countless opportunities to make professional contacts (and some new friends, too).

Learning at High-level Sessions

More than a dozen sessions were offered, on topics like strategic planning, marketing and sales, finance, legal issues, revenue, and more.


Dining at DuBose Hall

Meals, which were included in the event package, were held at UNC's historic DuBose Hall.


The #IHRSAInstitute logo swap is underway!

A photo posted by IHRSA (@ihrsa) on Aug 4, 2016 at 3:48pm PDT

The Famous IHRSA Institute Logo Swap

Each year, attendees bring their company's swag to exchange with others. This year's logo swap was one of the best yet!


The Traditional Group Photo

Not a bad-looking group, if we do say so ourselves. 


Congratulations to the Class of 2016!

Because the IHRSA Institute wouldn't be complete without a graduation ceremony.

And Before You Go...

Just a few more of our favorite photos from this year. Thanks to all those who attended! We hope to see you—and some new faces—at the 2017 IHRSA Institute. 


Implement a Professional Sales System to Grow Health Club Memberships

Through its digital marketing strategies, West Wood Club’s website generates 990 leads a month—but those leads are worth nothing if they’re not converted into memberships. 

And the best way to turn leads into members? Implementing a professional sales system. 

“The best investment you’ll ever make in a fitness club is to invest in a professional sales system,” Alan Leach, regional manager of the Dublin, Ireland club. “If you’re having difficulty growing memberships, find a professional sales trainer or have someone on your staff who can go through that training […] It will be invaluable to you.” 

Leach took IHRSA Institute attendees through his club’s proven strategies during his Thursday, August 4 session, “Sales Management.” To start, he outlined the top three sales tasks:  

  1. Generate leads for your fitness business
  2. Convert leads into tours of your fitness business
  3. Convert tours into members of your fitness business  

West Wood Clubs uses integrated marketing strategies to generate leads, from search engine marketing to direct mail campaigns. And once the leads are recorded in their database, it’s up to the highly trained sales team to guide the leads through the buyer’s journey. 

Each West Wood Club sales team member goes through a rigorous training process:  

  • Full day: How to sell 70% of all tours
  • Full day: How to convert 70% of enquiries to tours
  • Three full days: Sales role play
  • Full day: How to do sales prospecting 

As a result of their marketing strategies and finely tuned sales process, West Wood Club’s website nets 56,000 visits a month, which the sales team generated into 3,992 memberships in 2015, resulting in $8.4 million.


Create a Five-Star Locker Room Experience with These 4 Tips

Locker rooms are one of the most relaxing and rewarding areas of your club. At the same time, they’re a labor-intensive challenge for you and your staff—and that’s putting it mildly. Once simple, utilitarian changing rooms, they’ve evolved into a defining part of most clubs, the room that members tend to visit first ... and last ... and, often, in between.

Village Health Club, Ocotillo, Chandler, AZ

“Our research indicates that members want their locker room to be a place where they can escape and relax for 30 minutes,” said Alan Leach, the area general manager and head of sales and marketing for the West Wood Clubs, a group of three premium facilities in Dublin, Ireland. “It should be an experience—like staying at a Ritz-Carlton. Our members expect these spaces to be something special.”

Creating a five-star locker room involves much more than keeping the floors clean or stocking enough towels; these mundane housekeeping tasks must, of course, be performed diligently, over and over again. But a closer look reveals that a number of other factors play a seminal role. Among them: a club mission and culture that emphasize consistent attention, a sophisticated tracking system, solid communication among staff, accurate measurement of results, and employee accountability.

1. Train All Staff to Take Pride in Locker Room Upkeep

As in any service organization, clubs must commit to, emphasize, and own the pursuit of customer satisfaction—starting at the top. Because locker rooms are an integral part of a member’s interaction with the club, the entire staff—not just the housekeeping and maintenance teams—must recognize that their upkeep and operation are ongoing group responsibilities.

“When hiring staff, we clearly communicate the importance of maintaining a clean, organized, and well-stocked locker room,” said Ken Brendel, a regional general manager for Active Wellness, LLC, based in Sausalito, CA. In all, the company oversees some 120 locker rooms at the 60 corporate and community fitness facilities it manages. “Every manager and team member is expected to maintain these areas by doing such things as closing locker doors, picking up dirty towels, and wiping down countertops, as part of their everyday duties.”

Active Sports Club, Petaluma, CA

2. Diligently Track and Communicate Tasks, Issues

Due to the need for repetitive tasks, along with regular attention, savvy clubs use a variety of paper and/or software systems—e.g., daily checklists, service logs, and preventative-maintenance databases—to stay on top of things. The West Wood Clubs, which serve a total of approximately 22,500 members, utilize the Club Vitals software program, for instance, which allows staff to take note of issues, track responses, and document solutions.

“After logging a problem, the maintenance team is immediately alerted, on walkie-talkies, about the need to inspect the situation,” Leach said. “If it’s something that can be fixed—it takes precedence over everything else.”

At Ocotillo Village, a Village Health Clubs & Spas facility, weekly inspections are conducted of spa heaters, steam generators, chemical feeders, and laundry equipment to identify deterioration, gauge life expectancy, and plan for timely replacements. Quarterly preventative-maintenance service is conducted on larger equipment.

Continue reading "Create a Five-Star Locker Room Experience with These 4 Tips."

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The ROI of The IHRSA Institute, Executive Education for Club Professionals

Perhaps you enjoyed IHRSA 2016, and now would like to learn even more— but in an intimate environment. Or perhaps traveling to Orlando, FL, this year wasn’t feasible, but you’re still determined to enhance or add a skill set. 

Either way, you’ll want to consider the IHRSA Institute, Executive Education for Club Professionals, which convenes August 2–5, at the Rizzo Conference Center, at the Kenan-Flagler Business School, at the University of North Carolina, in Chapel Hill. 

Past attendees attest to having learned about and, subsequently, implemented highly effective leadership and business strategies at their clubs. 

Increased Membership and Profitability 

“I’ve attended six times, and found the education to be extremely valuable,” said Michael James, the president of the World Bank Fitness Centers, in Washington, D.C.

For example, he learned how to successfully compete with local studios by offering new activities. The results: a larger membership base and increased profitability. 

Investment Advice and Business Growth 

“My biggest takeaway from the IHRSA Institute is the critical importance of networking, seeking

advice, and learning from others’ experiences,” said Alice Diamant, the president and general manager of fitwell–Medina Valley Fitness, in Castroville, TX. 

Diamant attended the three-day event while in the process of launching fitwell, and garnered advice on club set-up, key capital investments, and hiring and training a good team. 

“We made some large investments based on suggestions that were offered, and they’ve really helped our business to grow,” she said. 

Diamant was so inspired by a session on community service given by club owner Sandy Franco and IHRSA staffer Amy Bantham that she introduced a new program at her club. “fitwell now offers a monthly Get Movin’ Party designed for those with special needs that’s open to anyone in our community.” 

Continue reading "The ROI of the IHRSA Institute."

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What’s the Difference Between Marketing and Advertising Your Health Club?

The terms “marketing” and “advertising” are often used interchangeably, but their definitions are quite different—and being able to distinguish between the two is critical for creating a successful health club communications strategy. 

Elements of Effective Health Club Marketing 

“Marketing is everything we do that influences a person’s decision to buy or not to buy from us,” says Alan Leach, regional manager of West Wood Clubs in Dublin, Ireland, and Sarajevo, Bosnia. “Marketing is everything we do to influence a member’s decision to continue to buy or not to continue to buy from us (yes—retention is marketing).” 

There are some elements that Leach identifies as critical elements of an effective health club marketing strategy that you might not expect. They include: 

  • The type of group fitness classes you provide
  • The staff you chose to hire
  • The staff training you provide
  • The design of your club
  • The prices you charge
  • The location of your club
  • The programs you offer
  • The retention strategies you provide
  • The size of your parking lot  

“If all these marketing elements are wrong, no amount of advertising or sales promotions will save you,” Leach says. 

Elements of Effective Health Club Advertising 

Advertising is a component of marketing, which includes:  

  • Direct mail
  • Print, radio, and TV ads
  • Billboards and outdoor ads
  • Digital marketing
  • Special offers and promotions 

One of the keys to effective health club advertising is persuasive ad copy. 

“With great copywriting skills you can make any advertising or marketing channel profitable,” Leach says. “Sales copywriting skills are more important today that they were 100 years ago. Why? Because we have more communication channels than ever before that require great sales copy.” 

Unfortunately, it’s common for health clubs to produce ineffective advertising copy because the job isn’t assigned to the right person. 

“Today we have more amateur marketers than ever dabbling with these new tools,” Leach says. “We let staff with no advertising, marketing, sales, or copywriting experience post whatever content they want for everybody to see. This has a dramatic impact on people perception of our brand.”


IHRSA 2016 Session Spotlight: Precision Marketing: Proven & Profitable Advertising Strategies

The terms “advertising” and “marketing” are often used synonymously, but they are markedly different—and if you don’t have a grasp on the two concepts, your promotional strategies might suffer. 

“Marketing is everything we do to influence a member’s decision to continue to buy or not to continue to buy from us (yes—retention is marketing),” says Alan Leach, regional manager of West Wood Clubs in Dublin, Ireland, and Sarajevo, Bosnia. “The type of group fitness classes you chose to provide, the staff you chose to hire, the staff training you provide, the design of your club, the prices you charge, the location of your club, the programs you offer, the retention strategies you provide, the size of your car-park—these are all part of your product and are all part of an effective marketing strategy. If all these marketing elements are wrong, no amount of advertising or sales promotions will save you.” 

Leach will help health club operators fine-tune their marketing efforts in his IHRSA 2016 session, “Precision Marketing: Proven & Profitable Advertising Strategies.” The Wednesday, March 23 session will help attendees: 

  • Discover the most effective advertising and marketing strategies for fitness business
  • Learn how to use the internet to advertise, promote, and grow your fitness business
  • Discover the secrets to writing high-impact and persuasive sales and marketing copy that will drive new leads into your fitness business
  • Find out how to brand, promote, and market your fitness business so budget clubs are never a threat
  • Discover lead generation advertising and marketing secrets that will pack your fitness business with more and more sales and leads 

Throughout his presentation, Leach will draw from the many successful strategies he’s employed at West Wood Clubs, including a proven “selling fitness” sales and marketing system that increased sales by 70%, 15 direct mail letters that generated over $20 million in revenue, database management that generates millions of dollars every year, internet advertising and marketing that brings in over $7 million a year, and more. 

“Profitable marketing is just as much about thinking strategically about your advertising as it is about your short-term marketing and advertising goals,” he says. “Powerful marketing concepts, such as how your club is positioned in the market, how you differentiate your club from your competitors, and how you hope to create a sustainable competitive advantage in the fitness club market, are extremely important marketing activities—far more important than the special offer you run next Tuesday. In fact, these strategic marketing decisions are probably more important than ever before, because if you can get these marketing strategies right from the start, you depend less on those special offers and discounts for your fitness club’s success.”

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