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



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

Join | Renew
Pledge Your Support

Search IHRSA Blog

Welcome to the IHRSA Blog

The Online Home of news.

Blog Home |  Subscribe to our RSS Feed

Entries in Chris Clawson (16)


Life Fitness President Chris Clawson Talks Acquisitions, Competition

In the last few years, Life Fitness President Chris Clawson has had a lot on his plate; he helped oversee the acquisition of two well-known commercial fitness brands, SCIFIT (June 2015) and Cybex International, Inc. (January 2016). 

In the June issue of Club Business International, Clawson discusses how Life Fitness’ recent acquisitions will help take the company to $1.5 billion in revenues by 2020. 

CBI: The last time we touched base with you and Life Fitness, it was to discuss its acquisition of SCIFIT Systems, Inc. No one mentioned then that something was in the works with Cybex International, Inc. So, what happened?

Chris Clawson: I’ll give you a little insider information here. The conversation actually started close to four years ago, when John Aglialoro, the chairman of Cybex, began asking me—and our corporate parent, the Brunswick Corporation—if they could buy Life Fitness, to which Brunswick kept saying, “No, Life Fitness isn’t for sale.”

It culminated last year at IHRSA 2015 when Arthur Hicks, Jr., their president and CEO, came over to our Trade Show booth and said, “We should merge together, and become a single, billion-dollar company. What do you think about that? Do you think Brunswick has changed its position?” I said, “I don’t think they have, but it’s worth having a conversation.”

John followed up around June. He’d spoken with Dusty McCoy, our outgoing CEO, and wanted to know if he should wait until Dusty retired to continue the conversation since Mark Schwabero, our new CEO and chairman, would be taking over soon. To help move things along, I introduced John to Mark. When they met, Mark told John he liked the idea, but that Life Fitness wasn’t selling. Then he asked about buying Cybex. By the next January, we’d consummated the deal.

CBI: How did you reach a price tag of $195 million for Cybex, a privately held company owned by UM Holdings, which is owned, in turn, by John Aglialoro, an industry icon, and his wife, Joan Carter?

CC: It was really a function of the due diligence and valuation processes. I won’t get into the nuances, but we looked at Cybex’s ability to create, distribute, and service—all of the things that make a company strong. It’s about valuing the value they create in the marketplace. It’s a great company, a spectacular brand, and we’re super-excited about it.

CBI: Do you think that the SCIFIT and Cybex acquisitions will lead to increased or, possibly, tempered competition in the commercial fitness equipment arena?

CC: I’m going to leave the competition out of the landscape and include only the customer, because I can’t speak to how our competitors are going to react. But I will say this. Our conversation with the customers has changed in its dynamic a few times over the course of the past two years.

When we did presentations and talked about Life Fitness and Hammer Strength, the conversation was almost exclusively about being fit and exercising. We were Life Fitness, and Hammer Strength, and we were talking to everyone who was exercising. It wasn’t just advanced exercisers. It was everyone who was exercising. But when we could include SCIFIT in the conversation, we could talk to people who were exercising, rehabilitating, or just getting involved in fitness.

Cybex changes the conversation again, giving us another inclusive fitness product, originally built to work for differently-abled people. When you include the Brunswick active recreation products we have—shuffleboard, put- ting greens, table tennis, billiards, air hockey, or foosball—we’re expanding the conversation again by changing what our customers can add to their facilities—e.g., fun. Why can’t you have an area that’s fun? Why does everything have to be work? Why does it have to be a workout? Can’t it be an area where you enjoy what you’re doing, but are also having a workout at the same time?

All of those are ways for us to change the landscape, not just the landscape of exercise and fitness, but of society; to get more people up and moving in a wide variety of ways.

Read Chris Clawson's full interview in the June issue of CBI.


Life Fitness President Talks Expansion, New Products at IHRSA 2016

“This is our second IHRSA ever,” Chris Clawson, president of Life Fitness, joked during his IHRSA 2016 Live Studio interview. 

In fact, the Brunswick Corporation division has been an IHRSA Convention supporter since the early days, when the company was a founding member of the Trade Show in the 1980s. 

“We’ve always been here," Clawson said. "Our customers come here and it’s an important place to be to represent, not only the industry, but obviously our brand as well."

Life Fitness has grown over the past several months, with the acquisitions of Brunswick Billiards Group, SCIFIT, and Cybex. There are “lots of new things happening—I think that’s probably what most people are paying attention to, but in each of those situations we have new products,” Clawson said. 

“I think the next five to 10 years are going to be really interesting for us,” he said. “We’re trying to expand our business not only organically but inorganically, so through acquisition as well as creating new brands and opportunities.”


9 Predictions for the Health Club Industry in 2016 

The health club industry is positioned to expand in 2016, but much remains to be seen.

To gain a clearer outlook for the coming year, Club Business International asked a panel of nine industry leaders that includes five members of the IHRSA board of directors and four IHRSA associate members, to share their predictions for the next 12 months.

1. Sport and fitness applications will dominate the digital consumer landscape.

“My customers and my sales team tell me, simply and straightforwardly, that clubs are looking for equipment, programs, and solutions that attract new customers, while retaining current ones,” said Nerio Alessandri, founder and president of Technogym in Cesena, Italy. “In support of this, this year Technogym will launch new equipment and programs conceived and designed for clubs so they can develop specific business strategies in different areas: functional training, group training, cardio, and strength. The common factor is connectivity—enabling clubs to design engaging experiences and stay in contact with their members both inside and outside of the club.”

2. Personalization will become a key differentiator.

“We’re seeing rapid growth in both the high-volume/low-cost (HV/LC) and boutique fitness club segments,” said Rob Barker, president of Precor, Inc. in Woodinville, WA. “We’re seeing investment by mid-market operators who want to differentiate, and we’re seeing more investment in fitness by verticals, such as hospitality, corporate, and multifamily facilities.”

3. Legal matters will demand club operators’ attention.

“In my view, hot items for 2016 are EFT cancellation policies and overtime compensation,” said Bill Beck, president of Club Fit in Briarcliff Manor, NY. “If clubs haven’t sought a legal review of their procedures with regard to these issues in the last five years, they should do so soon.”

4. Small-group training, active-aging will continue to expand.

“I think we’ll see the demand for small-group training and integrated technology solutions sustain their growth,” said Chris Clawson, president of Life Fitness in Rosemont, IL. “We’ll also see products that are appropriate for the active aging population become more popular, as this exercise-focused demographic moves farther into the senior years. 

5. The Affordable Care Act will fuel wellness program growth.

“Forward-thinking companies are also recognizing that having wellness and fitness embedded into their culture is extremely important,” said Alison Flatley, COO of Corporate Fitness Works in Falls Church, VA. “They’re moving from return on investment (ROI) to return on value (ROV). They’re creating a 'culture of health' by having their corporate and wellness goals and objectives overlap.”

6. New trends will drive the fitness experience.

“A big trend will be on-demand digital fitness apps,” said Missy Moss, general manager of Nike Athletic Centers in Beaverton, OR. “These programs can be done anywhere––in your office, hotel room, outside, etc. People don’t have to walk into a health club to perform a fitness activity. On the flip side, members are coming to clubs to use their mobile devices and apps.” 

7. Health club members will become more selective.

“We’re seeing less spending on ancillary services such as personal training, food and beverage, and children’s programs,” said Mark Stevens, regional director of The Houstonian Clubs and Spas in Houston, TX. “Retention still remains high, but we have to do business differently—focus even more on retention, service, programs, cleanliness, and improving relationships.”

8. The commercial market will grow, with a higher level of fragmentation and specialization.

“Commercial facilities will continue to focus on promoting greater levels of variety and programming for a discerning customer base,” said Kent Stevens, executive vice president of sales for Matrix Fitness Systems in Lake Mills, WI. “Successful club operators will combine superior products and services in a way that gives their members a sense of community in a purposeful environment.”

9. Multipurpose clubs will “boom or bust.”

“Those that are willing to press the limits of opportunity will thrive,” said Jim Worthington, owner of Newtown Athletic & Aquatic Club in Newtown, PA. “Medical wellness, member feedback, and tracking mechanisms such as Medallia and MYZONE, along with well-designed spaces and programs that are competitive, will boom. Operators who do little or nothing to capitalize on trends, or who ignore the competition, will bust.”

Read the full "Industry Outlook: 2016" article in the January issue of CBI.


IHRSA Associates in EUROPE

The industry’s growing strength on display at FIBO 2015

It was another successful year for IHRSA associate members at FIBO, Europe’s trade show for health, fitness, and wellness products and services, which was held in April in Cologne, Germany.

An impressive crowd of 138,000 visitors over the four days of the event came to view the wares of 725 exhibitors, who showcased the latest in fitness innovations, and explored the opportunities of emerging industry trends, at the city’s Exhibition Centre. A number of IHRSA associate members were among the companies that were pleased they’d made the trek to Cologne.

“Massive numbers of both national and international customers and prospects frequented our stand, especially on the first two days,” reports Marco Jakobs, the sales director of Johnson Health Tech GmbH.

Chris Clawson, the president of Life Fitness, notes that “FIBO is a show that gives us the opportunity to meet not only with our customers from around the world, but we meet with a lot of our key distributors, as well.”

The results, in terms of attendance, exhibitor reviews, and sales, coming on the heels of the highly successful IHRSA International Convention and Trade Show held the previous month in Los Angeles, paint a positive portrait of the global fitness industry.

“The global fitness industry continues to demonstrate strength across the board,” says Melissa Rodriguez, IHRSA’s senior research manager. “The development of the fitness and health market continues with strong momentum, and the industry is still on the up and up,” adds FIBO show director Ralph Scholz.

According to IHRSA research, nearly 50 million people now train at health and fitness facilities throughout Europe. And, according to an economic trend index tallied at FIBO, Scholz points out that the industry’s prospects remain bright. Nearly 60% of the companies surveyed said that they expect business to continue to “grow” or “grow strongly,” and only 11% foresaw a slight business cool-down.

For those planning their travel itinerary, the IHRSA International Convention and Trade Show will be held March 21–24, 2016, in sunny Orlando, Florida, and FIBO will once again take place in Cologne on April 7–10, 2016.


Why I did the #IceBucketChallenge twice

Dumping ice water on your head isn't the most fun thing to do. Especially if you, like me, are from warm sunny Florida and happen to hate the cold. But, when my turn came and a friend nominated me for the Ice Bucket Challenge, I filled a bucket of ice water and dumped it over my head outside my gym. I donated a little money, nominated my brother and two of my friends, and thought I was done. Phew.

Then Chris Clawson nominated IHRSA. And despite being "done", I kind of wanted to do it again. Because ALS is a terrible degenerative disease that often affects young, active people and yet is largely unfamiliar to the general public. Because I remember stories about my great uncle Harry, whom I never met due to this disease. And because I remember attending the BASH for Augie's Quest the past three years, and being so impressed with Augie and his battle to defeat ALS. So for the good cause of raising money and awareness for ALS research and supporting one of the industry's own, I got cold and wet twice in one week. It actually wasn't that bad.

A few other IHRSA staff also did the ice bucket challenge twice. Read on to see who and why they doused themsevles twice.

Click to read more ...


Life Fitness looking for the personal trainer to watch

Almost everyone who has dealt with personal trainers at the club they visit has a favorite. Most likely he or she has helped you attain goals, set new ones and become the person, physically, that you want to be.

For the fourth straight year, Life Fitness is conducting the Personal Trainers to Watch competition. It is run with partners International Confederation of Registers for Exercise Professionals, EuropeActive, Life Fitness Academy and the American Council on Exercise.

Anyone - clients, gym personnel and fellow trainers - can nominate a trainer who embodies the same passion and commitment as Life Fitness. Nominations will be taken through the end of July 2014. The top 10 finalists will then compete in a live competition to pick the winner.

"The 2013 Personal Trainers to Watch program earned worldwide support and recognition, with nearly 1,500 entries from personal trainers in 43 countries," said Chris Clawson, president of Life Fitness, in a press release. "This year, we continue to expand the reach and impact of the program, and we look forward to finding those trainers who share our passion for enhancing the profession's growth and success." 

Visit for more information and to nominate your favorite trainer.


Life Fitness entering fitness apparel

Life Fitness, the Schiller Park, Ill.–based equipment manufacturer, is getting into the fitness fashion business. Recently, the company signed an exclusive licensing agreement with Amiee Lynn, Inc., to design, manufacture, and market a full line of activewear, which should become available later this year.

“Being comfortable is an important part of a movement-friendly environment,” said Chris Clawson, president of Life Fitness. “The launch of Life Fitness Apparel is the next step in providing exercisers an expanded lineup of options so they can live a healthy lifestyle.”

“It’s a great pleasure for us at Amiee Lynn to work on an apparel line for such an iconic brand as Life Fitness,” says Brian Drennen, the vice president of Life Fitness Apparel for Amiee Lynn. 

Amiee Lynn, with principal locations in New York and New Jersey, holds a global brand portfolio that includes Nautica, Ellen Tracy, Lucky Brand, Nautica, Jones New York, and AlexanderJulian.


CBI looks into how the club of the future will look

The year is 2040, and your members want a workout. They leave their homes, climb into their personal piloted drones, and head for your club. They park their vehicles beside others in a clean, well-lit garage, and step onto the moving sidewalk to be transported into the building. They enter the lobby, which is airy and open and crafted from environmentally sustainable materials.

At the front desk, they’re greeted by an avatar, their virtual trainer, who knows exactly how many times the member has worked out during the past month, how well they slept last night, what they ate for breakfast, and that they opted to fly to the club today.

The virtual trainer has gleaned all this information from the member’s wearable—or, perhaps, even embedded—fitness-tracking device, and has already programmed a workout for them. Perhaps it’s a session on the treadmill, or one with free weights, or a group interval class conducted by another avatar. The trainer knows the member’s short- and long-term goals and current, real-time status, and has the perfect workout ready.

Welcome to the club of tomorrow!

See how some in the fitness industry feel the club of the future will look.


IHRSA Live CEO Interview with Chris Clawson of Life Fitness

Visit Life Fitness at IHRSA 2014, booth 1615.

Clawson misses out on Entrepreneur of the Year award

A couple months ago Chris Clawson, president of Life Fitness, was asked what it would mean to his company, as well as the fitness and health industry, if he won the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. 

He first tackled Life Fitness by explaining that it would prove that what he said when he returned to the Illinois-based company. 

“(The award) reinforces what I said when I came back to Life Fitness,” Clawson said. “The company has heritage, history and a lot of pride. We can live on that for a while but at some point we need to move forward. We want to be market-drivers. All of the people here are making it happen. We have tremendous talent and they needed someone to let them do their thing.”

Read more on Clawson and Ernst & Young award.