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Entries in community (10)


The Benefits of Thinking of Your Health Club as a Community Center 

This post is part of our Session Spotlight series, previewing just some of the extensive education that will feature at IHRSA 2017, March 8-11 in Los Angeles.

Chances are you don’t think of your health club as a community center where exercise happens to take place. But maybe you should.

“When we feel connected to a group of people or an individual or a mission or purpose, that connection is what improves society at large, and I think the health club industry has a really unique opportunity to make an impact,” says Karen McNenny, speaker, facilitator, and coach for McNenny Enterprises. “Often I encourage people inside the industry to think of their club as a community center where exercise happens to take place, and a lot of the research that IHRSA has done will show us that relationships equal retention.”

McNenny will explain how health clubs can succeed through community-building in her Wednesday, March 8 IHRSA 2017 session, “Community is the C.U.R.E.—Developing Employee & Member Retention.”

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Follow These 6 Steps to Create a Community Marketing Plan for Your Gym

What’s the one of the best ways to get consumers to know, like, and trust your fitness business?

Community marketing.

By sending ambassadors into your community, participating in local events, and otherwise engaging with community members, you will build your brand at a faster rate than simply marketing online. 

Of course, online marketing and community marketing go hand-in-hand. 

“The reason why I am a firm believer in the balance between community and online marketing is because community marketing works a lot faster than online marketing,” says Lindsey Morando, co-founder of business coaching firm Get It Done Gals. “Your online marketing is like your home—once you’ve developed relationships in the community you can invite people back to check out your website and social media.”

Morando will share more of her community marketing secrets in her Thursday, December 8 webinar, “Transform Your Business & Marketing in 30 Days.”

If you want to transform your business using community marketing and don’t know where to start, follow these six steps:

1. Write down all of your ideas. (Yes, all of them.)

“A lot of people have so many ideas but they don’t have that marketing plan in place. First, I tell everyone to 'brain dump' everything on their mind—everything they want to do marketing-wise—on one sheet of paper. Get all your ideas out there.” 

2. Identify ideas that will generate revenue.

Next, Morando suggests honing in on a few key ideas that will move your business forward.

“Ultimately in order for the fitness facility to remain open, you have to bring money in the door,” she says. “Look for opportunity for income-generating activities.”

Continue reading "Follow These 6 Steps to Create a Community Marketing Plan for Your Gym."

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This Week in the Fitness Industry: Club Offers Free Access to Locals Displaced by Hurricane

South Carolina Club Offers Free Access to Locals Displaced by Hurricane Matthew
Sportsclub Fitness & Wellness, an IHRSA member with three clubs in South Carolina, is generously inviting those who have been displaced by the effects of Hurricane Matthew to make use of any of its locations for free through Sunday, October 9. 

Related IHRSA resources:

GoodLife Fitness to Add 600 New Positions as Growth Continues
GoodLife Fitness announced last week that the company will hire 600 new Associates in clubs across Canada, by the end of August 2017. The Canadian owned and operated company will open 15 GoodLife Fitness clubs across the country. In November, GoodLife will also celebrate the grand opening of a new 60,000 square foot home office, in London, Ontario. “It’s a very exciting time for us, as we look to grow the GoodLife Fitness family by 600 people over the next year,” David ‘Patch’ Patchell-Evans, founder and CEO of GoodLife Fitness, said in a press release. “When I opened my first club in 1979, it was a small 2,000 square foot location in London and all I knew is that I wanted to care for people and help them experience the incredible benefits of exercise,” continued Patch. “Even as we’ve grown to become the fourth largest chain in the world and largest in Canada, it’s still so important to us that the people joining our team are caring, knowledgeable and share our passion for helping others be the best version of themselves.”

Wellness Coaching Helps People to Lead Healthier Lives, Study Finds
Increasingly, American companies and health insurers are providing “wellness coaches” to help motivate people to lead heathier lives and, ultimately, curb the rise of chronic diseases. And, while wellness coaching is a relatively new field, a Mayo Clinic study suggests that the practice is helping people achieve results. According to the 12-week study, the majority of 100 participants who worked with a wellness coach lost weight, improved their eating habits, and increased their physical activity. “Many people can implement positive lifestyle changes, but maintaining change over time is extremely difficult,” Matthew M. Clark, a clinical psychologist at Mayo Clinic and the lead author of the study, told The Wall Street Journal. “This finding highlights the importance of ongoing strategies and support for positive lifestyle changes.”

Meet the IHRSA Advocate: Your New Guide to Health Club Industry Advocacy
Keeping up with the latest industry advocacy information can be challenging. The legislative process can sometimes move quickly and bill revisions can be easily missed. That is why our public policy team created the IHRSA Advocate—to allow you to continue effectively managing your business without missing a beat. 

The IHRSA Advocate is a new bi-weekly advocacy e-newsletter that will help you recognize and understand the latest information on health club policies and trends, and summarize exactly how these initiatives impact your daily business operations. Learn more about the IHRSA Advocate.


From WiFi to Community: What Millennials Want From Their Health Club

What’s next on the horizon for the health and fitness industry?
A revolution sparked by millennials, suggests Stephen Tharrett, the cofounder and principal of ClubIntel, an industry consultancy based in Highland Village, TX.

“Millennials—those individuals who were born between 1980 and 2000—are poised to dramatically change the industry, as they’re introducing a whole new purchasing mindset,” he says in the September issue of Club Business International. “Club operators are well advised to take note.”


The new issue of the IHRSA Health Club Consumer Report, produced by IHRSA and ClubIntel, supports Tharrett’s assertion. This annual best-selling research publication provides detailed information on participation trends among both health club member and nonmember consumers at U.S. fitness facilities.

The report identifies numerous new opportunities for club operators, but the one that shines brightest—because of the large size of the group and the small size of the current penetration rate—is the one offered by millennials.

Clearly, this group represents a promising, largely untapped market for the industry, prompting operators, equipment suppliers, and marketers to pose the question: “Who, exactly, are the millennials, and what do they want?”

Free WiFi and Intelligent Exercise Equipment

“Technology,” is the first word out of Dan Schawbel’s mouth when he’s asked what attracts millennials to a club. Schawbel is the founder and managing partner of Millennial Branding, a Boston-based research firm, and a New York Times best-selling author.

“They want free WiFi wherever they are. They’re the most connected generation in history,” he says. “So clubs should focus on having modern equipment, a strong online network, and a solid social media presence.”

The affinity these individuals have for technology is hardly surprising, since they were born and grew up with it. The Internet, smartphones, and social media have been an integral part of their daily lives.

Continue reading "What Millennials Want from Their Health Club."

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Create Successful Community Programming by Answering 3 Simple Questions

Connecting with your community to offer programs that interest them is a great way to demonstrate that your club genuinely cares about fulfilling the fitness aspirations of community members, but it is often challenging to determine what type of program is best suited to your club and your members. 

To help club owners and staff overcome this obstacle, Cathleen Garner, childcare and camp director at The Claremont Club, led a discussion at IHRSA 2016 on building “Programs with a Purpose: Implementing Successful Programs for Your Club & Community.” Throughout the presentation, attendees were able to share their innovative ideas on community outreach programs, learn from suggestions made by their peers, and gain insight on how to successfully implement these types of programs. 

During the session, attendees were tasked with answering three questions to help them determine the best community program offerings for their individual clubs: 

1. What is the best class offering for my community and my club? 

Consider your community. What are their needs? Would they rather work out in a group setting or participate in a more intimate personal training session? How many times a week or month would be best for them? 

Now consider your club. What are you hoping to accomplish by creating a new program? Are you looking to increase revenue, retention, or member satisfaction? Does your club have the necessary amenities to implement the program that you are considering? These are all questions that should be answered before you commit to a program.  

2. What is the purpose of the program I want to create? What do I want the end results to be? 

The purpose of your program defines the components of your program and informs who your participants will be. That being said, all programs have varying goals that appeal to different members, so there are many options to consider. 

For example, are you looking to help participants lose weight? Increase quality of life? Be less sedentary? Feel less stressed? Overcome chronic disease?  Try something outside of their comfort zone? All of the above? The possibilities are endless. 

3. What are opportunities that I can create from the crises that I’ve faced? 

Running a health club can be challenging. There are many crises that must be averted and properly handled on a daily basis. The best way to come up with new programming ideas is to think about which problems or complaints that could’ve been more easily addressed if you had a program that helped you solve them.


Improve the Health of Your Community with IHRSA’s New E-book 

Reaching out into the community is good for your health club’s brand, your business, and your local community. But what are the best ways to engage people beyond your four walls? 

IHRSA clubs are committed to helping their members improve their health and their lives. Community outreach can be done in a number of ways, as the many IHRSA clubs with community service programs has demonstrated. Clubs can get involved with local charitable organizations, offer programs for non-members, or just get out and participate in local events like walks, 5Ks, and fairs. 

The latest issue of “12 Months of Health Promotion” is filled with resources designed to help you get outside your physical location and do good in your community—while positively impacting your business. 

April resources include:  

  • Four ideas for community outreach
  • IHRSA Clubs Give Back for the Good of the Community E-book
  • IHRSA Clubs Promote Good Health and Good Practice E-book
  • Community outreach-related blog posts to read and share  

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

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Many 'champions' in the fitness industry

Joe Moore, fitness industry veteran and IHRSA president and CEO, has come across many “champions of the industry.”

In his teenage years he discovered the will and drive of Paul Anderson, an American weightlifter. During the 1956 Olympics he went for gold during the clean-and-jerk - the final leg of the competition. Despite running a 104 temperature and a virus he made the required lift on his final attempt. Anderson was also a champion in his personal life, opening and still supporting the Paul Anderson Youth Home for troubled youth.

Moore knows there are also “champions” in the health and fitness industry. He invites those who are doing good for members, as well as in their community, to contact IHRSA so we can spread the word.

Read Moore’s entire Last Rep column in CBI magazine.



Get involved in your community for positive PR

Curl Fitness in Newport Beach, Calif., often gets out to help in the community.Who better than a couple of public relations directors to answer an Best Practices question about how a club can get involved in its community and be more public?

Linda Mitchell of Newtown Athletic Club and Tracey Bourdon of Susan K. Bailey Marketing and Design give many suggestions that are easy and inexpensive.

Q: "We are expanding our involvement within the local community. With that, we are hoping to generate some positive PR for the club. Do you have any suggestions for successful PR strategies for our single, independent club?"

 A: A PR program is an excellent strategy to add to your marketing mix! The club business is all about “Public” and “Relations”. Much more than “free publicity”, a well-run PR program will drive sales, build brand, and give your club visibility.

First, look inside the club. Who are the key influencers you have as members: business leaders, teachers, health and medical professionals employed in large organizations. Ask how the club could be involved in any of their community initiatives and indicate your commitment to support their endeavor. Network with business groups and associations like your local Chamber of Commerce. Offer to present a “Lunch & Learn” or health fair. Participate in fundraisers for schools or hospitals. Be visible.

Align with a charity that positively impacts the community. Connect with shopping centers to offer fitness demos or walkathons in support of the cause. Build partnerships. Don’t just participate by writing the check. Get involved. Be a fan of the cause. For example, if you sponsor a team, show up to a game with water bottles. It will cost you a little, but the return on investment will be multi-fold.

Meet the media one on one. Again, it is essential to build relationships with key players. They are bombarded with press releases. You need to get in front and prove you are worthy of coverage. Feature a member of your team. They are highly qualified professionals. Offer to provide an “expert advice” segment.

As with all your marketing efforts, you need be strategic and target the right audience. Example: if you get involved with a school, make certain parents know of you. They buy memberships.

Do-it-yourself! Push content through social media. Posters in the club asking for “Likes” on Facebook will get the chat going about your activity in the community!

Every community appreciates its good citizens. Be one!

Tracey Bourdon
Head Marketing Coach
Susan K. Bailey Marketing and Design



A: Generating positive PR for your club is an ongoing activity that begins with getting yourself physically outside of your club. Either make the commitment to do that yourself as the club owner, or assign a capable representative within your organization to do it for you.  Once the commitment is made, know that it takes time out of your day and week, but the time is well spent over the long haul.  

Here are some ways to begin making a PR impact in your community. Join the local business groups such as the Chamber or the Business Association. Join local service groups, such as the Rotary International, Lions Club, Kiwanis Club or Red Cross. Get involved with charitable organizations either on a local or regional level, such as the American Heart Association or Muscular Dystrophy Association.  

Then, once you have joined and become familiar with these groups, go one step further and take on a few choice leadership roles in the organizations that you feel align most closely with your mission.  By taking on a leadership role, you demonstrate to the community not only your dedication, but also your ability to achieve goals and really make a difference.  By being leaders we found we could make the most impact for good in the community and gain the most credibility for doing so. 

In addition, you can support your local charities and schools through a well-managed system of donating goods and services to their various fundraisers for booster clubs, sporting organizations and other activities. 

Finally, create good relationships with your local media. This is more easily done when your community involvement is already established.  Often the local media will be present at community events and interested in how you are contributing. This leads to organic relationships with the media that will give you access when you need it.

This is a thumbnail sketch of some basic PR strategies that will always be effective. There is much more you can do over time, but if you only ever do this, you are still ahead of the game.

Linda Mitchell
Director of Marketing & PR
Newtown Athletic Club

One of the most frequently consulted sections of IHRSA’s Website,, is “Best Practices,” which features answers from industry experts to a wide range of thought-provoking questions. Some of them will be highlighted in a CBI column.

Visit to read responses to more than 100 questions such as these or to submit a question of your own to be answered.


Take part in community events, as a club

Trust is a very important factor when it comes to running a business.

I am not talking about trusting employees to work hard, not steal and represent the company in a professional manner. Of course that is what you want and hope.

Trust within your community is imperative in order for prospective members to consider your facility.

One way to garner trust is to be a familiar face in community events. And the fall is a great time, with school back in session, numerous health-related fundraisers like Breast Cancer Awareness Momth events going on, etc.

Check out what some IHRSA members told us they do in order to be endeared by their respective communities. Click here.


Designate space and a staff that cares for community feel

Ali Lucas, John Atwood, Brad Wilkins, Anthony Wall and Hervey Lavoie discuss what it takes in order for members to feel like their gym is a second home.

Q: "How does a club foster a sense of community that results in their members perceiving the club as their 'home away from home'?"

A. One of the most important aspects of an exceptional health club experience is having each member feel like the club has been built just for them. As we all know, the reason why most people DON’T join a club is because they are intimidated by the culture that exists in many clubs. That said, the goal of any successful venture should be to create an inclusive environment where the soul of the club is a true reflection of the members it serves. 

There is a great saying in our industry that rings true, “the person is the program.” Most clubs have equipment such as treadmills, spinning bikes, etc. What differentiates the great clubs from the good clubs is fabulous programming and the terrific staff who execute each offering. People are connected to people and by hiring “great connectors” you are well on your way to developing a “home away from home.” 

Here are a few specifics that go a long way:

  • Develop an engaging and informative new member integration program
  • Have comfortable communal places members can hangout
  • Offer special events like fun runs, charity nights, biggest loser, and other programs that help people people bond and develop friendships.
  • Encourage workout partners and workout groups
  • Casually introduce new members to the staff and to other members that are engagingThe biggest factor in creating a “home away from home” is having an all-out commitment by the owner, management and staff to be welcoming to every member every day. Easier said than done!

John Atwood
Atwood Consulting Group


A. There may well be operational and programming aspects that can promote in a club setting, the sense of “home away from home” but from a design point of view, the answer is quite simple … Space! 

Just as a club may allocate space for spinning, stretching or racquetball, the fostering of a community spirit requires space for a member to sit comfortably without feeling the need to lift a weight, talk to a salesman or buy something. A member lounge can be fueled by a TV, or a great view, free Wi-Fi or an abundance of reading material … but without a generous, well positioned allocation of floor space it cannot exist.

Ideally, this space allocation would occur in multiple locations around the club in order to be most effective. Locker room lounges, steam rooms, saunas, jacuzzis, observation lounges, sun decks and relaxation rooms are some examples of how clubs can create space for “community”.

Hervey Lavoie
Architect and President
Ohlson Lavoie Collaborative

A. Everyone likes to belong! Keep that in mind. How a club fosters a sense of community will depend on the type of club or facility, but at the end of the day it’s going to come down to making the members feel welcome. They need to enjoy their experience so much they want to come back more. Some clubs have running or hiking groups out of their facility. Other clubs provide a full complement of services for their members – towels, personal lockers, etc. Other clubs have the newest equipment; some have the oldest equipment! The one thing that all the successful clubs have that I’ve ever walked into have, is a group of staff who genuinely cares about their members and enjoy being part of their members’ experience. Being made to feel welcome doesn’t stop at the front desk it should start at the front desk. In a world that seems to always be moving to more automation and more electronic interaction having a club that creates a warm welcoming and personal environment will always win. That personal connection starts at the top though. It’s simply not good enough anymore for the upper management to expect the front line staff to be the best without any role models to show the ‘best’. “Treat your staff the way you want them to treat your members” is as true today as it’s ever been. Remember - everyone likes to belong.

Anthony Wall
Director of Professional Education
American Council on Exercise (ACE)


A. We recently had a member, Barb, cancel because she was moving out of state for her husband’s job. During a video testimonial she told us she was sad to leave Austin for two reasons – her church and her health club.

“Lots of gyms have nice equipment and good classes but it’s hard to find a gym with the same kind of heart.” The things she listed to describe this are great aspirations: staff knows all members by name and shows true concern and devotion; team culture of staff displayed thru referrals to fellow staff; high staff and member retention; members seeing the staff as a family.

Notice she didn’t mention specific community building events that took a lot of time or money to plan. She didn’t mention the fancy new Internet-capable treadmills or single out her favorite employees.

It was a whole club feeling – the club has “heart” because the people working here have “heart,” too.

The sixty-four thousand dollar question is how do you make this happen in a concrete way? Hire and fire the right people. Define a purpose and values to run every club decision through. Create systems to reward and compensate based on your values. Change the way you do meetings. Train your staff for a consistent member & guest experience.

Need a map to get started? My most recent read on this topic is Patrick Lencioni’s “The Advantage.”

Now get started so your members will say what Barb said to close: “It’s home, so it’s always hard to leave home.”

Ali Lucas
Director of Marketing
BodyBusiness Health Club & Spa



A. First of all, let me start by stating that company culture is a living breathing thing that exists in all businesses. Basically, it is the business’s personality; which steams from the heart of its core values and core purpose. Therefore, club culture begins at the top with its fundamental core ideology (values and purpose) and then resonates through all aspects of the club to both internal (staff/employees) and external (members/guests) consumers.   

To develop a “home away from home” sense of community within your club, you first have to determine whether or not your ideology/culture supports this type of community. (It is OK if it doesn’t.) At Cooper, our core ideology strongly embraces this type of community. Our founder, Dr. Kenneth H. Cooper, has instilled the belief that “people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” Our culture is specifically designed to embrace our customers’ emotions and engage them in a proactive environment that fosters the development of meaningful relationships between members, as well as members and staff. 

If you feel that your club is a good fit for a “home away from home” sense of community, and you want to develop it or improve it, then I recommend you start by evaluating, implementing, and/or building from the four following items in your club: 

1.  Staff – Ensure that your staff (at all levels) is trained properly on how to develop relationships and service your members

2.  Programs – Develop internal programs and social events that integrate community interaction amongst members

3.  Facility – Create spaces within the club that allow members to relax and socialize

4.  Communication – Communicate to members regularly and effectively through all communication channels (e.g. staff, social media, e-newsletter, etc...) Also, make sure communication is a “two-way street” to create a sense of membership pride and ownership  

Brad Wilkins
Vice President and General Manager
Cooper Fitness Center and Cooper Spa 



This post is a part of our weekly Best Practices series. We post a new question and answer every Monday morning. If you have a question you'd like our Industry Leaders to answer, submit your question today.