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Entries in Constance Ruiz (8)


5 Ways to Step Up Your Gym's Group Exercise Game

Group exercise, or "group X," has become a staple at boutique studios. You can avoid losing market share—or even make gains—by reviewing your health club's group exercise program and making these five simple adjustments. 

1. Ask your members what they want. Frequent surveys are the best way to keep tabs on your members' needs.

"What owners think members want and like isn't necessarily the case," Marisa Hoff, general manager for Stevenson Fitness in Oak Park, CA, said in a recent IHRSA blog post. "You have to continue to survey; that will allow you to keep your programming fresh and cater to the needs of the members."

Continue reading "5 Ways to Step Up Your Gym's Group Exercise Game."

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10 Exciting New Revenue Streams for Health Clubs

“Ancillary revenue.” It’s not a particularly exciting term, but if you’re a health club owner, just the thought of it can raise your heart rate well beyond your training zone.

And for good reason:

“Generally speaking, ancillary services account for a quarter of a club’s total revenues,” said Melissa Rodriguez, IHRSA’s senior research manager. “So operators need to be creative in terms of coming up with new nondues revenue services, and getting members—and nonmembers—to make use of them.”

It’s not a new notion for IHRSA clubs, and, especially in recent years, a fair number have been using them quite successfully. “Many have managed to boost their profitability to pre-recession levels—or even higher—by tapping nondues revenue sources.”

What have they been up to? Club Business International checked in with a host of operators, consultants, and industry suppliers to find out.

NO. 1: A Boutique Within a Club

For an extra $40 a month, a member of GymIt, a high-volume/low-price (HV/LP) bran with two locations in the Boston area, can train like a professional boxer inside a state-of-the-art BOXFIIT modular classroom.

The studio and associated programming are the creation of EveryBodyFights (EBF), a high-end boxing business cofounded by George Foreman III, son of the two-time world heavy-weight boxing champion.

The turnkey EBF studio comes equipped with bags and special lighting and décor, and the classes incorporate patented BOXFIIT techniques developed by Foreman. Clubs pay a monthly licensing fee for EBF, and instructors are BOXFIIT-certified. Certification costs $400, and includes continuing education credits and access to a library of more than 50 hours of video demonstrating 100 custom workouts and 200 boxing moves.

“The BOXFIIT curriculum was designed for members of both genders and of all ages and fitness levels,” said Ben Eld, EBF’s marketing manager. The program, he says, tends to attract individuals 22 to 38 years old, who earn $75,000 to $250,000 a year, and 60% of them are women.

Matthew Harrington, the president of GymIt, explained, “We wanted a way to differentiate ourselves from other low-cost clubs, and to offer a boutique fitness experience at a much more affordable price.”

GymIt offers approximately 30 EBF sessions per week. Members and nonmembers can take classes for $20 each or $140 for 10; members also can pay $40 for an unlimited monthly pass. “We reached 200 members on the monthly add-on pretty quickly following the launch,” said Harrington, “so we’ve seen a pretty significant increase in our nondues revenue.”

Continue reading "10 Exciting New Revenue Streams for Health Clubs."

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IHRSA 2016 Session Spotlight: Become Results Focused: A New Approach to Group Fitness

There are a number of reasons boutique fitness studios are hot right now—they’re social, they’re trendy, and they help members achieve fast results—something health club group classes often fail to deliver. 

“Gyms are losing the opportunity to give quick results to members because they program in 50 different types of classes in their class schedule and 50 different group fitness instructors to do it, instead of taking an approach to design the schedule so members can get results as quick as possible,” says Constance Ruiz, president and co-founder of Vivafit

Ruiz will go into detail about how club operators can deliver better results through programming in her IHRSA 2016 session, “Become Results Focused: A New Approach to Group Fitness.” In the Tuesday, March 22 presentation, Ruiz will help attendees:  

  • Explore why traditional group fitness studios need a new approach
  • Discuss the exercise prescription with group fitness—results guaranteed
  • Learn how to design a "results focused" class program
  • Discover how to create a GX results focus culture with your team
  • Obtain a plan to implement immediately upon your return to your club  

“Often when people join a gym and want to be involved in classes—especially women who want to be social and have fun—we don’t properly orientate the new customer to go to those classes in a way to best get the quickest results,” she says. “The reason is our class schedules are organized in a way that doesn’t deliver results—they’re organized for the people who are already fit.” 

Ruiz recommends that health clubs offer just 10 or 12 types of classes several times throughout the week, enabling members to attend the same class multiple times rather than a sampling of different workouts. This method will help them achieve their fitness goals faster. 

“In the session I’ll show different group fitness example schedules and show clubs how they can design their own class schedule to work smarter—and not harder—for all members to be able to attend classes based on objects they’re seeking and be able to see results quickly,” she says. 

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IHRSA 2016 Session Spotlight: Keys to Successful Nutrition Programming in the Health Club Setting 

It was a sales tax change that prompted Vivafit’s Portugal clubs to expand their nutrition program. 

When the country’s VAT increased significantly a few years back, health clubs scrambled to soften the blow to consumers by offering registered dietician services, since medical services are not subject to the tax. 

“We had initially started with more of an educational approach of best practices of nutrition where we trained all the fitness professionals in our gyms in the basics—just reminding them of the principles of nutrition,” says Constance Ruiz, president and co-founder of Vivafit. “Then we had a new opportunity arise—stimulated by changes in the environment—to work with registered dieticians, and it became the right fit for us.” 

Ruiz will share the strategies and best practices she learned from her experience in the IHRSA 2016 panel, “Keys to Successful Nutrition Programming in the Health Club Setting.” 

IHRSA Health Promotion Manager Alexandra Black will moderate the panel, which also includes Jane Polley, nutrition director at The Longfellow Clubs, and Kim Trudel, a certified sports nutritionist and ACSM certified personal trainer.

The Monday, March 21 panel will help attendees: 

  • Understand the opportunities associated with incorporating nutrition expertise into the club's offerings
  • Discuss tips for finding the right fit for your club
  • Identify successful models for nutrition programs or services in the club setting
  • Discover best practices for making your program work
  • Learn to market your program and get the most out of community outreach 

“I’ll explain the principles for other people who are trying to decide what type of nutrition program is right for them,” Ruiz says. “For some, the right opportunity is to incorporate nutrition as added-value knowledge delivered by fitness staff as a general program in your club. But others may want to go in a more clinical approach and work with registered dieticians, so I’ll explain how they would do that. The weight loss results of our members definitely increased significantly and that’s very exciting as a service in the club.” 

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Flurry of Openings for VivaFit

Ambassador of Portugal in Delhi Jorge Roza de Oliveira cuts the ribbon at the new VivaFit.It was a whirlwind tour of the Middle East and Asia for VivaFit CEO Pedro Ruiz. 

The Portugal-based, women-only chain opened four gyms in the first week of November and also came to an agreement for 150 sites in Taiwan by 2020.

“What we’ve discovered in our VivaFit gyms around the world is that women want to be active and eat healthy diets but also want to ensure the time they spend is efficient and gets them the results they are looking for,” said Ruiz, who owns the company with his wife, Constance. “Our experience is that thirty minutes at a VivaFit gym several times a week along with a change in eating habits guarantees women will rapidly change their bodies.”

Ribbon cuttings happened in Lucknow and Cochin, India; Jakarta, Indonesia; and Oman. The openings in Indonesia and Oman were the first in those respective countries.

For more on VivaFit, visit


Next Webinar Will Cover Nutrition At Your Club

Sometimes a potential roadblock can lead to a more prosperous avenue.

That is certainly what happened at the VivaFit locations in Portugal – for the company and its members.

In 2011 the sales tax in Portugal skyrocketed to 23%, from the previous 6%. But VivaFit owners Constance and Pedro Ruiz discovered that if they employed a dietician then their sales tax would be a more-than-manageable 0%.

As it turned out, what possibly could have debilitating instead was an “ah ha” moment for VivaFit, a women-only gym. The Ruiz’s realized that employing a dietician at the clubs can do so much for their members as well as their bottom line.

Constance Ruiz will share her experiences and knowledge when she hosts the next IHRSA webinar, Successfully Launch a Nutrition and Weight Management Program in Your Club, on Thursday, Nov. 6, 2 to 3 p.m. EST.

Read on to see what Ruiz will discuss during the webinar.

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Make the most of IHRSA events by bringing back what you learn

There are many ways to get your money's worth at IHRSA events. One of the best returns on investment is to bring home, and institute, what you learn during educational sessions can really make a difference in your club's bottom line.

We hear from convention veterans Molly Kemmer, Constance and Pedro Ruiz, and Garrett Mersberger in this week's Best Practices.

Q: What idea did your club implement after attending an IHRSA convention or other event?

A: Following the 2011 IHRSA Convention, our team focused on creating a “Culture of Consistency.” We restructured our leadership team to create cohesion in our vision and direction. Then we examined the product we were delivering: the emotional connection and experience we were creating with our members. Ultimately, we committed to the practices of hiring right, training and re-training on the basics, and diligently asking our members, "How are we doing?" and really listening and responding to the answer. As a result, our Net Promoter Score (NPS) doubled in one year, and our new member referrals have never been higher.

Molly Kemmer
Center Director
Lakeshore Athletic Club 
Broomfield, Colo.

A: Two well-known IHRSA presenters - Nic Jarvis and Steve Jack - in different presentations asked the audience participants: "How many of your members are getting the results they want?" Nobody had the answer! This is a question that we want to be able to answer. Attending these conferences encouraged us to create an added service called VIVAFIT RESULTS nutrition and coaching support for all members. Also, we created a tracking system that identifies when a member has reached the results that she wanted.

Pedro & Constance Ruiz
Lisbon, Portugal


Prior to attending IHRSA 2011, Sports Core Health and Racquet Club did not have a prospecting member database. Sports Core is a standalone club of approximately 5,000 members and historically had a reactive sales approach. We really benefited from a strong economy over the years and did not need to “sell” the club. Obviously, times have changed. Since the creation of our sales database, we now have a more proactive sales approach and a database of over 800 leads. Currently, we are converting these leads to new members at a rate of 6.8% and we look forward to continued growth.

Garrett Mersberger
General Manager
Sports Core Health & Racquet Club   
Kohler, Wisc.


Club Operators: To be profiled in this column, please contact Kristen Walsh, IHRSA associate publisher, at

IHRSA has answered hundreds of questions and inquiries in the weekly column, Best Practices. Check them out here.


Independent Club vs. Franchise

This week, experts Barry Klein, Amanda Oborne, and Constance Ruiz discuss the benefits of both independent start-ups and franchise businesses:

Q: “I am looking to invest in a start-up health club and trying to decide between an independent club and a franchise. What are the benefits of each?”

A: There are benefits and challenges to opening either an independent or franchise health club. Regardless, PLEASE gain all of the experience you can by at working at a club and studying business before jumping into ownership. Loving fitness is not enough. Having had personal success in a gym is not enough. You are opening a business that happens to be a health club, not just a health club business.

A well-run franchise can eliminate an enormous amount of risk to its franchisees with best practices, advertising, purchasing programs, mentoring, etc. This comes at a price with both up-front and recurring fees, as well as in giving up flexibility in how you run the business.

Both models can work, but it will be your experience, intelligence and hard work that will be most important. Independent gyms are the polar opposite. You can run your gym however you want, but there is no “mothership” to turn to – or pay - for coaching, best practices, advertising, or discounts. This is an emotional decision as much as a business decision.

Franchisers say that their franchisees have a higher rate of success. Independents point out the large number of failed franchises in our industry. Both models can work, but it will be your experience, intelligence and hard work that will be most important.

Barry Klein, Owner
Elevations Health Club

A: Based on what I’ve learned working with the independent club owners who are members of the FitLife Club Network, the choice between independent and franchise really comes down to what kind of owner, and really what kind of person, you are.

Independent owners want to retain complete control over their brand, operating procedures and member experience. They are loathe to pay royalty fees for what amounts to a product created out of their own blood, sweat and tears. They also believe the buck stops with them and don’t want to be beholden to a centralized office that may or may not come through on promised support or make decisions that don’t fit their local needs.

That said, there are some very strong practical reasons for considering a franchise. The business model for a good franchise has already been proven, the brand is already known (there’s no underestimating how expensive it is to build a brand from scratch!), group purchasing lowers equipment and supplies costs, and it can be easier to recruit good staff to a known entity.

Many of the benefits of franchising are available to independents if they join a good regional trade association like the FitLife Club Network or one of the IHRSA regionals. Such associations offer education and networking opportunities, group purchasing offers and a backbone of support and information to assist the independent operator. Visit to learn more about regional associations.

Amanda Oborne, Executive Director
FitLife Club Network

A: An independent start-up is a good idea if you have two essential elements: knowledge of the industry, and knowledge to work “on” your business and not “in” your business. The book that explains this the best is the E-Myth by Michael Gerber. It is a mistake to be a good “technician” and believe that is the only skill set you need to be able to successfully run a business.

A fitness franchise business helps when either one of the two essential elements is missing. If you are from the industry and invest in a franchise, hopefully the systems and support are sufficient enough for the business to take-off. This will allow you the opportunity and time to invest on running the business including administration, marketing, and overseeing that all the processes are in place with the right people to carry them out. On the other hand, if you have management and business experience but don’t have the industry background, again franchising can teach you this.

The best case scenario is if you have both the above skill sets and invest in a credible fitness franchise that knows they are in the franchising business along with enough industry knowledge to make it work.

Constance Ruiz, President