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 Fitness First (18)


Reinventing a Heritage: The Sun Never Sets on Fitness First 

At one point in time, it was accurately noted that “The sun never sets on the British Empire.”

At another, much more recent point in time—2010, to be exact—the same also could be said for Fitness First, the health club chain that had been born as a single squash club in Bournemouth, Dorset, England, in 1993. Just 17 years later, it was a true global entity, with 78 facilities and more than 171,000 members in the U.K. alone, and a total of 360 clubs in 16 countries that served nearly one million members.

It was, arguably, the most recognizable club brand in the world.

But its domain had already begun to strain at the edges, and, bit by bit, shrink. Four years earlier, there had been 500 Fitness First facilities.

Continue reading "Reinventing a Heritage: The Sun Never Sets on Fitness First."

Click to read more ...


A New Partnership Between Fitness First’s Connected Fitness Labs and Wexer Virtual 

Connected Fitness Labs, a stand-alone subsidiary of Fitness First, and Wexer Virtual announced their new partnership today. The two companies have combined Connected Fitness Labs’ intelligent health and fitness app and Wexer Virtual’s platform and exercise content from top brands. 

“We work with the majority of the biggest club groups worldwide and they are more or less all looking to expand their digital ecosystems to meet an increased consumer demand for mobility, flexibility. and support. It was clear to me, when I understood how strong Connected Fitness Labs’ app is, that we, by combining our technologies, can meet that need in our industry,” says CEO of Wexer Virtual, Paul Bowman, about how and why this partnership has come about. 

The unique new solution, that will be available with clubs’ own brands, will develop personalized workouts, set goals, and provide access to a library of hundreds of exercises, video demonstrations, and group exercise classes. It will track members’ progress and provide feedback on their fitness. 

From an operator’s perspective, the app will provide data on member behavior to help clubs improve the overall gym experience and drive retention. Additionally, the solution has an online booking system and allows clubs to create in-club challenges and engaging digital leader boards. 

Looking one layer deeper, the Wexer Virtual/Connected Fitness Labs solution applies the principles of behavioral psychology to deliver a truly engaging fitness experience, fusing technology, fitness expertise, and motivational science to gain and retain members for longer while providing the gym chains tools to increase secondary revenue through digital services and in-app purchases. 

 “Technology is shaping the future of most industries and we are really looking forward to bringing this next-generation digital tool to the fitness industry—and equally excited to be partnering with Wexer Virtual, who are already a well-known and successful brand,” says David Langridge, MD, of Connected Fitness Labs. “We believe our skill sets of digital science and fitness industry expertise combine to offer something that is very unique and very valuable to both members and operators 24/7/365”.  

Bowman and Langridge expect to launch the first club group on the new solution in the third quarter of 2016. 


Martin Seibold Discusses Fitness First UK’s Repositioning Strategy

Martin Seibold, managing director of Fitness First UK in Dorset, England, has come a long way since he worked as an IHRSA intern in 1994. 

After joining Fitness First Germany in 1998, Seibold helped grow the company's number of clubs from seven to 99 in just eight years. That success is one of the many reasons Seibold received the European Club Leadership Award at the 15th Annual IHRSA European Congress. 

Seibold recently spoke to Club Business International about Fitness First's strategy and future. 

CBI: The Fitness First Group is constantly evolving. A little update—how many divisions, countries, facilities, members?

Martin Seibold: That’s right. We review our portfolio of clubs and products constantly, and use the insights gleaned to better understand where and why we’re successful, and to ensure that we’re meeting local needs. We operate 72 clubs, with 2,200 staff and over 189,000 members, in the U.K. Fitness First is a global brand with over 377 clubs, serving nearly one million members, in 16 countries worldwide.

CBI: And Fitness First UK—could you give us a short “state-of-the-business” report on it?

MS: Fitness First is no longer just a gym. It’s a supported lifestyle offering. Over the last three years, we’ve reengineered the entire business to ensure that our members are at the heart of everything we do.

We’ve upgraded our facilities, reinvented our training options, and harnessed technology. This has meant, among other things, removing turnstiles; improving seating areas; and introducing key touch points for the modern gym-goer, such as free WiFi, cool-down showers, and instructional iPoint touchscreens. Working with TEAM GB, the British Olympic Association, we’ve also reinvented our training options, developing the most advanced gym floor and group exercise programs in the U.K.

CBI: Everyone has been following the recent repositioning of Fitness First. What were the objectives? Are they being met?

MS: The proportion of ex-members rejoining each month is at its highest level ever, and our net promoter score (NPS) has shifted by 36 points. We’ve had like-for-like joining, retention, and revenue growth for the last two years. This is clearly a sign that our primary objectives—of enhancing our position both in the marketplace and in the eyes of the consumer—have been met.

CBI: Fitness First is innovating aggressively in terms of facilities, programs, and technology. What haven’t we heard about yet?

MS: We’re again taking our training and investment in our people to a whole new level. This will provide us with an even deeper understanding of our members, so we can tailor everything we do for targeted groups of members. On top of this, after two years of development, we’ve just launched our very own app, CustomFit, which gives members full control of their training with anytime/anywhere support. Over 12.5% of our U.K. members are already using it. 

Read the full interview with Martin Seibold in the February issue of CBI.  


Treadmills Definitely Still in Conversation

A Freemotion treadmill at an IHRSA trade show.Have you been jonesing for the next This Week in the Fitness Industry? Well, it is Friday, so it must be time for the next installment.


Australian Families Not Shy About Spending for Fitness

Australians are spending more than $2,000 a month on fitness. (Photo courtesy 50 Sports in 50 Weeks)This Week in the Fitness Industry is back after a brief hiatus. And, despite the time off the quality and newsworthyness of the entries have not slipped.

In this edition there are awards, lists and new ventures.

  • NBC unveils fitness platform
  • inaugural United Arab Emirates awards
  • Australians spending to be healthy
  • Anytime Fitness falls to #2

Read it all in This Week in the Fitness Industry.

Click to read more ...


Fitness Industry Pair Look to Crowdfunding for Startup

Crowdfunding - funding a project or venture by raising contributions from a large number of people, typically via the Internet -  has paid off for two companies in the fitness sector.

1Rebel, a U.K. health club startup, had raised close to $1.7 million from investors within two weeks of its listing in early July on, and, as of Aug. 12, had raised about $2.3 million from 265 people, exceeding its goal of approximately $1.9 million. In return, 1Rebel had offered its investors 31.5% of the company’s equity.

With 13 days of its offering still to go on the site, 1Rebel was 121% funded. The largest single investment was for $966,690.

The brainchild of James Balfour, the son of Mike Balfour, the founder of the U.K.’s Fitness First, and Giles Dean, a leisure startup specialist, 1Rebel plans to launch a chain of boutique fitness studios focused solely on high-intensity training.

The first studio is scheduled to open this month in central London. Members will be able to book classes online and via an app on a “pay-as-you-go” basis.


Fitness First invests in itself

The fitness industry is well known for its endless innovation, and, now, Fitness First, the U.K.-based club company, is undergoing a major transformation - a global revamping that, among other things, will involve a new $197-million debt facility, the upgrading of employee standards, new exercise programs, and a significant expansion in Asia.

The debt facility, provided by four banks - IKB, UBS, HSBC, and Barclays - will be utilized to pay off an existing loan from shareholders, and to fund the group’s development plans.

“The signing of this bank facility at very competitive rates is further evidence of our continuing financial improvement and the growing confidence of external lenders in our overall strategy to reposition the Fitness First brand and offer,” said CFO John Wartig. He explains the deal will reduce the company’s cost of financing, and free funds to be used for refurbishment programs and rebrand initiatives.

For example, in Malaysia, Fitness First will spend up to $627,000 to upgrade and renovate its 13 clubs there, intro-ducing the latest fitness innovations and new workouts. It’s allocated an additional $219,000 for training programs and staff fitness certifications. And it plans to launch four new signature routines - Pro Cycling, Hardcore Max, Advanced Flow Yoga, and Freestyle Group Training.

One of the largest fitness operations in the world, Fitness First owns and operates more than 377 clubs, serving
1 million members, in 16 countries.


This Week in the Fitness Industry: 6-13-14

Here is what we have this week in This Week in the Fitness Industry:

  • Ways to work out at work
  • Fitness First expanding
  • Anytime Fitness at great place to work
  • Lack of exercise in Europe questioned

Read This Week in the Fitness Industry for more. 


This Week in the Fitness Industry: 5-9-14

As always, we like to deliver you a wide array of news on the health and fitness industry in This Week in the Fitness Industry. 

We may have outdone ourselves this time around. How about:

  • history of the burpee
  • health club in an airport
  • exercise helping cancer patient
  • rebranding of a popular chain

Read on for more on all This Week in the Fitness Industry entries.


Fitness First plans mega expansion in Asia

Fitness First, the health club chain that operates 88 locations in six countries has announced it is planning a large-scale expansion.

Asia will be the focus of the UK-based group of clubs, with 50 new sites planned in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines and Thailand, with strong focus on Thailand and Singapore, according to a CNBC story.

Fitness First plans to pump $140 million into the project.

Visit the CNBC website for more.