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Entries in group fitness (12)


Top 3 Strategies to Improve Your Health Club’s Group Exercise Experience

Perhaps the biggest takeaway for health clubs from the increasing prevalence of boutique fitness studios is that the market is hungry for personalized group exercise experiences. 

Unfortunately, the group X program is frequently an overlooked aspect of running a successful fitness facility. But, when managed properly it can increase revenue, referrals, and member retention, making it a key element to the club’s overall success. 

Marisa Hoff, general manager for Stevenson Fitness in Oak Park, CA, will teach health club owners and operators strategies to make the most out of their group X program in IHRSA’s Thursday, July 14 webinar, "Engage & Retain with Innovative Group X Programs." 

Here are Hoff’s top three things club owners should do to improve their group X experience. 

1. Provide Ongoing Member Experience Training for Staff 

Of course, all great group X programs are contingent on hiring great staff—but the work doesn’t stop there. 

“You need to continue to work with them to ensure they’re doing everything they can to create a memorable experience in the classroom,” Hoff says. “During the webinar, I’ll offer lots of tips and tools owners can use to train their staff to do so.” 

2. Make Each Group X Format a Unique Experience 

Many of your club’s group X classes may take place in the same room, but that doesn’t mean they should look or feel the same. Differentiating between classes in this way helps to create a sense of community among members, which the club can foster using social media groups. 

“At Stevenson Fitness, we try to create communities in each format, and one way to do that is to create smaller social media groups” Hoff says. “We also make each format its own special experience; for Zoomba we dim the lights, boot camp is about the grid. We use lighting and different techniques, like candles, to make each format feel totally different from the next so it’s not just one big empty classroom.” 

3. Listen to What Your Members Are Telling You 

“Always listen to your members and engage with them to get their opinion and feedback on a regular basis,” she says. “What owners think members want and like isn’t necessarily the case—you have to continue to survey; that will allow you to keep your programming fresh and cater to the needs of the members.” 

Hoff’s webinar will go in-depth on each of these elements and more. The webinar’s learning objectives include: 

  • Identify the key factors to look for when hiring and interviewing potential instructors.
  • Explore the importance of the group exercise manager's role and the primary responsibilities for that position.
  • Gain insight into how to best design a studio or classroom.
  • Discover important elements for schedule design and balance.
  • Obtain tips on how to design systems in order to maximize the role of the instructor in increasing member engagement.  

“Attendees will leave with some very tangible practices for what to do from hiring to making sure you’re doing ongoing training with your staff,” she says. “I’ll also share actionable strategies that we use at Stevenson Fitness to create a memorable class experience with group X and make sure we keep our programming fresh and innovative. People will come away with tangible strategies they can implement right away—they’re not expensive and the're easy to implement.”

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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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How to Compete with the Boutique Studio Trend

This is an associate feature post, sponsored by Iron Grip Barbell Company

If you’re offering group exercise classes at your gym, you already know why the classes appeal to your members. Now more than ever, today’s fitness consumer isn’t just looking for an activity (running, lifting weights, cycling)—they’re looking for an enriching experience. Gym goers expect their workouts to be challenging and motivating, but they're also looking for that feeling of camaraderie and social connection. 

No doubt exercising in a group setting can offer the right combination of communal support and group accountability that keeps a certain type of member engaged. But if you’re not already offering a program that focuses specifically on strength training in a group format, you could be missing a huge opportunity to connect with these members, and open up a more compelling path to retention. 

Here are the top reasons why your club needs group strength training on the schedule: 

Strength training is (still) wildly popular. According to the American College of Sports Medicine’s 2016 worldwide survey, strength training still holds as the fourth most popular fitness trend among consumers. The editors of ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal® call it an “essential part of a complete exercise program for all physical activity levels and genders.” 

What other activity appeals to such a wide cross-section of your overall membership? So many women are encouraged by the evidence that weight bearing exercise can increase energy levels, help burn fat faster, and ward off osteoporosis that they are embracing a “strong is the new skinny” mindset. But many members want the benefits of strength training as well as the feel of community that only a group setting can provide. 

Group strength training classes are the perfect complement to other group activities. Your members may crave their weekly dose of Zumba-fueled booty-shaking, or rely on a sanity-restoring savasana at the end of a hectic workday, but the most energizing cardio or relaxing stretching can get boring fast if you don’t provide options to mix up those routines. Not only do members need and demand variety to keep them motivated, but for the best results, a balanced fitness lifestyle incorporates strength training. 

So while the ever-popular yoga practice helps improve flexibility, breathing, and balance, a class that focuses on weight-bearing exercises will fill in the gap to build strength, burn fat, and increase bone density. And while getting your heart pumping is key to cardiovascular stamina, nothing reshapes a body and improves health more completely and effectively than strength training. 

Strength training classes won’t just keep members from losing interest, they’ll keep them in your club. Group exercise in general is a popular retention tool for keeping members engaged and motivated. But consider it also as a stepping stone to taking advantage of all your club has to offer. 

The growing popularity of boutique fitness studios (barre, spinning, yoga) or boot camp-style small group training (including CrossFit) means you need to compete to keep members at your full-service facility. A robust group exercise program offers the social experience members yearn for, but group strength classes in particular provide members with something more—a gateway to feeling comfortable using more areas of your club. 

For members who want to learn to strength train but might be intimidated by the weight room, group strength classes provide a welcoming space where they can familiarize themselves with barbells, weight plates, and basic free weight exercises that will help them see results fast and, importantly, introduce them to the rest of your club. 

That’s why it’s important to offer group strength training equipment that is user-friendly and ergonomic, but that also shares the same heavy-duty look of the equipment in the free weight training area outside the group ex studio. If members become comfortable with free weight training in the group ex studio, then it’s only a matter of time before they graduate to using other areas of the club on their own, which helps drive home the value of your full-service club. 

It may even be a bridge to one-on-one sessions with a personal trainer, or eventually specialized high-performance athletic coaching. And an engaged member—who is seeing results and utilizing all areas of the club—is one you’re more likely to keep. 

Iron Grip Barbell Company is the only commercial free weight provider to offer a complete line of exclusively American-made dumbbells, weight plates, and Olympic bars. They operate their own state-of-the-art factory in Southern California to ensure strict quality control and hands-on customer service. Iron Grip is the world’s largest manufacturer of commercial free weights, with 23 years of innovation and expertise in the fitness industry. For more information, visit


Group Exercise Tied to Higher Member Retention

Health club members who participate in group exercise are more likely to retain their membership than those who only use gym equipment, according to a The Retention People (TRP) study.

For the study, researchers analyzed survey results from 10,000 UK health and fitness members and followed up with them at regular intervals to measure changes to their habits and membership behavior. They found that 48% percent of members reported just one activity as the usual reason for a club visit, 32% reported two and, 20% reported three or more.

Attending for a gym workout only was reported by 40% of members, with nearly a fifth of members reporting a combination of gym and class. Just 13% of members reported visiting their clubs for a class only, with 57% of class-goers also reporting they visit the gym.  

To best study the effect on group exercise on member retention, TRP honed in on two groups: 1) those who report using the gym only and 2) those who report their usual reason for attending is group exercise alone or in combination with another activity.

Their findings showed: 

  • Women more frequently reported group exercise than men, and the reverse was true for gym workouts.
  • Gym-only members tended to be younger, while the proportion of members reporting group exercise increased with age.
  • Longer-term members were less likely to report gym-only and more likely to report group exercise compared to new members.
  • Members who have belonged to multiple clubs are more likely to report only working out in the gym compared to members for whom this is their first ever club.
  • There is very little difference in visit frequency between the two types of members. 

Ultimately, the report found that 88% of group exercise members retained their membership during the duration of the study, compared to 82% of gym-only members. The risk of cancelling was 56% higher in gym-only members compared to group exercisers.

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Future bodes well for trainers and group instructors

IHRSA will be releasing a new report, The Future is Bright: U.S. Health Club Employment Outlook, next week. One of the biggest findings is that health clubs could be employing up to 20% more trainers and group instructors.

Also in the report will be trends, compensation, case studies, and more. 

For more, click here.






Members Don't Join Fitness Clubs Just for the Fitness

By Bill Churchill, Director of Strategic Planning at Fitcorp, Inc.

Bill ChurchillThe fact is, if someone wants to be fit, they can buy some free weights off of Craigslist (Parabody Chrome Weight Set with Rack, $500), or a rowing machine from Dick’s Sporting Goods (Stamina ATS Air Rower, $399.99), or heck, a pair of running shoes from City Sports (Nike Free Run+2 – Women’s, $90.00), and they have everything they need to become or stay fit.

Why, then, do they sign up for membership that costs $60 per month, $90 per month, or $180 per month, if it’s not for the fitness?  I suggest it’s for the other people.

Personal trainers know that the key to building a client base is the personal connection. And their clients know that the benefit of having a personal trainer is that they get fitter (or stay fitter) when there is someone helping them do the right exercises, at the right weights, with the right sets. But most important of all, it's getting them to show up.  This is the simplest example of how someone else makes your fitness goals happen.

Less expensive, but also very effective, is group fitness.  Yoga classes, Zumba, Spin Groups, Pilates and the like all tap into the benefits of doing exercises with other people.  Sometimes it is the inspirational class leader/teacher that motivates the participants to get up before the sun rises, or stop what they are doing during the workday to make sure they get to class on time, but it can also be the relationships with the other participants.  The social connections that build up over time between the people who take Kathy’s 7AM spin class or Mike’s 5AM boot camp (not kidding) get so strong that they know they will be missed if they don’t show up.

Even the headphone zombies on the cardio equipment, who barely acknowledge the front desk person when they scan their card, must take some comfort from, and get some joy from, running in a gym with dozens of others nearby, doing the same thing.

What does this mean? Why does this matter? Because it means that your primary job at your fitness club isn’t to focus on fitness. It is to focus on relationships.  Specifically, fostering relationships.  It’s the relationships between members and trainers, between members and group fitness leaders, and especially between members and other members that are key to keeping participation high.  This translates into a more rewarding experience for the members and this means higher retention.

In the olden days, the role of Cruise Director was to introduce strangers to strangers and create relationships that make the whole experience better for everyone.  (The last cruise I went on had a population of 3,000 passengers and there was no one playing that role).  I suggest the focus of the fitness club general manager is to think of ways to create groups of members with similar interest and schedules and get to know each other.  They may become more vocal, ask for more from the club, and complain more about changes in instructors, but those are all excellent outcomes.  It means they care, and that’s what you really want.


Customizable Class Options for Your Club

By Mia Coen

In the August edition of CBI, I wrote a feature article about different group exercise options for gyms and health clubs (see “Group-Ex-Travaganza!” pg. 50). What I didn’t realize was that—though there’s a seemingly endless amount of choices—each club’s individual needs will dictate the offerings.

This was a much bigger concept than I could’ve imagined. Many factors come into play: demographics, geographical location, population, membership, the size of the facility, the abilities of the instructors, etc. While some clubs may have the space and resources to design their own group ex classes, others might find they make best use of turnkey group exercise programs developed by an outside firm.

In any case, the bottom line is doing right by your club and knowing what your members want. A club that resides in a retirement community may have better luck with an aquatics class or a low-impact session, than with a bootcamp or martial arts class. A club that sits in a posh, fashionable section of town may want to make use of equipment-specific routines devised by manufacturers, in addition to the standby yoga and Pilates. Some programming options could be developed in-house to utilize the geographical location where the club is—for example, if a club sits smack dab in the middle of a field or near a body of water, it may reach out to those outdoor enthusiasts by offering a hiking or swimming class. If you’re not entirely sure which direction to go, you can always reach out to a consultant!

All it takes is having a good sense about what members want. Deliver the best you can and do your research. The opportunities are endless!


A Superstar is Born

By Patricia Glynn

How do you find a group instructor who can teach a safe, effective class, and simultaneously make it a “wow” experience for your members? What can you do to turn your current team of “OK” teachers into true superstars who will literally have clients lining up to take classes?

If you’ve been asking yourself these questions, you’re not alone. In fact, just the other day, I spoke with a studio operator who was actually on the verge of dissolving her group fitness department—she was having that much trouble assembling and developing a team of instructors whom she felt would satisfy her discerning membership. Kimberly Spreen

So what’s the answer? Coincidentally, in this month’s issue of CBI magazine, in the column titled “Developing 5-Star Instructors,” I write about a potential solution.

I spoke with two leading industry pros: Kimberly Spreen, national director of group fitness and yoga for Chanhassen, Minnesota-based Life Time Fitness, and Rob Glick, part of the creative team for Total Gym’s GRAVITY System in San Diego. With years of experience working and teaching in clubs, each has firsthand knowledge of this widespread problem.

As Glick notes, many instructors “go through a theoretical certification and then just jump right into teaching without having honed the skills that will allow them to make their classes a great and magical experience.

Rather than throw up their hands in defeat, the two proactively began researching possible fixes. After months of concerted effort, they formulated a unique educational opportunity dubbed the 5-Star Instructor Development Training Workshop, or “The Star Within.”

Spreen describes it as “an opportunity for continued growth and improvement.” And Glick points out, “This program is really for everybody—anyone who wants to build and grow their business,” he says.Rob Glick

Further, Spreen observes, there are benefits beyond simply increasing member satisfaction: by offering this class to your staff, she explains, “you’re also creating dedicated employees. Anytime you provide education for someone who works for you, they’re going to be considerably more committed to you.”

The course covers: how to connect with members through eye contact; how to offer positive reinforcement; developing confidence in front of an audience; selection of appropriate music; how to end the class on time; how to confer education via sound bites; guidelines for pre-class practice; how to keep the class engaged and entertained from beginning to end; how to leave your inhibitions outside the studio; and how to be creative and show the group a good time while remaining true to who you are.

Ultimately, says Spreen, “The course is about getting more people exercising. That’s our big mission: getting—and keeping—people involved.” Glick adds: “When you create a strong team, create a strong brand of people, you’re better able to build a loyal following."

For more details on this innovative training program, be sure to check out the May issue of CBI, available online and in your mailbox.



Money Management 101

By Shannon Fable

Oftentimes, club employees rise through the ranks and become responsible for areas where they’ve succeeded on the front lines, but might possess little training for what happens behind the scenes. Star trainers and instructors may excel with members, but the financial concepts necessary to run a department effectively might be all new. It’s important to acknowledge the business side of your new post and find resources to help you. With some guidance, you’ll learn what’s expected to run a department that will positively contribute to the club as a whole.
The group exercise department has a direct line to dues, whether you see it clearly or not. This requires a bit of a mindset change. While every club differs in their expectations of what group fitness contributes, providing cutting edge equipment and programs while controlling payroll is quite a balance.  Here are a few tips that can help you.
There are three areas to consider when working on a fitness budget: analysis, development, and management.

The most critical step involves understanding the big picture. How is the club doing financially? How many members do you have? What’s the projected growth, earning and spending trends? Understanding the overall club budget will provide a clearer picture of how your piece affects the bottom line.
First educate yourself on the expectations: 1) How much money are you supposed to bring in 2) Is the revenue divided up by program/service or one lump sum, and 3) How does this revenue projection compare with actual numbers from the previous years?
Next, review labor costs: what is the projected payroll expense for your staff (and does this include your salary) and how does it compare to years past?  
Last, review all expenses that are housed under your department: 1) Equipment (large equipment, if at all possible, should NOT be included under your department’s budget but rather pulled out as a capital expense; 2) education, dues/subscriptions and professional expenses for your staff; 3) business supplies; 4) equipment repairs.

Once you’ve analyzed a current budget, you can make predictions for how you will increase revenue or decrease spending to influence the club’s bottom line.
When developing a budget, look first at a healthy growth curve for revenue. Three percent growth is a solid number. Do the math; take the revenue projections from previous years and notice the trends.
As well, take into account how payroll may need to grow (annual raises, predicted additions to classes/programs) and adjust your revenue to offset or plan to seek increase in the expenditure column. If an increase in payroll is not possible, you will need to get creative with your programming. It’s best to know ahead of time and have a plan!

Once your budget has been approved, your number one job is managing the money. Plenty of reports exist for you to keep an eye on your performance. Make sure you have access on a consistent basis (monthly, at the least). As these reports may be new to you, seek resources that can help you translate. The more you know, the better your department will be.
Of course, this merely scratches the surface in managing a budget. Finance may not come naturally to fantastic movers and motivators. There are a plethora of sources out there: business books, tradeshows, seminars, online classes and, most accessible and important, your peers. Avoid ignoring the area due to lack of immediate understanding … prove your business worth and watch your career explode in management.


Communication Tools for Fitness Managers

By Shannon Fable

Communicating effectively with a fitness staff is one of the most challenging aspects of our jobs as fitness managers. We’re dealing with remote, mobile staff who may teach anywhere from one to 40 classes a week, train clients on the side, or have another full-time job outside of fitness. They’re often difficult to track down, and it’s uncertain whether the information we need to impart is being heard. That’s why developing a simple communication plan and employing a user-friendly software system can help.

Communicating with your staff in a way that’s familiar and comfortable to them will go a long way. Meet them in their comfort zone. These days, that means more instantaneous and low-touch methods like e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter. Frequency of communication should be predictable and clearly defined and the content relevant. Your communication should be in one centralized location and the method of retrieval should be consistent.

Group fitness managers are the connectors in the facility. We have a responsibility to interact with, organize, and mobilize our staff; schedule substitute instructors; interview potential employees; and communicate with our members, prospective members, supervisors, peers, vendors, and community leaders. With our team of instructors, we’re often expected to operate as the communication hub and “heartbeat” of the fitness center.

In addition, group fitness managers are equal parts leader, instructor, accountant, marketer, negotiator, motivator, salesperson, public speaker, liaison, community spokesperson, scheduler, customer-service representative, and more. This can make the amount of information that we have to deliver overwhelming. Your communication solution should be easy for you to take with you on the go; easily archived to retrieve information and pass along; and contained so it’s easy to digest.

When choosing or developing a communication solution, look for the following components:

  •     A central place to post notices, i.e., short snippets of information that are stored in reverse chronological order, with an easy way for you to track whether the information is received.
  •    A place for instructors to post comments and questions.
  •    A sub swap board that shows available classes, who’s available to sub, and a quick way to approve and spread the news.
  •    A calendar that can serve the needs of the team internally and privately. Specifically, communicating special events and subs to members.
  •   The ability for pictures to be attached to profiles to allow instructors who may never see one another to connect.
  •    A really robust system will have a scheduling feature that links to instructors’ pay rates with class numbers to quickly calculate cost per head and confirm payroll information.
  •    The system should be accessible from anywhere via a handheld device.

Most clubs—though they have software to run their business—don’t invest in software that’s specific to communication and the fitness department, but there’s no question that a system that does all of this will be cost-effective and invaluable for a club to eliminate the headaches that sometimes come with a large part-time staff. At a cost of less than $1 per instructor, per month, it significantly decreases manual communication and tracking costs for your group fitness managers, and provides an opportunity for upper management to track fitness department activity. Look for a system that’s been built by someone in the industry, preferably one who has held the position of group fitness manager. They will understand the intricate needs of the department and the club, which will make the tool an effortless addition to the standard operating procedure of the department. 

Shannon Fable is the President/CEO of Sunshine Fitness Resources and the Group Fitness Manager at Colorado Athletic Club in Boulder.