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Entries in instructors (10)


Who Is Responsible for Delivering Stellar Customer Service at Your Health Club?

Ask any health club operator who on their staff is responsible for delivering stellar customer service, and you’ll likely receive this reply: everyone.

They’re not wrong—each and every staff member can make a positive impact on customer service delivery. But when correlating stellar customer service with member retention, data from the IHRSA Member Retention Report series points out the critical role fitness staff—including group exercise instructors—plays.

Continue reading "Who Is Responsible for Delivering Stellar Customer Service at Your Health Club?"

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Rate your instructors, classes

Sometimes a fitness class or training session is only as good as the instructor. But how do you know if that person is good? Maybe you are new to the area or a first-time instructor is leading the class at your gym.

Gillian Casten, a former worker in the financial sector in New York, created - a website that rates instructors and their classes. She could never find a site that rated individuals instead of entire clubs, so she launched the site in August 2011. 

She recently expanded to Boston, joining New York and Los Angeles. Chicago, Portland and Philadelphia are planned to go up by the end of the year.

“This industry can be a bit of a free-for-all – anyone can get a ‘certification’ in a matter of hours,” Casten said. “Previously, qualified instructors had a hard time distinguishing themselves from the pack, and unqualified instructors weren’t being held accountable. We’re shooting to make the industry more transparent.”

For more on the, check out the story on



Connecticut newspaper must be reading IHRSA report, 'The Future is Bright'

As we wrote about on and released there, too, the the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show that trainers and group exercise instructors could see a 20% increase through 2020.

The Day, a very well-respected paper in Connecticut, wrote a story recently using the numbers derived from the Bureau and the susbsequent IHRSA report, The Future is Bright: U.S. Health Club Employment Outlook.

Check out The Day's story.


Employment Outlook report now available

IHRSA's latest report,The Future is Bright: U.S. Health Club Employment Outlook, is now available online. 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 on the report, click here.

To purchase the report, click here.


Best Practices - Updates

Phil Kaplan adds additional comments on hiring group exercise instructors and Donaldo Visani expands on lighting for outdoor parking areas in this week's Best Practices.

Q: "Should I hire group exercise instructors as contractors or staff?" 

Read the original post on hiring group exercise instructors as contractors.

A: While I find much greater loyalty, and I daresay, more consistent performance, with employees, group exercise instructors are the only contributors to the operation that I still pay as Independent Contractors.  There are a number of reasons, one being, the immediate savings in payroll taxes and benefit packages I offer to employees, but it goes deeper than that.  I’d happily pay associated costs if I thought it a wise investment.  My experience has been, most group exercise instructors enjoy teaching at more than one facility, and they are not typically present for more than 5 hours per week, and a strong Group Ex Director (who is an employee) will often rotate and update class schedules finding value in bringing in new talent.   While I have had long term group exercise instructors, my most recent personal training staff (employees) had been with me for an average of 6 years each.  While there have been a few group ex long-termers, they’re happily paid as independent contractors.   I encourage anyone making this decision to speak with a labor attorney just to make certain the lines are clear between the expectations of an employee and Independent Contractor.

Phil Kaplan, Founder
Be Better Solutions, Inc

Q: "Are there specific standards or "good practice guides" for lighting of an outdoor parking area at a health club?"

Read the original post on lighting an outdoor parking area.

A: Here are some basics organized by the goals of good club parking lot light design.

1. Maximize the security and safety of members and staff.

  • Although the absolute minimum lighting level is 0.1 fc (or foot-candle), consider a minimum of 1fc, and preferably 2fc for enhanced security.
  • Lighting vertical surfaces (landscaping, walls, hydrants, etc.) increases luminance.
  • Avoid glare and dark spots.
  • Light the parking lot so that most areas get light from two directions (avoiding shadows between cars).
  • Plan lighting so that it enhances the security camera scheme.

2. Decrease operating costs

  • Consider a higher reflective surface (concrete vs. asphalt, for example) which needs less light because of its perceived luminosity.
  • Similarly, consider the effect of ambient spill light from the building itself and your surroundings.
  • Provide multi-level switching (regulated by a combination of clock, dawn/dusk and motion sensors).
  • Use energy efficient fixtures (such as induction or LED lights) that also reduce lamp replacement costs.

3. Curb Appeal

  • Use a combination of lighting styles to provide drama.
  • Provide pedestrian lighting from parking to the front door.

One further point, always start by consulting your local zoning ordinances when considering parking lot lighting changes.  However, because of the complexity of the process, I would recommend consulting with a qualified lighting designer.

Donaldo H. Visani, AIA
Senior Principal



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.


Should I Hire Group Exercise Instructors as Contractors or Staff?

Keith Callahan and Justin Tamsett discuss hiring group exercise instructors as contractors or staff in this week's Best Practices.

Q: "Should I hire group exercise instructors as contractors or staff?" 

A: Generally speaking, group exercise instructors do not pass the test to qualify as contractors.  Group exercise instructors are not an independent contractor if they perform services that can be controlled by you, the employer (what will be done and how it will be done). This applies even if they are given freedom of action. What matters is that you as the employer have the legal right to control the details of how the services are performed. I am aware of a club that was audited by the IRS regarding 1099 versus W2 status of group exercise instructors and the instructors had to be converted to W2 status and penalties were assessed.  The risk of contracting as a 1099 contractor a "single event" instructor for specialty training or programs is very low.

Keith Callahan
G.M. / Managing Partner
Manchester Athletic Club 

A: The answer to this question should really come from your accountant or human resource consultant. The local laws vary considerably so you want to ensure you get your employment contract right. Regardless of how they are employed, it is important that they are orientated into your club culture. So make them feel part of the team. The key is ensuring that your new staff have similar core values to you and then understand what commitment you want. Many group fitness instructors are just ‘walk-in and walk-out’ but you can ask for more commitment.

Justin Tamsett
REX Round Tables


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.


How to Deal With Turnover of Group Exercise Instructors

Christine Thalwitz discusses how to deal with group exercise instructors leaving in this week's Best Practices.

Q: "We often see attendance to our group exercise classes drop off when an instructor leaves our club. How can we shift our member's loyalty from the instructor to the club as a whole and keep them coming back for more?"

A: It can be difficult when a good instructor decides to leave the club. Members who have a close professional friendship with the instructor may feel the loss on a personal level. Members might also feel anxious about the potential disruption to their workout routines.

Clubs can take steps both operationally and strategically to minimize the negative impact of a popular instructor’s departure on class attendance and club membership:

  1. Ensure as smooth a transition as possible. Communicate all changes to members clearly and with sufficient notice. If you plan to continue the class on your schedule, find a strong replacement instructor. Depending on the circumstances, you may want to arrange for the new instructor to team teach a few times with the departing instructor so that members witness a graceful transition in leadership.
  2. Stay positive. Unfortunately, there is not always a happy ending to an instructor’s relationship with the club. Keep personal information and negativity out of all company conversation. Wish the instructor the best in his or her future endeavors and focus members on exciting happenings at the club.
  3. Emphasize cooperation instead of competition. While individual class attendance numbers are important, be sure to reward teamwork over individual popularity. Team goals and incentives help instructors appreciate the big picture of club membership. Consider pairing your veteran teachers with newer instructors in a mentoring relationship to raise the overall quality of instruction. Avoid filling your schedule with specialty classes that are tied to the expertise of individual instructors. Much of the success behind programs like Body Pump or Body Step, for example, is that the program focuses more on the format than the instructor. Though instructors cultivate a personal sense of style and performance, the consistency in class content and delivery assures members of a certain experience, regardless of who is teaching. When your classes are not instructor-dependent, you are not as vulnerable should a team member decide to leave.
  4. Strengthen member ties to the club. Encouraging members to participate in a wide variety of club activities will help them develop stronger feelings for your brand, as well as build relationships with other team members and club members. Fun events, such as member socials, class launch parties or special workshops, help build camaraderie. The more you can do to build a sense of community, the richer your members’ connections will be to your club as a whole.
  5. Member loyalty begins with team member loyalty. If you feel that instructor turnover is a recurring problem at your club, there may be organizational issues interfering with team member satisfaction. If you don’t already administer employee surveys or conduct exit interviews, consider implementing these tools to gather feedback from your team. A club that is a great place to work is a great place to do business. 

Christine Thalwitz, Director of Communications & Research
ACAC Fitness & Wellness Centers 


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.


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.



Small Group Personal Training

By Jean Suffin

What you can expect to see in the July issue of CBIMembers love it, trainers love it, clubs reap financial reward from it, and it increases retention. We’re talking about a relatively new form of training called Small Group Personal Training (SGPT).


SGPT continues to grow, and there’s no end to its potential. For an article on the topic in the July issue of CBI, I consulted several expert presenters at the IHRSA conference, and they all agree: SGPT is a must for clubs.

“SGPT really lowers the price point for the client and allows the trainer to generate more revenue per hour,” explains Pete McCall, Exercise Physiologist and ACE spokesperson. “It creates a tribe: a unique little subset within the club.”

It’s that “tribe” or camaraderie that entices members back to class repeatedly.

Rich Bradford is a certified personal trainer in Lafayette, Colorado who conducts four different SGPT classes a week, each offered three times per week. He touts the benefits reaped from the friendships that form. “We had a baby shower for a participant recently. We’re like a family.”

Rich Bradford, personal trainer

SGPT classes have anywhere from four to twenty participants and are held two to three times a week. They differ in format from group exercises classes because one class accommodates any level of fitness, and each participant receives individual attention.

“We get a wide range of participants in each class from young athletes to seniors. Small group training allows us to individualize the workout and cater to each member of the group,” Bradford attests. “If a participant can’t do an exercise, I give them an alternative.”

Classes typically utilize props such as balls, bands, Bosus and kettlebells, and are usually conducted in a circuit-like format to keep participants engaged.

“Compare an individual track event to a relay race. Competitors feel a sense of accountability towards the other members of their team. It’s not just them competing. Group training is similar. They don’t want to let each other down by not showing up or not participating in an exercise,” explains Bradford.

One of the biggest challenges for clubs is identifying the right trainers. Often, one-on-one trainers are not comfortable with a group. Conversely, group exercise instructors may not gravitate towards training individuals.

“The instructor has to be enthusiastic. Members draw from that energy, and the excitement is contagious,” Bradford attests.

But like anything successful, conducting a SGPT class is a lot of work, and takes very specific skills.

“Most certifications offer education on training various populations. Knowledge on training different populations is critical,” Bradford advises. “These classes are instructor-driven so the trainer really needs to love what they’re doing. There’s a great deal of satisfaction in seeing participants get excited about working out.”

Clubs need to screen trainers carefully and look for the winning qualities. Often that means conducting internal training for existing instructors. Other times it means hiring from the outside. Whatever effort the club puts into finding trainers, it will be well worth it.

“We want everyone to walk out thinking they got a great workout. That’s a home run,” enthuses Bradford.


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.