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Entries in Life Fitness (43)


Fitness Forever: How Health Clubs Are Serving the Senior Market 

Like many of the members of Welcyon Fitness After 50, in Edina, MN, David Erusha, 65, first arrived at the club in poor shape.

He’d suffered two episodes of cardiac arrest in just one month—the first occurred two days before Thanksgiving and the second on Christmas morning. After an extended hospital stay, doctors outfitted him with a pacemaker.

Erusha recalls: “They told me, ‘You’re overweight, you don’t eat right, and you don’t exercise. It’s time for some serious changes, or you might not see another Christmas.’”

Although he’d been a card-carrying member of Welcyon for some time, it took this “wakeup call” to get him to attend regularly.

After two years of working out four to five times a week at the club, he’s lost 25 pounds, shed two inches from his waist, and his self-described “jowls” and “double chin” are gone.

Most importantly, he’s back to doing the things that matter most. “I ride my bike and play with my grandkids now,” he says.

Erusha credits Welcyon’s carefully crafted business model for his life-saving transformation. The chain, which was founded in 2010, is at the forefront of developing fitness centers that cater to older adults. All of its units are multipurpose fitness facilities specifically designed to meet the needs and special challenges of aging adults in an inviting, interactive environment.

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Equipment Manufacturers Fuel Tomorrow’s Fitness Trends

In any industry, creative disruption rules the day in terms of long-term competitive differentiation. And it can provide firms with the ability to give consumers what they want—before they know they want it.

Mazda, for example, hit the sweet spot in 1990, with the introduction of its iconic Miata roadster, a car that brought “fun” back to motoring after years of gas-crisis concerns and prior to the start of a recession. In 2001, Apple introduced iTunes, and, in 2007, the iPhone, which inexorably changed the way the world listens to music and communicates.

With respect to our own industry, Planet Fitness ushered in the high-volume/low-price (HV/LP) era in 1992. Precor, Inc., introduced the Elliptical Fitness Crosstrainer (EFX) in 1995, shifting the industry’s emphasis to low-impact exercise. And a decade later, in 2005, SoulCycle made it obvious that boutique fitness had arrived big-time.

Club operators and instructors clearly play a role in the industry’s creative process, but, in many cases, important new trends are first identified and then brought to life by equipment manufacturers.

Major market disruptions may not happen very often, but, in order to remain successful and maintain growth, manufacturers have to constantly keep tabs on changing consumer desires, understand their impact, and incorporate what they learn in the products and services they offer.

CBI quizzed several leading manufacturers about the efforts they make to identify new trends, stay ahead of the curve, and predict what we can expect to see next.

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Small Group Training Delivers Huge Results for Health Clubs

It’s no secret that small-group training is hot ... and getting hotter.

It’s all the rage for a number of good reasons. Principal among them, though, is the fact that some of the newest and most serious competition for traditional clubs—e.g., studios, boutique facilities, CrossFit boxes—are providing users with highly personalized workouts, enjoyed with a small group of their peers.

The programs are fun, encourage social interaction, and produce tangible results, all of which increase sales, participation, and retention.

Life Fitness' Synrgy BlueSky frame

As clubs strive, ever harder, to compete, they’re looking for ways to make their own small-group offerings even more appealing. One of the best ways to do so is by thinking big— when it comes to equipment, at least.

An increasing number of equipment manufacturers—including numerous IHRSA associate members—are now producing functional fitness frames, sometimes referred to as racks or multigyms, that can lift small-group offerings to a higher level. By making it possible for all of the participants in a class to do different exercises on a single unit, under the guidance of one trainer, they can open up a world of new possibilities.

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This Week in the Fitness Industry: Equinox, Life Time Fitness Create Workspaces for Members

Equinox, Life Time Fitness Create Workspaces for Members
In response to consumer demand, an increasing amount of health clubs are providing workspaces for their members to to conduct business on-site, The Wall Street Journal reports. The Equinox in San Francisco’s SoMa neighborhood has a 1,150-square-foot lounge/workspace, which it may expand to 6,000 square feet if it continues to gain popularity. Colorado Athletic Club in Denver has a workspace with Wi-Fi, USB ports and outlets, and free coffee in the mornings. Life Time Fitness’ downtown Minneapolis facility has two conference rooms for members, and its Tampa, FL-gym has a business center. The 121-club chain is also installing high-top tables for those who want to do work in a newly opened New York City facility. 

IHRSA Board Chair Rasmus Ingerslev's Club Business International Photoshoot 

Well-timed Exercise May Boost Learning
Exercising may improve learning—if you time it right. A series of Dutch experiments recently found a link to improved recall in those who performed aerobic exercise four hours after a memorization task. “Newly-learned information turns into long-term knowledge through a process of stabilization and integration of memories, the study team writes in Current Biology,” according to Reuters. “This requires certain brain chemicals that are also released during physical exercise, including dopamine, noradrenaline (norepinephrine) and a growth factor called BDNF, they explain.” 

New Jersey Trial Judge Denies Class Action Suit Targeting Health Clubs
This spring, a New Jersey judge, in a ruling favorable to the health club industry, denied certifying a class action filed on behalf of 18,000 health club members claiming that a group of fitness centers was not following state law. In Mellet v. Aquasid, Judge Anthony Pugliese, from the bench of a state Superior Court based in Camden, blocked a consumer class action lawsuit from advancing, representing a victory for the health club industry. The ruling made two significant distinctions between gym membership and other types of consumer goods and services. Read out full coverage of the class action suit ruling.


Life Fitness President Chris Clawson Talks Acquisitions, Competition

In the last few years, Life Fitness President Chris Clawson has had a lot on his plate; he helped oversee the acquisition of two well-known commercial fitness brands, SCIFIT (June 2015) and Cybex International, Inc. (January 2016). 

In the June issue of Club Business International, Clawson discusses how Life Fitness’ recent acquisitions will help take the company to $1.5 billion in revenues by 2020. 

CBI: The last time we touched base with you and Life Fitness, it was to discuss its acquisition of SCIFIT Systems, Inc. No one mentioned then that something was in the works with Cybex International, Inc. So, what happened?

Chris Clawson: I’ll give you a little insider information here. The conversation actually started close to four years ago, when John Aglialoro, the chairman of Cybex, began asking me—and our corporate parent, the Brunswick Corporation—if they could buy Life Fitness, to which Brunswick kept saying, “No, Life Fitness isn’t for sale.”

It culminated last year at IHRSA 2015 when Arthur Hicks, Jr., their president and CEO, came over to our Trade Show booth and said, “We should merge together, and become a single, billion-dollar company. What do you think about that? Do you think Brunswick has changed its position?” I said, “I don’t think they have, but it’s worth having a conversation.”

John followed up around June. He’d spoken with Dusty McCoy, our outgoing CEO, and wanted to know if he should wait until Dusty retired to continue the conversation since Mark Schwabero, our new CEO and chairman, would be taking over soon. To help move things along, I introduced John to Mark. When they met, Mark told John he liked the idea, but that Life Fitness wasn’t selling. Then he asked about buying Cybex. By the next January, we’d consummated the deal.

CBI: How did you reach a price tag of $195 million for Cybex, a privately held company owned by UM Holdings, which is owned, in turn, by John Aglialoro, an industry icon, and his wife, Joan Carter?

CC: It was really a function of the due diligence and valuation processes. I won’t get into the nuances, but we looked at Cybex’s ability to create, distribute, and service—all of the things that make a company strong. It’s about valuing the value they create in the marketplace. It’s a great company, a spectacular brand, and we’re super-excited about it.

CBI: Do you think that the SCIFIT and Cybex acquisitions will lead to increased or, possibly, tempered competition in the commercial fitness equipment arena?

CC: I’m going to leave the competition out of the landscape and include only the customer, because I can’t speak to how our competitors are going to react. But I will say this. Our conversation with the customers has changed in its dynamic a few times over the course of the past two years.

When we did presentations and talked about Life Fitness and Hammer Strength, the conversation was almost exclusively about being fit and exercising. We were Life Fitness, and Hammer Strength, and we were talking to everyone who was exercising. It wasn’t just advanced exercisers. It was everyone who was exercising. But when we could include SCIFIT in the conversation, we could talk to people who were exercising, rehabilitating, or just getting involved in fitness.

Cybex changes the conversation again, giving us another inclusive fitness product, originally built to work for differently-abled people. When you include the Brunswick active recreation products we have—shuffleboard, put- ting greens, table tennis, billiards, air hockey, or foosball—we’re expanding the conversation again by changing what our customers can add to their facilities—e.g., fun. Why can’t you have an area that’s fun? Why does everything have to be work? Why does it have to be a workout? Can’t it be an area where you enjoy what you’re doing, but are also having a workout at the same time?

All of those are ways for us to change the landscape, not just the landscape of exercise and fitness, but of society; to get more people up and moving in a wide variety of ways.

Read Chris Clawson's full interview in the June issue of CBI.


Life Fitness President Talks Expansion, New Products at IHRSA 2016

“This is our second IHRSA ever,” Chris Clawson, president of Life Fitness, joked during his IHRSA 2016 Live Studio interview. 

In fact, the Brunswick Corporation division has been an IHRSA Convention supporter since the early days, when the company was a founding member of the Trade Show in the 1980s. 

“We’ve always been here," Clawson said. "Our customers come here and it’s an important place to be to represent, not only the industry, but obviously our brand as well."

Life Fitness has grown over the past several months, with the acquisitions of Brunswick Billiards Group, SCIFIT, and Cybex. There are “lots of new things happening—I think that’s probably what most people are paying attention to, but in each of those situations we have new products,” Clawson said. 

“I think the next five to 10 years are going to be really interesting for us,” he said. “We’re trying to expand our business not only organically but inorganically, so through acquisition as well as creating new brands and opportunities.”


How Major Acquisitions Impact the Future of the Health Club Industry

Last year, the industry felt and responded to the reverberations of several stunning developments on the part of major industry suppliers. 

Life Fitness, a division of the Brunswick Corporation (NYSE: BC), announced the acquisition of SCIFIT Systems, Inc., which manufactures an extensive line of fitness equipment for active seniors and patients undergoing rehabilitation. A few weeks later, Amer Sports (NASDAQ Helsinki: AMEAS), the corporate parent of Precor, Inc., announced that it had acquired Queenax, a leading provider of functional training systems. 

Then in January, Life Fitness acquired Cybex International for $195 million. 

These were among the biggest transactions ever on the supply-side half of the industry equation—and ones that raised questions not only about the firms involved, but also about general economic trends, mergers and acquisition (M&A) activities, the industry’s learning curve, and the impact on equipment buyers. 

The moves, in fact, appear to reflect a growing trend: serious and escalating strength in the M&A environment. The market grew significantly in 2014, and continued to score in 2015. Thomson Reuters reports that global deal volume topped $3 trillion in 2014; and, according to FactSet, in the U.S., for the 12 months ending November 30, 2015, the number of deals worth at least $1 billion hit 295, increasing 43% year-over-year. 

The overall thrust of M&A activity seems to bode well for the health and fitness industry, as the hottest sector is the related healthcare market—that according to the 2015 M&A Outlook Survey Report from KPMG.

To learn more, Club Business International spoke to executives from both Precor and Life Fitness. Read the full "A Supply-Side Story" in the February issue of CBI.


Brunswick Adds Cybex to Its Life Fitness Division for $195 Million 

Life Fitness President Chris Clawson

Brunswick Corporation, owner of Life Fitness, announced that it has acquired fitness equipment maker Cybex International for $195 million.

“With the addition of Cybex, we will expand our stable of brands serving the complete spectrum of the commercial fitness market, including health clubs, hospitality, education and military, as well as consumers, with a wide array of equipment and features that include a complete suite of services and support,” Brunswick President and Chief Operating Officer Mark Schwabero said in a press release. “We believe the combination of these premium brands and industry leaders will be well positioned to serve the global fitness market.”

Cybex’s cardiovascular and strength products span the commercial fitness market, including treadmills, exercise bikes, the Cybex Arc Trainer, plate-loaded weight equipment, and free weights. Cybex’s 2015 sales were estimated at about $169 million.

“The Life Fitness – Cybex combination enables us to approach the market with a broader and deeper product portfolio, and improve our ability to address the faster growing segments of the fitness market,” Schwabero said. “With the addition of Cybex’s manufacturing footprint, we can meet current and future demand and achieve manufacturing cost reduction objectives more effectively and efficiently. This combination provides cost synergies and scale as well as manufacturing and engineering capabilities to further improve our competitiveness and leadership position within the fitness industry."

For more about Life Fitness' future direction, read President Chris Clawson's contribution to 'Industry Outlook: 2016" in the January issue of Club Business International.


Club Industry 2015

Insight, innovation, and an industry legend!

If it’s fall in Chicago, then the Club Industry Show must in the offing.

The 2015 edition of the event will take place this month, October 7–9, at the McCormick Place Lakeside Center in the Windy City.

Attendees will be looking to enhance their fitness industry expertise, and to acquire the tools they need to grow their businesses. They’ll also have the chance to acknowledge Augie Nieto, the cofounder of Life Fitness and a major benefactor of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) research, this year’s recipient of the Club Industry Lifetime Achievement Award.

For IHRSA associate member companies, “tools,” of course, means products. They’ll be showcasing their latest, most innovative, and most exciting equipment, programs, and services October 8–9 at the exhibit hall. The familiar IHRSA brands on the trade show floor will include ABC Financial; ASF Payment Solutions; CSI Software; Gym Groups; Jonas Fitness, Inc.; K&K Insurance Group, Inc.; Matrix Fitness; Motionsoft, Inc.; and others.

Like the exhibitors, the event’s educational sessions and seminars will encompass the entire industry, with tracks on, among other things, sales excellence, business operations, fitness leadership, and emerging trends. Over the course of the three days, attendees also will hear from club owners and managers who’ll share their thoughts on the industry’s future.

“We have several prominent industry veterans who are serving as track chairs,” explains Pamela Kufahl, the director of content and engagement for Club Industry. “And we’re offering a certificate of completion for the fitness leadership track, which will provide marketing, management, and technology insights, for anyone who attends four of the six sessions.”

A special new offering this year, notes Kufahl, will be the “Inspired Insights” presentations––short, inspirational talks by people from inside and outside the industry that are guaranteed to appeal to all. The Club Industry Show will also feature a number of special events.

Shane Snow, the keynote speaker, is an award-winning journalist and entrepreneur who’s studied the qualities and characteristics of companies that have become successful quickly. He’ll describe what’s he discovered in his presentation, “Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success.”

Nieto, who, in addition to his one-of-a-kind industry credentials, is also, with his wife, Lynne, the cofounder of Augie’s Quest, a charitable initiative that raises money to find a cure for ALS, will receive some well-deserved recognition. In 2005, Nieto was diagnosed with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease; the Quest has raised more than $45 million over the past 10 years. His wife will accept the Lifetime Achievement Award on his behalf.

One of the initiative’s principal fundraising events is the BASH for Augie’s Quest, which is held each year during IHRSA’s International Convention and Trade Show. It will take place next year, on Wednesday, March 23, during IHRSA 2016, March 21–24, in Orlando, Florida.

“When Nieto started a club while still in college, and happened upon a prototype of the LifeCycle, the fitness industry was very different than it is today,” observes Kufahl. “At the time, the majority of club members were men, who focused on strength training. Nieto had the foresight to see that a product such as the LifeCycle might attract a larger group to clubs—especially women, who, by then, had learned about the importance of something brand-new that was called ‘aerobics.’

“His first try at distributing the LifeCycle was less than auspicious, but he persevered and, ultimately, was incredibly successful,” Kufahl continues. “In the process, he revolutionized the industry, and, by continuing to introduce new equipment, created one of its largest and most venerable companies, Life Fitness.

“We’re very proud to name Nieto the 13th recipient of Club Industry’s annual Lifetime Achievement Award.” “It’s always an honor to receive an industry award, but a Lifetime Achievement Award from a respected organization such as Club Industry means more than I can tell you,” says Nieto. “In a sense, I haven’t really been an active member of the industry for more than 10 years, so to be recognized now by my former peers is unbelievable and extremely moving.

“I wish I could attend the Club Industry Show to receive the award myself,” he explains, “but I don’t travel much these days. However, Lynne will be coming to accept the award ... and, let’s be honest, she’s much better to look at anyway!”

Though his movement may be limited, Nieto’s accomplishments and ambition continue to soar. “The $45 million that we’ve raised for ALS research is a big number,” he reflects. “However, the reality is that it generally takes a billion dollars to bring a new drug to market for a given disease. We’ve got a lot to do in the way of fundraising for ALS, since there’s currently no effective treatment for this muscle-wasting disease!

“Our work, my work, clearly isn’t over.”


IHRSA Associates in EUROPE

The industry’s growing strength on display at FIBO 2015

It was another successful year for IHRSA associate members at FIBO, Europe’s trade show for health, fitness, and wellness products and services, which was held in April in Cologne, Germany.

An impressive crowd of 138,000 visitors over the four days of the event came to view the wares of 725 exhibitors, who showcased the latest in fitness innovations, and explored the opportunities of emerging industry trends, at the city’s Exhibition Centre. A number of IHRSA associate members were among the companies that were pleased they’d made the trek to Cologne.

“Massive numbers of both national and international customers and prospects frequented our stand, especially on the first two days,” reports Marco Jakobs, the sales director of Johnson Health Tech GmbH.

Chris Clawson, the president of Life Fitness, notes that “FIBO is a show that gives us the opportunity to meet not only with our customers from around the world, but we meet with a lot of our key distributors, as well.”

The results, in terms of attendance, exhibitor reviews, and sales, coming on the heels of the highly successful IHRSA International Convention and Trade Show held the previous month in Los Angeles, paint a positive portrait of the global fitness industry.

“The global fitness industry continues to demonstrate strength across the board,” says Melissa Rodriguez, IHRSA’s senior research manager. “The development of the fitness and health market continues with strong momentum, and the industry is still on the up and up,” adds FIBO show director Ralph Scholz.

According to IHRSA research, nearly 50 million people now train at health and fitness facilities throughout Europe. And, according to an economic trend index tallied at FIBO, Scholz points out that the industry’s prospects remain bright. Nearly 60% of the companies surveyed said that they expect business to continue to “grow” or “grow strongly,” and only 11% foresaw a slight business cool-down.

For those planning their travel itinerary, the IHRSA International Convention and Trade Show will be held March 21–24, 2016, in sunny Orlando, Florida, and FIBO will once again take place in Cologne on April 7–10, 2016.