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Entries in Linda Mitchell (8)


This Week in the Fitness Industry: IHRSA Members, Lobbyist Discuss PHIT on Capitol Hill

IHRSA Members, Lobbyist Discuss PHIT on Capitol Hill
IHRSA members Linda Mitchell and Kelly Beauparlant from the Newtown Athletic Club (NAC) Have a Heart Foundation spent Tuesday, February 6 on Capitol Hill with Jay Sweeney, IHRSA's Federal Lobbyist. As the IHRSA team preps for the introduction of the PHIT Act, legislation that would make gym memberships and physical activity more affordable, Sweeney and the NAC team met with members of Congress and their staff to discuss the PHIT Act's benefits to their constituents. After a full day of meetings Linda Mitchell, NAC's director of public and government relations, said, “I learned so much more about the process of getting this bill passed. The responses from our meetings were very positive, but there's still more work to do.”

(L-R: Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Linda, Kelly Beauparlant, Jay Sweeney)

Mitchell then implored other IHRSA members to get involved in the very important grassroots efforts to pass PHIT, "This bill could change the "life" of your business once and for all, by reducing the cost of membership and other services for your members. Please reach out to IHRSA government relations to learn if your Congressman is supporting PHIT. If he or she is, thank them! If not, you need to reach out to them personally and immediately. Your voice will matter. The IHRSA team will walk you through the process."  

The Latest Fitness Fad: Stretching Studios
Move over barre, indoor cycling, and bootcamp—stretching studios are the newest fitness fad, according to The New York Times. However, rather than competing with other types of studios, stretching boutiques may be positioned to create more of a symbiotic relationship. “There are all these peak fitness places that have popped up,” Power Stretch Studios Owner Hakika V. DuBose told The Times, referring to SoulCycle, Barry’s Bootcamp, and CrossFit. “People go five times a week and their muscles are very overworked and contracted.” Power Stretch Studios isn’t the only boutique of its kind—there’s StretchOut Studios in Boston, Stretchlab in Los Angeles, and Stretch Zone, which appears to be the largest national chain with 31 locations in California, Florida, North Carolina, as well as other states.

Panelists Announced for the 21st Annual IHRSA Financial Panel
The annual IHRSA Financial Panel, taking place on Friday, March 10 during IHRSA 2017, will highlight the expertise of four highly-regarded financial experts and apply their knowledge to the issues impacting the health club market. "The intent of the panel is to ensure industry operators have the knowledge they need to make sound financial decisions,” says Rick Caro, president of Management Vision and Financial Panel moderator. “This year’s four panelists have researched the market matter extensively.”

This year’s panelists include: 

  • Marc Magliacano, partner, L Catterton
  • Andrew B. Hirsekorn, principal, Eagle Merchant Partners
  • Will Cowan, senior VP, Jefferies LLC
  • Steve Tricarico, managing director, Jefferies LLC 

Panelists will offer information on major club transactions across a variety of club segments and answer any additional questions during a separate Q&A session. Learn more about the annual IHRSA Financial Panel.

Blink Fitness Announces Los Angeles Expansion
Blink Fitness announced the company’s expansion to Los Angeles metro area in 2017. According to a press release, Blink says that their first location in Los Angeles is a step in their mission to alter the rhetoric of unrealistic goals of ideal body image among the fitness industry. Their goal conceptualizes this positivity over physical results in their latest ad campaign, “Every Body Happy.” “The availability of prime real estate in dense neighborhoods with comparable demographics to much of Blink's home turf in the New York area made the Los Angeles marketplace an appealing next step for expansion,” said Todd Magazine, president of Blink Fitness. Blink's first LA lease is for a former 1930s movie theater in Huntington Park, set to open by the end of 2017. Read the full press release about the expansion of Blink Fitness.

6 Ways to Be a Leader in the Health Club Industry

Our friends at Star Trac Fitness created an awesome video based on one of our blog posts on leadership!


A Health Club Owner’s Birdseye View into the Trump Presidency

It’s Inauguration Day—the day a new leader is sworn in to take charge of the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” This year, that leader is Donald Trump. And Newtown Athletic Club President and IHRSA Board Member Jim Worthington, who became a Republican Delegate to the National Convention last July, will have an up-front seat for the swearing-in ceremony. 

After becoming a delegate, Worthington pledged to support whomever the people elected in his congressional district. That person turned out to be Mr. Trump. Worthington then established a grassroots political action group at the behest of many Trump supporters. When the Trump team in Pennsylvania came to him with the request to host a rally, his answer was a resounding ‘yes.’ 

Continue reading "A Health Club Owner’s Birdseye View into the Trump Presidency."

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IHRSA Advocacy Provides The Protection We Need

Insurance protects the things we hold dear: our homes, our health, our automobiles, our lives, and our livelihoods. For health club operators, the ultimate “insurance,” perhaps, is IHRSA’s public policy team.

Helen Durkin, JD, IHRSA’s executive vice president of global public policy, and her group of “agents” are constantly on the lookout for impending problems, such as tax-exempt competition, burdensome restrictions on member contracts, and taxing health club memberships. Their mission: to protect IHRSA members and their businesses at the local, state, and federal levels.

The threats they address are often so inconspicuous that, if it weren’t for the team’s prompt and efficient responses, you might not be aware how many there are, and how dangerous they are. The 2015 record for Durkin’s crew is an astonishing 13 wins.

Recently, I spoke with Jim Worthington, the owner and president of the Newtown Athletic Club (NAC), in Newtown, PA, about a risk he’s faced. A proposal has been placed on the legislative docket to impose a sales tax on all of the health clubs in that state. If enacted, it would cost Worthington’s business more than $1 million a year.

Recognizing the danger, Worthington and Linda Mitchell, NAC’s director of public and community relations, did what any IHRSA member can and should do: They called on Durkin and her team, who immediately joined forces with them and their allies. Working with the support of local lobbyists retained by IHRSA, the group has petitioned state representatives aggressively.

The objective: to prevent passage of a law that would tax the public’s pursuit of healthy lifestyles.

“A monumental effort had to be mounted, and would have been impossible without the IHRSA team,” says Mitchell. “In order to help produce over 13,000 messages to state legislators in just one week, we had to not only engage our members and employees, but join IHRSA in reaching other clubs throughout the state. IHRSA staff and their lobbyist in Harrisburg supplied the strategy and technological resources, as well as minute-by-minute feedback in real time. It was a great example of marketing and communications at its best.”

The fate of this particular proposal remained uncertain when this column was written, so the industry’s vigilance and opposition remain both real and strong.

As an IHRSA member, I know that my investment in the association goes a long way—toward the annual convention and trade show, industry research, and CBI … and, importantly, to support IHRSA’s public policy team. They provide the insurance we can’t afford to live without.

To learn more, visit


CBI: The ‘Halo Effect’ of Community Service

Community service is a popular way for businesses to show their appreciation to customers and enhance their reputation in the community. As an added bonus, charitable initiatives tend to create a "halo effect" and give members and potential members a more positive perception of the business.

Two IHRSA clubs with thriving community service programs were featured in the December issue of Club Business International

Newtown Athletic Club’s Financial Assistance Program

Community service is a constant, ongoing effort at Newton Athletic Club (NAC) in Newton, PA, in part because it appeals to members.

“They love belonging to a club that’s seen as caring and generous,” said Linda Mitchell, director of public relations and community partners for NAC. “That’s how they want to be, too. It helps them relate to you on an emotional level, which will serve you handsomely for the life of your business.”

NAC supports the community via charitable donations and volunteerism, but it’s also developed a financial assistance program for deserving individuals that, it believes, is one of a kind.

The 20-year-old program is predicated on the belief that everyone in the community should have an equal opportunity to become healthy and physically fit. Interested applicants are asked to fill out a form that reflects their ability to pay for a club membership; it’s then reviewed by NAC’s Financial Assistance Review Committee, which consists of the club’s owners, and its general manager, general counsel, and director of charitable giving.

Over the years, the program has given thousands of Newtown-area residents the chance to exercise in a safe, supportive environment—despite financial difficulties.

Franco’s Athletic Club’s Inclusive Programming

Ron and Sandy Franco, the owners of Franco’s Athletic Club (FAC), in Mandeville, LA, have developed a number of programs that have been specifically designed to be inclusive, making club services available and accessible to groups that, otherwise, wouldn’t be able to take advantage of them.

The club provides exercise classes for special needs children and individuals with disabilities to show that it’s possible for them to take part in regular physical activity, and to encourage them to do so. It also offers employment opportunities to local residents with limited mobility.

The gesture not only demonstrates FAC’s commitment to helping those in need but, thanks to the halo effect, also helps sell memberships. The club’s charitable efforts create a positive public impression, making belonging more appealing.

“We invest in our community, because giving back to others has helped us to grow our facility, our membership, and our value,” Sandy Franco told CBI.


The Anatomy of a State Victory

IHRSA’s public policy efforts help preserve, protect, and promote the industry.

A stack of 8,500 postcards bearing the headline “My Voice Against Taxing Health Club Services” sits, today, in the offices of the Newtown Athletic Club (NAC), in Newtown, Pennsylvania—unused ammunition left over from a fight against dangerous legislation.

Each postcard reads, “Please, do not tax this medicine,” and features a short paragraph explaining why health clubs shouldn’t be subject to a state sales tax. Each is addressed to a Pennsylvania state legislator and signed by a NAC member or a Newtown resident.

The postcards were printed for a NAC campaign conducted earlier this year, and supported by IHRSA, which opposed a budget proposal that, among other things, would have expanded the state’s sales tax to encompass more goods and services, including health club memberships. The purported objective: a step in the direction of reducing property taxes.

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Can You Have Too Many Members?

At first, the notion of having too many members sounds like the kind of problem you’d like to have ... until the level of service your club offers begins to slip.

It’s therefore important to identify an appropriate membership cap figure by evaluating a number of factors. And, after you’ve done so, to clearly communicate to members that you’re imposing the cap for their benefit.

Pura Vida Fitness and Spa, in Denver, Colorado, an exclusive club that attracts an affluent clientele, spent about six months compiling and studying the relevant data. The process eventually led it to decide to cap membership at 2,000 individuals, reports General Manager Keith Moore.

The Newtown Athletic Club, in Newtown, Pennsylvania, reached capacity in May of 2013, when it hit a total of 12,000 individuals. 

Read the rest of the story in CBI magazine online.


Get involved in your community for positive PR

Curl Fitness in Newport Beach, Calif., often gets out to help in the community.Who better than a couple of public relations directors to answer an Best Practices question about how a club can get involved in its community and be more public?

Linda Mitchell of Newtown Athletic Club and Tracey Bourdon of Susan K. Bailey Marketing and Design give many suggestions that are easy and inexpensive.

Q: "We are expanding our involvement within the local community. With that, we are hoping to generate some positive PR for the club. Do you have any suggestions for successful PR strategies for our single, independent club?"

 A: A PR program is an excellent strategy to add to your marketing mix! The club business is all about “Public” and “Relations”. Much more than “free publicity”, a well-run PR program will drive sales, build brand, and give your club visibility.

First, look inside the club. Who are the key influencers you have as members: business leaders, teachers, health and medical professionals employed in large organizations. Ask how the club could be involved in any of their community initiatives and indicate your commitment to support their endeavor. Network with business groups and associations like your local Chamber of Commerce. Offer to present a “Lunch & Learn” or health fair. Participate in fundraisers for schools or hospitals. Be visible.

Align with a charity that positively impacts the community. Connect with shopping centers to offer fitness demos or walkathons in support of the cause. Build partnerships. Don’t just participate by writing the check. Get involved. Be a fan of the cause. For example, if you sponsor a team, show up to a game with water bottles. It will cost you a little, but the return on investment will be multi-fold.

Meet the media one on one. Again, it is essential to build relationships with key players. They are bombarded with press releases. You need to get in front and prove you are worthy of coverage. Feature a member of your team. They are highly qualified professionals. Offer to provide an “expert advice” segment.

As with all your marketing efforts, you need be strategic and target the right audience. Example: if you get involved with a school, make certain parents know of you. They buy memberships.

Do-it-yourself! Push content through social media. Posters in the club asking for “Likes” on Facebook will get the chat going about your activity in the community!

Every community appreciates its good citizens. Be one!

Tracey Bourdon
Head Marketing Coach
Susan K. Bailey Marketing and Design



A: Generating positive PR for your club is an ongoing activity that begins with getting yourself physically outside of your club. Either make the commitment to do that yourself as the club owner, or assign a capable representative within your organization to do it for you.  Once the commitment is made, know that it takes time out of your day and week, but the time is well spent over the long haul.  

Here are some ways to begin making a PR impact in your community. Join the local business groups such as the Chamber or the Business Association. Join local service groups, such as the Rotary International, Lions Club, Kiwanis Club or Red Cross. Get involved with charitable organizations either on a local or regional level, such as the American Heart Association or Muscular Dystrophy Association.  

Then, once you have joined and become familiar with these groups, go one step further and take on a few choice leadership roles in the organizations that you feel align most closely with your mission.  By taking on a leadership role, you demonstrate to the community not only your dedication, but also your ability to achieve goals and really make a difference.  By being leaders we found we could make the most impact for good in the community and gain the most credibility for doing so. 

In addition, you can support your local charities and schools through a well-managed system of donating goods and services to their various fundraisers for booster clubs, sporting organizations and other activities. 

Finally, create good relationships with your local media. This is more easily done when your community involvement is already established.  Often the local media will be present at community events and interested in how you are contributing. This leads to organic relationships with the media that will give you access when you need it.

This is a thumbnail sketch of some basic PR strategies that will always be effective. There is much more you can do over time, but if you only ever do this, you are still ahead of the game.

Linda Mitchell
Director of Marketing & PR
Newtown Athletic Club

One of the most frequently consulted sections of IHRSA’s Website,, is “Best Practices,” which features answers from industry experts to a wide range of thought-provoking questions. Some of them will be highlighted in a CBI column.

Visit to read responses to more than 100 questions such as these or to submit a question of your own to be answered.


Unauthorized Training Sessions

Richard Synnott, Keith Callahan, and Linda Mitchell discuss whether or not to pay trainers for unauthorized training sessions:

Q: “Do you need to pay your client based hourly employee their rate of pay if they perform a unauthorized session? I.E. a personal trainer conducts a session without getting authorization and/or making sure that the gym member has in fact purchased a session. Is the trainer entitled to be paid for that session?”

A: The safe/simple answer is yes, pay the worker. Then you issue a written reprimand to the employee to prevent it from happening again and make sure he/she signs it.

...I can guarantee that you don’t want the attention from a labor investigator.

Employment laws vary from state to state, but if the worker chose to file a complaint about it I can guarantee that you don’t want the attention from a labor investigator. The federal Portal-to-Portal Pay Act (29 U.S.C. 251) states that workers must be paid for any of their time that you control and that benefits your business. A labor investigator would probably interpret that the person did the work and it benefited your business, even if you did not authorize it.

In general, if an employee works, they must be paid. Your recourse is to discipline the employee.

Richard Synnott, Executive Director
Weymouth Club

A: The answer may be yes or no – and it may depend on the state in which you reside. I’d be sure to call my State Department of Labor and run the scenario by them to get an opinion. However, remember that they will almost always ere on the side of the employee.

You want to keep the employee and keep them happy and productive, but they need to fully understand company policy.

Second consideration – is this a one time event and the first time or is it chronic. If it is the first time, I’d pay the employee and then ensure they understand the company policy and procedure – and have them acknowledge same in writing by signing a memo from the Club Manager/Owner. You want to keep the employee and keep them happy and productive, but they need to fully understand company policy. If they are a repeat offender, I would then write a second memo of warning and not pay them. The message will be clear. However, if they raise the issue to the Dept of Labor, be prepared to defend your decision and having the paperwork backup would be key.

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

A: In our organization a trainer does not get paid for training unless the client has already paid. If a trainer gives a training session on the “assumption” that payment has already been received, then payment to the trainer is withheld until payment is received from the client. If a trainer receives an hourly rate for being on the floor, then they forfeit that rate as they were not available to the floor at that time. Unauthorized (unpaid) training is never eligible for payment.

Unauthorized (unpaid) training is never eligible for payment.

The best way to avoid this issue is to require that the client present a receipt of payment already made before receiving training. In this way the trainer does not assume the uncomfortable position of having to deny training when a client is expressing interest and the “promise” to pay at a later time. All of this can easily be spelled out in the marketing materials and/or the personal training contract so that there is no confusion.

Linda Mitchell, Director of Marketing and PR
Newtown Athletic Club