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Entries in Lori Lowell (9)


Lessons in Fitness Leadership: Share Best Practices and Discuss Challenges

The Lessons in Fitness Leadership series highlights IHRSA’s industry leaders and thanks them for their continued commitment to growing, promoting, and protecting the health club industry. By sharing their business expertise, we hope that you will get to know them, what they've learned along the way, and how they view leadership. 

Jeremy and Lori Lowell
Gold’s Gym Lake Ridge
Woodbridge, VA

What is the most fulfilling part of being a business leader in the fitness industry? 

Jeremy: I would have to say that the most fulfilling part of being a leader in the industry is the networking that I involve myself in with my peers to share best practices and discuss challenges. 

If you were able to go back in time, what is one piece of leadership advice you would have given your younger-self about working in the fitness industry? 

Jeremy: Focus on cost containment even when times are fabulous. 

What prompted you to join the Industry Leadership Council (ILC)? 

Jeremy: My dear friend Meredith Poppler! 

Lori: We are proud members of the ILC and value it's cause and contributions to the industry. 

And we love the great experience you’ve created for ILC Members at the annual convention. IHRSA is our annual opportunity to have meetings with fitness professionals and vendors; it's our time to brainstorm, reconnect with our colleagues, and learn about new ideas and products. 

Having the opportunity to meet with keynote presenters, have lunch, and attend private sessions has enhanced our IHRSA experience immensely. 

And having use of the Industry Leadership Club has taken our IHRSA experience to another level. This welcoming room and environment not only makes us feel special, but it provides an amazing meeting space to conduct our business.


ILC 2015 Campaign Update - The Time to Contribute is NOW!

The 2015 Campaign to Promote and Protect now counts over $200,000 pledged from 36 IHRSA members.

Brand new ILC members include Bill Brennan of Barney & Barney, Larry Conner of Stone Creek Club & Spa, Molly Kemmer, Gold's Gyms of Los Angeles and Hollywood, Jeff Randall of JLR & Associates, Lori & Jeremy Lowell of Gold's Gym Lakeridge, Jeff Skeen of Titan Fitness, Bruce Ebel and Leo Gutierrez of Gold's Gym Glen Burnie, Bill McBride, TERSA and the Florida Health Club Association. Welcome and thank you! A full list of ILC members is available at

There's a lot of work ahead of us to protect clubs from harmful legislation (as mentioned above) and just as much work going on to promote and grow the industry - so every dollar truly helps. Your contribution and entry into the Industry Leadership Council is needed now. Contributions of any amount are very welcome. Contact Meredith Poppler (, download a pledge form here or learn more at


Lori Lowell Receives the Julie Main Woman Leader Scholarship

IHRSA celebrates the legacy of Julie Main by awarding the Julie Main Woman Leader Scholarship to a woman who exemplifies what Julie stood for: courage, perseverance, excellence, and professionalism. Lori Lowell, an owner, operator and innovator of Gold’s Gyms in Virginia and Wisconsin, is the winner of the 2015 Julie Main Woman Leader Scholarship.

“Julie Main was an exemplary female industry leader, and I am excited to have the opportunity to see such continued dedication to a woman who exceeded the “call of duty” as an entrepreneur and leader. IHRSA’s ongoing acknowledgement and commitment to women leaders in the industry is honorable and I am grateful,” said Lori Lowell.


IHRSA Announces Award Winners

IHRSA just announced that three well-deserving IHRSA members will be recognized with awards during IHRSA 2015, the Association’s 34th Annual International Convention & Trade Show in Los Angeles, California, March 11-14, 2015.

  • The Julie Main Woman Leader Scholarship will be presented on Thursday, March 12 to Lori Lowell.
  • The Outstanding Community Service Award will be presented on Friday, March 13 to Midtown Athletic Club of Rochester, NY.
  • The Associate Member of the Year will be presented on Friday, March 13 to Twin Oaks Software.

Read the full press release to learn more.


Lowells to open 7th Gold's Gym in Northern Virginia

Lori LowellJeremy and Lori Lowell are at it again.

Owners of some of the most successful Gold's Gym franchises, the couple is opening their seventh Northern Virginia location—Gold's Gym Elite Training Center in Woodbridge.

The Lowells aren't your run-of-the-mill gym owners. They are innovative and visionary, proven by the company accomplishments they have achieved in their 23 years of ownership: Gold's Gym Visionary of the Year, Best in Group Fitness Program, Best in Club Program, President's Award, Franchisee of the Year, and Alliance of the Year.

The newest Gold's will feature some unique offerings like Bubble Soccer, Pole Dancing Classes, Air Fit and more.

For more, read the Elite Training Center press release.


How do those in the industry use the Net Promoter Score?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.netBlair Tanner, Karen Jasinsky and Lori Lowell have diverse backgrounds and different current positions in the industry. That makes for good variety in the answers for this week's Best Practices.

The three are asked if they use Net Promoter Score and how the use the information gathered.

For those not familiar with NPS, and those who want to participate for free through IHRSA and The Retention People, click here.

Q: Does your club track its Net Promoter Score? (That is, how likely it is that your members will recommend your club to friends, relatives, colleagues, etc.). If so, have you acted on the feedback and if so, how? If you don't track it, are you considering doing so?

A: We track our Net Promote Score every second of every day. We use Medallia, which is available to us through Gold’s Gym. A handful of franchisees, including me, looked into it and saw the tremendous potential benefit. Ten of our members receive an e-mail each day asking about their club experience and satisfaction. At first, it was hard to hear the negative feedback. Over time, though, it has helped us to understand what our customers want, and how to address their needs by implementing an action plan. We address the core problem so that over time, our score will go up. It has worked very well for us.

Lori Lowell
Owner / Partner
Gold’s Gyms
Wisconsin and Virginia



A: We don’t track our Net Promoter Score, specifically, but we have asked our members in past surveys how likely they are to recommend our club to their friends. This is one of many measurements of our performance that we track from time to time. We concentrate on meeting our members’ needs and maximizing the value associated with each membership, so that members will naturally recommend our club to their friends. We’ve grown our club’s membership each year for the past eight years, so we feel that our approach has been successful.

Blair Tanner
Woodside Health & Tennis Club
Westwood, Kan.



A: Our focus is on programming (we don’t have a physical club), and most of our feedback from our clients is given to us verbally. Most of our clients come through word of mouth and most of them go on to refer others to our programs. We encourage this through frequent “bring a friend for free” promotions. We have chosen several brand ambassadors (previous clients, former interns, etc.) whose role it is to engage others and to act as wellness role models. This allows them to be involved beyond just their regular workouts.

Karen Jashinsky
O2 Max Fitness
Santa Monica, Calif.



Club Operators: To be profiled in this column, please contact Kristen Walsh, IHRSA associate publisher, at

IHRSA has answered hundreds of questions and inquiries in the weekly column, Best Practices. Check them out here.


Continuing Education

Lori Lowell, Phillip Mills, and Bob & Jolyn Esquerre discuss whether continuing education costs should be reimbursed by employers:

Q: “As fitness professionals, is it or is it not part of our profession to do continual learning and CEC's? How much of this time should be paid? I am referring to Group Exercise - should time spent learning the music/moves be paid?”

A: It is imperative and if part of the job requirement that Group Fitness Professional engage in continuing education and complete their CEC requirement to keep their certification (s) current.

It is my understaning, as club owners, that we have one requirement by law in regards to compensation above and beyond class time. If a fitness professional is practicing in your facility (choreography, practicing with a group, a meeting, or anything that helps the growth of the facility) we are required to pay for that time. Time can be paid hourly and a meeting rate is sufficient.

We are not required to reimburse a group fitness professional to keep their certification current.

An annual stipend for continuing education or bringing and paying for education to your facility is a nice perk for your fitness professionals.

Lori Lowell, Owner

Gold's Gym of Woodbridge, Lorton, Fredericksburg, VA, Madison, Milwaukee, WI

President, Group Fitness Solutions, LLC

We (the industry) under-pay our GX instructors. We pay $50-100 for a personal trainer to spend an hour with a single client, but $20-30 for a GX instructor to teach 10-50 people at once. With PT human resources, this has been a very positive thing for the industry in that it has brought many skilled people into our employment. In the case of GX, however, we pay no more than we did 20 years ago. This limits the number of talented people who are prepared to work in this crucial area, and the amount of time they are prepared to spend improving their skills.

The reason for this is our business model. The industry accepts charging members extra for PT, but not for GX. I think we are missing something major here. While most traditional clubs are struggling to get $50 per month dues, there are many GX-only clubs charging $150-200 or $20-30 per class. My New Zealand clubs charge “booking fees” for certain classes, in addition to normal monthly dues. One of my clubs has 2,000 people per week paying $5 booking fees for our RPMtm cycle classes – up to $10,000 per week in ancillary income from one class in one club! Our teacher pay is performance based – we get classes of up to 250 people and pay $50-$100+ per class. We get very talented people who are always keen to upskill.

Phillip Mills, Founder and Creative Director

Les Mills International

Traditionally, Group Exercise Instructors see themselves as part time service providers who deliver a specific service at a particular time and at a particular club. In fact, this is how both Jolyn & I started out in the Fitness Industry. Instructors show-up, deliver a great service then leave.

For the most part, these Instructors come & go and provide no additional tangible services to the clubs even though they have the "potential" of providing more for the club. This coming & going reality also creates a negative mindset in the eyes of the clubs about the real value that we bring to the table. Add to the mix the fact that the current economic recovery, characterized by both a high unemployment rate and an outrageously high member attrition rate, reinforces the need for your question.

Our point, we as Fitness Professionals must continually grow our skills by spending our own money. We need to do this in order to demonstrate to the Clubs why they should appreciate the value that we can bring to the Clubs so we can help solve the membership attrition problem, which, as we know, is totally out-of-control.

Once the clubs understand this, then we will be in a position to have the clubs subsidize our continuing education expenses. This will also reinforce our ability to be gainfully employed as Fitness Professionals who have the ability to proactively engage the club members by managing the member experiences in a comprehensive way. This includes, as a minimum, the ability to teach Group Exercise Classes and deliver both Personal Training & Group Training Services.

If we are successful, then we will be better positioned to ultimately manage and elongate the member's life cycle at our Clubs. We need to give the Clubs a reason to respect what it is that we can do!

Bob & Jolyn Esquerre

Esquerre Fitness Group International

Business Solutions Consultants


Small Group Training

Bob & Jolyn Esquerre, Lori Lowell, Michele Melkerson-Granryd, and Phillip Mills discuss the growing trend that is group training:

Q: “I keep hearing that group training is getting popular, so I decided I'd ask. What is the best way to implement group training? What kind of exercises work best? What demographic is typically interested in it?”

A: Your observations are correct....Group Training is indeed growing in popularity! The recession and the recovery, especially with high unemployment rate, has forced educated consumers to self-reflect more before they decide to spend money. Here are their thoughts, based on our experiences:

  1. They want additional spending options in addition to one-on-one training [e.g. Small Group & Large Group Training];
  2. They want a stronger reason to initially spend money, which include, for example
  3. Not only getting "Guaranteed Results", but they also
  4. Want a way to quantify/validate their results; which will give them
  5. A stronger reason to keep spending. If these 5 points occur consistently, they will have
  6. A very strong reason to refer their friends, family members and colleagues to you as their subject-matter-expert.
"... they will have A very strong reason to refer their friends, family members and colleagues to you as their subject-matter-expert."
However, most Clubs &/or Fitness Professionals are not successful in planning, launching & managing fee-based Group Training Programs.

Jolyn & I, as a minimum, have identified the Top 5 "Failure Points" why Group Training Programs have failed:
  1. Neither the Clubs nor the Personal Trainers knew how to market &/or position Group Training as an '"added-value" service; this occurred because
  2. They did not know how to create programming value for Group Training;
  3. They could not make a clear/compelling distinction between Group Exercise Classes & Group Training Programs [the exercises & the equipment used in Group Exercise Classes cannot be the same used in Group Training] ;
  4. The Club Managers & Personal Trainers did not know how to stimulate & manage consumer "demand" from educated consumers for Group Training Programs; and
  5. The selected Personal Trainers did not have the skill-sets to deliver & manage Group Training Programs.
For more detailed information &have the ability to ask and have answered your questions, please join us at the IHRSA Group Training Webinar on April 22nd.

Bob & Jolyn Esquerre
Esquerre Fitness Group International
Business Solutions Consultants

A: Group Training is very different from Personal Training. Group Training must stand alone as a separate department within the gym. Add it to the org chart.

Many people think that the best way to implement Group Training is to put it under the direction of the Personal Training Department. There is a skill to working with people in a group to include:
  1. Team Building
  2. Putting a compatible team together with a compatible trainer
  3. Delivering an outline to the group of "what to expect"
  4. The trainer must do their homework and know who they are working with.
The best success of Group Training will occur if you have an Trainer/instructor that is both a personal trainer and a group fitness instructor. Because the two approaches are very different it is important to have a really good handle on both skills (group fitness instruction and personal training).

A philosophy of operation of what the approach of "group training department" is critical and the club needs to identify exactly what the approach will be not only from a training perspective but also from a guidelines perspective.

Ask these questions for your team in regards to group training:
  1. What is it?
  2. How are we going to implement it?
  3. How are we going to market it both internally and externally?
  4. Which employees will be part of this "new" department?
  5. What does your "proforma" look like?
  6. How many people can you service; monthly, quarterly, annually?
The mistake that most clubs make is they just go up to the fitness director and say - let's start doing group training without any vision, mission, values, goals or philosophy being set.

Avoid this and focus on implementation by getting this "new department" ready and follow the 6 steps mentioned above for success.

Lori Lowell, Owner
Gold's Gym of Woodbridge, Lorton, Fredericksburg, VA, Madison, Milwaukee, WI
President, Group Fitness Solutions, LLC

A: Small Group Personal Training is a great way to expand your training business and generate additional revenue. Small group training often expands personal training revenues by bringing the group fitness participant into personal training. There is still a social component but more opportunity for individual attention and targeting the workout towards accomplishing specific goals. It’s also an affordable way to introduce members to personal training who have been resistant because of the cost or to increase the number of sessions a client is doing per week with the goal of creating results more quickly.

I recommend that you create your group with a set number of weeks, preferably 8-12, depending on the season. Ideally, you will have a theme that describes the focus – for example, in the spring you might offer, “Beach Body Boot Camp”; “Strong Bones” is ideal for a group of women in their 50’s and 60’s; Yoga Strong could be geared towards men and individuals who might be a bit skittish about getting involved in yoga; 10 weeks to a Stronger Back might be targeted to clients that your massage therapists have identified as. Ideally you will run 3 to 4 cycles of Small Group Training to follow the seasonal cycles of your business. In our area it makes sense for us to run a fall session (September to Thanksgiving, about 12 weeks). We do some smaller bridge sessions for our members who are in town through the winter holidays (Thanksgiving through the first week of January). A winter session starts in the 2nd week of January to Spring Break (2nd week in March) and a spring session runs from the end of March through the first week of June, which is when our schools get out. We also do a summer session starting in mid June which runs through mid August. During those weeks that no groups are scheduled the trainers can run make-up sessions if they feel the need.

It is also important to keep the groups fresh from session to session. You can do that through the theme and also through the equipment that you use. If you are starting brand new with boot camp – perhaps use the equipment you currently have on hand, then every other session or so – add something new – kettle bells, the power rope, ladders, go outside, etc. Keep in mind that your trainers will get bored more quickly than the clients.

Michele Melkerson-Granryd, General Manager
BodyBusiness Health Club & Spa

A: Group exercise has huge potential to help most clubs to improve their business. At a time when many clubs are being hurt by low-cost competition, clubs with great GX are actually increasing their prices and creating a whole new paradigm in our industry. While the average club has less than 500 GX attendances per week, some have more than 5,000, which creates remarkable profitability. I am aware of a number of midsize clubs with gross profits $2-3 million a year based on GX success.

The first key is to track attendance. You can’t manage it if you don’t measure it! Set yourself a goal of increasing weekly GX attendance from, say, 500 to 2000 over the next three years. Have your instructors set their own individual goals for every class they teach, and produce weekly ranking lists, with quarterly prizes for the best performances. Incentivize your GX Manager or Fitness Director to achieve quarterly overall targets. (Les Mills offers attendance-measuring hardware and analytical software if you wish.)

Methods for achieving your targets include:
  1. Recruit instructors with the potential to attract big numbers – people with previous stage experience are great, along with passionate fitness freaks.
  2. Create a training calendar for your instructors involving external providers and internal coaching. As with any athletes or performers, GX teachers need constant practice to become masters.
  3. Design a great experiential studio using theatre principles. The industry standard for studio design is bland and sterile. We need to create unselfconscious, fun places for people to enjoy their GX.
  4. Hold regular GX events where you introduce new classes and material, and ask your members to invite their friends along for free.
  5. Launch licensed programs like BODYPUMP® to create buzz and quality assurance for your members.
Phillip Mills, Founder and Creative Director
Les Mills International


Group Exercise Programming

Phillip Mills, Dory Berman, and Lori Lowell discuss group exercise programming options:

Q: In Pakistan, we have absolutely no avenue for structured programming like group exercise. We’re limited to doing conventional exercises in the gym. That being said, I own a 7,500 sq. ft, two-story health club and have just recently rented the 5,000 sq. ft basement for group classes. Although I’ve heard of the popular group exercise programs (like Les Mills, Zumba, etc...) but the cost of acquiring license for these programs is huge.Is there a less inexpensive way to put on quality group exercise classes?

A: The industry standard for group exercise is still "freestyle" i.e. teachers create their own classes. Standardised classes for which clubs pay a license fee are a relatively new development. You can opt to go either way. Standardised choreography is basically a quality assurance method.

The industry standard for group exercise is still "freestyle" i.e. teachers create their own classes.

Programming companies like Les Mills employ top teachers to create classes to proven formulas that they have developed over a period of years. The classes are trialed and refined in live classes, then filmed and notated for learning by teachers at licensee clubs on a regular basis. In addition, some programming companies provide teacher training and certification, and other services such as group fitness management and marketing tools.

We find that clubs using freestyle programming typically experience 250-500 group exercise visits per week, whereas clubs using a significant level of licensed programming experience 1,000-2,000. Based on standard club attendance rates of group exercise members (that are higher than the norm, at around 3 visits per week), this will convert to 250-500 extra members. If, for instance, your club charges $500 per year for membership, then the extra income you stand to earn will be $125,000 - $250,000. You can do your own arithmetic on that basis to decide whether it is worth your while paying for standardised programming.

Congratulations on investing in 5,000 sq. ft. of group exercise. I am sure that whichever way you decide to go you will creat a great niche in your market.

Phillip Mills, President
Les Mills International

My first recommendation is to network. Go to as many different fitness events you can afford.

A: Your question refers to a challenge faced by all, how to offer cost-effective, quality programming lead by motivating, dedicated instructors.

My first recommendation is to network. Go to as many different fitness events you can afford. Often, instructors attending have enthusiasm and passion for the industry and bring those positive attributes with them to their classes.

Cultivate a healthy working relationship with Group Fitness Managers in your area. This may be a bit tricky, but is worthwhile. If the club is located far enough away, you are not likely to be overlap membership, and many instructors look to teach at multiple locales to supplement their income.

If you know of an instructor in your area that is considered outstanding, have them present a master class for your staff. Make it a fun social event, bringing some snacks and encouraging discussion about the class and level of instruction.

Get your instructors together to swap/share choreography. Not only does it build team spirit, but serves to help instructors increase their repertoire of moves and bring new material to their classes. Developing a mentoring program helps, too, having your stronger, more veteran instructors guide those that need work.

Dory Berman, Director of Programs & Service
The Mount Auburn Club

A: WOW! 5000 sq feet for Group Exercise is fantastic.

There are so many options. First of all, just to clarify, Zumba is not a licensed program and there are no fees associated with it that a club pays. Only the instructor pays to become a trained Zumba instructor and the cost of this is minimal. Everyone loves Zumba and it's a great energy class.

As far as Les Mills... yes, it is a licensed program model but the return that you may receive in both membership and high participation can certainly offset the cost. There is always the possibility of charging a small fee for these types of classes to offset the licensing cost but your return on investment really lies with strong member participation in classes which is the basis of Les Mills Programs. The Les Mills instructor training is fantastic and builds a strong core program in your facility.

The industry is full of wonderful class formats. You will be most successful by hiring a great Group Fitness Director who is aware of many options that are available for class implementation and is energetic and willing to try new things. It also helps a lot if the director is in touch with your membership, your demographic, and what your members will like.

A great way to learn about class formats that are available is to buy a handful of different fitness videos for review. Videos serve as an excellent resource to get ideas and develop class formats and a schedule.

There are many class options in the industry that do not require a fee, it is just up to your director to ensure that instructors are properly prepared to deliver a great class of the format you choose to implement. Organized instructor practice sessions are key to class format success.

Most of all, though, it's about having fun. Friendly and helpful instructors can take a program to the next level especially if they are able to develop strong relationships with the members. If your group fitness classes are fun and social and advertised as such, your members will be drawn to them.

Finally, if you take the basement and build a fantastic and beautiful group fitness room with lots of color and energy it will be hard for your members to resist. Don't forget to put in an amazing sound system with a good compatible microphone and a stage. Make sure your lighting is fun and energetic.

Lori Lowell
Owner, Gold's Gym of Woodbridg& President, Group Fitness Solutions, LLC