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Entries in Luke Carlson (11)


Health Club Employee Engagement: A Leadership Commitment 

This post is part of our Session Spotlight series, previewing just some of the extensive education that will feature at IHRSA 2017, March 8-11 in Los Angeles.   

How many of your health club’s employees are truly engaged at work? It may be less than you’d think.

According to a recent Gallup poll, just 32% of U.S. employees reported being engaged at work. The majority (50.8%) of employees said they were "not engaged," and another 17.2% reported that they were "actively disengaged."

While these statistics are grim, they also point the way to an opportunity for club owners.

Continue reading "Health Club Employee Engagement: A Leadership Commitment."

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6 Components of a Strong Personal Training Department

Why does personal training exist? Because we can’t do the exercise ourselves, said Luke Carlson of Discover Strength during his “Personal & Group Training Management” session at the 2016 IHRSA Institute.   

Strong Leaders, Strong Personal Training Department 

Session attendees shared additional reasons their club members hire personal trainers, such as looking for expertise and social interaction, and seeking motivation and accountability. The key reason club members need personal trainers is supervision; statistically, fitness performance and health outcomes are far better with supervised exercise, Carlson said.  

Carlson cautioned that weak leaders can be the reason personal training departments aren’t performing better. Club owners and managers must identify their core values, institutionalize them and build a culture around them. Those in leadership roles must identify each individual staff member and job function and ensure that the “right person is in the right seat." 

Six Components of a Strong Personal Training Department 

Carlson introduced the following six components that comprise a strong personal training department, and stressed the importance of identifying the tools and tactical solutions that drive performance in each. 

  1. Vision – Solidify a shared vision of core values and a future plan
  2. People – Determine who does what and how it should be done.
  3. Process – Identify, simplify, and document your processes
  4. Data – Develop a consistent way to measure key performance indicators
  5. Traction – Document the two-to-five most important things to be accomplished each quarter
  6. Issues – Effective leaders must recognize issues and how to handle them 

In closing, Carlson said, “There is a difference between doing, and doing well. Execution is paramount.” 

Read more coverage from the 2016 IHRSA Institute.


How Giving Personal Trainers Strategic Goals Drives Health Club Revenue

Personal training programs can be a huge profit-driver for health clubs, but many clubs aren’t maximizing the revenue opportunities for a number of reasons, says Luke Carlson, CEO of Discover Strength in Chanhassen, MN. 

“In all service-based businesses, we really have to make sure we have the right people—but the importance of having the right people is amplified when its such an intimate relationship, like with personal training,” he says. “We need to have mechanisms in place to make sure our people component is strong.” 

Giving Personal Trainers Strategic Context 

One of those mechanisms Carlson employs is a quarterly conversation that managers have with personal trainers to help them work toward organizational strategic goals. During those meetings, managers and trainers discuss three critical points:  

  • The trainer’s embodiment of the club’s core values
  • Specific feedback regarding the trainer’s performance around their key roles
  • The trainer’s progress on their quarterly objectives or priorities  

“So many trainers are coming to work everyday trying to give good customer experiences, but don’t know from managers or leaders what to do to drive the whole organization forward,” he says. “These conversations provide trainers with that strategy in the context of the personal training department.” 

Examples of Quarterly Objectives for Personal Trainers 

A strategic quarterly objective might be for each trainer to reach out to clients that haven’t been to the club for three months and recapture 10 of them. 

“If we assign that objective to four or five trainers and they achieve it, we just got 40 or 50 clients back in the door,” Carlson says. “So no objective is more important for that trainer to be doing in those 90 days.” 

Another quarterly objective might be for trainers to recruit clients to join a specific club program. 

Take, for example, a new personal training program geared toward brides, grooms, and wedding parties looking to get in shape ahead of the big day. The program may be marketed in the club and on social media, but tasking individual trainers to recruit members “brings it down to the ground,” Carlson says. 

“We look at what the whole department and club needs to accomplish and just assign those quarterly objectives to each trainer,” he says. “By doing that, strategic goals become very bite sized.” 

Learn More Personal Training Program Strategies at the IHRSA Institute

Carlson will go even more in depth on those strategies and more during his IHRSA Institute session, “Personal & Group Training Management.” The Wednesday, August 3 presentation will feature 10 tools and mechanisms that will drive performance for the whole personal training department. 

“I’m going to talk about how we really need to look at the department—not only how do we become better at personal training, but how do we become better managers, leaders, and business people,” Carlson says. 

Learn more about the IHRSA Institute, August 2-5 in Chapel Hill, NC.


Free Webinar: IHRSA 2016 Convention Preview

If you’re looking to maximize revenues, grow personal training, or improve your leadership skills, register for IHRSA’s free webinar on Thursday, January 14 at 2 p.m. EST.

The 90-minute presentation will feature three expert IHRSA 2016 speakers who will provide previews of their conference sessions as well as actionable takeaways for the webinar audience. The featured sessions include:

Visionary Leadership: Driving Organizational Strength

presented by Luke Carlson

CEO of Discover Strength 


Stop Competing and Capitalize: Maximize Revenues by Leveraging the Growth of Studios

presented by Tara Sampson

General Manager of VIDA Fitness


Strength to Sell: Proven Strategies to Sell Personal Training

presented by Steve Satin

President of Satin Wellness 


“My webinar presentation is going to be an introduction to understanding the vision component of the health club business,” Carlson says. “Listeners will come to understand if the vision component of their club strong and what makes it strong. In every business your people need to be strong, your processes need to be strong, how you deal with processes need to be strong, and—most importantly—the vision component needs to be strong as well.” 

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IHRSA 2016 Session Spotlight: Visionary Leadership: Driving Organizational Strength

Most leaders have vision, but not all leaders are visionaries.

“Visionary leadership is the concept of understanding where an organization is heading in the long-term, mid-range, and short-term, and understanding how to get there,” says Luke Carlson, CEO of Discover Strength in Chanhassen, MN. “The key to visionary leadership is not just if the leader knows where the company is heading, but if they can inspire a shared vision throughout the entire company.”

Carlson will teach IHRSA 2016 attendees what it takes to become such a leader in his Monday, March 21 session, “Visionary Leadership: Driving Organizational Strength.”

A true visionary leader inspires and educates their staff about the company’s values and goals.

“The litmus test for whether or not a leader is a visionary leader is if you can walk into that club and ask anyone where the company is going in ten years, what their core values and differentiators are, and have everyone not only be able to answer those questions but give the same answers,” Carlson says.

Attendees will leave Carlson’s session with three key takeaways: 

  • How to set a long term, ten-year goal
  • How to set a three-year goal  
  • How to create a strategic planning process  

“Everyone will walk away with specific steps and strategies for achieving their strategic goals,” he says. “And they’ll walk away with a strategic planning process in place.”

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Find Your Next Big Idea at the IHRSA European Congress

With the day-to-day demands of running your clubs, it can be difficult to focus on how you want to grow and change your business. IHRSA’s annual European Congress is designed to help you gain a new perspective from thought leaders and get new ideas from industry professionals from across Europe. 

Register by 25 September and Save! 

Networking events, focus group discussions, and evening and lunch receptions provide the opportunity to build relationships with colleagues from throughout Europe. Business and industry professionals will offer 18 seminars* on a range of topics, such as:

Philip Mills of Les Mills International on “Global Fitness Trends - Challenges and Opportunities”
Discover Strength’s Luke Carlson on “Personal Training Management: Implementing the Tools that Drive Performance”
West Wood Clubs’ Alan Leach on “The Art of Fitness Advertising: Proven and Profitable Marketing Strategies”

The Congress will be held at the Palais du Pharo, located in the heart of Marseille – at the entrance to the Vieux Port – with several hotels, restaurants, museums and attractions nearby.

Visit for full programme details. 

Download the Brochure


Industry experts talk about the best decisions they've made

Club owners and managers make hundreds of decisions every month. But can they pinpoint the one they are most proud of? 

This week's Best Practices' answers range from a book they published that they feel helps him and his members, to a club deciding to change part-time workers to full-time employees.

Q: As a health club owner, what business decision are you most proud of?

A: Our most impactful decisions have involved empowering staff members. Our increases in revenue always seem to be linked to our investment in our employees. We started with only part-time employees. As soon as we created full-time, career track, salaried positions, our revenue dramatically increased.  When we increased our internal staff education and training, our revenue increased again. When we gave our staff budgets for travel and continuing education, our revenue increased even more. Every time we make an effort to improve our staff and demonstrate that we care about them, they seem to be increasingly effective with our clients. Therefore, the decision I am most proud of is our conscious decision to make the development and treatment of our staff the paramount concern in our organization.

Luke Carlson
Discover Strength
Plymouth, Minnesota

A: I am most proud of the decision that made Aquaflorès what it is today. Against all odds, I decided ten years ago to offer personalized, high quality aqua wellness courses. They were supervised by skilled trainers and involved innovative equipment, which provided results in the areas of sports performance and weight-loss. I managed to do this in a market with many low-cost competitors. Our prices were three times more expensive than traditional municipal pools. After a few months, all of our courses were sold out. This success has continued and has gradually extended to other well-being professions. Thus, I am proud to have taken up this challenge which, to most observers, seemed doomed to fail.

Floriane Chatron
Paris, France 

A: I started writing in mid-2009, and I had a published book ("Look Great. Feel Great. And Still Eat Pizza!") in my hands by December 2009. This was a good business decision for many reasons. First, I can help people anywhere and anytime, regardless of whether they are members or not. Second, instead of paying for a one-hour diet consult, people can buy the book and get the information they need. Third, it’s a great retention tool for my club because it helps members get results. Fourth, it can be a retention tool for other clubs. Most of all, the book can help deconditioned people, because it teaches how to get results and still enjoy life. Fitness professionals often scare people away by trying to teach them what "fitness people" want. This is not working! If it was, we would have a better penetration rate than 16%.

Jason Cerniglia
Hoover Fitness   
Hoover, Alabama





Luke Carlson speaks at HIT Resurgence Conference

Photo from HIT Resurgence YouTubeLuke Carlson, CEO and founder of Discover Strength, was a Special Topics Speaker at the 2014 HIT Resurgence Conference at the end of February. His session was "Concepts and Tools to Lead Your Team and Organization."

The HIT Resurgence Conference is a call to exercise by professionals that believe strongly in evidence-based training and who want to further their knowledge within their field. It has speakers from all over the world speak scientifically and demonstrate practical skills surrounding evidence-based exercise. 

For more, visit the HIT Resurgence website.



Members discuss challenges in 2014

The new year can be considered a fresh beginning, so with it comes different challenges. Every club has them, as does the industry as a whole. 

One of the most common and recurring “issues” is finding quality employees, especially personal trainers as that is one of the fastest growing sectors of the industry. Getting the right people to improve both the businesses as well as industry-wide in order to move health and fitness in the right directions is hard to come by.

Read on to see what IHRSA members feel are their biggest challenge in 2014, as well as issues concerning the industry.


IHRSA webinar: aligning personal training and company culture

Any business would love to be able to hire the applicant who was at the top of their class, has the most practical experience, and is a delight as an employee. 

First off, that person rarely, if ever, exists. Second, just because a candidate is flawless on paper it doesn’t automatically mean they will fit in with your company.

Hiring the right personal trainer is one of the main objectives for the next IHRSA Webinar, “Practical Tools for Leading and Managing Your Personal Training Team,” on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2 to 3 p.m. EST. The webinar is sponsored by Cybex.

Read on to see who is leading the webinar, what will be discussed and how to register.