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Entries in Tom Richards (12)


Rx for Future Success: Balancing Mission and Margin in Medical Fitness

The health club industry is experiencing growing sophistication with respect to the fitness sciences, increased collaboration with physicians and other healthcare providers, and improved understanding of how to successfully balance the “mission” (member results) vs. “margin” (club profitability) equation.

It’s an eclectic transition, one requiring the participation of a host of parties, including colleges and universities, education and certifying organizations, trainers, club operators, healthcare professionals, health and fitness industry associations, and others.

And the 18 facility, Glastonbury, CT-based Healthtrax not only has success stories to share about the rewarding outcomes possible, but is also a serviceable exemplar. The company was recently awarded the Management Excellence Award by the Medical Fitness Association (MFA), which recognizes outstanding achievements within the medical fitness industry.

Hiring the Right People

Medically oriented fitness centers are sometimes regarded as noble, altruistic ventures that are economically tenuous, but Bob Stauble, the cofounder and chief development officer of Healthtrax, will have none of that. He not only believes that it’s possible to achieve a proper balance of mission vs. margin, but has also demonstrated it—repeatedly. 

Other operators see a dichotomy between mission and margin—between producing solid, positive results for members/patients and what they regard as the industry’s reliance on high-pressure sales and marketing tactics to generate revenues. Such tactics can “smother” a club’s mission, Stauble said.

“It’s all about employing the right people,” he said. “Hiring, training, and keeping the best people—those who strive to excel in all that they do every day— produces great margins without high-pressure sales, and without compromising high mission levels.”

Training the Trainers

The training of trainers—both before and after they’ve been hired by Healthtrax—helps guarantee that it always fields the “best people.” All of its trainers are required to possess a college degree in exercise science, kinesiology, or a related field, and must be certified by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) or the National Association of Sports Medicine (NASM).

These and other education and certifying bodies, such as the American Council on Exercise (ACE), and industry trade groups, such as IHRSA, are also involved in elevating the knowledge and skill levels of fitness professionals so they can operate in increasingly sophisticated, medically attuned environments. Certifying organizations are not only constantly reviewing and, as needed, revising their core offerings, but a growing number are now developing health coaching and other healthcare-based programs.

Collaborating with Physicians

Sometimes, even a thoroughly credentialed and highly regarded personal trainer may not impress a doctor enough to prompt patient referrals.

“They don’t have any way of knowing whether a club is ensuring that their trainers are using what they’ve learned,” Stauble said. “Doctors feel really bad about prescribing treatments that require a patient to write a check for more than their usual copay.”

To overcome these obstacles, Healthtrax implemented a program that works like this: A physician sends a referral form for a patient to the club. The club consults with the patient, and, then, notifies the physician whether the patient has decided to participate in the program. Once enrolled, the patient works with a trainer to formulate a workout plan based on their current health status, the doctor’s recommendation, etc.

The program allays two of a potential referrer’s primary fears. It provides Healthtrax with success stories to present as evidence of the effectiveness of the club and its trainers, and it doesn’t require a significant or long-term financial commitment. 

Read the full "Rx for Future Success" article in the February issue of CBI.


A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the HERO Forum

Each year, the Health Enhancement Research Organization (HERO) convenes the HERO Forum for top professionals in the employee health management field.

It’s a rapidly growing conference that buzzes with the excitement of a growing industry. Much like the annual IHRSA convention, the atmosphere is collegial, and both attendees and presenters alike are generous with their expertise. Unlike the IHRSA convention, however, where the nature of the event suggests that workout attire is appropriate, the HERO Forum attendees have traditionally worn business attire.

But this year, a funny thing happened on the way to the HERO Forum.

In the run-up to the event, the conference planners sent the following note to all registered attendees:

Read More.

Click to read more ...


Are you up on the legal side of your business?

Helen Durkin, IHRSA's executive vice president of Global Public Policy.Educational sessions at IHRSA events are a great way to help you with almost every part of running a health club. Sales, membership, programs, marketing, social media and more are offered at almost every convention or gathering run by IHRSA.

It is also a chance for us to delve deeper into some of our offerings. As the organization that grows, protects and promotes the health and fitness industry, IHRSA, too, has many offerings that can help in running a gym or club.

Helen Durkin, executive vice president of Global Public Policy, and Tom Richards, senior legislative counsel, hosted an education class, "Day-to-Day Legal Issues," during the IHRSA Institute earlier in August to explain some of the bigger and more prominent legal issues for clubs. They went over specific scenarios their department often runs into while also taking questions from the crowd, providing the best answers.

Read on to see what they talked about and some sample issues.


Ideas to help solve sedentary behaviors epidemic

In last month's entry by IHRSA on the Department of Health & Human Services blog we wrote about how only 1 in 5 Americans reported meeting the the Physical Activity Guidelines.

This month we talk about solutions to the low numbers and this country's slide into dangerous levels of sedentary behavior.

What better place to learn more about new programs and ideas, as well as a great time to brainstorm, than next month's IHRSA 2014 33rd Annual International Convention & Trade Show? The Convention offers numerous educational sessions in a wide variety of tracks, many that speak directly to this issue.

Read the column to see what some of them they are.


Is 20% good enough?

Depending on the context, 20% can be viewed positively.

Biut when it comes to the amount of adults who get enough of the daily recommended exercise it is not a good level. And youth numbers are only slightly above 1 in 5, which is also way below what is considered acceptable.

IHRSA's monthly column on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website states that the fitness industry can help improve those numbers.

" ... we must go beyond creating healthy, easy choices. We need to connect on a very personal level with sedentary Americans. We need to understand that motivating millions of sedentary individuals will require millions of different motivations. If it were as easy as simply increasing public awareness of the benefits of exercise, we would have won already."

Read the entire column on the Health and Human Services blog.



Looking for the best way to market to sedentary

Selling to the masses only works in select industries. Unfortunately, convincing the sedentary to exercise typically doesn't work whether you do it individually or in a group.

In the monthly IHRSA column on the Department of Health and Human Services blog, it suggests that the fitness industry needs a new marketing approach.

"Convincing an individual to be active often requires a marketer to understand that individual’s internal story: hopes, fears, aspirations, etc. It takes time and the outcome is always in doubt," it says in the column.

It suggests that if the industry can come up with the next, "Friends don't let friends drive drunk" or "Give a hoot, don't pollute," might be what is needed.

Read the entire column on the DHHS website.


Think and become healthy

More than 70 years ago Napoleon Hill published "Think and Grow Rich," considered my many as a classic self-help and business book.

Thomas Richards, IHRSA Senior Public Policy manager, in his monthly column in the Department of Health and Human Services blog, shows that using Hill's six steps to turn desire into riches can easily be used for much more than business.

Richards has explained in the blog that when deciding to live a healthy lifestyle one must change their behavior. This month's column shows that following Hill's advice can certainly help in that goal.

Click here to read Richards's column.



Specialty programs at clubs are improving lives

Radka Dopitova WilsonAs the healthcare system expands and more people are getting in shape following an illness or affliction, so, too, do the offerings.

Tom Richards, IHRSA Senior Legislative Counsel, wonders, in his monthly column on the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services blog, what special disease- and condition-specific programs are out there.

One that has seen much success, and discussion in IHRSA circles, is Radka Dopitova Wilson's Back to Life Program for cancer patients and survivors at the World Bank Group in Washington, D.C.

Click here to see what Tom has to say and for more on Back to Life.



Make healthy choices easy, and ones that make you happy

Tom Richards said even if there was a rock climbing wall in his office, making it an easy healthy choice, it wouldn't be a happy one.Those in government who know being healthy is important, well for the health of the nation, know it can be an uphill battle. To that end it came up with an appropriate slogan, Make the Healthy Choice the Easy Choice.

Senior Public Policy Manager Tom Richards said in his monthly column on the Department of Health and Human Services blog that the slogan is great. He did say he would want to add the word "happy" because just because a choice is healthy and easy it doesn't mean people will do it.

Read the entire column here.


Employee wellness programs gaining popularity

The term employee wellness program has certainly sprouted up everywhere the past few years. But, there are many different levels, from biometric screenings to discounted or free gym memberships.

According to a recent survey by Kaiser/HRET, three ouf of every 10 firms surveyed offer gym memberships or provide an onsite fitness facility. Almost two-thirds of large employers had this offer for its employees.

The key to the success is participation. The more employees who participate, usually, the more successful the program. And that means better health.

For more, check out IHRSA Senior Public Policy Manager Tom Richard's monthly column on the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services blog. View it here.