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Fall is a time to get members back into gym routine

Ellipse Fitness Rock Your Jeans programIt is that time of year again that parents look forward to - kids going back to school. They certainly won’t miss the oft-repeated lines, “there’s nothing to do” or “drive me to my friend’s house.” 

With no longer devoting time to the kids’ whims and desires during the summer, it now opens up a bunch of free time for the chauffeurs, admins and party planners of the family.

Health and fitness clubs know that, and thus there are many new options out there for members and non-members alike. Most clubs don’t see a big, if any, uptick in membership in the fall. So, they cater both new programs and old ones put on the shelf during slow times in the summer, to current members who are looking to get back into the swing of things, gym-wise.

“People are looking for rejuvenation in the fall,” said Travis Wood, VP of Operations at Sky Fitness and Wellbeing, which has two locations in Tulsa, Okla. “We focus on re-engaging our members who have been in the summer doldrums. Everyone knows the fall is the hardest time in our industry to stay motivated and stay on routines. We want to give members an outlet to try something new and get a spark to get ready for the cold weather.”

Jon Barton, co-founder and CEO of Vertical Fitness Group and Xperience Fitness in Brookfield, Wisc., added that it is not only a time for members but also staff.

“Obviously more people look in our direction in the fall,” said Barton. “It is a psychological time for not only the consumer but also a time for the staff to kick off something new and get more attention than they did in the summer.”

“(The fall) is a great time for parents to get into new habits when school starts,” said Ann Morrow, owner of Ellipse Fitness in Oakville, Mo. “Basically this is an opportunity for them to get back to eating better and working out differently than they had been during the summer.”

All three – Ellipse, Sky and Xperience – have programs that look at healthier eating and losing weight for current members.

Morrow has brought back a popular recurring program – Rock Your Jeans. The eight-week program aims to get participants to drop two jeans sizes. Ellipse takes a photo of the member with their jeans and then keeps the jeans, to be returned when they drop two sizes. There is no keeping track of weight loss; participants are measured only by the pants size.

“Typically what happens is they have accountability that a scale doesn’t show. It’s our tool to measure progress,” Morrow added. “You could get your fat down and your muscle up but that doesn’t show on a scale.” 

Barton said with membership numbers and attrition rates very positive during the summer, Xperience decided to look at something that is obviously good for its members but also for the club - non-dues revenue. 

Ellipse Fitness Rock Your Jeans workout with pumpkins.What they are rolling out is a weight loss platform with four different programs that should work for anyone looking to lose anywhere from a few pounds to up to 100. It covers beginners who may not be 100% committed to losing weight and may be hesitant to spend money on the program to those who need to lose a significant amount and know it probably is s 12-month journey with trainers, lab tests and more.

“We have 115,000 members. We have a captive audience and we feel we have just begun to realize the value sitting there,” Barton said.

But he explained that, while very nice, it is not about bringing in a couple extra dollars. He feels this will add value to a membership.

“The way we are approaching this is that we are creating value as far as a member’s perspective,” he continued. 

Wood, at Sky Fitness and Wellbeing, said his facilities are just about ready to start four programs - Detox (aimed a new members/people new to a nutrition program); Athena (women’s boot camp); Sky 180 (group training weight loss) and Bite (e-mail based nutrition).

He said the beauty of the program, except Bite, is they are jumping off points for other offerings at the club.

“They are designed to be feeder programs – with start and end dates,” Wood said. “When the program ends we then have something else to funnel them into – like group training or group exercise. We want to keep them going and find ways to have long-term success.

“A major component of many of our programs is the nutrition aspect. The industry is always saying how (nutrition) is important but there isn’t always a lot of energy toward it. These programs are definitely multi-faceted.”

Of course, offering new programs and classes isn’t the only way to go. Marina Lebo, executive director at Healthtrax in West Springfield, Mass., said her club focuses more on marketing and advertising to parents whose nest is empty with the kids in school. “Your kids are back to school – now take care of yourself” and “Summer with the kids is over – Time for YOU” are two recent campaigns. In addition, Healthtrax hosts a huge Family Open House at the end of August to promote fall and winter programs.

“We really hope to change the focus of people from their kids to taking care of themselves. Most parents are completely on ‘kid’ mode all summer and this is a time to get them thinking about something for them and a way to fill their time if they are stay-at-home parents,” Lebo said. “Parents are willing to do almost anything and pay any amount to take care of their children’s health and well being, but many times hesitate to spend money on their own health and fitness.”

Morrow added that the fall is also a time those who do not belong to a gym are peeking in the windows of facilities. So it is imperative that clubs have programs in place, fine-tuned and ready for the influx of newbies come January.

“I think people looking for the gym they will join in January are thinking about it right now,” Morrow said. “For those who are not ready to sign up for a membership in the fall will be in January and we will be ready. I think everyone shopping and researching now.”



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