Clubs and members prosper with cross-discipline collaboration 
Thu, July 24, 2014 at 11:31
IHRSA in ACAC, ACE, CBI, Genavix, Hampshire Hills, IDEA, Weymouth Club, collaboration, teamwork

The growing sophistication of health, fitness, and wellness professionals, and the expanding number of specialties they practice, pay significant dividends for clubs and their members. It’s innovative improvement, with special relevance for the increasingly diverse populations - including those with health issues - that clubs are now being called upon to serve.

But there’s often a fly in the ointment, a pebble in the progress.

As the process of caring for members becomes more complex, the providers - personal trainers, nutritionists, health coaches, group and small-group exercise instructors, and others - tend to work independently within their respective niche, focusing exclusively on their particular skill set.

It’s a situation that’s sometimes referred to as “siloing” - a failure on the part of professionals to communicate, fully and effectively, about the singular goal that they’re all striving toward: the well-being of an individual client.

“Interaction between different disciplines is a big challenge, especially in large clubs,” observes Jeff Linn, the executive director of The Weymouth Club, a 200,000-square-foot, full-service facility, with some 4,000 memberships, in Weymouth, Mass. “People tend to become siloed in their own world, and don’t interact with, relate to, each other as much as they could - or should.” (See “Innovate to Compete,” April CBI)

A number of factors may contribute to the condition: a limited understanding of other disciplines, professional tunnel vision, heavy work loads, lack of opportunities to confer with colleagues, etc. But the result is a disjointed, rather than a seamless, procedure; a limited, rather than a comprehensive, treatment plan.

A remedy is offered by programs, such as the Genavix Wellness Network, that turn individuals into highly focused teams, or club systems that foster interdisciplinary collaboration. Both have proven they have the power to transform lives in rewarding ways.

Technology is playing an increasingly important role in providing the members of the team with the accurate information they need to perform well, and dramatically improving communication among them. Sophisticated fitness assessment tests, and workout data retrieved from exercise equipment and personal monitors, used both at and outside the club, is complemented by a growing number of fitness-related apps. Together, they produce a wealth of valuable metrics that can be shared, analyzed, and utilized to good effect by department heads, trainers, members, and even physicians and insurance companies.

E-mail updates, queries, advisories, and motivational prompts help create a virtually seamless continuum of care. (See “What Does the Future Hold?” June CBI)

Commit to Get Fit

Consider the results produced by the 23 clubs in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine that currently compose the Genavix Wellness Network, and that have implemented its HealthyCARE 90-Day Commit to Get Fit (CTGF) program. This program is predicated on close cooperation among trainers, health coaches, and group and small-group instructors, among others. More than 3,000 people have participated in CTGF thus far, achieving an average weight loss of 17.5 pounds, an 11-point reduction in blood pressure, a 24-point drop in cholesterol, and a four-point drop in blood glucose levels.

Before and after pictures of Larry Meyers, who used Commit to Get Fit to help him after a heart attack.“This program,” says Linn, “demonstrates the incredible value of working inter-departmentally to provide the best solution for every member.”

Developed four years ago by a team of experts in exercise science, nutrition, endocrinology, behavior modification, and stress management, the CTGF program begins and ends with a wellness assessment, which includes health risk factors and a blood lipid profile, and makes use of proprietary software to track progress and results.

Each installment involves 10 to 20 participants, who attend a two-hour session each week, for 13 weeks, for education, motivation, engagement, and experience. The first hour is devoted to lectures on nutrition, behavior modification, and stress management, while the second hour introduces students to different forms of exercise. At some clubs, all of the team members attend the lectures, so they’re always on the same page, and communicate regularly with the class and individual students via e-mail. Information may also be shared with participants’ physicians, effectively closing the communications loop.

The presentations are delivered by Genavix Wellness Coaches, who must have a nationally recognized nutrition certification, an academic degree in nutrition, or be a registered dietitian; have a personal training certification or a degree in exercise science; and complete Genavix’s certified assessment and program delivery training. Wellness coaches also must hold a health coach certification from the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

The program’s exercise component, led by trainers and group fitness staff, encompasses the general fitness floor and specialty areas, such as tennis, aquatics, and meditation. Exposing participants to different classes and club activities provides variety, enhancing adherence. Members are expected to work out at least three times a week.

The various members of the professional CTGF team invest, together, in each participant’s goals, and develop customized workouts and nutrition guidelines accordingly. “Each client defines a wellness plan that includes the foods they like, the type of exercise they prefer, and stress management and behavior change techniques that fit their lifestyle,” explains Michael Benton, the president and CEO of Genavix, Inc., and the owner of the Executive Health and Sports Center and Express Fitness, in Manchester, N.H. 

The program is offered both to members and nonmembers, costs $575 to $649, and, in many cases, attracts 60% to 80% of its clients from outside the club. As many as 90% of the nonmember participants, moved by the motivation, support, education, and success they’ve enjoyed, subsequently join the club.

Ed Soul, the owner of Beverly Fitness and Cambridge Fitness, in Massachusetts, reports that one 60-year-old former member lost 22 pounds via CTGF, rejoined, now works out three days per week, and has newfound energy and confidence. “She seems, looks, and feels 10 years younger since she took the program and is a walking billboard for us,” he says.

At the Hampshire Hills Athletic Club, in Milford, N.H., “One sedentary 45-year-old man lost 47 pounds and changed his entire lifestyle,” reports owner Rick Holder. “He now works out five times per week, participates in Tough Mudder runs, and has helped his wife and children to adopt healthy lifestyles.”

And, at Benton’s club in New Hampshire, Larry Meyers, the father of Seth Meyers, the star of NBC’s "Late Night with Seth Meyers," has employed CTGF to turn his life around following a mild heart attack. “Genavix changed everything about how I approach diet, exercise, and stress management,” he attests.

Commit to Communicate

Beyond the Genavix network, ACAC Fitness, which has facilities in Charlottesville and Richmond, Va., and West Chester, Pa., keeps its people focused on collaboration with its Physician Referred Exercise Program (p.r.e.p). This initiative relies on cooperation from the club’s trainers, nutritionists, nurse, medical fitness team, and membership to successfully integrate new clients into the life of the club.

ACAC Fitness fosters teamwork with its Physician Referred Exercise Program (p.r.e.p.)“In the course of their activities, p.r.e.p. members also may meet group and small-group class instructors, aquatics professionals, and massage therapists,” reports John Greene, the vice president of operations for ACAC. “Everyone works together to ensure that we’re doing things the best possible way, so that members get the attention and support they need.”

On the other side of the country, at the Itrim fitness centers at a number of clubs in California, members take part in a weight loss program that’s designed to help them achieve a healthy BMI via portion control and increased exercise. The program involves health assessments, check- ups, biweekly group sessions, and one-on-one coaching, and is con- ducted by coaches with a wide range of skill sets, including personal training, group fitness, nutrition, and behavior modification. The leaders also undergo extensive training and continuing education at the Itrim Academy.

“Our team is well-rounded and understands the needs of various disciplines, which helps participants lose weight and keep it off,” says Jill Kinney, the CEO of Itrim U.S., LLC, and the chairperson of Active Sports Clubs, LLC, both based in San Francisco. The average client, she reveals, loses 24 pounds within the first 12 weeks.

Itrim shares program results with local healthcare professionals, in part to generate referrals. “Member success stories are incredibly effective in building confidence within the medical community,” adds Kinney. “Whether it’s a member who’s reduced or eliminated their use of medications, or someone whose weight loss has transformed them into a club ambassador—our out- comes are pretty powerful.”

Committed to Change

A wellness emphasis and strong cross-discipline collaboration lead to improved, more successful outcomes, increasing retention and driving membership sales. “Members benefit when fitness and wellness professionals work together, in the same way that patients fare better when their medical practitioners are working together,” suggests Scott Goudeseune, the president and CEO of ACE. “Addressing sustainable lifestyle change through exercise and nutrition, with a stronger emphasis on helping clients surpass barriers, is critical to reaching the 85% of Americans who aren’t using health clubs.”

To foster professional communication and integration, clubs need to establish and emphasize a culture of collaboration, advises Linn. “You need to start with a foundation and set core values,” he says.

“The best way to start is to get team members to think about how they can integrate new members into the club, not just into their individual area,” says Greene. “For instance, a trainer or a group or small-group instructor can steer people to other programs or services, such as nutrition consulting.”

Promoting ongoing staff interaction across disciplines is essential. Clubs can do so during meetings, or at training sessions, or by encouraging employees to sample each other’s specialty, with, for example, a complimentary nutrition consultation or hour of personal training.

Of course, sophisticated professionals with deep expertise and solid credentials are essential to any such system, and there are countless educational resources that stand ready to help. In addition to its health coach and advanced health and fitness specialist certifications, ACE offers nine specialty certifications that teach fitness professionals about specific areas, such as weight management, youth fitness, and therapeutic exercise. “With the new IDEA ClubConnect service, clubs can tap into our learning management system,” points out Kathie Davis, the executive director of IDEA, “which features more than 200 courses on many topics, including how to collaborate across professional capacities to better serve members.”

“As clubs get bigger, there’s so much going on, and attention tends to wander all over the place,” concludes Linn. “Someone should decide that we need to focus on interdisciplinary collaboration, and make it an indus- try mission.” 

– Julie King can be reached at






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