10 Ways to Upgrade Your Gym’s Group X Experience

The success of your gym relies more on group training production than ever before. Make sure you do it right.

Running a health club these days can sometimes make gym owners feel like they’re producing a Broadway show. The popularization of the group X concept has forced club operators to put their creative hats on and assemble class schedules that cover a wide spectrum of fitness programming. Often these classes demand providing more than a workout. You need to stage an “experience,” an immersive audio-visual event.

As a recent IHRSA article put it, “Health club experience is the new customer service.” To do group X successfully, you need to understand how to create the right atmosphere to keep your members “in the moment.” You’re competing with boutiques who specialize in these experiential details. You have to do your best to match their production qualities.

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10 Ways to Boost Your Group X Program

First, it’s important to understand what other club owners have discovered in creating successful group X programs. In a new IHRSA e-book, Group Exercise Training: How to Create a Program That Works for Your Club, experts reveal strategies that have worked for them. Here are 10 to keep in mind.

1. First, know the difference between group and SGT. Group exercise is 25 or more participants; SGT is six to 20 participants. SGT usually includes modules in their application and is shorter time-wise than many group X classes.

2. Ask your members what they want. Club owners have found that frequent surveys or questionnaires can help guide what you should be offering in your club. Since the spectrum of group X offerings industry-wide are vast, you need to do some research. Besides asking your members what they want, see what’s popular among competitors in your area, especially studios.

3. Don't try to be all things to all members. Don’t do too much too soon. "Gyms are losing the opportunity to give quick results to members because they program in 50 different types of classes in their class schedule and 50 different group fitness instructors to do it, instead of taking an approach to design the schedule so members can get results as quick as possible,” says Constance Ruiz, president and co-founder of Vivafit.

4. Manage expectations. Members sometimes carry unrealistic expectations about the effectiveness of programs. You’re going to have to manage the hype that can come from HIIT programs or functional training sessions, for instance.

5. Make it easy to participate. Don’t overburden your members with requirements to invest in expensive wearables or other costly items. Try to make it easy to join a class by removing obstacles that may intimidate or price out members. Offer free first-time class sessions to hook members.

6. Embrace gender differences. Smart health club owners provide equal numbers of group-X opportunities for men and women. But that doesn't mean they provide the same opportunities. As Ruiz notes, “Women want to be social and have fun," while men tend to respond to more competitive group X activities.

7. Don’t get too locked into an individual trainer. You don’t want your training program to be too dependent on the personalities or abilities of specific professionals. He or she may leave, and a percentage of your membership may follow that trainer out the door.

8. Foster a social environment. One of the reasons group X training has been so successful is due to the social bonding of the group experience. This is one of the great advantages for clubs who may be lacking a mechanism for social connection among members.

9. Make group X a priority. The rising popularity of group exercise helps attract new members and is a proven retention booster. A recent study by The Retention People found that 88% of group X members retained their membership during the duration of the study.

10. Create a different experience for each class. As noted above, not only should you create a different program for each class but also a different atmosphere. Group yoga classes aren’t going to have the same aesthetics as group cycling. Every class has a different feel.

You may want to hire somebody solely dedicated to creating and managing your group X programming. And when it comes to audio and visual elements, you need experts. You need sound and lighting professionals who understand the unique challenges of today’s health club industry.

The Industry Sound Specialists for Group X

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Part of the draw of extremely popular group X concepts are the sound and lighting effects that set an atmosphere. Think of Soul Cycle and how the pulsing music and mood-setting lights are integral to the class. Unfortunately, replicating an experience like that is beyond the reach of most club owners.

Since 1994, thousands of facilities have turned to AV Now Fitness Sound to create the audio and visual aesthetics they need for their clubs. Whether it’s SGT or a larger group class, AV Now has decades of experience installing sound and lighting systems in clubs of all sizes.

Last year, AV Now did over 250 sound system installations in clubs across the U.S. They have worked with both large national chains and small studio spaces to produce the ideal sound quality needed for environments unique to contemporary fitness concepts. They can step in at the blueprint stage if you’re creating your club from scratch, assist in a renovation, or install the best possible system in your existing space to deliver the results you need.

“Whether it’s SGT or a larger group class, AV Now has decades of experience installing sound and lighting systems in clubs of all sizes.”

Health clubs are their turf. AV Now’s equipment is specifically designed to withstand the wear and tear of fitness instruction. These audio professionals know how to create portable, sweat-resistant headsets and speakers that allow for frequent jostling from manic instructors.

Sound quality is as important as durability. Today’s consumers have been spoiled by premium sonic experiences from home theater systems and tech-advanced earphones. AV Now was founded by professionals who began their careers in the high-end entertainment industry. They’re experts at volume control while keeping the acoustics clear and clean. They understand that sound in one room needs to be loud enough for a class but not too loud for the rest of the club.

AV Now has also broadened their expertise to include lighting services. Lighting works in tandem with music to create a distinct aesthetic for group classes. When paired with a pitch-perfect sound system, professionally modulated lighting can help motivate your members and even help improve their overall mood.

These days, every club needs to have professional sound and lighting to compete in the group X space against boutiques that specialize in experiences. Make sure you’re not at a disadvantage.

For more information on AV Now and their products and services, visit their website for a free estimate or call 800-491-6874 for personalized advice.

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Jim Schmaltz

Jim Schmaltz is a contributor to IHRSA.org