Advocacy & Alliance-building: Liz Clark's First 30 Days With IHRSA

IHRSA's new president and CEO marks 30 days with the organization on September 16. Here’s a look at what she’s been up to during her first month at IHRSA.

While the pace of her days and sheer level of activity have made for a whirlwind month, Liz Clark credits the involved and extensive search process leading up to her appointment with her ability to kick off her efforts even before she was fully on board and avert any unexpected challenges or major hiccups.

The recent Wall Street Journal article, Fitness Industry Recruits Candy Lobbyist to Help Muscle Up, profiled Clark and emphasized her public policy expertise, suggesting how she might leverage that background to benefit the industry.

The first woman to lead IHRSA in its 40-year history, Clark is a seasoned professional who has been successful in the difficult arena of public policy. Her tenure at the National Confectioners Association (NCA)—where she served for 10 years—resulted in the remarkable achievement of having confectionery manufacturing designated as an “essential” business by the federal government during the pandemic.

"I was hired for very deliberate reasons—to double down on advocacy and communication," says Clark. "I'm very pleased with what we have accomplished, already, in the policy space."

Highlights of those accomplishments make for an impressive 30-day resume:

Advocacy and Action on the GYMS Act

The advocacy arm of IHRSA, the National Health & Fitness Alliance (NHFA), came together this week for their first-ever in-person strategic planning session in Washington D.C., where they will continue to build momentum for the Gym Mitigation and Survival (GYMS) Act, H.R. 890/S. 1613. Introduced by Representatives Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), and Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Jerry Moran (R-KS), the bill now has more than 20 Senate co-sponsors and 155 House co-sponsors thanks to a big push in recent weeks.

Liz Clarks First 30 Days With IHRSA Column Width Listing Image

The NHFA Advisory Council in Washington, D.C. (From left: Liz Clark, IHRSA; Jim Worthington, Newtown Athletic Club; Kevin McHugh, The Atlantic Clubs; Ori Gorfine, US Fitness Holdings; Chris Craytor, acac Fitness & Wellness Centers; Tom Richards, IHRSA; Adam Zeitsiff, Intelivideo, Inc.; Debra Strougo Frohlich, Row House; Rodney L. Steven II, Genesis Health Clubs; and Gale Landers, Fitness Formula Clubs.)

"We are bringing together a lot of names that the industry knows and respects to drive home the message that the industry is a preventative health industry and to give urgency to the reality of the crisis wrought by the pandemic," she says. "The industry has lost one and a half million jobs and 22% of clubs that have closed permanently. Relief and support going forward is essential because keeping the industry healthy means keeping America healthy."

A self-described “Energizer bunny,” Clark is determined to roll up her sleeves and make her presence felt in Washington, D.C. An executive director at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce before her stint at the NCA, she is a well-regarded Beltway presence whose savvy people skills and untiring work ethic make her an ideal leader for the fitness industry at a critical time.

“I envision a future presence for IHRSA in Washington, D.C.,” says Clark. “I could see expanding the team in Washington to really help put us on the map.”

Dallas Trade Show Progress

While keeping safety at the forefront, planners have built an impressive program that will be delivered virtually and in-person at the IHRSA International Convention & Trade Show (IHRSA 2021) in Dallas October 13-15. Clark is especially excited to meet attendees in person at IHRSA 2021. “I want to meet as many people as possible and really get to know the ins and outs of this industry,” she says.

"It's very important that our industry comes back together. We need to reunite, and to share the findings to help these businesses thrive, now and into the future. I'm really looking forward to meeting, in person, so many of the members that I've connected with virtually over the past few weeks."

Expansive Outreach to Current and Future Members

She’s only been on the job a short time, but Liz Clark has already connected to the industry with her passion and enthusiasm. Clark has undertaken a comprehensive listening and learning tour, meeting with dozens of industry leaders of all sizes, from larger companies at the center of the industry to small operations on the periphery.

“Relief and support going forward is essential because keeping the industry healthy means keeping America healthy.”

Liz Clark, President & CEO


"I want to know the good, the bad, the ugly," she says. "To build the organization, we need to bring value to these members and potential members, and we cannot do so unless we understand their needs."

Threading through each of these successes is a focus on communication. From aClub Business International interview before she was even officially on board, to the Wall Street Journal interview on day three of her tenure, to an interview with Club Insider last week, to her participation in the upcoming Fitness Industry Success Show, Clark is leveraging her platform to spread the word about IHRSA to ensure brighter days ahead.

Author avatar


This article was a team effort by several IHRSA experts.