Fitness Industry Leaders & a Greater Sense of Purpose

You can help position the industry for decades of success by getting involved and being the leader the industry needs.

In May 2017, Mark Zuckerberg, brother of IHRSA 2016 hit keynote speaker Randi Zuckerberg, gave a commencement speech to Harvard University graduates that received a great deal of attention.

Why? Well, Zuckerberg—as Facebook founder and CEO—is also one of Harvard’s most famous dropouts. In his speech, he urged these new graduates to “commit their lives to a purpose greater than themselves.”

This “greater purpose” is visible in the health club industry. Not only do so many of you embrace a career—or rather a calling—of bringing health and fitness to your communities, but hundreds—if not thousands—of you have lifted your heads up beyond your communities and your businesses.

Your Fitness Calling Is What We Call 'Industry Leadership'

Off the top of my head, I can think of eight examples of fitness industry leadership to make my case:

  1. Hundreds of U.S. IHRSA members convinced their representatives in Congress to sign on and pass the Personal Health Investment Today (PHIT) Act in the 115th House. PHIT would make physical activity and youth sports more affordable. Does your Congressperson support the PHIT Act?
  2. Anastasia Yusina, president of Strata Fitness Holding and FITSPACE Boutique Fitness Studios, successfully convinced Russia to remove the tax on health club memberships. Yes, Russia!
  3. During his first four years on the IHRSA Board of Directors, Jim Worthington of the Newtown Athletic Club, personally contacted hundreds of club operators across the U.S., successfully increasing the Industry Leadership Council (ILC) from 59 members to over 150.
  4. Mark Durall of the Olympic Club, contacted every club operator in Washington state to explain and help stop a permitting bill that would have drastically harmed club operations and cost Washington clubs thousands.
  5. IHRSA Board Member Monica Marques of Companhia Athletica in Brazil is representing IHRSA in development meetings on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Action Plan on Physical Activity (GAPPA). The plan’s goal is a 15% relative reduction in global physical inactivity by 2030.
  6. Speaking of 2030, during IHRSA 2018, then-IHRSA Board Chair Derek Gallup issued an industry challenge to grow global health club membership from 162 million members to 230 million members by 2030.
  7. Seven club companies—acac, the Newtown Athletic Club, The Atlantic Club, Club Fit Briarcliff, GymPlus, Courtown, and Westpark Fitness—representing 16 clubs in the U.S. and Ireland, are the first club operators to offer Universal Fitness Innovation and Transformation (UFIT) pilot programs in support of UFIT and the IHRSA Foundation.
  8. Hundreds of club operators and industry professionals share their hard-earned knowledge, ideas, and keys to success as speakers at IHRSA Conventions, webinars, and industry events.

In 2012, when Chuck Runyon of Anytime Fitness served on the IHRSA Board of Directors, he penned an article asking, Are You an Owner or a Leader?

Runyon’s impassioned description of an industry leader said, ‘‘Industry leaders value a ‘rising tide,’ collaborate—even with competitors—to fashion a better future, recognize they’re part of something bigger, and strive to position the industry for decades of success.”

There are countless examples of IHRSA members who stepped out of their comfort zone, and went above and beyond the expected role of running an amazing health club to do something that helped position the industry for greater success. And, as you can see from the list above, a direct line to a government official is not mandatory. Although if you have a direct line, please let us know with this IHRSA Action Center form!

5 Missions of a Fitness Industry Leader

  1. Grow the Pie to Reach the other 80%
  2. Advocate to Protect Club Operations and Support Physical Activity
  3. Promote Successes and Best Practices to Grow Confidence in the Industry
  4. Develop Future Leaders
  5. Unify Our Collective Strength
IHRSA org Column Width

Grow the Pie to Reach the Other 80%

IHRSA, our partners, and our members support global efforts to get more of the world moving, including:

A big initiative in 2020 is the Get Active for All pledge.

The IHRSA Foundation, alongside IHRSA and the UNESCO Chair in Inclusive Physical Education, Sport, Recreation & Fitness, created this pledge as an individual commitment to the global goal of an inclusive fitness industry. One that fully welcomes adults and children of all abilities, and empowers them to be more active.

Signees support efforts to make the industry more inclusive and pledge to seek opportunities to work together with industry peers to help make that goal a reality.

Advocate to Protect Club Operations and Support Physical Activity

A growing tsunami of burdensome regulations is hitting our industry hard in recent years. You can lead by keeping your eyes and ears open, alerting IHRSA when you learn of proposed legislation, reading—and when necessary—taking action on legislative and legal alerts that our team emails directly to your inbox.

So, make sure your member account is up-to-date so we’re sending these alerts to the correct email address.

Promote Successes and Best Practices to Grow Confidence in the Industry

In Runyon’s “Owner or Leader” article, he writes, “In comparison to other industries, we lack a level of respect from medical and scientific communities, as well as among lawmakers and business associations. Why? Because we think too much like business owners and not enough like industry leaders.”

Unfortunately, that statement still holds true. You can lead the charge to change this perception by sharing your successes and best practices or inviting medical professionals or lawmakers into your clubs.

Develop Future Leaders

We often hear that one of the industry’s most pressing needs is for more employees who are passionate about the fitness industry as a career.

To address this, IHRSA provides advanced education, such as the IHRSA Institute and development events like The Women’s Leadership Summit, as well as employment resources and guides to increasing diversity.

It’s also why ILC members can bring their junior staff to the VIP ILC events during the IHRSA International Convention & Trade Show. You can lead by example by sharing knowledge and applying to speak.

Unify Our Collective Strength

IHRSA works closely with organizations committed to increasing global physical activity that amplify our voice and reach. Equally, any collaboration you embrace will make you and your staff stronger.

There’s a saying most often attributed to an old African proverb; “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” This is your invitation to join us, in any number of ways, as industry leaders. We have a long way to go. It will be a better, more rewarding journey, if we go together.

Help Us Help You Lead

To accomplish our industry growth and lofty physical activity goals for a healthier, happier, more active planet, IHRSA must not only lead the charge but also provide visionary leadership to help you lead.

So, what resources and guidance do you need from IHRSA now ... five years from now ... or even in the next 30 years? Send us a quick email and tell us how we can help you.

Related Articles & Publications

Author avatar

Meredith Poppler

Meredith Poppler previously served as IHRSA's Vice President of Communications and Leadership Engagement—a position dedicated to growing, promoting, and protecting the industry through media, policy, and advocacy, and raising awareness and support for important policy issues.